How to Detangle Transitioning and Natural Hair

I get a ton of questions about detangling transitioning and natural hair, so I thought I’d create this post to help out.

Even though the video below was done on my natural hair, this routine can be applied to transitioners too!  This is how you shampoo without tangles and minimize breakage.

Fight Tangles Early

When you shampoo your hair, detangling starts before you even get into the water.

If you’ve been wearing your hair out in a rod set, twist out or some kind of textured style that is known to gradually tangle your hair over time, shampooing is only going to make the problem worse. Detangling Natural Hair

So the key is to start working through those tangles before you begin.  Here’s what I do and recommend…

Detangling Tips

1. Separate your hair into at least 4 sections (6 or 8 if your hair is really thick and/or long).

2. Take a generous amount of a cheap moisturizing conditioner (VO5, Suave, Herbal Essence, etc.) and work it through each section.  Make sure you coat your roots (where tangles are typically the worse). You can also spritz your hair with water to help the conditioner penetrate better.

I also like to add olive oil.  Olive oil keeps your hair moisturized through the shampooing process and it also aids in removing shed hairs.  If you haven’t combed through your hair in days, there will be shedding.

3. Put on a plastic cap and let the conditioner marinate in your hair for at least 30 minutes.

4. Optional: Take each section down (one at a time) and slowly work your fingers through it. The conditioner should have softened your tangles up a bit and allow you to work your fingers through it.

The reason this step is optional is because you are going to do this same thing after you shampoo your hair.  However, I like to do this before I get in the shower too.

5. With your hair in sections, shampoo each section at a time.  As you rinse the shampoo out of each section, gently run your fingers through the section in a downward motion.  You should notice some of the tangles coming loose.

6. Condition your hair with a rinse out or leave-in and rinse out.   When you rinse the conditioner, run your fingers through the section as you did with the shampoo.  This will help you keep tangles to a minimum.

At this point, you may choose to run a shower comb through your hair to detangle completely.

7. If you didn’t completely detangle in the shower, add a generous amount of leave-in conditioner to your first section (preferably a detangling variety).  Let it sit for a minute to allow it to work through those tangles.

Tip: Kinky Curly’s Knot Today is one of my favorite detangling conditioners.

8. Take your shower comb (a comb with large gaps between the teeth of the comb) and begin to detangle your first section.  Hold the section firmly in your hand near the root and very gently begin to work the shower comb through your hair starting at the end and working your way up to the roots.  Never, ever, ever start at the roots!

If your hair is thick, you may have to split each section into two halves.  Remember to be gentle and try not to snag at your hair with the comb.  With enough conditioner and small enough sections, you should be able to work through your tangles.

Detangling natural/transitioning hair takes time, but it’s definitely worth all the steps in the end.  You’ll be rewarded with healthier looking hair that retains thickness and length.

 

Comments

  1. Ellen says

    Hi lisa,
    I decided to go natural. I’m in my second month now so just starting :)
    When you condition your hair with herbal essence or another conditioner doesn’t it makes you hair feel stiff?
    I bought a Keracare sulfate free shampoo but it also made my hair felt stiff. Normally i’m using creme of nature because it makes my hair soft. Any tips?

    greetings from Holland

    • lisa says

      Hi Ellen

      No I can’t say that it does. But I’m not surprised. Different products behave differently. You may want to try a more natural product like Oyin Handmade’s HoneyHemp conditioner (buy online).

    • Monica says

      Use a clarifying shampoo… often our hair has too much build up and prevents it from being soft… The best thing to remember in natural hair is the cleaner hair is healthier hair.

      I’ve been natural for 8 years. My stylist laughed at me when I told her I greased my scalp. She had to wash my hair 6 times to get the gunk out. But after the wash my hair was softer than I can ever remember.

      Last 2 tips use cider vinegar and water spritz to detangle and a tablespoon of olive oil for moisture.

  2. alicia says

    Omg I’ve been so frustrated with detangling my transitioning hair. After reading this article I had an Aw Ha moment! I have thick hair I was only putting my hair in 4 sections! Now I realized i need to work in smaller sections. That’s what I get for being lazy! Thx for the article I like reading your tips to help me through my transition.

    • Monica says

      Also make sure your hair is free of all gunk… wash your hair with clarifying shampoo…. Then detangle with a spritz of cider vinegar and water. Your hair will be baby soft.

  3. Petrina says

    VERY, VERY helpful, thanks Lisa. I am a little over six months in my transition and you can never educate yourself enough while going through this process. As soon as I think I have my techniques and my staple products down, then my hair changes on me! The thing that I seem to still have challenges with is detangling, I shed ALOT and always have, so I’m hoping to one day be able to minimize my shedding to what you have show in the video above, once I get a handle on that, then I will consider myself an expert in detangling, LOL! Thanks, again.

