How To Detangle Matted Hair

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Got a matted head of hair that’s weighing you down? I know firsthand how difficult (and painful) it can be to work through a tangled mop of hair.

Although it can be frustratingly annoying, let’s go through some reasons why you’re here in the first place and a step-by-step guide to untangling those gnarled strands.

Why Does My Hair Get Tangled?

Hair gets tangled and matted because it’s not taken care of properly. The most common cause is neglecting to wash your hair regularly.

This causes the natural oils to dry up, leaving your strands weak and brittle. This also means you won’t be able to keep your hair hydrated.

Once your hair becomes tangled, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes matted. A matted section of hair has lost its original shape and texture and can no longer absorb moisture.

It begins to lose its strength and elasticity as soon as this happens, making it even harder to comb through your hair.

Other reasons why your hair might get tangled or matted include:

  • Using too much product
  • Over-styling with heat tools such as curling irons or flat iron
  • Using products that contain harsh chemicals

How To Avoid Matted Hair

Prevention is your best friend. To avoid that matted bird’s nest look, try the following:

Wash Your Hair Regularly

If you want to prevent your hair from becoming tangled, wash it every other day. That way, you’ll be removing any build-up of dirt and oil that could lead to tangles.

Use Conditioner

Conditioners help add moisture and softness to your hair and give your hair added protection against damage caused by the elements. They also make hair more manageable to comb through.

Keep Your Hair Hydrated

Moisturizing your hair will ensure that it stays strong and healthy.

If you have especially dry locks, try adding a deep conditioner or hair mask treatment to your regular routine.

Don’t Overuse Heat Tools

Heat tools can be great for creating curls and waves, but they can also damage your hair. Always use them sparingly, and use heat protectant before styling with heat.

Use Hair Products Properly

It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to using hair products. But just because something says “condition” doesn’t mean you need to apply it all over your head. Instead, focus on areas that need extra moisture, like your ends.

How To Detangle Matted Hair

How To Detangle Matted Hair

Now it’s time to get down to business. It might be time for extreme measures if you’re way past the prevention stage. Let’s take a look at the best ways to detangle your matted hair. 

Step 1: Wet and Wash Hair

When your hair is matted, the first thing you should do is wash and rinse with a mild shampoo and conditioner. This will help loosen the tangles in your hair, which can be very difficult to get out of once they are established.

Detangling and unmatting are also most effective when performed on wet hair. Trying to detangle dry hair is a recipe for frustration and despair. 

If you want to give yourself a firm chance of eliminating the mat, I’d recommend applying a leave-in conditioner (for at least 30 minutes). This will moisturize your hair and make it easier to pry apart. 

Step 2: Apply a Detangling Spray to Damp Hair

This step is a biggie if you’ve got long locks. Apply some detangling spray all over and let it sit for several minutes.

This will give your hair a chance to rehydrate and make it easier to work through as you untangle strands.

Then, do your best to section your hair so you can work more easily.

Step 3: Detangle With Your Fingers

One of the best tools for detangling severely matted hair is your own 10 digits. Yes, sometimes the best way to (gently!) get twisted clumps to separate is by manually separating them with your fingers.

Work from the bottom up – so untangle near your ends first as you work your way up towards your scalp.

Step 4: Detangle With A Wide-Tooth Comb

A wide-tooth comb is ideal for detangling your hair. It works well for both wet and dry hair and will allow you to remove tangles without causing further damage.

As usual, untangle near your ends and work your way upwards.

Gently pull each section of hair apart and comb through each section.

Continue to comb or brush through each section (and brush downwards) to eliminate any tangles as you go. You may need to repeat this a few times per section to eliminate any tangles.

If your hair is longer or thicker, allow more time to complete the process. 

Remember: wide-tooth combs work better on severe mats and tangles. Once you’ve pulled apart the majority of your matted hair with a wide-tooth comb, you can then go through it with a fine-tooth comb or brush to remove any small remaining knots. 

If you’ve followed this advice, taken your time, and are having no luck smoothing out your matted hair, you may need to thin it – especially if you have longer, thicker hair.

You can use a pair of thinning scissors to do this. Run the bottom blade of your scissors through the bottom of the mat and slowly pull at the mat to remove any loose strands of hair. 

Step 5: Rinse

Once you’ve successfully detangled all of your hair, it’s time to rinse it out. Once you’ve rinsed it, brush through it again (either in sections or as a whole). 

Final Thoughts

If you have long or thick hair, skipped a few brushes, or are using the wrong products, you’ll know just how frustrating matted hair can be. It’s a common problem, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. 

Remember: prevention is key! Ensure you’re washing and brushing your hair frequently, and use the right products to avoid a build-up of tangles.

If your hair is already matted up, fear not. You can put those scissors down – a buzz cut will NOT be necessary.

Most mats can be brushed out with a bit of time and attention, and your luscious locks will be radiant and tangle-free in no time. 

Emma Lee
As long as she can remember, Emma has been obsessed with beautiful hair. Her favorite look is pin-straight, sleek glass hair. She's had multiple styles from short and permed to long and natural throughout her life, and knows full well that how your hair looks can make or break your day.

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