If you want to have long healthy hair you must take good care of it and treat it gently. Tightly curly hair is naturally dry and prone to tangles. When you are detangling the hair you need something to give it a little slip to avoid breakage. Simply spritzing a bit of water or a mix of water and conditioner will provide the slip you need. Trying to detangle dry hair is not a good idea, even if you have a twistout or already stretched hair that you want to detangle you should still use a wee bit of moisture or oil to give a little slip.
Combs, brushes or fingers
In this case less is more. By that I mean the less manipulation and strain you put on the hair to get it detangled the better.
Always start your detangling at the ends and work your way up towards the scalp. Before you reach for a comb or brush, always start by finger detangling first. In many cases finger detangling might be all you need and that is great. By using your fingers and gently detangling the hair you will feel where the tangles are and be able to softly and slowly separate the knots and tangles without ripping through the hair.
If you do want to use combs or brushes I suggest you use a wide tooth comb or a brush with flexible teeth with wide space in between. It is also important to pay attention to the quality of your combs and brushes. Very often there will be a seem on combs that despite how small and invisible it might seem, can cause damage and breakage to the hair. The same goes with brushes. If there is anything that can catch on the hair, it will. This is also true for your fingers. Keep your fingernails smooth so they don´t catch on to the hair while finger detangling or braiding as well.
Our detangling routine
I try to use styles that last for at least one week at a time to keep the manipulation of the hair to a minimum. This means that we usually do all our detangling when it is time to take down a style and wash the hair.
On wash day I usually use a spray bottle filled with distilled water and some of our favorite conditioner. I dampen the hair and then gently remove the hairstyle a little bit at a time, finger detangle and twist the hair in four large sections (parting the hair from ear to ear and down the middle of the head ending up with four large sections).
We then go ahead and wash the hair (see post on washing for more details on this). When the hair is full of conditioner and it is time to rinse, I gently finger detangle the hair when it is sopping wet and full of conditioner before rinsing and twisting the hair back up again.
I like to always keep the hair twisted in large sections while styling or washing because it makes the hair easier to handle and overlook, making sure I don´t miss any parts or allow it to tangle right back up again. By doing it this way I manage to keep the tangles and knots to a minimum and thus reducing the amount of detangling needed as well.
Tightly curly hair will shrink up when it dries and by doing this, the risk of it getting knots and tangles is huge.
Another thing I keep an eye out for is single strand knots. It is exactly what it sounds like, a knot on a single strand of hair. These kinds of knots are almost impossible to undo and they will make the hair more prone to tangle and the strand will also eventually break off at the knot. Therefore I like to carefully use my hair cutting sheers to carefully cut the strand just above the knot to prevent this from happening. Now, you cannot prevent these knots fully they will always be there and you can also not find them all and cut them out. Believe me I tried that and failed… I find that the best way to deal with this is to accept that they will happen as part of having this amazing type of curly hair and just deal with them when you do see one and try to keep them at a minimum by not letting the hair dry loose and keeping it in styles that prevent it from happening.
This is why we rarely wear the hair free in an afro which is beautiful but a really good way to get all kinds of tangles, knots and damage to the hair. If we want to wear the hair “free” we usually do this when the hair is stretched in one way or the other such as twist- or braid outs.