  4. NNew31 says

    I’m 6 months into my transition with bra strap length hair. I’m estimating about 3 inches of new growth so far. I have no problem detangling the front of my hair, but towards the middle and the back is very difficult. I’ve been using Knot Today and Jane Carter Solutions spray leave in conditioner. I ran out of the Jane Carter and I noticed a lot of breakage in the back. This has only happened the past (2) times that I’ve washed my hair. I’m going to try the pre-poo method with the Tresemme Naturals and olive oil. Hopefully, this will help minimize the breakage and soften my new growth. I noticed that I have a loose curl pattern in front and a tighter curl pattern in the back. Thank you for your tips. I can’t wait to try your suggestions. How do you feel about aloe vera juice? I want to try this as an alternative to the Jane Carter spray leave in, but I’ve heard that it can make the hair hard.

    • lisa says

      Hi

      I used aloe vera juice and gel to help hold moisture when setting the hair. I use the gel more than the juice because it has a slight hold and is great for rod sets.

      Regarding tangles, have you tried sectioning your hair yet? I have the exact issue as you. The front and sides of my hair aren’t as thick as the crown. So when I section my hair into 6 parts, I make the crown a section of its own and it’s MUCH easier to keep that detangling when I wash my hair. The reason you are just now experiencing this is just because of growth. The longer your hair gets, the more tangles. It may be time to start sectioning if you aren’t already. I had to start doing this by my 5th month into the transition.

      • . NNew31 says

        Thank you so much for your reply. I did try to section in 4 parts (2 in front, and 2 in back)
        Using more sections, such as 6 will work better. I’ve been pre-pooing with your method and it works well. I’ve noticed fewer tangles and the new growth is softening up. I also got about 2″ cut off which eliminated the split ends. It gets frustrating trying to figure out what my hair likes. I will try the Aloe Vera Gel. I’ve been having success with Shea Moisture Curl & Style Milk on my flat twist outs, but they get really frizzy after the first day. Maybe adding the aloe vera gel will help. Thank you again!

  5. Antoinette says

    Hi Lisa,
    What type of combs do you use on your hair? Any specific type for detangling, etc??
    Thanks for such a great site! Be blessed!
    Antoinette

    • lisa says

      Hi Antoniette

      I’ve been using the same plastic wide-tooth comb forever! It’s the same one I used when I was relaxed. It’s just a regular old wide-tooth comb — nothing special but it does the job. But you can look for the detangling combs because the teeth are the widest apart.

  6. eritrue says

    I just passed the five-month mark in my transition and had to start using eight sections to wash my hair. It’s mid-back length, and the tangles can be fierce! I’m also going to try washing my hair every week.

  7. Shawnie says

    Hi Lisa,
    I have been transitioning since December. I have been loving the process so far. Do you have any suggestions for frizz control. I live in Texas and this humidity is killing my hairstyles. I have been getting my hair pressed and its been doing well with no breakage but the humidity makes my natrual hair frizz and my processed ends stay straight. Please help.

    • lisa says

      You need humectants. These are products/ingredients that draw moisture from the air to help keep your hair moisturized and will minimize frizz. Humectants include honey, glycerin, and castor oil to name a few. When I was transitioning I used a tad bit of castor oil to gloss over my rod sets to minimize frizz. You can use honey before you shampoo. Add a teaspoon or so to your pre poo routine mentioned above in the article. That may help.

  8. Antonette says

    Hi Lisa,

    I am in my second month of transitioning to my natural hair. Your site has helped me tremendously with all my questions. I loved my relaxed hair and I want to learn how to care for and love my natural hair as well. Your site is definitely helping me on my journey to natural hair. I just wanted to say thank you!!

  9. Latoya says

    Oh ok.. I tried it with Apple cider vinegar and it helped me out tremendously and my hair is left soft and shiny..

    • lisa says

      While I’m rinsing, I run my fingers thru the hair to start the detangling process. Then when I’m out, I detangle again with a wide tooth comb.

  10. Tina says

    Hi Lisa. I’m maybe 2 months in my transition. I’m Muslim so I wear a scarf on my head when not at home. I have really itchy scalp problem as well as shedding. I usually just wash, braid, rubber band the end & go. Any tips on care for hair that’s covered a lot?

  11. serella says

    Hi, I’m 15 & i’m 3 months into my transition. I just use olive oil miracle moisturizer & i co-wash my hair. & i need more tips b/c. i don’t that much products in it. I just have my mom braid it in two strand twist :).

  12. Keturah April says

    I detangle with a detangling conditioner & a wide tooth comb , but it seems like the top of my head is very course & it Is so hard to detangle ! Any suggestions because the texture at the top of my head is so difficult to deal with . I also do a deep conditioner weekly to try to soften my hair

    • lisa says

      I have the saaaaaame issue. That’s why when I shampoo my hair, I section my hair off and make the crown of my hair the smallest section. I pile a bunch of conditioner on it before detangling and that helps.

