Hair Growth Tips Series Part II: Detangling

June 21, 2011 Oyibo Princess
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Olive Oil (yum)

This is a continuation of the hair growth series.  Here I will discuss detangling. I got the idea to write this section from my mom.  The other day, I walked upstairs and saw my mother in the bathroom combing her hair from root to tip.  I was horrified!! Not only was she combing it from root to tip but she was racking it violently as if she hated it.  Terrible. I couldn’t believe it. What is good about what I saw, however, is that if I had not seen her combing the hair like she hated it, I would not have thought to write this section on detangling carefully because I thought it was second hand nature to not comb your hair like this.  What she should have done was comb her hair from the bottom and worked her way up to the top (if she was going to detangling it with comb at all). Below are more tips on how to detangle and why.

Detangle once or twice per week or every two weeks

As a kinky curly, you do not want to detangle your hair every day because that causes unnecessary breakage, but you also do not want to ignore it for 2 months or more because this also causes unnecessary breakage.  Combing, brushing, high manipulation irritates the hair and causes breakage. You really have to decide how often you should detangle based on how much you lose after waiting for so long.

Ignoring your hair or leaving it in braids for two months or more at a time can also be a bad thing because of what the hair naturally does.  All human beings shed on average 100 hair strands every day.  One can tell the difference between a shed hair and a broken off hair, because the shed hairs have small white bulbs at the end.  If an individual with kinky and/or curly hair leaves their hair without detangling it for months on end, the shed hairs get caught on the healthy hairs which causes the healthy hair (or relatively healthy hair depending on whose head it belongs to) to break when it is finally detangled.  I know the difficulty and the horror here because I had braids for two months (twice) last summer and although I had a lot of hair growth, I also had a ton of breakage because hair was basically like a bunch of half done dread locks and detangling was a nightmare!!  In fact, I was so frustrated at the matted hair that I cut some of it off. When we (yes we, it took an entire team to get those braids out) finished unraveling the braids and detangling, I had hair loss the size of my head. And the breakage didn’t stop. It was the nightmare that kept on giving.  For months, I was trying to detangle that hair and in the end, my hair was thinner and shorter than when I started out. I know that  my hair does not normally do this, because I have only attached hair to my head to braid it three times in my entire life (okay I am actually describing my experiences with all three times, but I pretty much always lost a lot of hair).

So in summary, if you get braids, don’t leave them in too long and if you do, use an oil treatment, which I will describe below, to get the tangles out.  In fact, you may want to do several oil treatments and as always be gentle.

To detangle wet or to detangle dry? That is the question. (MacBeth. You got it wrong.)

Believe it or not there is some controversy in the kinky-curly community on whether we should detangle the hair while wet or whether we should detangle the hair while dry. Well let’s examine both briefly.

Detangling hair while dry:

  • Pros: It is not going to expand and break.
  • Cons: It is not slippery and therfore likely to break.

Detangling hair while dry:

  • Pros: It is more slippery and therefore easier to pull apart.
  • Cons: It is more likely to expand and therefore break.

So as you can see, detangling the hair while wet and detangling while dry both put the hair at risk for breakage.  But do not worry! There is still hope.

The best way to detangle : Pre-wash (oil treatment)

This is why I recommend a technique called pre-washing, also known as pre-pooing or an oil treatment.  This involves putting an oil (olive oil, cocoa nut oil, or avocado oil-yes, the kind from the kitchen) on the hair, putting a plastic cap and then a towel on their hair in order to trap the heat. Allow to sit for 20 minutes to overnight.  Take off the towel and plastic cap and divide hair into smaller sections.  Pull apart the small sections slowly and carefully starting from the ends.  I usually do this before washing but may try it when styling the hair.  Before, I heard about the pre-washing technique and used it right after hearing about it, but did not realize that it was a detangling technique. I would do everything up to the part where I allow oil to sit in the hair and then washed the oil out without detangling it. This was not good because I was not taking advantage of an important detangling opportunity.

As I said before, I recommend trying pre-washing after having braids in for a long time, although I probably will never get tiny braid extension every again.

If you do decide to detangle the hair while wet, please use a conditioner with a lot of slip or add olive oil to the conditioner.  Many ladies with long kinky-curly hair (and I used to do this too), detangle after deep conditioning for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour to overnight, instead of detangling when first putting the conditioner on the hair. If you decide to do this, when finished deep conditioning, allow the water to run through the hair for about two seconds before detangling. Finger tangle the hair first by dividing the hair into small sections and carefully pulling the section apart from the bottom. If a particular piece of hair is stubborn or clumpy, drench the hair with more water using a spray bottle. Comb the finger detangled piece of hair if desired, but use a wide tooth comb and start from the bottom of the hair.

Sometimes I use both methods “dry” detangling (pre-washing) and “wet” detangling” or “dry” detanlging only.

Stretching (the good kind)

Whichever, method you choice, after washing your hair, your hair should be pretty well detangled. On wet kinky-curly hair, after detangling it, you should always stretch it out. If you do not, the tangles come back and you do not want that to happen, because the next time you detangle, it will be a nightmare and you will have more breakage than you want.

You can stretch the hair by:

  1.  Banding it.
  2. Braiding it.
  3. Twisting it.

I know I have said this before but I will make video tutorial on this soon. Banding the hair has accidently become one of new choice styles. I actually started making the video for banding the hair and will edit it once my new computer battery and charger are delivered to my parent’s house.

I am really thankful that I discovered the stretching technique, because, unfortunately wearing he hair in an afro was not helping me get any growth.


  1. Detangle the hair often (once per week) but not too often.
  2. Try pre-washing with an oil (see instructions above) on dry hair
  3. Finger detangle before combing if you decide to comb.
  4. Use a widetooth comb if you decide to comb.
  5. Be gentle; be nice.
  6. If you detangle while wet, do so after deep conditioning.
  7. Stretch the hair after detangling by braiding, banding or twisting it.

Okay. That’s all for today. Thanks everyone for tuning in. Next week expect another post on washing, conditioning, and/or styling. If you have any questions please leave a comment or email me at Okay o. Ẹ se! O dabọ. (That’s thank you and good bye in Yoruba).


Entry Filed under: Breakage,Detangling,Hair,Hair Growth

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