At one time or another, all hair types and textures experience knots and tangles in your hair at some point. But don’t panic! You don’t need to chop it all off or change your style to avoid getting further tangles in the future. They’re a pain – yes, but you can do things to both fix the problem, and help avoid future tangles.

Here are some ways you can detangle your hair without damage – and how to avoid tangles in the future.

What causes your hair to tangle?

Tangles are caused when the hair cuticle is damaged and opens up. The open cuticles then block each other, become intertwined and form knots.

Some of the contributing facts that contribute to your hair tangling include:

  • Split ends
  • Sleeping with your hair down
  • Using harsh/stripping hair products and over washing
  • If your hair is lacking hydration
  • Massaging your hair too hard when shampooing and rubbing the hair with a towel when drying
  • Heat styling
  • The wind blowing through your hair
  • Sleeping with your hair down

So let’s talk about some ways to detangle your hair

  • Detangle by combing from the bottom up – slowly work your way up the hair gently to avoid breakage and scalp pain.
  • Use your fingers to gently separate tangles before combing through your hair
  • Use hair masks –tangles can be a sign of dry hair. “You should use a hair mask in replacement of your conditioner every couple of washes to provide your hair with extra moisture, leaving it soft, smooth, shiny and manageable. My favourite hair mask is the TAOH Hydrate Mask,” says Bruno Marc, Founder of TAOH Haircare.
  • Use hair oils – these can help avoid dryness and give your hair some slip when detangling

However, not all hair types can be treated equally so here are some more specific advice for hair types.

For curly / afro hair

If you’re a curly/afro haired beauty or fall anywhere on this spectrum, you’ll know that you should always detangle your hair when wet. It helps remove the tangles without harsh pulling.

Take sections of the hair, clipping the rest up with a pin or clip and detangle in sections.

Using a conditioner or a product with slip can also help your brush (or fingers) glide through the hair, avoiding causing damage when detangling. “Detangle your hair with conditioner in it, but give it time to soften your hair first. You should leave it in for at least ten minutes. Detangling your hair right after shampooing is a big no-no because the pH of the shampoo causes your hair cuticle to stand up. That means the cuticle shingles catch on one another. You could rip some of them off while trying to comb through that way. Conditioner makes your hair pH more acidic, closes the cuticles and coats the hair so it’s easier to detangle,” says Ghanima Abdullah hair expert and cosmetologist at

Wide tooth combs and paddle brushes are gentler on the hair so are great options.

For straight hair

Straight hair gets tangled too! Unlike curly/afro hair, the general consensus is that you should not try and detangle your hair when it’s wet – that’s when it’s most prone to damage.

You can use a paddle brush or any brush with firm bristles, work from the bottom up and dry brush your strands. Detangle regularly to avoid small knots becoming a bigger problem – this can even be done with your fingers.

When it comes to detangling your hair, always start from the bottom and brush upwards to avoid damage being done to your hair and use a wide tooth comb that will glide through your hair easily without causing friction,” says Suzie McGill, Artistic Director at Rainbow Room International.

Make sure to take your time, be patient and you may find that going knot by knot, carefully untangling them one by one is the best way.

Of course, the best thing to do is avoid your hair getting tangled in the first place.

Some ways to avoid your hair getting tangled are:

  • Sleeping on a silk pillowcase
  • Brush your hair regularly
  • Tie your hair up – leaving it loose just invites it to tangle as you sleep! You could wear your hair in braids to keep it protected
  • Regularly trim your hair
  • Avoid rubbing your hair with a towel – this will rough up the cuticle and also encourage tangles as you rub
  • Use a detangling spray

Take care of your hair and you’ll minimise those annoying knots and tangles in the future!