Just because we’ve long grown out of L’Oreal Kids detangling shampoo doesn’t mean we’re any less inclined to developing gnarly tangles than we were in our youth. Between trying new hairstyles, testing new hair products, teasing for volume, and even just sleeping on our hair, none of us are safe from the trauma of knotted strands. Rather than go totally haywire with a brush in hand, running the risk of self-induced split ends and being left with half the amount of hair you started with, put this five-step plan for how to detangle knots safely in place.
Wide-tooth combs are your friend.
Choose your tools carefully, especially if you have fine or damaged hair that’s prone to breakage as well as tangles. Rather than tackling knots with a brush, a sturdy wide-tooth comb is both the best tool for loosening those suckers as well as your best defense against them in the first place. At least once daily, use a wide-tooth comb—we like the plain old Conair Styling Essentials Wide-Tooth Comb from the drugstore—to gently detangle dry or damp hair.
Use plenty of conditioner.
A good conditioner, and a lot of it, is key for keeping tangles at bay. Contrary to popular belief, it is okay to comb your hair in the shower while it’s wet, but it’s necessary that you do it correctly to avoid damaging your hair. Coat the hair in conditioner and let it sit for a few minutes, then use your wide-tooth comb to run the conditioner through your hair from root to tip. This will help immensely to loosen knots, and it’ll also help distribute conditioner throughout the hair so that all your bases are covered, including the parts of the hair closest to the roots that we wouldn’t necessarily condition.
Start from the bottom.
The worst mistake you can make is to yank a brush or comb down from your roots to the tip—it’s a straight shot to breakage, split ends, and even hair loss. Instead, start first by combing the bottom few inches of your hair, then work upward, combing down as you go.
Don’t force it.
Pulling at a particularly nasty knot that just won’t let up may seem better than having to cut it out as a last resort, but tearing your brush or comb through a tangled mass is a comparable evil. Spritzing a detangling formula on the tangle in question should help to loosen it up so that you can at least work at salvaging what you can—just work slowly and gently to minimize roughing up the hair’s cuticle, which can lead to breakage.
Use your fingers.
Your fingers can untangle knots in ways that a brush or comb just can’t. Gently pulling apart the tangled strands—take your time!—will work to incur far less damage than simply combing through the knot over and over again. Once you’ve got it mostly undone, you can then spray on detangler and go in with your comb to smooth things out.
Read more from Daily Makeover: 5 Things You Should Avoid When You Have Damaged Hair