Help for Matted Hair

Remove masses of knots one at a time.
... Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images
  • Hair clips
  • Leave-in conditioner or baby oil
  • Wide-tooth comb
  • Clarifying shampoo
  • Scissors

1 Matted Hair

If last night’s hairstyle included sky-high teasing, you may find yourself with matted hair full of tangles that gives the term rat’s nest a whole new meaning.

Matted hair can result from teasing, hair products, action, and hair type. Hair products like hairspray, dry shampoo, or curl products can cause tangles in natural hair of all hair types. Pillowcases can also affect matting of hair overnight, so we suggest investing in silk pillowcases or a silk scarf for the best overnight non matting results. As different hair types have different types of tangles, there are simple ways to help untangle or detangle hair painlessly that is matted or tangled.

Be careful during your detangling hair care process to not damage your hair further using too much force or the wrong products in the attempt to detangle hair. For those with naturally dry hair, you may have a harder time detangling and rejuvenating your hair.

Be sure to use combs with teeth or wide-toothed combs to detangle matted hair instead of a hair brush or brushes with bristles, as the bristles may lead to more breakage and tangles in the detangling process.

2 How to Untangle Matted Hair:

  1. Before you grab scissors for a permanent solution, try combing it out. a. Don’t just start madly brushing your locks, however -- this will break and snap your hair into an even worse mess. b. Removing those gnarly knots and tangles will take patience and plenty of product to lubricate your tresses.
  2. Divide your hair in half by running your hand back along the top center of your head. a. Gather the hair on one side of your head and divide it in half vertically. b. Hold each of the two sections apart using hair clips. c. Divide the other half of your hair into two sections as well, and secure each of those small sections with additional clips.
  3. Unclip one section of your hair and gather up a 2-inch section.
  4. Spray the section of hair thoroughly with a leave-in conditioner until it's saturated and you have wet hair. a. You can also use a small amount of shea butter, baby oil, coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil or hair detangler (detangling spray) instead of deep conditioner. b. A spray bottle can be used to wet the hair with products or water as you go.
    c. Pat the knots and tangles gently, using your fingers, to work the conditioner into it. d. Don't rub the tangles, because this may make matters worse.
  5. Place a wide-tooth comb at the bottom of your hair, starting 1 inch from the end. a. Comb through to the end of the hair.
  6. Insert the comb or detangling brush about a half-inch above the starting location and again comb down through the hair. a. If you meet resistance, gently detangle it using the teeth of the comb. b. Continue combing the hair section until you reach your scalp and all tangles are removed.
  7. Gather a new 2-inch section of tangled hair and comb through it using the same technique. a. Continue combing gently until the entire section is tangle-free, and then move on to detangle the other sections of hair. b. You can add more detangling spray to the hair care process as needed.
  8. Wash your hair thoroughly using a clarifying shampoo to remove the excess conditioner or baby oil you used to detangle your hair. Make sure you are properly moisturizing your hair in the shower with a moisturizing conditioner after untangling to prevent further damaged hair.

  9. Comb your hair gently to remove any tangles created during washing, and then allow your hair to air dry.

  • Depending on the extent of the matting, you may find it helpful to use combs with differently spaced teeth. Start with the comb with the widest spaced teeth and work your way down to a finer-toothed comb.
  • In some cases, you may need to cut out matted portions. Do so with styling shears and make the cut vertical instead of horizontal, which will help blend it into your hairstyle better.

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.