How to Properly Detangle Matted Hair


What’s one thing that curly hair, straight hair and gray hair all have in common? 

They all become tangled at one point or another. Some more easily or severely than others. 

Major problems arise, however, when that tangled hair goes ignored and untreated, gradually morphing into matted hair and more often than not leading to hair breakage. 

The absolute last thing anyone wants to do is cut out various sections of hair, but tangled hair and hair breakage are no joke—especially when you’re dealing with delicate aging tresses. Before you result to the most drastic of measures, we’ve got a few tips on how you can detangle your tangled hair from the comfort of your own home—and we’ve tailored our tips to your hair type to make it super easy. 

When it comes to knotted, tangled hair—or even matted hair—it all comes down to how you detangle it (gently!) and what tangled hair products you use.


Detangling Tangled Hair: The Basic How-Tos


No matter your hair type, there are a few basic rules everyone should adhere to when it comes to detangling tangled hair:


  1. Always, Always, Always Start Detangling from the Bottom

Just as you wouldn’t try to untie a complex knot from the top, you also don’t want to approach your tangled hair from the top down. That will only result in your tangles or matted hair becoming more compact and tightly knotted. It might feel or look a little weird at first if you’re not used to it, but by detangling from the bottom up, you decrease the number of knots you might put back in your hair.


  1. Work Through Your Matted Hair Section by Section

Even if you can’t physically split your hair into sections because of the mats, try your best to focus your attention on one small area at a time. By holding a small section of hair in one hand, you can gently use a comb, brush or wet brush on the ends to gradually separate them before working your way up.


If you’re nervous about taking a comb or brush to your matted hair, finger combing never fails. You might be surprised by how helpful gently brushing your fingers through your tangled hair can be to gradually dislodge some of the outer strands. So if you feel like you’re uncovering a large knot or your comb is only making matters worse, take some time to gently separate your strands.


  1. Accept That Detangling Matted or Tangled Hair Will Take Time

Don’t be surprised if it takes upwards of 30 to 45 minutes to work through every tangle, especially if you have severely matted hair. Just take a deep breath and remember that while it will take time, you will eventually reach the end. And having smooth, detangled hair is always better than having to reach for the scissors.


If you feel like your tangled hair might take a while, grab a mirror, find somewhere comfy to sit, and maybe even make yourself a cup of tea. There’s no reason you should be uncomfortable while you work on putting some self-care back into your hair.


That being said, every hair type has its unique challenges and advantages when it comes to detangling. So let’s jump right into it.


Detangling Tangled Hair: Curly Hair


The key thing to keep in mind with curly hair is that you want to work with it when it is wet. So whenever you find the time to tackle your tangled hair, do it in the shower. Try your best to resist detangling as you shampoo. Because shampoo is geared toward cleansing your scalp of dirt and excess oils, not relaxing and hydrating the strands of your tangled hair, it won’t give you the help you need for detangling.


Whether your conditioner is made for curly hair or designed to focus on damage repair, when it comes to tangled hair, the most important thing is that you use enough to coat every single strand of hair. The texture or feeling this creates is called slip, and it will make detangling your hair much, much easier.


Always use more conditioner than you think you need when combating those aggressive tangles, even if your hair trends toward the thinner side. With the help of a creamy, thick conditioner, your tangled hair will be a thing of the past before you know it!


Oh, and try not to overly rinse the conditioner out of your hair. Leaving some conditioner in your hair at the end of your shower will help hydrate it and reduce frizz.


Detangling Tangled Hair: Straight Hair


Straight hair is by far the easiest hair type to detangle dry. Because of the cuticle’s structure, it’s naturally stronger than curly hair, and can therefore handle the slight friction created by a brush or comb. It is also much less likely to frizz than curly hair when detangled.


