6 tips for detangling hair at home

Indian man with matted curly hair
Adobe

Tangled hair can make us scream — out of frustration and pain from brushes getting caught in knots. Using a good hair conditioner and a moisturizing detangler along with the best detangling brush you can find will help get you through most everyday struggles, but sometimes big knots and tangles require us to break out the big guns. In these cases, we’ve got a choice: buzz it all off or set aside some time (and patience!) to try to work it out on our own.

Adobe

It’s possible to undo matted hair at home and take steps to reduce the possibility of it returning.

What Makes Hair So Matted To Begin With?

While everyday knots can be undone pretty easily, mats are more stubborn. They’re a combination of attached and shedded strands that wind together to form clumps. Interlocked strands can become fused together. People with drier or textured curly or coiled hair types are more prone to it happening, but really anyone with hair can fall victim to matting.

The main cause of hair matting is product buildup on the hair shaft from styling products, conditioner and hair masks left in longer than they need to be, and improperly shampooed hair. Over time, this buildup dulls hair because it coats the strands, setting the stage for increased friction.

Adobe

How To Detangle Matted Hair

Grab your best detangling brush, wide-tooth comb, pin-curl or rat-tail comb, detangling primer, detangling spray, hair oil and conditioning treatment. To right your hair wrong, these tools will be your friends.

  1. Start by misting the matted section with detangler spray and use your fingers to work the product through your hair.
  2. Gently try to loosen the hair fibers with your fingers. Spray more product if the clump isn’t completely saturated.
  3. Add oil for additional lubrication and try to run your wide-tooth comb through your hair.
  4. Pull out any free strands and slowly work your detangling brush through the section, starting from the bottom and working your way up.
  5. Take turns using your wide-tooth comb, detangling brush and rat-tail comb to loosen the tangles.
  6. Condition strands as you free them for added moisture. This process might take a while, so be patient with yourself and take short breaks as needed.

Heads up: It’s normal to experience shedding during the process, so don’t be alarmed!

Adobe

If you absolutely cannot get the mat out, you might need to consider cutting it.

How Do You Avoid Matted Hair In The First Place?

  1. Create a “blank canvas” by de-matting your hair using the suggestions above
  2. Practice proper scalp and hair care
  3. Use accessories designed to prevent snags
  4. Saturate ends of hair with a light serum or leave-in treatment a few times per week
  5. Schedule regular trims
  6. Comb through hair after each wash
  7. If you have long hair, protect hair with a silk pillowcase, scarf or bonnet while sleeping
  8. Be mindful about using hairspray or backcombing (both open the door to tangling and matting hair fibers)

If you’re on the prowl for the best detangling brush, check out our top-rated picks.

Matted hair happens — to us, and even to our dogs! So put down the buzzers and start trying these methods to see if they do the trick.

About the Author

Emily O'Brien

Emily is a freelance writer who loves connecting the dots among facts and finding obscure little details to weave in throughout her work. Whether she's interviewing Olympic athletes, small business owners, dessert cookbook writers, or world-renowned architects, she's passionate about shining the spotlight on good people doing remarkable work. Learn More.