How to Combat Tangled, Knotted Hair Without Hating Your Life

light brown hair with two hair clips detangled


There's no denying tangled hair is annoying—you can't run your fingers through it, it gets caught on everything... the list goes on. But knots are much more than just a nuisance. Tangles (and the act of removing them) can damage your hair, cause major breakage, and leave your mane feeling brittle. Whether you've gotten yourself into this position by teasing your roots or a windy day got you in a tough spot, you're in need of some expert advice to get those knots out, without ruining your hair.

Brushing out your tangles is one thing, and honestly, if you want to go to town swatting at your strands, that's on you. But brushing out your tangles without damaging your strands is easier said than done—especially for those of us who are a bit more heavy-handed with a hairbrush. Believe it or not though, it's actually possible to detangle hair without tearing it to shreds, and we have the tips.

When a head full of tangles nearly drives you to reach for a pair of scissors (because it's really that frustrating), all you need are a handful of expert tips to get your hair feeling silky smooth again. Lucky for you, we tapped hairstylist Kendall Dorsey, who knows her way around a knot or two, for her tips on detangling even the most knotted hair. Ahead, her tricks for getting those tangles out, sans damage, or a sore scalp. You can thank us later.

Meet the Expert

Kendall Dorsey is a celebrity hairstylist with clients like Nicki Minaj, Usher, and Cardi B. Her work has appeared everywhere from the runway, to campaign imagery for Coach, to print magazines like Glamour, Essence, and more.

Use The Right Detangling Tool

tangle teezer brush
Tangle Teezer The Large Ultimate Detangler $18

"Tail combs and other small-tooth combs can cause severe damage and breakage to your strands," explains Dorsey. "The best way to detangle hair is to use a paddle brush or wide-tooth comb, as they are much more gentle on the hair." We also recommend using a brush with flexible bristles, like Tangle Teezer's Ultimate Detangler, which can be used on both wet and dry hair.

Start From The Ends, Then Work Your Way Up

the wet brush detangled brush
The Original Wet Brush Detangler Hair Brush $15

If you take your hairbrush straight to the root when detangling, trust us, there's a much easier way. Brushing from roots to ends is not only extremely painful, but it's also the quickest way to damage your tangled tresses. Dorsey tells us, "the biggest mistake many people make when detangling hair is starting from the root instead of ends. Before you go detangling the roots, start at the bottom and work your way up—that way, when you reach the root, you'll have a smooth foundation to glide down." Plus, this minimizes the amount of tugging for the tender-headed.

Work In Sections

Kristin ess detangling clips against white background
Kristin Ess Do It All Sectioning Clips $6

If you're trying to remove all traces of teased hair, Dorsey warns against washing it before you make an attempt at detangling. She says, "sometimes wetting the hair can lock in the knots, making it much more difficult to detangle, and much more prone to damage." Break out your detangling brush and slowly get to combing, working on one small section at a time. Dorsey says, "be patient" and if things are really matted, she even recommends applying a conditioner on dry hair to help loosen the knots as you go. Easy does it.

Use a Moisturizing Detangling Spray

Foundation Mist
Oribe Foundation Mist $32

If your hair is color-treated, you should know it's much more prone to breakage. Dorsey recommends detangling damage-prone hair in tandem with a moisturizing detangling spray. "A detangler keeps damage to a minimum by limiting harsh pulling and tugging on the hair." For easy detangling, she keeps Oribe Foundation Mist and Devacurl No-Comb Detangling Spray Lightweight Curl Tamer ($20) in her kit at all times.

Color-treated strands aren't the only hair type prone to damage. Dorsey also adds, "mature hair is sometimes more susceptible to breakage and shedding too. She urges, "always use a detangling spray if you have mature hair, work on smaller sections, and comb from the bottom-up with a lighter touch."

After Detangling, Re-hydrate Strands With Olive Oil and a Steamer

thermal hair cap
Amazon Deep Conditioning Thermal Cap $37

Once you finally get those annoying knots out, your hair will feel brittle and likely be lacking moisture. After your detangling session, Dorsey recommends "applying 100 percent virgin olive oil from your roots to your ends and letting it sit under a hair steamer for about 20 minutes." She says this will hydrate and moisturize parched strands after vigorous detangling. Plus, chances are you already have a bottle of olive oil in your pantry. (And if you don't have access to a hair steamer, you can wear a thermal cap like the one linked above, which heats up in the microwave to help the oil better-penetrate.) Hello, instant relief.

Fight Tangles While You Sleep With a Silk Bonnet

SILKE London The Sofia Protective Hair Wrap
SILKE London The Sofia Protective Hair Wrap $54

Dorsey admits a silk pillowcase is a fantastic way to keep tangles at bay. However, she actually prefers sleeping with a silk bonnet instead. Truthfully, a silk pillowcase is only beneficial to your hair if your head stays on the pillow. For those crazy sleepers out there (honestly, same), she explains, "a silk bonnet will keep your hair in place, prevent it from friction against your blankets, pajamas, and your pillow. Plus, it locks moisture in all night." This Silke London The Sofia Protective Hair Wrap is actually so cute, you might even catch us out in it.

Use Moisture Masks to Prevent Future Tangles

PROMOTE Treatment Mask
Evolis Professional PROMOTE Treatment Mask $40

"Oftentimes hair becomes tangled because it's really dry," explains Dorsey. If your hair tends to tangle easily, she recommends using évolis Professional Promote treatment mask, saying it provides instant hydration. "A hair mask brings back the moisture and hydration that the hair needs and works wonders at keeping tangles away," she explains. So you're telling us if you moisturize your mane and keep it moisturized, you won't have to deal with knots in the first place? Done.

Now that you've learned how to prevent knots and taken note on how to get rid of them, tangles and breakage are a thing of the past. With the correct tools, some moisturizing products and the patience of a saint, you'll never get caught in anything less than gorgeous silky strands flowing in the wind again. Ahem, you're welcome.

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