Whether you’re battling a particularly blustery day, the wrath of too much hairspray, or an inadvertently restless night of sleep, tangles happen. Unwanted knots, loops, and frizz are just a way of life for anyone with any length at all to their hair. But sometimes battling tangles can be a serious business: Brush them out while dry and run the risk of creating more tangles; brush them out while wet and possibly cause breakage. It’s a lose, lose situation when it comes to knots. To show you how to fix tangled hair, we chatted with two top hairstylists to get the scoop.
The causes of tangles
Tangles, in general, occur when hair is lacking hydration. “Moisturize hair if you are tangle prone—always!” says TRESemmé Celebrity Stylist, Jeanie Syfu. “Choose a shampoo and conditioner that works best on your hair type, but never skip on conditioning ends!” In addition, many tangles are caused by wearing constant ponytails, sleeping with your hair down, and too much friction and tension on the hair, says Bosley Professional Strength Specialist JB Shelton. Lastly, another big cause of tangles: Dry ends that haven’t been trimmed in a while. Looks like that missed trim appointment is more important than you thought!
How to fix dry tangles
Inevitably, hair will see tangles at some point. If you’re prone to knots and tangles while hair is dry, sometimes using a brush can seem like a nightmare. To remedy this, Syfu recommends applying a serum with silicone to help tangles slip through brush bristles more easily. “The TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Keratin Infusing Serum ($6, drugstore.com,) is really great for this,” she says. “Start by applying a small pump to the tangled area, brush through, and apply additional product as necessary.”
If a serum is too oily for you, a detangler is another great option. Just be sure to apply the product at the ends and work up. “If you start at the top [and work down], it will become a mangled mess in the middle,” cautions Shelton. She suggests a taming spray like Bosley Professional Strength Volumizing & Thickening Nourishing Leave-In ($16, ulta.com). “It’s basically a styler and a treatment in one.”
How to fix product-caused tangles
If your tangles are the result of a little bit of a heavy hairspray hand, adding moisture to the hair might just be your best bet. “If my hair has too much grit from hairspray or other products, I take a few drops of a light hair oil, massage it into my hair mid-shaft to ends, then gently brush through hair,” says Shelton. “The oil helps break the product down and softens the hair.” Syfu also suggests using water or a serum to moisten hair. She also says to choose products that give more flexibility to your styling and have more natural hold instead of those that leave hair crunchy or have a high alcohol content.
How to fix wet tangles
Syfu recommends applying conditioner to tangled areas while hair is still damp and using a wide toothed comb to work through knotted wet hair. “I’d also try applying a silicone serum on wet ends to create more slip and then comb or brush hair after you towel dry, blotting and squeezing water out so hair stays smooth,” she says. “Rubbing hair to dry it can create tangles.” However if your hair is really prone to tangles, she suggests brushing your hair while you’re still in the shower with a wide toothed comb.
But if your knots are that bad, Shelton recommends using your fingers to pull apart as much of the knots as possible to avoid damage.
How to prevent tangles
The best way to ensure you don’t have to brush out your tangles is to stop them before they even start. Brushing hair more frequently, especially before bed, is a great way to avoid tangles, says Syfu. Also sleeping in braids is a fantastic option to keep hair smooth and knot-free, according to Shelton.
“Going natural and air drying hair is a good way to prevent getting damaged ends as well as doing a cool rinse before getting out of the shower to seal the cuticle—it works wonders,” Syfu adds. Lastly, she suggests skipping heat tools daily and simply re-styling second-day hair into a bun or braid. “And invest in a good quality blow dryer and brush; this makes all the difference!” she says.
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