Anyone who’s had hair longer than about chin length has probably had to deal with difficult and painful knots at one time or another. Whether your hair is coarse or fine, long or short, dyed or natural, or curly or straight, nobody wants to have to drag a brush through tangled tresses, risking breakage and traumatizing a sensitive scalp.
Unfortunately, there are all kinds of missteps in your hair care routine that could result in unwanted tangles. You might be using the wrong kind of brush for your hair type, or the chemical treatments you choose could be causing more damage than you think.
It could be that you’re washing your hair too much or not enough. Perhaps you’re using the wrong products, or you simply don’t know which products will provide the hydrating and smoothing benefits you seek.
Whatever your hair situation, you need to know how to treat your tresses right so you can steer clear of annoying and unsightly tangles and enjoy soft, silky locks that are easy to manage. Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You just need to try a few tips and tricks to transform your hair into a mane attraction.
Start with Clarification
The outermost layer of a strand of hair — the cuticle — consists of overlapping layers of dead cells that help to regulate water content and protect the internal structure of the strand from external harm.
When healthy, the cuticle lies flat, like fish scales, keeping water and environmental contaminants away from the shaft. It also creates the healthy, glossy appearance everyone loves.
Unfortunately, the cuticle can be damaged in a number of ways — from heat, rough toweling or brushing, and of course, the wrong hair products. Buildup from products or natural oils can also impact the health of hair cuticles.
Before you start changing up your entire routine in an attempt to fight frizz and tangles, a good place to start is with detox. An organic clarifying shampoo alleviates buildup on the cuticle, helping to create a healthy, smooth, protective layer.
It can also regulate potential issues like an oily or flaky scalp, potentially stimulating hair follicles for all-around healthier tresses. This regulation is all good news for the look, feel, and overall health of hair, particularly if you’re dealing with tangles and other issues like itchy scalp or dandruff.
Indulge in a Blowout
You’ve probably heard that heat can cause some real damage to your hair, but this only really applies if you do it wrong. While you could simply let your hair air dry, you’ll be happy to hear that there’s a way to blow dry hair that actually helps to protect the cuticle and prevent knots.
For starters, you’ll want to towel correctly. Start by choosing a microfiber towel designed to help hair retain hydration — unlike terry cloth, which could leach a ton of moisture from your mane. Surprisingly, this fabric also helps to dry hair faster.
Microfiber towels cause less friction, which means they’re less likely to rough up your cuticle or cause breakage that can lead to split ends, frizziness, and knots. Now, how do you go about blowdrying hair?
First, choose the lowest heat setting on your blow dryer. High heat may dry your hair faster, but it can also damage the cuticle, creating cracks in the cells that cause them to open. This cracking, in turn, can lead to split ends, tangles, and other harm.
However, using a lower heat setting is less likely to cause harm, and in fact, it could help to seal the cuticle, especially when paired with the right styling products.
The trick is to start at the roots and direct airflow down the hair in the direction it grows. This approach will help to ensure that the cuticle lies flat, resulting in smooth, shiny hair that’s less likely to tangle.
Add a Hydrating Hair Mask to Your Routine
Generally speaking, you might not think you’re doing much damage to your hair. If you don’t use hair dye or other chemical treatments (perm, relaxers, etc.), you may wonder why you’re having trouble with tangles.
For one thing, you could be using the wrong products for your hair or perhaps just over-washing it. You might be drying it wrong. Or it could simply be the onslaught of environmental harm caused by heat, UV rays, pollution, and so on.
No matter how you treat your hair, whether you dye it, blow dry it, or curl or flat iron it, you should know that there are ways to protect it so that you can avoid breakage, frizz, and tangles. One great option to consider if you’re already using suitable shampoo, conditioner, and styling products is adding a hydrating hair mask on a regular basis.
The right hair mask, when used properly, can deliver incredible benefits, such as:
- Adding moisture
- Flattening/closing the cuticle
- Increasing strength, softness, and shine
- Reducing breakage and frizz
- Reducing tangles
- Protecting against environmental damage
If you’re having a heck of a time with tangles, you may want to swap out your regular conditioner for a hair mask once or twice a week. However, you should start by choosing the right product.