Make sure to brush your hair out as much as you can before washing, and when it comes to shampoo, focus solely on the roots of your hair. And whatever you do, do not pile your hair on top of your head as you shampoo. Shampoo is not meant to coat every strand, and you’ll just end up undoing all the work you did before you got into the shower.


Next, focus your conditioner on the bottom two-thirds of your hair, and again, at no point should you pile your hair on top of your head while you wash it. Just like shampoo has its specialties, conditioner is not meant to coat your scalp.


Finally, gently pat your hair down when you get out of the shower. Don’t wring it and don’t scrub it. Then you’re free to style it as usual!


Detangling Tangled Hair: Thin Hair


When it comes to thin, tangled hair, the jury is split. Some claim that thin hair should only ever be detangled dry, while others argue that adding moisture and slip will help hydrate and strengthen your hair. After a fair amount of research, we’ve concluded that thin hair is best detangled on a case-by-case basis, depending on personal preference, technique and the amount of care applied.


When detangling dry, remember to do so gently so that you don’t break any of the delicate strands. It also might be best to add a detangling or leave-in conditioner spray to your product arsenal. Oh, and don’t forget that when all else fails: finger comb. Tenderly slipping your fingers through the tangles in your hair will always be gentler than any comb or brush.


It’s important to have a heavier hand when it comes to using conditioner on thin, tangled hair. This may seem contrary to what you’ve always been told, like how important lightweight conditioners are for thin hair, but by allowing each strand of hair the moisture it needs, you provide the strength and protection your hair needs to survive the untangling process. Although using extra conditioner may weigh your hair down, it’s a reasonable sacrifice to make in order to save your tangled or matted hair. Besides, the weight it adds to your hair will only last up until your next wash.


Just like any other hair type, we strongly recommend you gently pat your hair dry. Rubbing it, wringing it out, or fluffing your hair will only lead to more damage and tangled hair in the future.


Detangling Tangled Hair: Coarse, Thick Hair


As with curly hair, you’ll want your hair to be wet before you attempt any form of detangling. Just make sure you don’t start until you’re ready to reach for the conditioner.


There’s nothing wrong with adding a great tangled hair shampoo to your product arsenal, but you want to make sure you use it more as a gentle relaxer than an active one. This means that you should focus on using your shampoo as a cleansing product rather than making an attempt to sift through your tangled hair.


The benefits of a great tangled hair shampoo are that they gently cleanse your hair and scalp of dirt and excess oils while beginning to loosen up tangled or matted hair. Then once you rinse it out, you can really get down to detangling with your conditioner. Coarse, thick hair is often treated similarly to curly hair because of its cuticle shape. So just like curly hair, we recommend leaving a little conditioner in to help hydrate and smooth your hair.


And then, of course, make sure to dry your hair with care, or you’ll have tangled hair again before you know it.


Detangling Tangled Hair: Gray Hair


No matter what your hair was like before, gray hair can be surprisingly delicate. If you’re new to gray hair, don’t be surprised if you notice an increase in thinning, breakage and even tangling. Gray hair is much more fragile than almost any other type of hair and of course, everyone’s experience differs. Like anything else, learning how to care for your gray hair will take some time and patience.


That being said, it’s best to combat your gray, tangled hair with care as you figure out what method works best for you. We recommend being extra delicate with your graying hair and treating it with the respect it deserves. Don’t be afraid to veer away from your old hair-care routine and let your newly graying hair tell you what it needs.


Start with gentle finger combing and go from there once you determine your new hair’s strength and texture. Then you can be more confident when you add in a new detangler or wet brush!


5 Bonus Tips: How to Prevent Tangling Your Hair



Tell Us: Do you have another go-to method for untangling tangled hair? Share in the comments below!


Send us a message on Facebook or Instagram if you have any questions about how to care for thin tangled hair or matted hair, or for the best tangled hair products. Better Not Younger has everything you need to strengthen your hair so you can prevent hair breakage and further tangling. Make sure to check out our blog for more hair-care information as well!