Tangles, hair knots, single strand knots and fairy knots are all things a curly girl quickly become aware as she ditches hair relaxers and signs up to a natural hair journey. While having relaxed hair keeps us in a protected bubble of easy detangling sessions with minimal or easy to eliminate tangles the curly girl life get us out of that state of utopia quickly and into what can become a hard knock life. But things don’t have to be this way, the secret to overcoming this new reality is to have the best tools at hand to detangle naturally curly hair.
Now, before we get into what tools will make your life easier I just want to make sure you know that this post is not gonna be another Ode to the wonders of finger-detangling that you’ll probably read on some other blog or hear on a YouTube video.
Staying true to what made me start this blog, I am only gonna share with you science-based information and/or what has worked for me in my own curly hair journey. Even though you may find me glamourizing finger-detangling in some of my older posts, these days the truth is very different and I even wrote a post signalling this change back in 2017. You can read it here.
Anyway, if you’re a die-hard fan of finger-detangling I hope you keep reading and open your mind to new information. If you’re starting your journey or you’re just open to improving your hair routine I believe you’ll find some valuable info for your hair routine.
The Finger-Detangling Hoax?!
For a long time, finger-detangling as been a core principle of proper curly hair care and most people coming into it hardly challenge it, I mean, I didn’t. I wanted to do right by my hair after years of abuse and because of it, I accepted the ‘guidance’ of those who were ‘doing curly hair’ for much longer than I was without questioning it, initially.
Finger-detangling has been touted as the safest way to avoid hair breakage, snaps and even split ends. The principle is that your hands are all you ever need to detangle your hair in the safest way (there’s obviously a big room for debate here, but I’ll leave that for another time). Our hands are able to feel the resistance of knots better way before we do when using a comb or brush. With patience and time and working in over many different sections of hair, the act finger-detangling can be a gentle process where tangles are patiently worked through with minimal breakage.
However, it also has disadvantages. If we were ever to see our hands as a comb, we would notice that it has very few teeth and that they’re very wide. Such a comb is not able to properly get to all knots and tangles of curly hair, especially those close to the scalp.
While finger detangling is okay when transitioning to natural hair because the hair strands are straightened and fewer tangles occur when this stage of the hair journey ends things change dramatically. I can remember when I was 3 to 5 months into my transitioning hair journey and detangling was a nightmare, literally. I even considered giving up on everything. Yes, the whole journey!
My Finger Detangling Experience
One thing, I’ll tell you, I finger-detangled exclusively for almost 4 years of my curly hair journey, however, after cutting all my relaxed ends I noticed I had more difficulties and spent more time working through all the knots and tangles of my curly hair and since my hair was waist-length you can imagine how long it took me. 😉
In an attempt to make the process go faster I summoned the help of my wide tooth comb. It worked and I was satisfied. Later on, I also used a brush, which I swore would never work on my hair, and I was very surprised with the results.
Besides a quicker detangling session, I was able to get real close and undo all the tangles close to my scalp (something many naturals are unable to do or don’t do well enough) which I now know I was doing poorly.
However, the most surprising outcome of enlisting the help of a comb/brush was an 80% to 90% reduction of single strand knots, fairy knots or whatever you wanna call them – a single hair strand of mine could have 2 or more knots and I had them ALL OVER MY HAIR.
Now, I don’t have any scientific proof that finger-detangling exclusively increased the formation of knots, or that some other change in my hair routine was not responsible for the occurrence of fewer knots. Still, my hair routine didn’t have any noticeable changes besides the introduction of these tools and honestly, when I was relaxing my hair I never experienced hair knots (or had enough to even see or remember them) only after going natural.
Therefore, I can only put a decrease in single strand knots to cancelling my exclusivity agreement with finger-detangling. From my point of view, my hair literally supports my theory. 😉 😀
And still, having said all this, I do consider finger-detangling a helpful practice. I am not telling you to ban it out of your hair routine. What I’m saying is that finger-detangling is not the perfect-solve-all-tangles-detangling-tool (and possibly no tool is) but when allied with other tools you can get the best results – well-detangled hair in less time, less hair breakage and fewer strand knots (way fewer!!).