For hair that’s prone to knots, especially dry or damaged locks, select a hair mask that contains ceramides. This conditioning agent not only helps to close the cuticle, creating a smooth, shiny appearance, but it can strengthen the hair shaft by locking in needed moisture and nutrients.
Consider a Leave-In Conditioner
Conditioner, in general, is vital for anyone who experiences tangles or simply wants soft, shiny hair. However, you may find that even a good conditioning product isn’t giving you the smooth, glossy tresses you crave.
This lack could be because your hair is damaged from chemical or heat treatment, or maybe you just have a coarser hair type that’s more prone to dryness and breakage from the get-go. In either case, if your regular conditioner isn’t cutting it, it might be time to consider a leave-in product.
While not every leave-in product is right for every hair type, there are products designed for every hair texture, from fine to coarse, as well as for hair that is color-treated or otherwise damaged.
These products are meant to be used after washing but before styling products, and as the name implies, they are left on the hair rather than being rinsed away.
If you’re dealing with issues like brittleness, breakage, and knots, it’s best to choose a leave-in conditioner that contains ceramides to help smooth the cuticle and protect the shaft. These products should be applied from root to tip for maximum benefit.
Temper Your Highlights
Any time you color treat your hair, you’re looking at causing some amount of damage. The chemicals used to dye hair permanently can affect proteins responsible for maintaining strong, healthy strands. The result can be damage to the cuticle, breakage, and increased fragility.
If you love your highlights and you’re not willing to forego them just to prevent snarls, you can at least tone them down, so to speak. Instead of going for full highlights every time, consider partial updates that focus on just a few sections to give some of your hair time to recover.
You can also opt for the popular balayage technique, by which dye is painted onto the hair in a more natural and organic way. This method typically doesn’t go all of the way to the roots. When you find ways to cut back on highlights, you can minimize damage, helping to prevent frizz and knots.
Schedule Trims Regularly
Split ends are a common side effect of hair damage and lack of hydration. When the ends of hair split, they lose the protection of a complete cuticle around the shaft, opening the door to more potential harm. If not addressed, splits can continue all of the way up to the root and create conditions for tangles, frizz, and other issues.
Regular trims are recommended every four to six weeks if you’re trying to maintain a particular style or length, but what if you’re trying to grow your hair? There are a couple of options to consider.
Generally, you should plan on a minimum of four haircuts a year (once every 12 weeks), whether you’re trying to grow your style or not. When it comes to promoting growth, however, you can go for a particular type of trim called a dusting.
While a typical haircut could entail removing up to about an inch or more off the ends, a dusting takes off as little as about a quarter of an inch and may only be required in areas of uneven growth, depending on how often you visit your stylist.
This approach could be enough to minimize or prevent split ends with frequent appointments, and if you’re trying to grow out your style, it will help you to do so in a healthy way.
Upgrade to a Satin Pillowcase
Breathable cotton feels nice on your skin and is naturally hypoallergenic, especially when you choose organic cotton. These features make it a great choice for bedding, whether you have sensitive skin, you suffer from common allergens, or you simply like the feel of cotton.
Unfortunately, this textile is no friend to your hair. It can not only draw moisture from your locks while you slumber, but it can rough up the cuticle, leading to frizz, snarls, and breakage.
The good news is that you don’t need to get rid of the cotton sheets you love. You simply have to swap your pillowcase out for a sleek, satin option that protects your hair from undue damage.
The nature of this tightly-woven fabric is slick, so your hair slides across the surface rather than catching on stray fibers. And if you absolutely can’t get used to pressing your face to synthetic fabric, opt for a satin bonnet instead. You’ll gain the added benefit of preserving your hairstyle while you get your rest.
Choose Protective Hairstyles
Some cultures have long turned to protective hairstyles like twists, locs, and braids to keep hair strong and healthy and prevent issues like frizz, knots, and breakage, helping to retain or add to the length. However, anyone can benefit from trying protective hairstyles that work with their natural texture.
