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How To Detangle (and Prevent) Matted Hair According to Experts

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Main Image – Amor Burakova/Stocksy

Knotty, matted hair is really fun and pain-free to resolve, said no person ever. And I reckon even the most famous of celebrities who look like they’ve got it all figured out would probably agree.

I mean, that epic wind machine hair you see in music videos looks great and everything. But once the wind machine is turned off, you just know whoever the hair belongs to is going to be in a world of pain once they take a hairbrush to it.

So, let’s figure out how we can put a stop to the tangle once and for all. Because even though there is no shame in having tangly hair, we’d all rather not have it in the first place.

I asked celebrity hairstyle Clyde Haygood, creator of hair care line Alodia Dr Isfahan Chambers-Harris and founder of Alott, Ross Parlane for all their tips on why hair gets knotty, how to detangle it and how to prevent it from happening.

Flowy, luscious, detangled locks? This is KNOT a drill. (Sorry.)


What makes hair knotty?

According to the pros, it’s not just a strong breeze that can cause tangles. “Hair can become knotty due to several factors,” explains Haygood. “When it is dehydrated and in need of moisture, [if the] hair has breakage or split ends [or if it’s] in need of a trim.”

Dr Chambers-Harris adds, “Dry and dehydrated hair lacks the moisture needed to keep the cuticle layer smooth and flat,” she says. “When cuticles are raised, they can catch on each other, leading to tangles.”

It depends on your hair thickness too. “Baby fine hair tends to knot easily,” Haygood says. And, “coarse, curly or unruly hair that hasn’t been conditioned and combed out properly can also become full of knots.”

 “Curly/coily and wavy hair tends to tangle more easily due to their natural texture and the way the hair strands twist and interlock,” adds Dr Chambers-Harris.

It can also come down to how you style your hair too. “Hair that is damaged from heat styling, chemical treatments, excessive brushing or environmental factors can have rough, split ends and uneven cuticle layers making it more susceptible to tangling,” she explains.


detangling hair

Image – Amor Burakova/Stocksy


How to detangle matted hair

In a tangle? Follow Parlane’s detangling step by step.

1. “Dampen your hair slightly with water to prepare it for putting product in.”

2. “Spritz through or massage in some leave-in conditioner. This will hydrate the hair and add slip to help loosen the knots.”

3. “Use a wide-tooth comb, starting at the ends of hair and working up to the roots, gently taking sections of the hair and combing through. A wide-tooth comb will minimise breakage to the hair.” Kitsch Wide Tooth Comb (£7.50) is easy to use and affordable.

4. “Once you have worked through all the hair with a wide-tooth comb, switch to a detangling brush and go through the hair again, from the tips to the roots. This should work out any of the smaller remaining knots in the hair.”


How to prevent tangles

First of all, make sure you have a consistent, healthy hair care regime. “If your conditioner isn’t doing the job of keeping your hair soft and smooth then add a detangler,” advises Haygood.

I love Philip Kingsley Daily Damage Defence (£29 on the Philip Kingsley UK website/$43 on the Philip Kingsley UK website) which is a leave-in conditioner and my little extra insurance policy.

Alott Nourishing Conditioner Bar (£16 on the Alott UK website) is also gentle enough to use daily thanks to protecting broccoli seed oil.

Also, “protect hair from getting dehydrated when using hot styling tools by using a heat protectant,” he adds. Try Kerastase Genesis Defense Thermique Treatment (£30.33 on the Look Fantastic UK website/$45 on the Kerastase US website).


Young woman in swimsuit showering at outdoor shower. conditioner hair mask microblading detangling

Image – Bratco/Stocksy


Small rituals can help too. [PRO TIP] “Doing a cold rinse on your hair after using conditioner also helps,” Haygood says. “And once a week (at least) treat your hair to a treatment or mask.”

I like L’Oreal Paris Elvive Hydra Hyaluronic Hair Mask (£3.99 on the Boots UK website) which smells lovely and gives dry and knotted hair an extra shot of essential moisture.

Invest in a really good detangling brush too so that the thought of brushing out knots isn’t such a worry. My absolute favourite is the Manta Healthy Hair Brush Original (£30 on the Manta UK website/$45 on the Truth Beauty US website) which never fails to detangle my hair, pain-free. I even use it on my five-year-old daughter’s curly and knot-prone hair.

[PRO TIP] Prevention carries on through to bedtime too, according to Parlane. “Try tying your hair up at night too to prevent knots and matting through the night,” he says.

“You can also protect hair by using a silk or satin pillowcase.”


The takeaway

Knotted hair is one of life’s inconveniences that everyone experiences at least once. But there’s no shame! Just solutions in the form of decent detangling brushes, masks, conditioners and heat protectants.

Follow Parlane’s step-by-step instructions on how to detangle yours so that no extra damage is done to your hair. And enjoy running your fingers through your hair – pain-free – more often.


Meet the experts

Clyde Haygood is a celebrity hairstylist and Pura D’Or partner. His clients include Katy Perrym Demi Lovato, Shakira, Erika Jayne, Khloe, Kourtney and Kim Kardashian and Kylie and Kris Jenner and is recognised as one of the top hair stylists in the fashion and beauty industry.


Dr Isfahan Chambers-Harris has a PHD in Bio-Medical Sciences and a passion for healthy hair. She combined her skills and knowledge into the creation of Alodia, an innovative hair care line that is poised to take hair care to the next level.


Ross Parlane is the face and founder of RPB and has two barber shops in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. He trained at Mahogany Hairdressing and worked at various barber shops in Manchester before starting his own in 2015 and opening his second in 2017. A respected name in the industry, he’s spent his career testing products and talking to clients about what they do and don’t want in order to inform his own gender-neutral range, alott.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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