Now, do you need to finger detangle?! Is it necessary?!
I don’t think so. If you prefer a more traditional route (comb or a brush), go for it! Just be gentle, will ya. No yanking and trying to rush it trough, remember that hair is in its most fragile state when it’s wet.
I personally like to start by loosely finger-detangling my hair. My fingers allow me to feel the big tangles and I work to melt their resistance. Once the bigger tangles are done I’ll go in with my wide tooth comb to address smaller tangles and finish with the Denman brush or I just skip the comb and go straight to the brush, it depends on how tangled my hair is.
Word Of Advice
I know, it sounds like a lot but it works for me – fewer single strand knots remember?! – and no, it doesn’t take me longer to do it when compared to just finger-detangling. Besides, making sure my hair is so well detangled it means my next session will be a quicker as I’m not missing smaller tangles that will worsen over time and add more time/difficulty to my detangling sessions.
I know of many curly girls who can’t be bothered to go in deep on their roots to fix tangles or feel that that battle is long lost and leave that work to stylists who, rightfully, often complain and even refuse or charge higher prices for that service (detangling).
Still, I wanna make sure you know that a key important factor in having an easier and quicker detangling session is also having a goood conditioner, one that has great slip (here are two ingredients in a conditioner that help with that). Without it, you’re back to square one. (Psst. I personally prefer to skip directly to deep conditioning, know why here and here and get all the deets on how you can do it best with the Curly Guide to Deep Conditioning).
Also, for all those who dream of having long hair… the longer your hair is the more time you spend detangling it. So if you can’t be bothered with detangling properly or rather spend your time doing more enjoyable things with your family or friends, why aim for long hair?
Building an easy/manageable hair routine also means considering your lifestyle and acknowledging/recognising your willingness to do the work. 😉
Okay, so now that you know my position on detangling and how I approach it in my hair routine, let me leave you with some of the best detangling tools people swear by. As for mine, you already know which ones they are. 🙂 🙂
BEST HAIR DETANGLING TOOLS
Yep, your hands still rank as one of the best tools to detangle your curly hair. Many used them solely and will not hear of anything else to care for their tresses, however, you know already know my position on this – use them for sure, but don’t rely completely on them. Enlist another detangling tool to really make sure all tangles are addressed.
#2| WIDE TOOTH COMB
We all have one laying around somewhere and for all intents and purposes, it is still one of the best and cheapest tools to cut through hair tangles and knots even though many refuse to use it. Make sure your comb doesn’t have any seems that can snag your hair and that it has wide teeth.
#3| BRUSH/DEMAN BRUSH
Brushes come in a variety of styles and purposes but a favourite in the curly hair universe is the Denman brush. I took me some time to be convinced by this one but I gotta say it is the perfect finishing tool to my detangling session and even when setting my hair for a wash and go (yes, sometimes not always) and my braid/twist outs (very important you detangle here!!).
#4| TANGLE TEEZER
I have not tried it, I can’t promise I will and frankly, it scares me a bit but I can’t ignore the fact so many curly girls praise it and swear by it. So I had to include the Tangle Teezer in this ‘Best of‘ list. I guess I’m just wondering how does it not fly off from my hand when it doesn’t have a proper handle or grip when my Denman brush already flyes off sometimes and it does have a handle?! Let me know on that secret if you manage all this. 😉 😀
#5| FELICIA LEATHERWOOD BRUSH
I know, another brush… but what can you do when hair stylists all over the place and fellow curly girls are so surprised and enchanted by this flexi-bristle brush that moves with your curls to release tangles. The best thing the Felicia Leatherwood Brush is that it was designed by an experienced curly hair stylist who understands curly hair and the importance of having well-detangled hair (see you gotta get in there, hands are not enough 😉 ).