Braids are especially beneficial for all hair types. Whether you’re dealing with fine or coarse texture or straight or curly hair types, braids can help to tame your tresses day or night and protect your hair from harm in the process.
The difference lies in factors like the shape, texture, density, and growth angle of the hair.
Curly, coiled, or kinky hair lends itself well to long-term protective styles like twists, locs, and box braids, for example. Straight or wavy hair typically works better with short-term styles like French or Dutch braids that aren’t meant to stay in more than a day or two.
Buns and topknots are also a great protective style when you don’t have much time to spend on your daily routine, or you struggle with braiding your own hair.
Switch to a Wooden Brush
Plastic brushes are cheap and plentiful, but plastic isn’t the best option for your hair, especially if you’re prone to tangles. What makes a wooden brush better? There are a couple of reasons to switch.
First of all, wooden hair brushes are often made from natural rather than synthetic materials. Both the handle and the bristles are typically wood. Why is this important?
Wooden bristles help to catch the natural oils on your scalp and distribute them down the length of your strands, from root to tip, helping to protect the cuticle and give your hair a glossy sheen. In addition, they are often widely spaced to minimize the risks of pulling and breakage while gently gliding through your hair.
This type of bristle works great with straight, wavy, and curly hair, and it’s gentle on dry or damaged hair as well. It also helps to diffuse static and minimize frizz. You might spend a little more on a wooden hairbrush, but it’s a great investment that delivers incredible results.
Avoid Hot Water
We’re not suggesting that you need to take a polar bear plunge to get gorgeous hair — the idea that dousing your locks in frigid water will seal the cuticle is actually a myth.
While cold water could help the cuticle to lay flat, which might lead to slightly smoother, shinier hair, the truth is, you’ll get essentially the same result from lukewarm water without the goosebump-inducing shock of a cold shower.
With that being said, you also don’t want to turn the tap to scalding. Very hot water will not only strip your hair of natural oils that help to keep tresses smooth and shiny, but it could slightly raise the cuticle, potentially creating greater opportunities for tangles.
Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid temperature extremes when it comes to washing your hair. Neither cold nor hot water is entirely responsible for good or bad outcomes, so there’s no need to suffer discomfort for the sake of your locks.
The greatest benefits actually come from choosing premium hair care products, like a moisturizing conditioner that seals the cuticle, prevents breakage, and leaves your hair soft and shiny. This product is where you should shift your focus so that you can opt for a comfortable water temperature.
Consider Acid over Alkaline
Treating your hair with acid doesn’t sound like a great idea, but we’re talking about the chemical difference between acidic versus alkaline when it comes to your hair’s natural pH balance. On a pH scale from zero to 14, with seven being neutral, hair naturally has a pH value of about 4.5 to 5.5, which leans acidic.
What you might not know is that pushing hair to the alkaline side can be incredibly detrimental. At a pH of about 12, hair can actually start to dissolve. Chemicals like hair dye, perm solution, and relaxers tend to be alkaline, which is one of the reasons they can cause so much damage.
Luckily, most daily hair care, from shampoos and conditioners to styling products, is designed to be more acidic in keeping with your hair’s natural pH. However, it’s always best to make sure.
For example, shampoo made with pure Castille soap can have a pH of eight to nine. Using these products can cause cuticles to open, leading to frizz and tangles and leaving the shaft of hair unprotected.
Look for a Suitable Silicone Product
If you’ve used silicone products before, you know they are designed to protect hair from heat damage common to styling (blow drying, curling, flat ironing, etc.). They leave hair soft, smooth, and shiny, make tresses more manageable, and fight issues like frizz and knots.
However, they can also cause buildup over time that leaves hair looking dull and lifeless and increases the risk of breakage. There is a better option. You’ll just want to look for functional ingredients like amodimethicone that deliver the benefits of silicone without the potential downsides.
Loving your hair means treating it right with products and processes that keep your strands strong and healthy. When you focus on a routine that protects hair from harm, you can say goodbye to issues like breakage, frizz, and gnarly knots.