How to Untangle Matted Hair

Two Parts:Prepping Your HairDetangling Your Hair

No matter if you have straight, wavy, or curly hair, every hair texture can become tangled and matted. Whether it’s after a night out with a backcombed updo, or simply tossing and turning as you sleep, detangling matted hair can be an ordeal. Luckily with some patience and ample lubricant, you can unsnarl your matted locks and hydrate your hair at the same time.

Part 1
Prepping Your Hair

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    Locate the problem areas. It’s likely that there are going to be areas of your hair that are much more tangled and matted than other areas. Run your fingers through your hair (as much as you can) to identify the areas that are particularly matted and tangled.[1] Use your fingers to gently press and pinch the matting to determine the thickness and magnitude of the tangle.
    • Once you find those particularly matted areas, you can figure out where you need to focus your detangling efforts.
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    Section your hair. Divided your dry hair into sections that will be easy and manageable to work with. This might mean sectioning your hair in halves (down the middle of your head), quarter sections (down the middle of your head with a top portion and bottom portion), or random small sections.[2][3]
    • However you decide to section off your hair, use claw clips or gentle hair ties to keep your hair sections separate from one another.
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    Apply a lubricant. In general, you are going to need to use some sort of lubricant to work out the matting and tangles in your hair. The lubricant you use can come in many forms: detangling hair products, smoothing serums, conditioners, and/or oils (baby oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, etc.).[4][5] You can spray the lubricant liberally on each section of matted hair, or coat your hands with the lubricant and use your fingers and hands to work it into the various sections.
    • Really use your fingers to massage the lubricant into the knots of your hair. You wanna be sure to penetrate not only the surface of the matting, but to lubricate the inner areas of the matting. That way, the hair strands can slide past each other when you comb out and detangle your hair.
    • However, that does not mean to rub the tangles. Simply try to wiggle and work your lubricated fingers into the center of the matting.[6] The lubricant on your fingers will transfer to the hairs on the inner part of your matted hair, saturating them and minimizing friction as you detangle.
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    Allow the lubricant to sit. Let the lubricant soak into your matted hair for approximately 10-15 minutes.[7] This will allow adequate time for your hair to absorb the lubricant and slicken your hair.

Part 2
Detangling Your Hair

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    Work out tangles with your fingers. Once your lubricant has had time to penetrate your matted hair, unclip one section of hair, and gently use your fingers to detangle it as much as you can. Start combing your hair with your fingers, working from the bottom of your hair up toward the roots.[8]
    • Depending on the level of matting, you may be able to make some progress with finger combing your hair, or you may not.
    • Finger combing you hair serves as a preliminary way to remove tangles before moving on to combing, which may require more pulling, and slightly rougher detangling.
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    Comb your hair. Start combing that one section of hair with a wide-tooth comb. Again, work from the bottom of your hair (about 1 inch from the bottom) moving upward, toward your roots.[9] Combing your hair this way allows you to work out tangles starting at the most commonly tangled area, and brush the tangles out the ends of your hair as you move up the hair shaft. Continue combing your hair until you can smoothly pull the comb from the top roots of your hair to the bottom ends. Once you are finished with one section, move onto the next section, first finger combing your hair, then actually combing your hair with a wide-tooth comb.
    • If you try combing your hair starting at the top, you comb will most likely just get stuck as you try to comb it down, and further knot your hair.
    • If you feel resistance pulling the comb down, gently remove the comb from your hair, and use the teeth of the comb to work at that specific knotted section. Once you can comb through a big knotted section more freely, try combing through that section all the way down to the ends of your hair.
    • Consider gripping your hair at the roots with one hand, and combing your hair with your other hand. Holding your hair at the roots will lessen the pulling on you scalp and reduce pain while combing.
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    Wash your hair. Once you have combed and detangled all the separated sections of your hair, shampoo your hair to remove the lubricant you chose to detangle your hair.[10] At this point, your hair will look very slick and oily, but it will be fully detangled.
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  • To keep from getting matted hair while you sleep, try putting your hair up in a simple hairstyle such as a loose braid or a loose ponytail. This will make your hair manageable in the morning.


  • If the matting is severe and does not lessen with repeated conditioning and detangling attempts, you may have to cut your hair. This is usually saved as a last resort, and should not be your first option for dealing with matted or tangled hair.

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Categories: Basic Hair Hygiene