  13. sha says

    My daughter & I decided to go natural last Oct. So we are approaching our 1yr mark. My hair is long and has various textures I’m loving all the style ideas you provide. I’ve been wearing my hair straight but need an alternative. I also love the product selections. Thank you so much

  14. says

    Hi Lisa,
    I recently tried L’Oreal Evercreme (sulfate free, paraban free) shampoo and intense conditioner. I sat under the hair dryer for ten minutes with a conditioning cap (the gold one from the Dollar Tree) and I must say the best results yet. I had no problem with detangling. My hair was extremely soft and manageable. I also used the leave in.

  15. Jess says

    Hi Lisa,
    I decided a couple of days ago that I wanted to go natural. My hair is currently in a mohawk style, so I’ve already shaved 2/3 of my hair, and I don’t feel confident enough to chip the rest of, is it possible for me to go natural without having to cut my hair at all? And is it ok to weave my hair?

  16. Chante says

    Thanks for all the info! I am going to transition again to natural hair. I tried and hadn’t had a perm since Feb. but after I took my braids out in Oct. my new growth was about 3 inches and crazy, I couldn’t comb it. I live in the Middle East now and it is always warm so, I just permed it to make my life easier, but I am going to try again. I needed some natural ways to moisturize and condition it, because black hair care products are not readily available. Thanks again for the info, and I actually found much needed videos on your youtube page! Here’s to new beginnings, I am excited and so is my hubby!

  17. Danielle says

    Lisa the ‘Auto Fill’ caused my full name to update in my previous e-mail. I would only want my first name to post. If possible please send message to home e-mail address *** email removed for safety***

  18. Tameica says

    I see where in your article you state that to keep a protective style such as twist that you mentioned that to one need to re-twist at nights;if I re-twist do I go through the same regime as when I did the first twist? Transitioning and keep on getting frizzing etc

    • lisa says

      Hi Tameica

      If you re-twist you don’t necessarily have to wet it again. Maybe just apply a leave in conditioner/moisturizer and retwist. You also may not have to retwist your whole head. Also have you heard of the pineapple method? That’s where you pile all your hair on top of your head with a scarf to preserve your style. YouTube it for some visuals.

      • Tameica says

        Thanks for the response; I saw two pineapple methods, because I cut off most of the straightened ends, my hair is short now hence I tried the pineapple method where the hair is finger divided in sections(5-6) and hold together by elastic bands. When I woke this morning it wasn’t flat which was good;given that my two-strand pull out twist and rod set style is 5 days old now.

        I will continue to experiment with this pineapple style from the beginning of my twist out and see if its worth it.
        Thanks a lot for the info.

        I think I have a mixture of type 4C(At the front) and 4B(at the extreme back) and my straightened ends are really thin do you have any tips to help me get the middle of my hair soft or more manageable when I wash? Also if I don’t have the knot today is there anything else that can get rid of the tangles? (Before I – wash -Overnight- I spritz with water and placed castor and placed in a heat cap overnight and in the morning I wash out and then shampoo and then piled lots of moisturising conditioner on, I don’t de-tangle until hair almost dry because my hair sheds more when it wet)

      • Tameica says

        Thanks for the response; I saw two pineapple methods, because I cut off most of the straightened ends, my hair is short now hence I tried the pineapple method where the hair is finger divided in sections(5-6) and hold together by elastic bands. When I woke this morning it wasn’t flat which was good;given that my two-strand pull out twist and rod set style is 5 days old now.
        I will continue to experiment with this pineapple style from the beginning of my twist out and see if its worth it.
        Thanks a lot for the info.

  19. Tameica says

    I think I have a mixture of type 4C(At the front) and 4B(at the extreme back) and my straightened ends are really thin do you have any tips to help me get the middle of my hair soft or more manageable when I wash? Also if I don’t have the knot today is there anything else that can get rid of the tangles? (Before I – wash -Overnight- I spritz with water and placed castor and placed in a heat cap overnight and in the morning I wash out and then shampoo and then piled lots of moisturising conditioner on, I don’t de-tangle until hair almost dry because my hair sheds more when it wet)

  20. Donna L. says

    I have been relaxer free since Jan 2013. I have been wearing braids since March. I tried washing my hair 1 time & it tangled very bad. I know I experienced breakage. Thanks for the info on the Carols Daughter products. I look forward to seeing my natural hair.

  21. Sharon says

    Hi Lisa!!! I just wanted to say I love your site and videos!! This is my second attempt at transitioning…..the first time was terrible. I now know n understand that the moisture was my main issue. Im following your recommendations on oils and products. My last relaxer was March 15th and Im so excited to go on this journey! ! Thanks again for site!!

