Let’s face it, detangling matted hair is no walk in the park.

For most of us, detangling can be a painful process that takes hours out of our day. It hurts our scalp, breaks our hair, and leaves us frustrated and feeling down.

After years of asking ourselves how to detangle matted hair, we arrived at a solution. This unique 5-step process has been used by thousands of people with unreasonably tangled hair to get their knots out and prevent them from coming back – forever.

Detangling matted hair can be made simple with the right steps and techniques (and with some help from a detangler). With patience and an effective plan of action, you too will be able to get the knots out of your hair without chopping it all off.

What causes matted hair in the first place?

How to get rid of your matted hair once and for all!

Let’s get to the root of the problem (haha, get it?). Tangled or matted hair is caused when loose strands of hair get twisted around other strands of hair. If you don’t take the tangle out immediately, it gets worse. This is why your mother always told you to brush your hair before going to bed.

Product buildup

Product buildup is one of the leading causes of matted hair

Tangled hair can also be caused by hair product buildup. Conditioners, mousses, sprays, and hair creams create a slight build-up on your hair that can lead to knots or tangles if you don’t wash it out properly after using these products.

Heat damage

Heat damage can lead to tangled hair, shedding, and breakage

If you use heated styling tools on your hair, you are exposing it to serious damage. Excessive heat exposure can easily lead to matted or tangled hair that is almost impossible to comb out. Do you know that feeling of ripping through knots with a brush only for the brush to get stuck? Heat damage can cause this, so be sure to always use a heat protectant when you style your hair.

Skipping your hair appointment

If you don’t trim your hair regularly, the ends start to split, curl and tangle. We recommend you go get your hair trimmed every 6-8 weeks to keep your hair healthy and knot-free.

What if you have severely matted hair?

For extremely matted hair, you're going to need a detangling spray and a detangling brush

Severely matted hair is defined as hair that cannot be untangled easily, even with detangling sprays, oils, and other hair treatments.

If you try to detangle your hair using the methods in this article and still have matted hair, then you have two choices: cut it off or visit a specialist.

Cutting your hair should be a last resort. But unless you are willing to pay big money, it’s unlikely any stylist is going to take the time to detangle your hair.

Should you detangle hair when it’s wet or dry?

Brushing out tangles is always easier when your hair is wet

If possible, you should always try to detangle matted hair when it’s wet. The reason for this is because it’s much easier to pull apart knots in wet hair than it is in dry hair.

For extremely matted hair, this is even more so the case. Hair products like conditioners, serums, and oils are often added to the hair (in addition to water) to make it easier to detangle.

These are called “detanglers” – and you can read more about them here.

What if I have tightly-coiled hair?

Naturally curly hair (aka natural hair, textured hair) is much more prone to getting matted than non-textured hair.

This is because the density of the tightly coiled hair is greater than non-textured hair. The tighter the coil, the more likely it is to tangle or knot.

The tight coiling of textured hair strands also creates a problem. The more tightly the coils are wound, the harder it will be to detangle them without causing damage to your hair (see our next point).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out our awesome article on As I Am – a brand that specializes in African hair products.

If you detangle wet textured hair with detangling combs, you’ll probably end up detangling the hair in small sections. A detangling brush would work better on matted hair because it won’t break off your curl pattern as detangling combs can.

Should I use a hair detangling spray?

Use a detangling spray to get rid of the mats in your hair even faster

If your hair is severely matted, then you need to bring out the big guns. This means using more than just a little water to detangle your hair.

You’ll need detangling products like detangling sprays, detangling serums, detangling oils and detangler conditioners. These detanglers help make your hair more slick (in addition to adding moisture) so that it’s easier for you to comb through the knots.

After applying the spray to matted hair, you should work on sections of your hair one at a time with either a wide-toothed comb or a wet brush. Done properly (and assuming your hair isn’t too bad), this will detangle matted hair painlessly.

Should I use a detangling brush?

A good detangling brush can take hours off of your untangling journey

If you want to get rid of the knots in your hair, a detangling brush will help get the job done. This is because detangling brushes naturally detangle matted hair without breaking it (unlike detangling combs).

