One of the only drawbacks to having long hair is dealing with the inevitable knots. They always seem to form when my hair blows around in the wind. Of course, it’s uncomfortable to have hair in your eyes, mouth, and up your nose (and it always seems to end up there), but the discomfort caused by the process of detangling a knot is considerably more cumbersome and painful. It’s just the price we have to pay for letting loose our long, luscious locks. Or is it?
When I think about hair knots, I am reminded of that pre-Victorian Era notion of brushing your hair 100 strokes every day to ensure that you will have shiny hair. I imagine a domineering mother forcing such a regimen upon a resistant child. The stiff bristle brush is tearing out knots while the child cries and the mother swears. If this sounds familiar, if you can identify with what a monumental task taking care of long hair (and some short hair) can be, then you know that the best way to get rid of knots is to prevent them in the first place. Unfortunately, things happen, and we can’t all have the foresight to prepare for all knotty situations. This is when knowing how to get rid of hair knots can really come in handy.
Getting Rid of Hair Knots
Washing your hair makes getting rid of knots easier. In general, it isn’t good to wash your hair more than every other day or so, unless you have problems with greasy hair. Use a quality shampoo that doesn’t contain a lot of harsh chemicals like alcohol or sodium lauryl sulfate. Over-washing can dry out your hair, which will make it more prone to tangling. However, if you already have a knot you need to deal with, washing it is a good first step in that direction. Try to avoid mashing all of your hair up onto your head when you are working up the suds—it could make tangles worse.
Use a quality conditioner to moisturize your hair and get rid of knots. Dry hair is more prone to tangling and frizziness. Using a quality conditioner on a regular basis (every couple of days) will keep your hair moist and less likely to form knots. Use it more often than that if you have a real problem with hair dryness. When detangling an already established knot, working conditioner into the hair will help it to unwind the tangle. Try not to pull it apart too forcefully, as that can damage your hair beyond repair.
Use a wide-toothed comb or pick to get rid of hair knots.Combing the conditioner into your hair, starting at the bottom and working your way up, is a great way to get rid of hair knots, as well. Be gentle, and work in short strokes with the grain of the hair. This will improve the look of your hair, as well as get the knots out. When your hair is dry, it is better to brush with a cushion brush, but always start at the bottom and work your way up. It is so easy to damage hair when knots are involved, so avoid violent motions when dealing with your hair.
Use a leave-in conditioner to further protect your hair from knots. There are a number of products out there that have been designed to combat hair knots. Hair detanglers and leave-in conditioners are both good options for getting rid of hair knots. Acidic hair detanglers work by lowering the pH of your hair, which changes the electrical bond in such a way that the hair becomes smoother and more compact. Most leave-in conditioners are just watered-down versions of regular conditioners. In fact, you could add a squirt or two of conditioner to a spray bottle of water to make an easy DIY detangling solution.
Keeping long hair tied up can help prevent hair knots.Perhaps this defeats the purpose of growing long hair, but when people ask me why my hair is never down, I have one answer: It’s so much easier to deal with if it’s kept up. Hair just naturally seems to want to wrap around itself. Perhaps dreadlocks are the natural state of hair? I say, fight nature and keep your hair up if you are outside in the wind or doing any kind of activity that requires movement. You’ll be glad you did.
Natural Hair Knot Options
Braiding and bedhead. I always feel a little like Anne Shirley (she of the Green Gables) when I braid my hair before bed. It’s totally worth it. Keeping the hair arranged in a loose braid keeps in place, and doesn’t allow it to get tangled as you toss and turn in your sleep. Discovering this method has made a world of difference in my hair knot problems.
Lemon juice detangler.One of the ways that commercial conditioners and detanglers work is to lower the pH of the hair, essentially acidifying it. This causes the hair to become more compact and smoother, which in turn helps to keep the hair from getting tangled. Mix a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice or cider vinegar with a couple of cups of water, and use this acid wash when you rinse your hair, or as a detangler.
Olive oil. This natural, leave-in conditioner, if used sparingly, can do wonders for dry, tangle-prone hair. It is also useful for helping to loosen established knots. Working olive oil into a knot as you try to separate the strands will make a big difference. However, unless you enjoy a greasy look, using too much of this oil will require more frequent washing.
Hair cuts for hippies. If your hair is dry and damaged, it is much more likely to turn into a tangled mess. Sometimes the only cure is to cut it off. It doesn’t have to be drastic; even just a trim around the edges to remove split ends will do the trick. Remember: It’s only hair, and it will grow back.
The Condition of Your Conditioner
Most hair conditioners contain some pretty basic types of ingredients. Here is a list of basic types of ingredients found in hair conditioners.
Acid detanglers. These chemicals work by changing the pH of your hair towards acidic. This contracts the rough surface of the hair to make it smoother and less likely to tangle.
Glossing detanglers. This product uses polymers like silicone to make your hair feel smooth and keep it from sticking together and forming knots.
Oils and lubricants. As you might imagine, these products make your hair more slippery, which will make it harder for tangles to form. One drawback is that your hair will appear greasy or unwashed if used excessively.
Reconstructor. Using proteins and amino acids, these products can help repair damaged hair by bonding to the protein in the hair strand.
Surfactants. These are the ingredient in soaps that reduce the surface tension of water. In conditioners, they spread over the entire surface of the hair strand, offering a layer of protection.
Moisturizer. Moisturizers attach to the hair strand and add moisture back into dry or damaged hair.
It’s Knot the Same for Everyone
If you have very thin hair, it is possible that you have tried all of the available conditioners and methods for preventing knots and tangles without success. It wouldn’t hurt to ask your hair care professional if they can recommend a product. They might have a miracle cure or some styling options that will help to minimize the problem.
If you are of recent African descent (we are all of African descent, if you go back far enough), it is likely that you have very dense, curly hair. There are products specific to your hair type available, not to mention a whole range of methods for dealing with what I imagine is quite trying hair.