Probably the most time-consuming aspect of being natural besides wash day, detangling your hair is not something many people with kinky curls look forward to doing. It requires time, patience, gentleness, care, and attention to the nuances of your hair. Detangling the middle of you hair can be way different than detangling the back, front, or sides. Your hair might need more, or even less, moisture than others when detangling. Some days it takes me 30 minutes and some days it takes me an hour, depending on how much I’ve been neglecting my #teamnatural responsibilities, or what products I’ve been putting on it, or even the weather. Everybody’s detangling process is an individual experience…just like the natural hair journey is itself.
However, there are some key things that are necessary to make sure the process is easy as possible and there’s as much hair retention as possible. Although you shed about 100 hairs naturally everyday, a lot of avoidable hair loss comes from not detangling hair with the care it requires. I’m definitely a culprit of rushing to detangle my hair or not caring for it like I should (not twisting/braiding hair before bed, not moisturizing enough) during the week that leads to a hard time when I do my usual detangling session on Saturday. Especially since I have soft hair and it tends to produce single strand knots when it’s not in a bedtime protective style. So when I’m faced with the problem of dry hair with patches of knots that need detangling, here’s what I do to make sure that I replenish the moisture and don’t rip my hair out:
MY DETANGLING PROCESS
- MOISTURIZE – the LOC (liquid, oil, cream) method is nothing new and it’s something that’s been talked about on every natural hair blog. But the reason for that is that it’s really been a tried, tested, true method for properly moisturizing hair and retaining that moisture. Curly hair tends to be drier because oils don’t slide down the hair like straight hair, so for those with kinky curls, it’s of utmost importance to have well moisturized hair when manipulating it in any way. The liquid step is applying water or a water based moisturizer to the hair. I use a spray bottle filled with slightly warm water (warm water opens pores in scalp and hair cuticles) and a few drops of lavender (calming, promotes blood circulation, soothes skin irritations, antibacterial, antifungal) and eucalyptus (fresh, stimulates blood circulation, antibacterial, antifungal). I make sure to spray my hair until it’s damp but not too wet (too wet can cause more breakage) and my scalp as well.
- SEAL & PROTECT – for the oil step of the LOC method, I use sweet almond oil from pipingrock.com, a website that sells natural, health-conscious products including vitamins, supplements, herbs, snack foods, and essential oils. The benefits of almond oil are something I discussed on Instagram (afro.girl.lovely) and I’ve started using it in place of coconut oil (which clogs pores). Almond oil is a light oil that softens, nourishes, and protects skin and hair. It absorbs fairly quickly as well. I take the section of hair that I eventually want to detangle and use about a palm sized amount on that section, making sure I cover everything from the ends to rubbing a little on the scalp. Then, for the “cream” part of the method, I currently use AS I AM Leave-In Conditioner in the same manner. Now this product is actually a water-based product with coconut, amla, sugar beet root, green tea, lemon, apple, and sugar cane extracts, but it’s gel like consistency helps to preserve moisture. It’s also not completely natural as it has cetearyl alcohol (which actually isn’t really harmful to skin or hair) and some other synthetic ingredients, but I’m trying to use the rest of it as it was given to me by a friend. (also pictured is Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Extra-Moisture Detangler which I no longer use)
- DETANGLE FROM END TO ROOT – once I have my hair properly moisturized, I start detangling. I use three tools to detangle my hair: a brown wide tooth detangling comb that I’ve had since I went natural in college so I don’t know the brand (sorry lol), a smaller deep teal colored Tangle Tamer detangling comb for more detailed detangling, and the Michel Mercier Detangling Brush (for Thick Hair) which does a great job of detangling and smoothing hair with little breakage. Now once I use the almond oil and AS I AM leave-in on a section of hair, I use the brown wide tooth, gently and carefully starting to rake out the ends aka the oldest, weakest part of hair. I use the brown comb to get the general tightness of out my hair, especially near my scalp. Then I use the blue Tangle Tamer to stretch the hair and take care of any detailed tangles. While I’m doing this I’m looking for any single strand knots. If I spot one, I use my fingers (NOT the comb) to either untangle it the best I can or carefully clip it out. To clip the single strand knots, I usually use my nail clipper since I own hair scissors and it does the job. Also, if I feel a section has dried up more that I would like it to before I oil and seal it, I spritz a little more water from the spray bottle and reapply maybe a quarter sized amount of almond oil and AS I AM. Then, once a section is stretched out, I use the Michel Mercier brush to smooth the hair out. All I do is one or two brush strokes that slowly go through the section of hair, as anymore would be unnecessary since by that time my hair is fully detangled. (total amount of shed hair from detangling…not too bad for about a week’s worth but working on less shedding)
- TWIST, BRAID, OR BANTU KNOT – to keep the hair stretched out, or especially to protect it if I’m about to go to bed, I either two-strand twist, braid, or bantu knot each section each section I detangle at a time. Lately, I’ve been bantu knotting it since it’s fast and still effective. Just coiling the section of hair and tightly wrapping it around into a bantu knot I can also quickly take down has been a quick and convenient way to protect my hair before bed. Twists and braids are better, although more time-consuming, since the knots are more likely to come out during sleep…but the bantu knots are still pretty good. Plus, I’ve started to incorporate them into when I do an actual hairstyle.
As mentioned before, this process usually takes me 30-45 minutes on a week where my hair is in pretty good condition. If my hair is really dry or I’ve been neglecting it, and I need to take the care to revitalize it and not damage it any further, it takes an hour. When it does take me longer, it’s a reminder that taking care of your hair is something that should be a daily self-care habit, even if it means just giving that wash and go fro a little moisture before you get dressed or twisting/braiding up your hair at night. Nothing can flourish if you don’t tend to and nurture it.
(picture of me literally the morning after the pictures above. Ignore the tired face, lol)