How To Detangle Your Natural Hair Without Breakage: 25 Tips

Last updated on December 29th, 2023 at 08:33 pm

how to detangle natural hair without breakage

Detangling natural hair will always be a source of contention. Some will say only detangle dry hair. Some will say only detangle wet hair. Well, as a fine hair natural I offer you my perspective with 25 tips for how to detangle natural hair without breakage. These tips have helped me to retain so much length that I’ve finally surpassed bra strap length. (not an easy feat for those with fine hair).

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Best Time to Detangle Your Natural Hair

best time to detangle natural hair

Before we get to the tips, I want to share two things with you:

  1. Nobody can achieve 0 breakage. That’s a myth. Hair goes through a natural wear and tear process. So, there’s always some breakage. They key to caring for your natural hair is to reduce breakage to almost none.
  2. The best time to detangle your hair. This will be short and sweet.

The best time to detangle your hair is before it’s extremely tangled AND when you have adequate time to do so. This is the short and sweet answer.

The rest of it will be answered throughout the tips you’re about to read.

25 Ways to Help You Detangle Natural Hair Safely

detangling tips for natural hair

Below you’ll find twenty five techniques to help you detangle your natural hair so you don’t cause breakage. Some of these tips work with the others and some work as a stand alone method.

First, you’ll find the list. Then, below the list you’ll find an explanation of each tip:

  1. Work to detangle in sections
  2. Start with your fingers
  3. Start with dampened hair
  4. Use the aid of the shower stream
  5. Keep detangled sections separate
  6. Complete your detangling with a wide-tooth comb
  7. Or use a plastic detangling brush
  8. File your nails
  9. Wear plastic exam gloves
  10. Use an oil
  11. Use a rinsing conditioner
  12. Try an apple cider vinegar mixture
  13. Detangle using your pre-poo treatment
  14. Use a detangling spray
  15. Try glycerin
  16. Regularly use hair masks containing humectants like honey 
  17. Steam your hair
  18. Detangle from ends to root
  19. And, detangle from root to ends
  20. Avoid long term protective styling
  21. Do regular hot oil treatments
  22. Use the 90/10 Detangling Method (termed by yours truly)
  23. Keep hair trimming scissors nearby
  24. Don’t rush the process
  25. Have a consistent natural hair care routine specific to detangling
love your natural hair

Now, let’s take a look at each of these detangling tips for natural hair individually. Also, these tips will work for all hair types.

Detangle in Sections

You’ve probably heard the old adage “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” While this refers to solving a problem or to do something step by step, it can be applied to detangling your hair too.

Working in small sections helps keep the process manageable and will allow you to focus. If you have a huge amount of density, you want to do detangle in even smaller sections. The number of sections you do will depend on how long and thick your hair is.

Finger Detangle

It’s no secret that finger detangling is the most gentle means of removing knots and tangles from natural hair. So, when in doubt, use your digits. It’s the safest way and causes less breakage than other means.

Start with dampened hair

The very best way of starting off a detangling session is to ensure you are not working with dry hair. Dry hair is brittle hair and the least flexible. Therefore, it’s not as easy to manipulate out shed hairs.

So, make sure your hair is damp to start. All you need is a spray bottle filled with warm water. So, you can mist your hair to soften it up. This isn’t about moisturizing your hair. It’s about softening it.

If you’re detangling in the shower, you can ignore this for now. However, you’ll find more on shower detangling in the next tip.

ways to remove or prevent tangles

Detangle without breakage with the aid of the shower stream

After you’ve washed your hair and applied a product containing a lot of slip (more on the specific products contain slip in the tips below), after you’ve finger detangled first, use your detangling tool of choice with the aid of the shower stream.

You’ll discover that the mild “pressure” of the water will help you run that detangling through your hair much easier to completely finish off the detangling of a section.

Keep detangled sections separate

While it’s best to detangle in sections, it’s even better when you keep your detangled hair separate. This can be done by clipping the detangled sections up separately or putting them each in loose bantu knots.

When you do so you accomplish two things:

1. You prevent re-tangling of hair strands that have already been tangled

2. You prevent hair loss from manipulating too much hair at once.

Detangle with a wide-toothed comb

Using your fingers is a gentle way to remove tangles and knots from natural hair.  Yet sometimes, your fingers don’t fully remove shed hairs.

This is why you’ll want to then use a wide-tooth comb. Then ensure you thoroughly remove shed hairs.

Use a Plastic Detangling Brush

An alternative to using a wide tooth comb is to use a plastic (or rubber) detangling brush. There are various detangling brushes on the market to choose from. Some of these include:

– The EZ Detangler brush

– The Denman brush

– The Tangle Teezer (here’s one for thick curly hair)

– Felicia Leatherwood brush

best natural hair detangling tips

File your nails

Something often overlooked is filing your nails before you detangle your hair. Hang nails will cause breakage. So, file your nails to make sure there are no rough edges is one of the easiest ways to detangle natural hair without breakage.

