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How To Detangle Curly Hair With Minimal Breakage

When it comes to detangling our luscious curls, we can all admit that it is no easy task since the only time we really detangle our curls is on wash day once or twice a week, a lot of knots build up.

But is it possible to detangle curly hair easily and with minimal breakage?

While detangling curly hair is a challenge, it is not impossible; you just need the right products and tools to do the job. But this is what I’m here for.

I’m here to guide you through the best way to detangle curly hair like a breeze. Detangling before and after you wash your hair is key to curl definition, minimal breakage, and, most importantly, luscious curls.

But I’m not going to fool you here; the detangling process is no easy task. Working in sections, applying the right products, and a lot of patience will go a long way when detangling natural hair.

Don’t worry, though; I’m here to help!

I have created a full guide of the best ways of detangling curly hair, including what to use, step by step guide, and how often you should detangle your curls.

So stay tuned. You won’t want to miss this.

how to detangle curly hair

How Often Should You Detangle Curly Hair?

This is completely up to you and your hair type, but as a general rule of thumb, detangling hair is recommended to be done at least once a week, preferably on wash day.

For many of us curlies, we have one wash day with sulfate-free shampoo and then one or two co-wash days in between, so always aim to detangle before you wash.

Always detangle before you wash your curls as tangled, matted curls get much worse when wet from water and shampoo, so that plus the knots from the whole week? I will be praying for your curls.

For the most defined curls, you should detangle your curly hair in two parts– before shampooing and after your condition before styling.

I like to use a generous amount of a detangler for curly hair before shampooing and detangling in sections. I take 2-3 inch sections, apply a detangling product, and then gently comb through each section using a wide-tooth comb or a detangling brush.

Always have damp hair when detangling; never detangle dry hair. Always apply oil for curly hair or detangling spray to create slip; this helps ease out stubborn knots.

So you should try to detangle before and after every shampoo or co-wash, so this is why it is dependent on your hair as the number of times you co-wash, or shampoo is up to you—but detangling at least once a week is recommended.

Should You Detangle Wet Or Dry Curly Hair?

Whether you should detangle, dry or wet hair is completely dependent on your hair type. For dry, coily, coarse, thick curls, you should only detangle when you have slip on your hair.

So this means that your hair should be damp but soaked with a product that offers slip, e.g., a detangling product, hair oil, or leave-in conditioner that helps ease knots.

If your curls are extremely damaged, then finger detangling with coconut oil before wet detangling with a deep conditioner or a detangling product is recommended.

For looser curls, like waves or low porosity hair, you should spray some penetrating oil like argan oil on your dry hair before detangling with a detangling paddle brush or Denman brush.

So for tighter, thicker curls, using a product that offers slip is recommended, and detangling damp hair over dry hair is highly recommended to prevent damage.

For finer, looser curls, you can get away with dry detangling with some lightweight, penetrating oil to help ease tangles and prevent snagging or pulling on natural hair.

Any hair stylist will recommend on wavy, curly, or coiled hair that you do wet detangling on damp hair with a conditioner before washing.

finger untangle

How To Detangle Curly Hair The Right Way:

So there are a few different ways you should detangle tangled hair to leave curls tangle-free before washing and to prevent damaged hair.

Today I am doing to run through how to detangle curly hair between washes, before washing, when dry, and how to detangle extremely tangled curly hair.

So let’s start with how to detangle curls before washing.

How To Dry Detangle Curly Hair Before Washing:

You should always detangle your curls with a good detangling brush and detangling product before shampooing to prevent knots and tangles from getting worse.

So before washing, you want to make your curls slightly damp, so they have slip on them. Work in sections and apply oil or lightly spritz some detangling spray and gently glide through the tangles using a wide-toothed comb.

If you are dry detangling, then use oil or detangling spray, but if you are wet detangling them dampen down your hair and apply a leave-in conditioner to ease knots.

Once you’ve got some of the stubborn knots out, repeat on the same section with a detangling brush, this will detangle deeper into the hair, so you are left with smooth strands.

This is my favorite detangling method, as you can use a generous amount of detangling products on your natural curls as you will be shampooing afterward.

When my hair is particularly tangled, I apply detangling products to the ends of my hair and let my hair soak for a minute or two; this will help the treatment penetrate into the hair strands.

You can also apply a pre-wash treatment after detangling, which will penetrate deeply into the hair strand; I personally love Olaplex No.3 at the moment!

How To Wet Detangle Curly Hair:

As I spoke about briefly above, you can actually wet detangle before shampooing your hair, and it is recommended for extremely tangled knots or tight coils.

So in order to properly detangle your tightly curled hair, you should dampen down your hair first with water. Then apply a deep conditioner, conditioner, or leave-in conditioner.

Anything that will provide enough slip to detangle your hair.

Conditioners and water combination will provide good lubrication, so if your hair is soaking wet and lubricated will make detangling much easier.

Work in sections like you would if you were to dry, detangle your curls and gently pull the comb or detangling wet brush through your hair without snagging.

I personally love Tangle Teaser Large Wet Brush for my thick curls; it eases through knots without snagging or pulling on my curls, it works wonders when paired with a good conditioner or detangler.

How To Detangle Extremely Tangled Curly Hair:

We’ve all been there without curls; we’ve left wash day a few days too late and feel like we are detangling a bird’s nest with matted curls and tangles galore.

