Why Does My Hair Tangle So Easily When Wet?

Tangled hair is a total pain. If your hair gets matted when wet or if your hair tangles after a shower you know how frustrating it can be, especially if you have thin aging hair that’s already a bit high-maintenance. Wet hair is one of the most common causes of tangled hair you’ll deal with—though your strands can get tangled for a number of reasons (more on that a little later!). The good news? Getting knots out of hair doesn’t have to be hard if you set yourself up for success. 

Taking care of your hair properly—like using the right products and understanding your hair type—can make it so that next time your hair is tangled after a shower, it won’t be an absolute nightmare. Here’s everything you need to know about why your hair gets so tangled, what to do when your hair gets matted when wet and why getting knots out of hair is no cause for panic.


Does Hair Get More Tangled When Wet?


Do you feel like your hair gets matted when it’s wet? There’s a good chance it does, because wet hair has a tendency to tangle. This is because your hair is weaker, prone to damage and more elastic when it’s wet. But what does this have to do with hair getting tangled? We’ll give you a hint, your cuticles play a starring role.

Have you noticed that if you try to pull a comb through wet hair, it almost seems like your strands are stretching? That’s because they are! When your hair is wet, the hair strands swell and they are actually quite elastic, which makes them tangle a bit easier. Why? Because all this stretching and swelling damages your cuticles by lifting their edges and even causing them to crack. And therein lies the problem: Raised cuticles easily snag against each other leading to tangles. 

Even as your hair dries—and the elasticity decreases, your hair shrinks back to its normal shape and size, and your strands resume their former strength—your cuticles can remain lifted and continue to cause tangles, especially if you’ve not used the proper products to hydrate your hair and keep it moisturized. 

This is why it’s important to properly condition your hair after shampooing and then gently comb it with a wide-tooth comb so the cuticles remain unharmed and your hair is less likely to get matted when wet.


What to Do If Your Hair Gets Tangled After a Shower


If your hair got matted when wet, don’t worry, it’s a pretty easy fix. It’s common for hair to get tangled after a shower, so just be gentle with it. A wide-tooth comb is your friend, and so is patience. Get the comb through your hair and get all the tangles out. As long as you’ve used the right shampoo and conditioner while washing to ensure proper moisture in your strands, as well as lukewarm water to avoid stripping hair of natural oils, handling any hair tangles after a shower should be a piece of cake. Remember, you can always add a detangling spray or leave-in conditioner once you’re out of the shower to help things along. And be sure to check out our guide to detangling tresses for all hair types.


6 More Reasons Your Hair Can Tangle


Beyond wet hair, there are other reasons you might see tangles in your hair. Any of the following can be the cause of tangles:

  • Fine hair
  • Textured hair
  • Lack of moisture
  • Agitation to hair
  • Product buildup
  • Overuse of hot tools

You might experience tangles for another reason, but these are the primary causes of pesky tangles. Let’s take a closer look at each one.


Fine Hair


Because fine hair is so thin, it’s more prone to tangling. More than that, though, fine hair tangles because there’s usually more of it than there would be if you had thicker strands. Fine strands are small, so there are usually more of them on your head, which means there’s more of a chance for them to tangle, especially if you have longer hair.


Textured Hair


Curly or textured hair is also prone to tangling, and this is primarily because these hair types are drier and often more porous. Curly girls probably have noticed that they need to condition their hair frequently, and this is because their curl pattern makes it more challenging for natural hair oils to make their way down the hair shaft. More porous hair not only means that moisture can more easily escape, but that the cuticles are raised so they are more likely to snag on each other. Conditioning hair thoroughly with products that seal in moisture by smoothing the cuticles keeps hair hydrated, healthy and shiny. All of this also means less tangly hair. 

Products designed for curly and even coarse hair are usually made to be more moisturizing than products for someone with straight or fine hair, so it’s important to use the right products for your hair type. A moisturizing shampoo and conditioner will ensure that your strands have enough hydration to keep tangling at bay.


Lack of Moisture

One of the biggest culprits for tangling, regardless of hair texture, is a lack of moisture in your hair. Hair that’s dry and brittle often finds itself caught up in other strands, tangling and making your life more difficult. As we mentioned above, this is because your cuticle is open (and probably damaged from being so dry), which makes it easier to snag on other open cuticles. 

You can ensure your hair is hydrated by using hydrating products, including a hair mask. A hydrating mask can bring moisture back into damaged, aging strands and kick tangles to the curb. You can also consider conditioning your hair before you shampoo it—known as pre-pooing—to give it that extra kick of moisture in advance. This can be especially helpful before shampooing curly hair that is particularly prone to tangles. Fewer tangles make lathering up that much easier!

Fun Fact: Did you know that even when your hair is wet, it can still lack moisture? While it may seem counterintuitive that wet hair lacks moisture, if your hair lacks moisture before it gets wet, there’s a good chance it’ll tangle more than if your hair is properly conditioned before it gets wet.


Agitation to Hair


Any kind of friction with your strands can cause tangling. Perhaps you got caught in the wind, went to bed with wet hair, lathered up your hair the wrong way (too aggressively or by piling it on top of your head!), or just got a hairbrush tangled in your strands. Any of these things can lead to tangles because your hair has been tousled. Sleeping on wet hair is especially an issue because wet hair is prone to tangling anyway. Your hair blowing around in the wind can also cause the strands to get caught up in each other—adding another concern (like hair that’s too dry or hair that’s wet) will only accentuate this concern. 


Product Buildup


If you’re not washing your hair with the right products or with the right frequency, you might have product buildup on your strands, which can weigh them down and lead to tangling. On the flip side, if you’re washing your hair too often, you’ll have the opposite problem of buildup—excessive washing can get rid of the natural oils in your hair that are working to keep your hair hydrated and smooth.


Overuse of Hot Tools


You already know that hot tools can be harsh on hair. When you use curling irons, flat irons or similar hot tools on your hair frequently, they can actually damage the hair cuticle. When the cuticle—the layer of dead cells surrounding your hair that keep it protected—is too damaged, your hair is prone to dryness and tangling.

You can prevent damage to your cuticles with a heat protectant spray each time you use hot tools. Our No Remorse Heat Protection & Taming Spray is designed to nourish, condition and protect dry strands from damage caused by heat up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit while taming frizz. 


Tell Us: Do you experience tangles when your hair is wet? Share how you keep tangles at bay in the comments below.


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Better Not Younger has everything you need to help deal with tangles and hair that gets matted when wet. Let us help you achieve your healthiest, smoothest hair yet! Reach out to us on Facebook and Instagram, or check out our blog for more hair-care info!