#ThickHairTips: Detangle The Easy Way

I have very thick hair and it took me years — decades, really — to learn how to manage it well. In fact, I’m still learning. In the hope that I can save some of my fellow thick-hair-havers from learning things the slow, hard way like I did, I’m sharing some of my survival tips for life with thick hair. Be sure to follow me on Instagram for more #ThickHairTips.

When you’ve got a ton of hair, just brushing it every day can be a hassle on multiple fronts. To begin with, you’ve got more tangles than other people, and more hairs to get tangled in them. Get too rough with them and you’re looking at breakage, split ends, and flyaways. And on top of it all, even a quick once-over on relatively calm thick hair is likely to yield a shower of fallen hairs all over your sink, vanity and floor.

There’s one staple tool that’s had a place in my routine since college: a wide-toothed plastic comb. It’s my secret weapon for quickly and gently untangling my thick hair and keeping hair tumbleweeds from accumulating in my bathroom.

Brush as little as possible

I try to use a hairbrush as infrequently as I can. My tips for preserving blowouts are also helpful for avoiding brushing (TL;DR: use a dry conditioner and consider wrapping your hair at night or getting a satin pillowcase). If I have tangles that need attention, I try to use my wide-tooth comb rather than a brush if at all possible. It’s easier on my hair and better at preserving whatever curl or style I may have in my hair.

Comb in the shower

I save my most thorough detangling (and de-hairing) for the days when I shampoo. When I get in the shower, my hair is already saturated with conditioner. (Read more about reverse conditioning if you haven’t already.) The first thing I do is take a wide-tooth comb (this one has a hook so you can hang it up in the shower), get my hair a little bit wet so the conditioner is super slick, and gently comb through my hair, very thoroughly. I comb for a long time, until well after it feels like my hair is completely smooth and tangle-free. Then I rinse out my conditioner and proceed with shampooing as usual.

If you don’t reverse-condition, don’t worry about it; just detangle whenever your hair has conditioner on it, regardless of your shampoo order.

What does this do? Well, when you do your most thorough combing on conditioner-saturated hair, you’re lubricating all the individual hairs so that tangles will slide out more easily. The gentle combing with a wide-toothed comb, along with the slippery wet conditioner, helps ease tangles out of your hair with less breakage (so fewer split ends and flyaways) and also helps collect all those loose hairs (the ones that would have ended up in your dry brush or in your drain or all over your bathroom sink and floor). While they’re wet, they’ll stick to the comb — so after a thorough gentle combing in the shower, you have one big collection of clean hair that you can easily throw away rather than having to sweep dirty hair up off the floor.

So yes — this is also instructions for how to create a big hairball, I guess. But at least it’s a clean, healthy hairball.

Got thick hair questions? Send them my way!


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