But is there a way to detangle extremely tangled curls without ripping hair your hair out? Absolutely, I have a few tips that may work for you!

Step One: Apply Coconut Oil All Over:

My top tip for easing stubborn knots, matting, and more is to apply coconut oil and try to finger comb through tough knots. Leave the coconut oil on for at least 5 minutes before trying to comb through using a wide-tooth comb.

Coconut oil has brilliant natural ingredients that can help detangle any hair type, from the tightest coils to the losest waves. It penetrates deep into the hair shaft, making it easier to detangle.

So before wet detangling, applying any leave-in conditioner or deep conditioner, you should leave coconut oil on your hair for a while; this should help soften the curl.

Argan oil is brilliant for those with low porosity hair as it has small molecules that will penetrate deeper into a flat cuticle.

Step Two: Dampen Down Hair & Smother With Conditioner:

Once you’ve finger-combed through some of the stubborn knots using coconut oil, then you’ll want to dampen down your curls and smoother them with conditioner.

The best way to help with matting and any stubborn knots is to work in small sections, starting underneath. Take two-inch sections and smother with conditioner and then gently comb through with a wide-tooth comb or detangling brush.

Be patient and gently ease the stubborn tangles; whatever you do, do not snag or pull or rip the brush through these sections, as this can cause breakage and damage to the curl shape.

For extremely matted hair, using a deep conditioner is best as it can penetrate deeper into the hair cuticle, but for stubborn knots, most leave-in conditioners will be enough to do the job.

Step Three: Leave The Deep Conditioner On:

Start detangling as many curls as possible, but if you still cannot get out some matted curls, then leave the deep conditioner on for 20-30 minutes; this will help penetrate deeper into the hair strand.

Even after detangling your curls, you should still leave on the deep conditioner as a treatment to help strengthen any damaged strands and restore elasticity.

Once you’ve left it on for half an hour or so, rinse and condition and then use the same detangling treatment and work in sections to detangle again afterward.

You can then use a great styling brush to define your curls; detangling your curls is a brilliant way to allow your curls to retain their normal shape and bounce.

detangle curly hair

How To Keep Curly Hair Tangle Free Between Washes:

As I always say, prevention is always better than a cure, so there are a few ways you can keep your curls tangle-free between washes, so your curls stay fresh, and the detangling process is not as much as a chore.

So here are a few tips to keep your curls tangle-free.

Don’t rub products in too aggressively:

Remember to be gentle when applying products to your hair; being too aggressive can rough up your cuticle and tangle.

So while you should massage your scalp with your shampoo, don’t be too rough. Use the pads of your fingers to massage firmly but not aggressively.

When applying styling products, use the tips of your fingers to apply, don’t be doing an up, the downside to side motion when applying your products.

This is why working in sections is key; you can apply products gently without roughing up the hair cuticle. Scrunching upwards is okay, too. Just don’t be too aggressive.

Even when rinsing, you should try to avoid rough motions on your hair, gently lift your hair to let the water run through your scalp and hair.

Remember to only shampoo your scalp, never the ends. This will just dry out the ends of your hair, making them more prone to damage and tangling.

Curly hair is dry enough already; you don’t want to make it worse by shampooing the ends of your hair. The water and shampoo will reach the ends when you rinse, don’t worry.

Use Lots Of Conditioner:

Conditioner is your very best friend, don’t forget that. Don’t listen to the bullshit comments of only needing a dime-sized amount; for curly hair, you need more.

If you are following the right steps, detangling before you wash, not being too aggressive, and still find your hair is full with tangles, then it is a key indication that you are NOT using enough conditioning.

Be generous with your conditioner and keep up a good deep conditioning routine.

Deep conditioning once every week or two is super important if you have dry, coarse curls, as this will help with preventing tangles and breakage.

Don’t Rub Your Hair In A Towel:

If you’re a curly girl and STILL using a regular cotton towel and wondering why your hair is so frizzy, damaged, and knotty, then throw the towel in the bin!!!

Switch to a microfiber towel or cotton t-shirt; they are far more gentle on your hair. Still, don’t rub your head with it but gently squeeze out the excess water.

I tend to apply my styling products to my sopping wet hair and detangle then scrunch my hair with my microfiber towel; this helps promote the curl and prevent tangles.

Put Your Hair In A Protective Hair Style At Night:

Protecting your curls while you sleep is important for many reasons, for preventing damage, preventing frizz, and helping keep your curls tangle free for longer.

Knowing how to protect curly hair at night is key to tangle, damage, and frizz control.

But don’t worry, I’ve created a full guide on my favorite protective hairstyles for protecting those luscious curls at night time. You’ll thank me later.

olaplex on curly hair


Knowing how to detangle curly hair properly is key to preventing damage, frizz, and even promoting the natural curl shape. Spending the time to detangle will transform your curls.

No more unnecessary breakage, no more tears, no more frustrated snagging and pulling. Just be patient, use the right products, and your curly hair will thank you later.

As a hair stylist and curly girl myself, I have detangled more curly hair than I can shake a stick at. So if you’re dry detangling, don’t forget the oil; if you’re wet detangling, don’t forget the conditioner.

Working in sections will be your savior too, it will ease knots, and tangles like you’ve never seen before. Time to achieve the hair goals we’ve all been dreaming of!

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