I tried 5 popular methods—this is the best way to detangle natural hair

I tried 5 popular methods—this is the best way to detangle natural hair


Keeping natural hair free of knots and tangles can be a challenge. As someone who wears my hair natural, I’ve tried many different detangling methods over the years with varying levels of success. In this post, I’ll share my journey to finding the gentlest, most effective way to detangle my curls.

Why Detangling Matters

Detangling is an important part of any natural hair care routine. When hair is tangled, it’s more prone to breakage and damage. Trying to comb through knots can rip hair out right from the root. Over time, rough detangling creates splits ends and thinning.

Gentle, patient detangling is key to retaining length and keeping natural hair healthy. But with tight coils and curls, where do you start? Which tools and techniques cause the least disruption to the hair’s natural structure?

Detangling Method #1: Wide-Tooth Comb

My first attempt at finding the best detangling method for my hair was to use a wide-tooth comb in the shower. I’d saturate my hair with conditioner, then start at the ends and slowly work upwards to detangle my curls.

While this helped get some surface knots out, the comb just skimmed over tangles close to my roots without smoothing them out. It also disrupted my curl pattern more than I would have liked.

Detangling Method #2: Wet Brushing

Next I tried a wet brush designed specifically for detangling knotted, curly hair. Using it soaked in the shower helped the bristles glide through my hair better than a regular comb.

But because the brush pulled at my hair straight down instead of side to side, it still caused breakage. While less damaging than my last attempt, wet brushing wasn’t gentle enough for daily detangling.

Detangling Method #3: Finger Detangling

Ready to give up on special tools, I decided to try using just my fingers to detangle in the shower. Sectioning my hair into manageable clumps made it easier to feel out knots and loosen them bit-by-bit.

This method was incredibly gentle. But without comb bristles, some shed hairs got left behind in my curls. Over time these created more tangles. So finger detangling alone wasn’t thorough enough.

Detangling Method #4: Pre-Shampoo Oiling

Instead of tackling knots wet, I experimented with oiling my hair before shampooing. Applying a hair oil to dry hair and letting it sit for 10-15 minutes helped lubricate strands for easier detangling.

While pre-shampoo oiling made combing less harsh, it didn’t do enough to actually loosen tangled areas for effective smoothing.

The Winning Method: Finger Detangling with Oil

After lots of trial and error, I finally found the best natural hair detangling method. It combined techniques from the finger detangling and pre-shampoo oiling attempts that worked well on their own.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to gently detangling natural hair:

  1. Apply hair oil to dry, unwashed hair. Focus on mid-lengths and ends prone to knotting. Let sit while you wash up or prep shower.
  2. Detangle sections under running water in the shower, starting at the bottom and slowly working up towards roots using just your fingers.
  3. Feel for knots and loosen them by gently pulling curled strands apart, not straight down.
  4. Use a wide-tooth comb only if necessary for shedding hairs, always starting from the ends.

This oil-assisted finger detangling method is gentle, thorough and helps minimize disruption to the hair’s natural curl pattern. While it requires more time and patience upfront, it prevents damage over time.


How often should you detangle natural hair?

Aim to detangle natural hair once a week or every 5-7 days. Detangling more often can cause unnecessary manipulation and friction.

When should you detangle natural hair?

The best time to detangle natural hair is on wash days before shampooing. Water and conditioner help lubricate strands for easier detangling.

What is the curliest hair type?

Type 4 hair is generally considered the curliest hair type. At this tight curl level, strands take on an “S”-like shape and tend to shrink up rather than hang down.

What oil is best for detangling natural hair?

Some of the best oils for natural hair detangling include argan, coconut, olive and sweet almond oils. Look for pure, cold-pressed oils without added ingredients.

How do you grow natural hair faster?

Eating a balanced diet, protective styling, regular trims and deep conditioning treatments can all help speed up natural hair growth. But genetics play a role too – growth rates vary from person to person.