How to Detangle Matted Hair at Home
Matted hair or gnarly tangles got you down? You don’t have to go into the salon or grab the scissors to fix unsightly knots. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide for how to detangle matted hair, as well as a few tips for preventing them in the first place. It might take a little patience and some upbeat music, but before you know it, your hair will be back to normal and looking beautiful!
What Causes Matted Hair?
Matted hair happens when loose or detached hair strands tangle and twist around attached hairs, causing a knotted clump. They are notoriously difficult to remove and can’t be brushed out as regular tangles would.
Depending on your hair type, such as drier or thinner hair, you could be more susceptible to matting and knots to begin with. Not to state the obvious, but make sure you’re regularly combing or brushing your hair! Frequent use of chemical relaxers will also dry out and make your hair brittle. Proactive hair maintenance ensures our strands and scalp are staying properly nourished and clear of the tangle zone.
In some cases, your haircare routine could be inadvertently damaging the protective layers of your hair (called cuticles) without you even realizing it! Are you rocking the same topknot hairstyle daily? Does your scalp get the needed TLC it deserves? Look out for common, easy-to-fix mistakes, like these five things you’re doing wrong with your haircare routine.
How to Detangle Matted Hair Step-by-Step
Painless detangling doesn’t have to be a wishful dream. And unless you have severe, supervillain-level hair mats, there’s no need to take out the scissors. Always try methods like the one below or consult your stylist before cutting out your matted sections. In extreme cases, cutting them out can be necessary to fully detangle, as very damaged hair is more prone to matting in the future, though this is uncommon.
For less severe cases, we’ve got you covered for how to untangle matted hair at home quickly, without any pain and with minimal hassle. You’ll only need a couple of tools and a little patience. No matter your hair type, follow the steps below to detangle your hair without causing further damage to your lovely locks.
A few tips:
- Use a good brush and wide-toothed comb! Brushes designed to tame tangles work especially well.
- If you have curly hair, be sure to detangle while your hair’s wet (not dripping) and use a wide-toothed comb.
Always start at the bottom and work your way up to the roots.
Step One: Shampoo and Rinse
To begin detangling your matted hair, start by taking a shower or rinsing your hair under the spigot in warm water. Shampoo your hair with a hydrating shampoo, giving some extra love to the matted patches. You can massage the affected area gently with the water and soap, but there’s no need to go overboard trying to get the tangles out at this stage. The point here is to clean and hydrate your hair!
If you’re looking to save a little time or wish to avoid shampooing, you can skip this step and begin at step two. Note that skipping a good shampoo might make detangling knots in hair more difficult and even painful, especially if you have a sensitive scalp or more delicate and brittle hair.
Step Two: Condition
With wet or lightly dampened hair (a spray bottle to spritz on some moisture works great!), massage in moisturizing or detangling-specific conditioner. You can also use detangling spray or oil (coconut, jojoba, argan, or a similar oil) instead, to help hydrate and loosen your hair. Work the product through your hair, being sure to saturate the matted area with an ample coating.
Make sure to dry your hair off a bit so that it’s not dripping. Hair that’s too wet can actually be more susceptible to breakage.
Step Three: Wait
Once you’ve applied your conditioning product, allow it to sit and absorb into your hair. Regular conditioners only need a few minutes, though deep conditioners will take longer and time can vary depending on the brand — so check the bottle’s instructions! For detangling spray or any oil, allow at least 30 minutes to no longer than two hours for absorption. This allows the knots in hair to take in moisture and nutrients, in turn making detangling smoother sailing.
Step Four: Brush or Comb
Using your wide-toothed comb or a high-quality brush, gently and gradually work through the matted hair from the ends of your hair toward your scalp. Brush in a downward direction, covering the length of your hair one section at a time. Wide-toothed combs work well because fine-toothed combs (or brushes) will meet more resistance in the hair and can make the process painful and can cause breakage. For severely tangled hair, you can start by using your fingers to pull apart the mat into smaller, more manageable sections.
It doesn’t matter whether you use a brush or comb here, so try what works best for you. Alternating between brushing, combing, and using your fingers can also help with detangling hair painlessly. Once the tangles begin to loosen and disappear, you can always move on to a finer-toothed comb to work out any small details of the knot!
As you separate strands from the matted hair, it’s natural for a good amount of hair to fall out. This happens because knots are, after all, made up of a tangle of both attached and already detached hairs. If you have a sensitive scalp, it’s a good idea to hold on to a section of your hair near to the scalp while you brush in order to prevent excessive pulling.
Step Five: Rinse and Hydrate
Now that you’ve combed out your matted hair, rinse away the conditioner (or oil or spray) using cool water. Work in a hair oil or detangling spray to the previously matted area to hydrate the damaged hair. This also keeps your hair protected down the road.
Preventing Matted Hair in the Future
There are several quick and easy steps you can take to avoid matted hair in the future! You don’t have to do every item on this list, but these tips should give you some good ideas for proactive hair health.
- Comb hair regularly to decrease the chance of severe tangles, especially if you’re prone to matting or have very curly hair.
- Don’t postpone detangling if knots are starting to form. Applying a little coconut oil into any problem areas works great in a pinch, while adding a little moisture and preventing protein loss.
- Use detangling products! When washing your hair, take advantage of detangling-specific conditioners and shampoos. These are great for reducing friction and smoothing fussy strands.
Wrap your hair at night with a silk scarf to prevent matting and breakage. It’s important to use silk, as cotton and other fabrics will absorb essential moisture and can actually cause further tangles!
Edited by: Vidhya