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How to Detangle Matted Hair: a Simple Guide to Restore Smooth Strands (2024)

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how to detangle matted hairYou’ve got matted hair that needs some serious TLC. Don’t fret – with the right tools and techniques, you can detangle those knotted strands.

Start by saturating your hair with a detangling spray to add moisture and lubrication.

Next, use a wide-tooth comb to gently work through the mats, section by section. Take your time and be patient – tugging will only lead to breakage.

If a mat stubbornly refuses to budge, it may be time for a trim.

But with some dedication, you’ll have those smooth, tangle-free tresses back in no time.

And if you’d like to dive deeper into preventing future matting, keep reading.

Key Takeaways

  • Patience is key when detangling those pesky matted locks. Rushing will only lead to tears (and not the happy kind).
  • Stock up on the right tools for the job. A detangling spray, wide-tooth comb, and maybe even a knot-picking sidekick are your new best friends.
  • Sometimes a trim is necessary to cut your losses (literally). Don’t be afraid to let go of those hopeless tangles and start fresh.
  • Prevention is better than a cure. Treat your tresses like royalty with regular trims, protective styling, and a whole lot of TLC to avoid future matted hair dramas.

How to Detangle Matted Hair?

To detangle matted hair, saturate the tangled strands with a detangling spray or conditioner, then gently work through the knots using a wide-tooth comb or detangling brush. Be patient and take your time to avoid breakage.

Causes of Matted Hair

Causes of Matted Hair
Matted hair often results from product buildup clogging strands, as well as a lack of regular brushing or combing to maintain detangled tresses. Improper use of hair accessories that snag or tug, going long periods without trims, and failing to protect hair overnight can also contribute to severely tangled mats forming over time.

Product Buildup

Product buildup, whether leave-in conditioner or scalp treatments, creates matted hair nightmares.

Lack of Brushing or Combing

Not brushing or combing causes matted hair. Your locks lack hydration, suffer from insufficient trims, dry scalp, static electricity buildup.

Improper Use of Hair Accessories

Improper use of hair accessories causes hair entrapment. It leads to:

  • Breakage risk
  • Hair loss
  • Scalp irritation


Long Stints Without Trims

Going too long without trims leads to split ends, knots, and breakage that contribute to matted hair.

Failure to Protect Hair Overnight

Neglecting overnight hair protection invites matted misery—mattresses snag strands, so shield with satin pillowcases or hair bonnets.

Tools for Detangling Matted Hair

Tools for Detangling Matted Hair
To effectively detangle matted hair, you’ll need a few essential tools:

A wide-tooth comb for gently working through tangled sections.

A detangling brush designed with flexible bristles to seamlessly glide through knots.

A pin-curl or rat-tail comb to carefully separate and smooth individual strands.

Additionally, a detangling primer or spray can provide slip and lubrication, making the detangling process easier on fragile, matted tresses.

Wide-Tooth Comb

A wide-tooth comb’s teeth-spacing prevents snagging, letting you gently detangle knotted tresses. Its durable material and ergonomic handle provide excellent control.

Detangling Brush

Along with that wide-tooth comb, grab a detangling brush—one with flexible, ball-tipped bristles.

Pin-Curl or Rat-Tail Comb

You’ll need specialized combs too – pin-curl or rat-tail combs work wonders for penetrating dense mats.

Detangling Primer

You’ll also need a detangling primer—it coats strands, lubricating for easier detangling with less breakage. Pick one designed for your hair type.

Detangling Spray

Detangling spray is a must-have for battling tangles and knots. You’ll want one with:

  1. Moisturizing ingredients
  2. Gentle formula
  3. Effective detangling power

Apply liberally to stubborn snarls.

Steps to Detangle Matted Hair

Steps to Detangle Matted Hair
For severely matted hair, start by saturating the tangled clump with a detangling spray or primer to provide lubrication and slip. Next, work in a lightweight oil like argan or coconut to further coat and separate the strands, then gently use a wide-tooth comb to isolate any free-hanging hair from the matted mass.

Saturate Matted Hair With Detangler Spray

Saturate matted locks with a hydrating detangler spray, giving strands that desperately need liberation. Apply liberally, ensuring even coverage, allowing the product time to soak in and start its untangling magic.

Apply Oil for Lubrication

After saturating the matted hair with detangler, apply a lightweight oil for added lubrication. Opt for:

  • Argan oil – moisturizes without heaviness
  • Coconut oil – penetrates and softens knots
  • Olive oil – adds slip for detangling

Distribute the oil evenly through the matted section.

Use Wide-Tooth Comb to Isolate Free-Hanging Strands

Once the hair is lubricated, gently use a wide-tooth comb to isolate free-hanging strands from the matted mass.

Process Description
Identify Find loose ends or hairs protruding from the mat.
Isolate Carefully separate these strands using the wide-tooth comb.
Detangle Gently comb through the isolated strands to remove tangles.
Repeat Repeat this process until all free-hanging strands are detangled.