Detangling combs can easily rip through knots to the point where your hair snaps off when you try to detangle with them. If you do use detangling combs, make sure to detangle your hair in small sections so that detangling combs don’t destroy your hair.

Combs are firm and don’t give, whereas brushes have softer bristles that don’t rip out the hair. Whether you use a comb or a brush is up to your own comfort level with pain and how much patience you have. Just know that it takes a while to detangle matted hair, it’s not something that happens in a few minutes.

What oils should I use on my hair?

If your hair is severely matted, then consider adding some oil to your detangling routine.

Click here for a full list of hair oils we recommend.

USE: Moroccan (argan) oil

Moroccan (argan) oil is GREAT for getting the knots out of hair

This is particularly good for detangling matted hair. This is because it absorbs easily into the hair and doesn’t leave you feeling greasy afterward (unlike coconut oil).

It also adds moisture to your hair so that detangling is easier when your detangler products have been rinsed out.

USE: Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a natural and healthy way to detangle hair

Not only does it smell amazing, but coconut oil is great for detangling because it loosens the bond between your hair strands.

Before detangling your hair, warm about a tablespoon of coconut oil in your hands and then run it through your hair (from top to bottom) as if you were shampooing.

USE: Olive oil

Olive oil is another great choice for detangling hair

This detangles hair while it adds moisture to the hair (which detanglers do).

Olive oil is good for matted hair because it contains antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids, which help prevent hair damage and split ends.

DON’T USE: Castor oil

DO NOT USE Castor oil to brush out tangles, it will make it worse!
DO NOT USE Castor oil to brush out tangles, it will make it worse!

Castor oil can help combat hair loss and is great for softening the overall texture of your hair.

But it’s the wrong choice for getting knots out of your hair. And anyone who has ever used it knows why.

Castor oil has an extremely thick and sticky consistency, making it more like a syrup than an oil. Adding it to your hair before trying to brush it out is a terrible idea.

Should I use a detangling spray?

Amika's "The Wizard" is an excellent detangling spray

Why use a detangling spray when you could use natural oils? The answer just comes down to preference.

Some people prefer to use natural products, others just want something cheap that works.

When choosing a detangling spray, look for something without silicone (dimethicone). They should be water soluble (so they don’t leave behind any residue) and shouldn’t make your hair greasy or sticky.

They also need to detangle even the most stubborn knots easily without ripping at your hair like detangling combs do, so read reviews on Amazon before you buy.

This detangling spray is from Amika, a brand we trust.

How to prevent tangled hair in the future

Ultimately, the best answer to how to detangle matted hair comes down to two things: prevention and preparation.

Preventing matted hair is not extremely difficult, but it does take a bit of time and effort.

Brush your hair every day

To prevent tangles and mats, brush your hair every single day

If you have matted hair, try brushing it every day. Brushing is easiest on damp hair. Unless you start with this, the knots will get worse and spread.

If I told you the amount of times I had a client come in with a three-inch knot of matted hair, begging for my help, you would be surprised.

Brushing your hair daily won’t prevent matted hair on its own, but it will definitely help.

Use a leave-in conditioner

Aussie makes great products for keeping the tangles out of your hair. Use them

Combining hair treatments like deep conditioners with tools like a wide-toothed comb are an excellent way to detangle matted hair painlessly.

Using a leave-in when you brush your hair daily will decrease the amount of knotting in your hair. The slickness from the conditioner will help detangle your hair while brushing.

It will also keep your hair smoother and softer throughout the day, making it less likely that knots will form in the first place. Just make sure to apply it to wet hair so all the mats get their fair share of conditioner.

Read more about our favorite conditioners for curly hair.

Keep an eye on heat damage

Using a heat protectant can prevent heat damage - a leading causes of built up knots in the hair

If your hair is extremely dry, it’s more likely to form knots.

This is in extreme scenarios, but if your hair is brittle and feels like straw, it’s more common for it to get matted.

Still, it’s not hard to use a heat protectant to avoid this. You can also use a steam straightener on damp hair, protecting the hair from heat damage.

Wash your hair daily

Washing your hair daily may be a pain in the butt, but is it a bigger pain in the butt than having knotty hair? Probably not.

