Long hair. Beautiful, long, luscious locks flowing freely in the breeze. Everything is coming up roses and you feel like a supermodel, until that mane whips around and gets in your eyes, mouth, and up your nose – the breeze that was once your friend is now causing what is one of the worst things about having long hair – HAIR KNOTS. Hair so snarled and tangled that it ties itself together tighter than any knot an eagle scout could dream up. You feel like it is hopeless trying to pick through the rats nest you’ve found in your hair. But is it? Here are a few tips and tricks that might help – now, let’s get rid of those hair knots!
Getting Rid of Hair Knots
Washing your hair makes getting rid of knots easier. In general, washing your hair every day is a bad idea (unless you need to because of a job that makes you sweat more than normal or body chemistry that makes your hair a bit more greasy). It is ideal to wash your hair every other day or so. If you have to wash your hair every day, try looking for a quality shampoo that doesn’t contain a lot of harsh chemicals like alcohol or sodium lauryl sulfate, this will help with keeping drying out your hair to a minimum, and hopefully keep those pesky knots at bay.
However, if you already have a knot you need to deal with, washing it is a good first step in that direction (since the water and shampoo coat the strands of hair in the knot, potentially helping them to pull apart easier). And as much fun as it is to either make a mohawk or big poofy hair-do on top on your head with your sudsy hair, try to avoid mashing all of your hair up onto your head—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, whenever you shampoo) 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.
If you are prone in very VERY dry hair (especially in the winter, when the air sucks up every spare water molecule possible), try this technique to help add extra moisture back into your hair – when you are in shower (or bath), wet your hair and put conditioner 2/3 of the way up your hair starting from the tip. Put your hair in a bun the best you can, and go about your regular bathing business. When it is time to wash your hair, rinse out the first dose of conditioner, shampoo your hair focusing the most of your washing on your roots, rinse, and condition again (this time, for the regular amount of time). Your hair will be far more manageable. Try it and see.
Use a wide-toothed comb or pick to get rid of hair knots. Combing 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 (that means down, not up the strands). This general technique of combing or brushing will improve the look of your hair, as well as keep knots under control. 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 – so basically, it makes it too skinny to stay stuck together and the knot becomes easier to pick apart.
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. Winning!
Keeping long hair tied up can help prevent hair knots. Perhaps this defeats the purpose of long hair, but when people ask me why my hair is never down, I answer: It’s so much easier to deal with if it’s kept up. Hair just naturally seems to want to wrap around itself, doesn’t it? Maybe dreadlocks are the natural state of human hair…but if you aren’t a fan of dreads, then clips, hair ties, combs, and any of the other bajillion types of things to keep your hair pulled back and out of the way and knot free is the way to go.
Natural Hair Knot Options
Braiding and bedhead. When I braid my hair before bed, it’s totally worth it the next morning. Every morning. Keeping the hair arranged in a loose braid keeps it all 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. 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 common types of ingredients found in hair conditioners:
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 or incredibly thick 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 African descent, it is likely that you have very dense, coarse, and curly hair. There are all kinds of products geared exclusively to your hair type available, not to mention a whole range of methods for combating the specific troubles and frustrations you might encounter with your hair type.