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Whether your hair is long or short, curly or straight, natural or chemically straightened, you’ve probably had to deal with hair that’s been tangled in knots at some stage.

We know there are a lot of other things you’d rather be doing with your time than working at getting knots out of your hair.

In this article, we’ll look at what causes your hair to get tangled, plus what you really want to know — how to get rid of those pesky knots.

A knot happens when two strands of hair wrap around each other and become intertwined. Once a couple of strands are stuck together, the knot can become bigger and harder to remove.

Every day, strands of your hair are shed as part of a healthy hair life cycle. If your hair is smooth and straight, it has an easier time escaping from your scalp.

But textured hair and damaged hair typically isn’t smooth. That’s because the cuticles, the outer layer of the hair shaft, often don’t lie flat.

So, instead of falling away, these loose strands are more prone to getting wrapped around other strands when they’re released from your scalp, causing knots to form.

Another way knots can form is by rubbing your hair against certain surfaces, like towels, sheets, or pillowcases. It’s one of the reasons why you may wake up with those bedhead tangles in your hair.

Although tangled hair can happen to anyone, the following types of hair tend to be more prone to knots:

  • heat-damaged, sun-damaged, or bleach-damaged hair
  • hair that’s prone to breakage
  • hair that’s longer than shoulder length
  • naturally curly hair
  • dry hair
  • hair that’s vigorously combed or scratched
  • hair that’s regularly exposed to hot styling tools
  • hair frequently treated with products that contain alcohol, such as hairspray, mousse, or gel

It may be tempting to reach for a brush or hair pick to attack the tangles in your hair. But to prevent hair breakage, it’s best to plan your knot removal technique a little more carefully.

The key to getting rid of knots is to use a detangling spray that’s suited to your type of hair.

Most detangling sprays can be used on damp or dry hair, and they don’t need to be rinsed out afterward.

How to get rid of knots

  1. Start with a detangling spray made for your hair type. Detangling spray products are meant to lubricate your hair strands, making it easier to separate hairs that have become tangled.
  2. Most detangling sprays can be used on damp or dry hair. Make sure your hair isn’t soaking wet, as this could cause the product to run off your hair.
  3. Separate your hair into at least four sections: two on top and two on the bottom. You may need more sections if your hair is curly or thick. Use a hair clip to hold each section in place.
  4. Working one section at a time, draw the hair away from your scalp, gently holding it taut.
  5. Then, spritz the detangling spray on that section of hair and allow it to saturate your hair for a moment.
  6. Next, use a hair pick or comb to get the knot out. Start at your root, and slowly comb through to your ends. Repeat several times if necessary.
  7. Once you’ve combed each section of your hair, remove the hair clips, and use a brush or wide-tooth comb to go through your hair a few more times.
  8. Unless the product states otherwise, there’s no need to rinse. Just let your hair dry and then style as usual.

Based on ingredients, formulation, and customer satisfaction, the following detangling products may work well for specific hair types.

Sleep on a satin pillowcase

When you move your head around on a pillow, you may be chafing your hair follicles and creating knots in your hair.

A satin pillowcase may help keep your hair smooth while you sleep. Or, you could try sleeping with a satin turban or headscarf tied around your hair.

You can shop for a satin pillowcase and satin turban or headscarf online.

Braid your hair before bedtime

Keeping your hair in braids while you sleep is an easy way to prevent tangles from forming. One big braid or a bunch of small ones are both equally effective for this strategy.

Braiding your hair while it’s wet and letting it dry that way is another way to prevent your hair from getting tangled. You may also want to keep your hair braided when you work out, or if know your hair is going to be blown around a lot.

Avoid rubbing with a towel

When you rub wet hair with a terry cloth towel to remove moisture, it can cause hair breakage and cuticle damage, increasing the chance of knots.

Instead, wrap a microfiber towel or a cotton T-shirt around your head to gently absorb the moisture, or let your hair air-dry.

Get regular trims

Getting your hair trimmed every 8 to 10 weeks can help get rid of split ends. When you remove hair that’s damaged, it may make it easier for your hair to shed more easily, resulting in fewer knots.

Use the right products for your hair type

Your hair is as individual as you are, and using the right type of products for your hair can make a difference when you’re trying to avoid knots.

Dry, damaged hair

If you have hair that tends to be dry, heat-damaged, or prone to frizz, avoid products that contain alcohol. These can dry your hair out. Stick to oils, serums, and leave-in conditioners when you’re styling your hair.

Natural hair

If you have natural hair, you might want to use a combing cream specially formulated to give your hair shine and body without any tangles.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, textured, or tightly curled hair is best combed when damp.

Fine, straight hair

If your hair is fine and straight, avoid using texturizing or volume-building sprays that contain a high amount of silicone. This ingredient can make your hair sticky and more prone to tangles.

Tangled, knotted hair can happen to all types of hair. But it may be more common if your hair is damaged, naturally curly, longer than shoulder length, or dry.

There are several strategies you can try to prevent or limit knots from forming. Using products that are suited to your hair is helpful, too.

If your hair seems to be shedding more than usual or is breaking off easily, be sure to mention this to your doctor. Hair health can be a window into your overall health.