When you wash your hair daily, you also probably brush it and condition it as well. Those three things right there will prevent any knots from ever coming back to your hair. If you don’t like shampoo, you could try co-washing your hair.

Do I need to cut my hair to get the knots out?

Hopefully, you won't have to cut the knots out of your hair. But this little guy will!
Hopefully, you won’t have to cut the knots out of your hair. But this little guy will!

Some knots are so bad, they need to be cut out. But if you’re patient, most knots can be untangled through a variety of means.

In severely matted hair, the extremely advanced knots that are several inches in diameter and have a hard texture will likely need to be cut out.

5 Step Process To Detangle Matted Hair

This 5 Step Process will help you effortless detangle your hair

In this next section, I will be teaching you a five-step process to detangle your hair, without cutting it.

Please remember that the detangling process takes time. It is not something you can rush through and expect results instantly. If your hair is matted, it will take some time to detangle. Thank you for understanding!

Step 1: Get your hair damp

It's always better to detangle wet or damp hair than it is to try getting the knots out with dry hair

The first step to detangling your hair is getting it a little damp.

Wet hair will almost always be easier to detangle than dry hair. Spray your hair with a spray bottle enough to get it moderately damp, keeping a towel nearby to soak up any excess water.

Another option is to start this process after getting out of the shower and towel-drying your hair.

We want the hair to be damp, not dripping wet.

Step 2: Loosen your hair with a detangling spray or oil

Using a detangling spray will make your job much easier

Now that your hair is damp, it’s time to apply the detangling spray.

As we mentioned before, you can choose to use a natural product like olive or coconut oil, or you can use a store-bought synthetic product.

Detangling spray is fairly inexpensive at any beauty supply or drugstore and can be found for around $5. If you can’t find anything specifically for detangling, look for a shine spray or at worst, a serum.

Serums will need to be applied by hand, so make sure to rub them into your hands well so it spreads evenly on your hair.

If you don’t like the idea of using a detangling spray, you can also use a deep conditioner or hair mask. These will add creamy moisture to your hair while providing a slick consistency to help you remove the knots.

Whatever you decide to use, leave it in for 30 minutes before going to the next step.

Step 3: Remove easy knots by hand

Try to get the easy knots out by hand. Save the detangling brush for the harder ones

With your fingers, try to pull apart the less-tangled knots in your hair. Make sure you are gentle, as during this step we don’t want to apply too much pressure to the hair shaft itself.

If you get stuck, reach down further towards the root of the hair and work your way up. Sometimes, tangles can be pulled apart into smaller knots by starting closer to the scalp.

Step 4: Use a wide-toothed comb or detangling brush to get the hard knots out

What tool you choose to use will depend on the severity of tangles and how patient you are.

Wide-tooth combs are useful for pulling out severe knots, while brushes are good for doing bigger sections at once of more mildly-matted hair.

Whichever one you’re using, make sure you start towards the ends of the hair and work your way towards the scalp. Brushing your hair from the roots when it’s a matted mess is a sure way to ruin your day.

If you have an especially knotted section of hair or a sensitive scalp, you’re going to need to use two hands. Hold the section of hair firmly in one hand while using the comb or brush with the other.

You’re probably going to see a lot of loose hairs, but don’t worry – those hairs were probably already loose, as matting tends to restrict nutrient flow to the hair follicle. But now that they’re gone, they’ve created room for new hairs to grow!

Step 5: Use shampoo and deep conditioner on your hair

Use a deep conditioner on your hair after detangling to ensure the knots stay away

Whew, you’re almost done! Are your arms tired yet?

The final step is going to be shampooing and conditioning your hair. And if you used a deep conditioner for Step 4, don’t worry – you can condition your hair again. Using too much conditioner is a hard thing to do.

If you still had some knots in your hair, this final step may be the straw that detangled the camel’s back hair. Or something.

Anyway, use a detangling brush to wipe out the last couple of mats in your hair, crack open a bottle of wine, and enjoy a night off.

Final Thoughts

If you wanted to know how to detangle matted hair, hopefully reading this article helped you.

Having too many knots in your hair is awful in so many ways. It kills your hair, crushes your confidence, and prevents you from styling your hair the way you want.

But now you know a simple 5 step solution you can use to get all the knots out of your hair, once and for all.

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