When to Cut Matted Hair

When to Cut Matted Hair
There are times when detangling severely matted hair becomes impractical or impossible without causing excessive damage and pain. If you find it extremely difficult to work a comb through the matted sections, or if attempting to detangle creates an unacceptable amount of tension and pulling on the hair strands, it may be necessary to cut away those stubborn matted areas.

If Unable to Get Comb Into Mat

If you can’t get a comb through the matted clump, it’s time to contemplate cutting it out. Here are 4 signs it’s beyond detangling:

  1. The mat is solid and impenetrable
  2. Hair gets stuck or ripped trying to comb through
  3. The scalp shows irritation or inflammation
  4. The mat inhibits healthy hair growth

If Tugging Creates Too Much Tension

Tugging too forcefully creates excessive tension, exceeding your hair’s tolerance. This risks breakage, stunted growth, and scalp sensitivity. If gentle loosening doesn’t work, cutting matted sections may prevent further damage or hair loss.

If It’s Been Weeks or Months Since Last Combing

You’ve been neglecting your hair for too long if it’s an absolute matted mess. At this point, cutting out the mats is your best tangled hair solution to reset and prioritize a proper hair care routine for healthier strands.

How to Avoid Matted Hair

How to Avoid Matted Hair
To maintain smooth, tangle-free hair, you’ll need to adopt a routine of proper scalp and hair care. This includes using accessories designed to prevent tangles, keeping your ends hydrated with weekly deep conditioning treatments, scheduling regular trims to remove split ends, and protecting your strands at night with a silk pillowcase or bonnet.

Practice Proper Scalp and Hair Care

Keep hair healthy by moisturizing treatments, deep conditioning, scalp exfoliation, hair masks, and scalp massage.

Use Accessories Designed to Prevent Tangles

To prevent tangling, use accessories designed for tangle-free manageability like soft scrunchies, silk scarves, and satin-lined bonnets.

Keep Ends Hydrated

To keep ends hydrated, leave in conditioner. Use oils for hydration and heat protectant. Moisturizing masks, pre-shampoo treatments combat dryness.

Schedule Regular Haircuts

Schedule regular trims to remove split ends and maintain hair’s healthy length.

Protect Strands at Night With Silk Pillowcase or Bonnet

Protect those precious strands overnight: a silk pillowcase or bonnet prevents tangles and breakage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you untangle severely matted hair?

To detangle severely matted hair, saturate it with detangler spray, apply oil, then gently work through knots with a wide-tooth comb or detangling brush. Use a rat-tail comb for stubborn tangles, carefully separating strands without excessive force. With patience and the right tools, you’ll untangle those mats.

Is it better to detangle matted hair wet or dry?

For most cases, you’ll want to detangle matted hair when it’s wet – that 10-20% increase in slip allows combs to glide through knots easily. But for severe matting, start dry to avoid snapping hair strands.

How to get knots out of hair that is matted with home remedies?

To get knots out of matted hair, soak it in oil or conditioner. Gently detangle with fingers before combing. Use a wide-tooth comb and work in sections patiently.

How to get rats nest out of hair?

In battling that rats’ nest, patience reigns supreme. Saturate the tangle with detangler, then carefully tease apart strands using a wide-tooth comb and rat-tail pick. Persevere strand by strand – victory awaits the diligent detangler.

How long does it take to detangle matted hair?

Detangling severely matted hair is no quick task. Expect to devote at least two hours, moving slowly and gently. With proper preparation, tools, and patience, you’ll free those tangles – one strand at a time.

Can matted hair cause permanent damage?

Yes, severely matted hair can cause permanent damage if not detangled properly. Excessive pulling and breakage weakens strands, leading to split ends and hair loss. It’s essential to work gently with the right tools to avoid irreversible harm.

How often should I get trims to prevent matting?

Preventing matted hair requires regular trims—every 6-8 weeks is ideal. Even a quarter-inch snip helps remove split ends and reshape layers, allowing healthier growth and less tangling. Don’t let your locks become a matted mess; schedule those frequent trims for freedom from knots!

What products are best for detangling matted curly hair?

Try leave-in conditioners, detangling sprays with natural oils, and creams with shea butter or coconut oil. Brush with a wide-tooth comb or detangler brush to gently work through knots.

Is it safe to detangle matted hair when wet?

Detangling matted hair when wet can further damage strands. It’s best to work on dry hair with a detangling spray or conditioner for slip. Gently separate sections and work patiently from the bottom up.


Well, if you’ve survived the battle with your matted hair, you deserve a medal!

But seriously, the key to detangling matted hair is patience, hydration, and the right tools.

With a gentle hand, detangling sprays, and wide-tooth combs, you can restore those smooth, tangle-free strands.

Congratulations on your detangling victory!

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and beard care expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of men make their beards look better and get fatter. His work has been mentioned in countless notable publications on men's care and style and has been cited in Seeker, Wikihow, GQ, TED, and Buzzfeed.