How to Detangle Matted Hair

How to Detangle Matted Hair

If you have thick, curly, or frizzy hair, you’ve probably come across more tangles than you care to admit. The pain of encountering a shamelessly obnoxious lump in your mid-brush is unparalleled. If you’ve felt the pain of trying to brush one out, well… we feel for you. 

Matted hair is no joke. Those pesky tangles can leave your ends feeling dry, frizzy, or split, and there’s a good chance your scalp will hate you for it, too. So, when the dreaded knots arrive – what can you do? 

If you’re looking for the most efficient ways to get rid of those mats for good, we’ve got you covered. So let us show you how to detangle your matted hair the right way. 

Matted Hair: What Causes It? 

If you’ve ever encountered a clump of attached and unattached strands of hair balled together in your locks, that’s a mat. Some are big, some are small, and some feel downright impossible to get out. In other words, matted hair is the next step up from tangles and knots – matted hair is usually clumpier, larger, and more stubborn to shift. 

There are plenty of reasons why your hair might become matted. The most common cause is an inadequate detangling technique. If you’re not detangling your hair and brushing it regularly, you’ll be more prone to matted hair. 

When you fail to brush or detangle your hair regularly, loose strands tend to knot around your other hairs. This can snowball from a few pesky strands to a large, obnoxious lump when left unattended. 

You’ll also be more prone to getting matted hair if you don’t trim it regularly, wear scarves, bonnets, hoods, or hats, and attempt to style your hair when it hasn’t been detangled. 

Detangling Matted Hair 

Before you reach for scissors… No, not all matted hair has to be cut! If you don’t want to chop through your locks and risk an embarrassing trip to the salon, there are other ways to detangle your matted hair. 

If you have time, patience, and the right product, your hair can go from a dry, clumpy lump to silky smooth and tangle-free in no time. 

Want to learn all the tools and tricks you’ll need to detangle your matted hair? Let’s take a look. 

Related: How to Tie your Hair without a Hair Tie

Step One: Get it Wet

Your first step is to dampen your hair, especially if it’s curly. Tangled and matted hair is always easier to detangle when it’s damp because it becomes looser and easier to work with. When your hair is dry, it lacks elasticity and is more susceptible to damage. Trust us when we say: do yourself a favor and wet your hair!

This may need to be a quick rinse or a full soak, depending on the severity of the mat. For example, if you’re dealing with a minor tangle, simply damper your hair with cool water in the shower. If you’ve got a larger, more intimidating mat to tackle, give it a long soak. 

Note: No product needed at this point, just water. 

Step Two: Condition

Now you’ve dampened your hair, it’s time to bring out the conditioner. It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with a large or small tangle, you’ll need to be able to slip and slide through your locks to coax it out. Conditioner is your best friend. 

Apply a generous amount of conditioner to your hair, focusing strongly on the affected area. You don’t have to go all the way up to your roots, but you should work the conditioner around the area, so your hair generally becomes easier to brush. 

Step Three: Leave-In and Divide

When your conditioner’s in, it’s time to let it sit. We recommend leaving your conditioner in for between ten and thirty minutes to moisturize your hair adequately. 

When the conditioner’s working its magic, start to divide your hair into sections. Do this with your fingers to avoid brushing through the tangle prematurely. 

Step Four: Time to Detangle

Now your hair is sectioned off, and the conditioner’s worked its magic, it’s time to start detangling. You’ll be tempted to tackle the mat straight away, but it’s important to take your time with this process and approach each step methodically. 

Begin by detangling one section at a time. Before you go in with your comb or brush, start at your roots and detangle slowly with your fingers. This will reduce the risk of causing more breakage. If your hair starts drying during the detangling, wet it again with more water or conditioning spray. 

Now it’s time to bring out the big guns. Grab your brush or comb and begin gently brushing through one section at a time, starting from your roots. When you approach a knotty area, pull it apart with your fingers first if you need to. Don’t attempt to brush through any thick mats without finger detangling them first. When your fingers glide freely through each section, you’re done. 

Remember: You’ll be detangling your hair one section at a time. To avoid sections overlapping and causing more tangles, secure each section with a clip after brushing. 

How to Detangle Matted Hair
How to Detangle Matted Hair

Detangling: What Not To Do

We’ve now shown you the most effective way to detangle matted hair. To avoid further tangling or breakage, let’s take a look at a few things that should be avoided during the process:

Detangling When Dry: When your hair is dry, it’s more fragile and prone to breakage. Always dampen your hair before detangling. 

Plastic Bristles on Curly Hair: Plastic bristles are more likely to rip and break your hair, and they’re notorious for encouraging static

Detangling Before Sectioning: NEVER attempt to detangle before sectioning your hair. Detangling your hair before sectioning will make it much harder to remove the mat, and you risk creating more knots in the process. 

Fine Tooth Combs: Avoid fine-tooth combs if you have thick, curly or frizzy hair. These combs are more likely to cause snagging or breakage, and they’re not equipped to handle mats. Use a wide-tooth comb only. 

Related: How to diffuse curly hair

Final Thoughts

Arguably, there are few things more frustrating than matted hair. Although some cases may require the attention of a professional stylist, most mats and knots can be treated at home, and no, you won’t need the scissors! Wide combs and conditioner at the ready – it’s time to wave goodbye to matted hair for good.