Dear Newly Natural Me,
We need to talk about detangling.
You’ve tried three different shower/detangling/wide-tooth combs now, and all of them snag and break your strands. You’re only hanging on to the tool because it’s supposed to make the job faster and easier, but you painstakingly inch your way up from the ends, like they said to do in all those tutorials, and ten minutes later you still haven’t reached halfway up the hair shaft. Maybe if you get a seamless comb, or a denman, or emptied an entire bottle of conditioner on your head–stop! Let it go.
Why You Can’t Use a Comb to Detangle
It’s true that some naturals can use combs to detangle with no trouble at all, but on your hair, combs are much too indiscriminate. They don’t so much untangle your hair as they force the strands apart. Knots? Snap. Complicated tangle? Snap! Just a couple of too-cozy coils? Snap, crackle, and pop! All the same to a comb.
Finger detangling can better identify the problem and gently work it out, saving as many strands as possible from a knot before clipping it (with a hair scissors, please!). You can massage tangles that only seem like a lost cause, and not disturb those coils that are just minding their “merry black business” (shout out to EvelynFromTheInternets).
If that all that sounds like it would take forever to do by hand, that’s because it will. Sorry. I ain’t gonna lie. Finger detangling is often work, especially if you’re just starting out, but we’re grown and can handle it. Plus, the more you do it, the more you tailor the tricks and techniques to work swiftly and efficiently.
What Goes into Finger Detangling
My top three tips for you: use a good detangler, stick to a chosen technique, and do not attempt it when you’re tired or pressed for time.
What’s a good detangler? Here’s what I know. Coconut oil provides amazing slip and the acidity of apple cider vinegar smooths down the cuticles. The result of either is reduced snagging and clinging which is ideal when trying to separate strands. My girl nappyheadedjojoba put me onto ACV as a detangler, and I stuck with it because it’s cheap, less messy, and works.
When you find a technique that works, doing it over and over creates muscle memory, so you can organize and work faster. This also includes how often you detangle. Do it on schedule and you won’t be overwhelmed. Procrastinate and the shed hair and tangles will multiply.
And I don’t know about you (wait, yes I do) but I get cranky and impatient when I’m tired and just want to go to sleep. This is no mood to be in for the delicate task of detangling your hair. You will rip through tangles that could’ve been unwound with a little TLC. Try detangling earlier in the day when you are refreshed, full of energy, and ready to take on the task.
How I Finger Detangle
So, after much guidance and trial and error, I’ve settled on a detangling routine that works for me.
Work in sections.
Spray the section with ACV solution as needed.
Smooth out as much shed hair as will come out.
Next, drawing your finger along your scalp in vertical motions, part off smaller sections from one end of the larger section to the other. Pause to work out complicated knots. Repeat this using horizontal parts (shout out to UrbanBushBabes and TheChicNatural.) You are basically forming a grid in that section. Once the grid is complete, the section is detangled. Move on to the next section.
That’s key: knowing when to stop. Your hair does not need 100% strand separation, nor is it actually necessary to run your fingers through it root to end (though it can feel nice.) The purpose of detangling is just that: to remove tangles, shed hair, and eliminate knots. The rest is just your texture doing its thing.
Don’t despair. Finger detangling is hard at first, but you will master it if you stick with it.
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