Detangling Wet or Dry Hair

Carefully comb out tangles to avoid hair breakage.
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One moment you’re coasting along the highway enjoying the breeze with the top down, and the next moment you realize your hair looks like a tornado hit it. Regardless of your hair length, a tangled rat’s nest can happen to the best of us -- rain or shine. What you do next determines whether you maintain shiny, healthy locks or you end up with a frizzy mess built on a den of broken ends. It’s always best to detangle your hair while wet, but you can detangle dry hair too.

  • Spray bottle
  • Water
  • Hair-detangling spray
  • Wide-tooth comb
  • Mirror
  • Leave-in hair conditioner or oil-based serum

1 Wrangling Wet Knots

2 Test the dampness

Test the dampness of your hair and rewet any dry spots by holding them under a faucet or spritzing them with a spray bottle filled with water. Wet hair is much easier to detangle than dry hair.

3 Spray

Spray all of your hair with a light mist of hair-detangling product, moving from roots to ends. Spray additional detangling product on any obvious tangles until they are saturated with the product. If you don’t have a detangling spray, use a dime-sized amount of hair conditioner and work it through all of your hair.

4 Place a wide-tooth comb

Place a wide-tooth comb approximately 4 to 5 inches from the end of your hair. Pull the comb gently downward until you reach the tips of the hair. If you meet resistance, lighten your pressure and use the ends of the comb's teeth as a pick to gently untangle any knots.

5 Reinsert the comb 4

Reinsert the comb 4 to 5 inches above the original starting location and repeat the process to comb through to the ends of the hair again. Continue using this process until you completely detangle all of the hair.

6 Diffusing Dry Snarls

7 Stand

Stand in front of a well-lit mirror so you can see the tangles instead of just feeling them. Finger comb your hair by gently running your fingers from the roots to the ends. If you encounter a major tangle that doesn't loosen easily, skip it and move on to another section. The tangle will be easier to remove once you lubricate it.

8 Apply a dime-sized amount

Apply a dime-sized amount of leave-in hair conditioner or an oil-based air serum onto your palm and work it through your hair, concentrating mostly on the ends and on any major tangles. The oils in these products lubricate dry hair, making it easier to comb through.

9 Comb

Comb the hair using a wide-tooth comb starting approximately 4 to 5 inches from the bottom of the hair. Comb through to the tips of the hair and then reinsert the comb 4 to 5 inches above the starting location. Continue using this method to gently comb out all tangles until your hair is smooth.

  • Never use a brush to remove tangles as this causes hair splitting and breakage.
  • If you have hair extensions, use care not to detach them as you comb out the tangles. Grasp the top of the extension tightly with the fingers of one hand while you comb out any knots.

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.