    P.S I would also like to add that since my hair was straight I had to clue on how to maintain my 6 year old daughters hair. Im putting her on the same regimen in hopes that I can do more with it! :)

  22. mellownee says

    Hi Lisa,
    I have been wearing natural hair since Aug 2012. My hair is not thick, but its very coarse. HELP

    • lisa says

      Hi, If your hair has always been course then that’s your natural texture. You can’t really change it, but there are some things you can do to soften it up like ensure it’s moisturized. What do you use for your daily moisturizer? Has your hair always been course or has it gotten worse? If it’s always been this way then that is your natural texture.

    • lisa says

      Try massaging castor oil into your scalp nightly. If your hair is not already naturally thin and you’ve just lost thickness from relaxing, this may help your hair thicken up. Do you deep condition your hair at all?

  23. Tamara says

    Hi, Lisa! LOVE your website! LIke Sharon, my last perm was on about March 14th & when I attempted to go Natural the 1st time last year, it failed. But it was on behalf of me having little knowledge of caring for that type of hair. Now I’m @ it again & with ALL the info out there on Natural hair, I’m confident it’ll work this time. I’m also encouraging a love of this hair type in my 4-year-old daughter because she always wants something long that shakes :) I give her Natural ponytails…no more flat-irons for her.

  24. Sabrena Dewberry says

    Hi Lisa:
    I’m a newbie to wearing my hair naturally. Actually I’ve been perm free since Nov of 2011 but I wore tracks in my hair for the majority of that time. I took the tracks out approximately 2 weeks and started wearing Wigs, however, between hot flashes (lol) and the heat that didn’t really work for me. I’ve been attempting to wear my natural hair out for the past 2 weeks but it is truly an adjustment for me. I’m not liking the way my hair looks yet. But I’m not ready to give up just yet. My hair has grown tremendously while wearing the tracks and when I plat or twist my hair it’s down to my shoulders, however, I have very kinky and dry hair. My question is…Is it possible to use too many products on your hair at once? I’ve been experimenting with lots of different products because this is all new to me. For example: I shampoo my hair with Herbal Essences Hello hydration and then I condition it with Herbal Essences Hello Hydration conditioner (all while I’m in the shower) Then when I get out of the shower I dry my hair and I put Garnier Fructis leave in conditioner on my hair. Then if I decide to do the 2 strand twist I use Eco Styler Gel with Olive Oil and Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie. Is this all too much and will it eventually cause breakage?

  25. Sabrina says

    Hi Lisa,
    I have not had a relaxer since January but have been blowing out
    until about 2 months ago when I got a sew in. I didn’t make a decision to go natural but I just
    didn’t want to relax anymore. I just spent some time on the site and I must say
    that for the first time in my many 6month breaks from relaxers I am making a conscious decision
    to go natural. Thanks for providing such a resource.

    • sandra says

      Hello my name is Sandra I have been going natural for 2 months I was wondering can I continue to color my hair its blond and I just wash it 2 times a week and use afrogee treatment its great for stopping breakage but what can I do with my hair I just keep it braided

    • Colleen says

      Hi, Beverly,

      I am also transitioning almost a year now the best advice I can give is do protective styling it helps, you can check out the YouTube Videos.

      Also when washing make sure you pre-poo with your Moisturizing Conditioners, I use VO5 and also I use oils(Coconut, Castor&Olive), you don’t have to use all.

      Section your hair when washing it helps to prevent a lot of tangles especially when you are early in your transitioning stage.

      After Shampooing I normally clarify my hair with Apple Cider Vinegar to remove the build up from the products I used during styling and I find that this helps with the tangles.

      Try not to tug on your hair especially the area of demarcation because this is where your hair is fragile.

      I also use honey(100% Natural) in my conditioner during the conditioning process.

      Try not to become a product junkie cause I almost became one, just use the products that agrees with your hair texture etc.

      Rod sets are the best, they really work well with transitioning hair. Use less heat. You can trim your ends as to prevent split ends.

      I get complements all the time how fast my hair has grown and how its looks nice.

      Overall you can check out YouTube for styles etc.

      All the best, it my be at times tedious but overall it will worth it when your hair comes out nice and healthy.

  26. Tasha says

    Hi Lisa, I just want to Thank you for your site. Like many, this is my second natural attempt. I became discouraged the first time due to lack of knowledge. This is my 3rd month and I’m excited about this journey. Thank you and I’ve also learned to care for my 7 yr old daughter’s hair.
    Blessings!

  27. mesha says

    Hi Lisa
    I’m thinking about recording my transitioning hair journey all i need is a camera. Do you think I should do it….?????

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