Why Does My Hair Get So Tangled? We've Got Solutions!
From a messy nest at the nape of your neck upon waking up to a sopping wet maze of hair post-shower, tangled hair is annoying AF. It can make you dread simple tasks like washing your hair and brushing it through, cause you literal pain, and keep you from doing that cinematic fingers-through-the-hair move. Let’s all just let out a collective “Ugh!”
To get to the bottom of this twisted scenario, we spoke with a few hairstylists. They filled us in on things like what causes tangled hair, why some people are more prone to dealing with it, and what you can do to prevent tangles from happening (including a handful of choice products).
What Causes Tangled Hair?
We can boil down the causes of tangled hair to a few big culprits: dryness and damage, styling and washing technique, and the type of hair you have.
1. Dryness & Damage
“Hair acts like a twig from a tree. If the twig is full of moisture and nourishment, it will bend and hold its shape. If the twig is dried out, it will break and splinter,” explains Heather Jo Infantino, hairstylist at Grey and Sage Color Studio in Delray Beach, Fla. She says to think of the hair strand in the same way. If your hair is dried out or damaged, then it’s more likely to become brittle, which causes it to splinter or break. Infantino says, “Those splinters tangle up with each other, causing the hair to knot.”
Over-washing your hair or not conditioning your strands frequently enough will cause dryness. Damage (and also more dryness) is caused by things like chemical processing, going ham with the hot tools, and bleaching or dyeing your hair. Low-quality hair care products can also do more damage than good, so invest in the good stuff if you’re battling a labyrinth of hair on the daily.
2. Styling & Washing Technique
Another major cause of tangled hair is the way you wash your hair and then style it afterwards. “The ideal way to shampoo is to gently massage the scalp to create foam and then bring this foam through the lengths, avoiding rubbing your ends with shampoo,” says Rodrigo Galvao, hairstylist at Gem House Salon in Brooklyn, New York. “Friction causes a lot of tangles and knots to form.”
Be gentle when conditioning, too. You also need to be gentle with your strands when brushing and combing, says Sandy Williams, co-founder of both CurlyChic and CurlyKids haircare brands. This is especially important if you have coarse or curly hair.
First, apply a detangling product, like hair serum, lotion, or spray. This can help create a smooth coating over your individual strands that makes them less likely to rub against each other and tangle. Some of our experts’ favorites include Kevin Murphy Un.tangled Spray, $35, and Mizani 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner, $35. We also love Odele Leave-in Detangling Tonic, $11, and Hask Argan Oil 5-in-1 Leave-In Spray, $8.
Williams notes that it’s also important to use the correct tools for your hair if it’s prone to tangling. “Use wide tooth combs or brushes and learn how to correctly use these tools,” she says. “Should you find tangles, detangle from the ends and work your way up to the crown of your head. Never pull or tug to get a tangle out the hair.”
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3. Your Natural Texture
Yep, the hair you’re born with might just be more prone to tangling compared to others. Galvao says that people with coarse or curly hair tend to experience more friction and that if you have very fine hair then it can also entangle more easily. The solution for both cases is to create a smooth coating over your strands.
For thicker hair, a heavier product can work — like a detangling cream, jelly, serum, or oil. For finer hair, you’ll want to always stick to something with a lightweight texture, like a mist or fine spray, so you don’t weigh the rest of your hair down.
Quick Tips for Preventing Tangled Hair
In addition to giving your hair enough moisture, washing carefully, and applying smoothing products, there are a few more ways you can keep the tangle monster at bay.
1. Routine Trims
The thing about split ends is that they don’t just split once and stop. Infantino says they’ll continue to split up the hair shaft and cause tangles until they’re given a blunt cut. “I give my clients what I call ‘baby trims’ where we just snip ¼-inch off of the very ends every eight to 12 weeks,” she says. “These cuts keep the split ends at bay and allow the hair to grow in full and healthy.”
2. Protecting Hair from the Wind
“Wind is a big villain when it comes to tangling dry hair,” says Galvao. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but if possible, use a hair scarf to keep your hair in place or pull it back into a low ponytail using a soft scrunchy.
3. Strategic Styling
“Protective hairstyles such as braiding and twists are great ways to reduce your daily styling manipulation of hair,” notes Williams. “Many protective styles can last for weeks at a time, as well.”
4. Combing Your Hair In-Shower
Galvao recommends combing your hair in the shower after shampooing and conditioning to nix tangles. “Once the conditioner softens the hair, you can then comb your hair with a detangling brush.” He adds that the best way to break down knots and detangle hair is when the hair is wet after the conditioner has been applied in the shower.
5. A Silk Pillow and/or Scarf
If your hair is prone to tangling at night, do what you can to reduce friction while you sleep. That includes a silk bonnet, scarf, or headwrap, and catching your zzz’s on a silky soft pillow. Just make sure not to sleep in a bun or ponytail, which Galvao notes can exacerbate tangles.
Here’s to a tangle-free tomorrow and beyond. Drop us a note to let us know how you deal with tangled hair!
Disclaimer: Every product we review has been independently selected and tested without bias by our editorial team. Although some brands allow affiliate links, we never take payment to review products, so we may earn a commission if you purchase a product by clicking on one of our links.
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