Wear plastic exam gloves

Plastic gloves work so well with detangling. Wearing them allows you to be even more gentle with your hair. They work especially well with your slippery detangling product of choice.

Use an oil

Oils are very slippery and can help you to glide your fingers down your hair shaft to dislodge stubborn hair knots. You can use a hair oil like jojoba oil or plain ole olive oil from the kitchen.

You can even use some melted shea butter or other hair butter that you may have on hand. The key to using a butter (which is oil based) versus an oil is to make sure you emulsify it first.

Use a rinsing conditioner

Conditioners that you use for a final rinse are designed to soften and further detangle hair. While you can use a bit of that conditioner to detangle dampened hair, it works even better in the shower.

Some will use a leave-in conditioner and while that’s fine, it doesn’t typically have as much slip as a rinsing conditioner.

Try an apple cider vinegar mixture

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid which smooths the hair cuticle. When you mix it with equal parts water, you can spritz it on your hair to aid you with detangling.

Detangle using your pre-poo treatment

A pre-poo is usually done with coconut oil, aloe vera, or a combination of herbs.  Whatever pre-poo treatment you use, it typically has a natural amount of slip to it.  When you detangle using your pre-poo, you also save time. It’s a great way to protect your hair from excess water entering the hair shaft during the process of cleansing too.

A store bought or DIY hair detangler spray both work fine. For best results, just make sure you spritz and not soak your hair with it.  Detangling sprays typically are more oil based so if you DIY, keep that in mind.

Try glycerin

Glycerin is a humectant that has a lot of slip. Using it to detangle with is an easy way to glide tangles out of your hair.

Regularly use hair masks containing humectants like honey 

Steam to detangle natural hair without breakage

Steaming your hair not only helps with softening it for detangling, it also makes your hair much more manageable and opens up the hair follicles so your conditioner and other treatments will better penetrate the hair shaft.

Detangle from ends to root

Starting from the ends of your hair, after applying your slippery detangling product, begin to separate the hairs that may have been caught up in a knot. Isolate those hairs until you are no longer able to. Then, you can try to use the end of a needle to try and detangle further. If that not won’t budge, don’t waste time on it.

This is when you do the brave thing and snip that knot with some hair scissors. Trying to comb a knot out will only cause breakage.

Detangle from root to ends

This may seem like a contradiction form the tip to detangle from ends to roots but it’s not to take its place. It’s an additional detangling technique that works very well for those who tend to tangle more at the roots.

To properly detangle starting at the roots, use your fingers first. Then, gently use a wide tooth comb or detangling brush to smooth the hair at the roots while using the fingers of your opposite hand to assist. 

Please DO NOT run a comb or brush down the entire length of your hair until it’s completely detangled.

Avoid long term protective styling

While protective styles are great for length retention, allowing protective hairstyles to remain in your hair for an extended period of time will cause a nightmare for you. When it’s time to detangle, you’ll have so much shed hair, you may feel anxiety behind it.  That shed hair trapped in the style is more likely to mat and cause breakage. So, avoid leaving your protective style in too long.

  1. Do regular hot oil treatments
  2. Use the 90/10 Detangling Method (termed by yours truly)
  3. Keep hair trimming scissors nearby

Don’t rush the process

Detangling natural hair can take some time. Especially if you haven’t done it in a while. When you rush the process, you start rough detangling. When you are rough with your hair because you’re rushing, you’ll cause breakage.

Have a detangling routine

I use the 90/10 detangling method mentioned above. I think it’s the best and most gentle means of detangling all hair types. Whatever method you do, consistency is key. Your routine should include how often you detangle and what tools you’ll use.

normal versus excess shedding

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide with a simple detangling process, check out one of my very first established detangling routines here: Some of the conditioners may no longer be available but you can easily substitute them with hair products you now your hair already likes. 

By detangling your natural hair properly, you’ll not only reduce potential breakage. You’ll start to see hair growth. Having a proper detangling routine is an important key for healthy hair.

Wrapping up a Detangling Session

After you’ve thoroughly detangled your hair, then it’s time to move on to the step in your wash day that will hydrate your hair – the Deep Conditioning step.

Apply your deep conditioner or moisturizing DIY hair mask. Use a heat source such as a steamer, heat cap or hair dryer over that you’ll sit under with a plastic cap. Then, rinse and complete your wash day.

Where to Next?

These articles contains with other ways to help you prevent breakage when handling your natural hair.

Beginner’s Guide to Caring for Natural Hair Daily
Easy Guide for How to Section Your Natural Hair: 7 Tips
Are Rubber Bands Bad for Natural Hair
How to Prevent Tangles with Low Manipulations Styling
The Detangling Rule of Thumb for Fine Natural Hair

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