How to Effectively Detangle Matted Hair Painlessly

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Nobody wants to see their shiny locks transformed into a dull and matted mess but without good hair care, tangles and mats can easily happen to anyone. 

If you’re faced with matted hair, you might think your only option is to grab a pair of scissors and cut the hair mats out. But luckily, with the right tools and techniques and a little patience, you can carefully remove the matted area and restore your hair’s beauty. 

So read on to find out how to detangle matted hair painlessly with our step by step guide and, more importantly, how to prevent your hair from getting tangled again!

And if you just need help with everyday detangling of curly hair, read The Best Detanglers For Curly Hair.

What Is Matted Hair and What Causes It?

Matted hair happens when shed hair strands get tangled around hairs that are still attached to your scalp, which causes a knot. As the tangles get worse, they trap dirt and sweat which then turns them into tightly matted clumps of hair. These clumps can be very difficult to detangle and in the worst cases, the matted areas may have to be cut out.

Certain hair textures and conditions can be more susceptible to hair knots and severe tangles. This includes dry and brittle hair and overprocessed hair as well as curly hair types. To prevent matted hair, it’s important to keep your scalp and hair moisturized properly and to brush or comb hair every day as this removes loose strands.

The main cause of matting is a build-up of styling product on the hair shafts, caused by not shampooing the hair often enough. The product build-up causes friction between the hair strands, and that increases the risk of tangling and matting.

Other causes include not brushing or combing the hair regularly as well as leaving accessories, hair extensions and protective styles in place for too long. Styling your hair without detangling it first and leaving your hair too long between trims can also lead to tangling and matting.

woman with matted hair trying to detangle with a brush - she is brushing her long curly hair with a brush and looks frustrated

How to Detangle Matted Hair Without Cutting

In very extreme cases of matting, you might need to speak to your stylist about cutting out the matted sections. But cutting your hair should be the last resort, and with a little time and effort, there’s a good chance that you will be able to fully detangle your hair without cutting it. 

1- Prepare Your Hair Products and Tools

The first step to detangling your hair is to gather together all of the hair care products and tools that you’ll need. As well as a detangling shampoo and conditioner, you might need moisturizing hair oils like coconut oil or rosehip oil, detangling spray, leave-in conditioner, and a detangling comb or brush.

2- Dampen Your Hair With Water

Oil and dirt get trapped inside clumps of matted hair and make detangling more difficult. So dampen your hair with warm water and gently massage hydrating or detangling shampoo in, trying to gently loosen and remove as much dirt as possible. 

Don’t be tempted to try and detangle your hair while you’re in the shower, as this can cause even more harm to your locks.

If you want to skip the shampooing stage, you can use a spray bottle to mist your hair with water instead. This might make the detangling process trickier, so it’s better to shampoo your hair.

After you’ve rinsed out the shampoo, use a hair towel to pat your hair dry before moving on to the next step of the detangling process, as dripping wet hair is more likely to stretch or break.

3- Apply Detangling Products 

Dry and brittle hair strands create friction when they rub against each other, so it’s important to moisturize your hair as much as possible before trying to detangle it. 

Apply a generous amount of leave-in conditioner, detangling spray, or an oil like coconut oil or olive oil to help the strands slip easily past each other. Use your fingers or a wide tooth comb to saturate the hair mats with the product as much as you can.

Whichever moisturizing product you choose, it’s a good idea to leave it to soak in for 30-60 minutes before you try to detangle your hair. If you have severely matted hair you could use a deep moisturizing conditioner and leave it overnight for maximum impact.

woman showing how to detangle matted hair with a comb - she is holding a black wide tooth comb and combing through her long brown hair

4- Use the Correct Comb or Detangling Brush

Once your hair treatment has had time to soak into your locks, you can finally start to gently pull and tease the tangled sections of your hair apart. Start by using a wide tooth comb or detangling brush to work through just the last few inches of your hair, then when that is free from tangles, move your comb a few inches higher up, and so on.

If your scalp is very sensitive, holding the section of hair firmly will help to reduce the pressure on your scalp.

Take your time over this, working from the ends up to the roots, and working slowly and methodically through the sections. This part of the detangling process could take an hour or more for severely matted hair.

It’s essential to use a special detangling brush or a sturdy wide toothed comb for this task, as a regular brush or fine tooth comb will pull or break strands and clumps of your hair. Once you’ve dealt with the worst of the tangling and matting, you can move to a fine toothed comb or brush for the final hair knots.

You’re likely to see hair shedding while you are detangling mats. Clumps of matted hair contain strands that have already been shed, so these will be freed as you gently loosen the mat. As long as you have moisturized your locks properly and don’t tug too much, you shouldn’t see any breakage or new hair loss.

5- Rinse hair

Once you’ve untangled your hair, rinse out any hair treatments. Using cold water will help to prevent future tangles by smoothing down the cuticles of your hair. If you have tightly coiled hair, it’s best to clip your hair into sections and rinse one section at a time.

After rinsing, apply a light hair detangling spray or leave-in conditioner before drying your hair. 

If you’ve been unable to loosen the mats or find that you’re pulling on your hair strands too much, cutting the mats out might unfortunately be your only option.

woman with matted hair stuck in a brush

Detangling Solutions for Matted Hair

There are a lot of commercial detangling products, but you can also try some home remedies for detangling matted hair. Here are our recommendations for the best products for tangled hair:

The Best Detangler for Matted Hair

A hair detangler like SoCozy Curl Spray LeaveIn Conditioner or Fairy Tales Tangle Tamer Static Free Detangling Spray can help to smooth hair and ease out hair knots and tangles.

You can also use other hair care products to detangle matted hair painlessly. L’Oréal Paris EverStrong Break Proof Lotion adds moisture to the hair strands and makes it easier for them to slip against each other.  

Home Remedy for Matted Hair

A simple oil like coconut oil or olive oil can be very effective as a detangling product. Some people also believe that rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar can help to smooth the hair strands and prevent future tangling.

Preventing Future Hair Matting

Prevention is better than cure, so here are some simple steps to take if you want to avoid getting matted hair in the future. 

Keep Your Hair Moisturized

One of the most important steps to avoiding tangled and matted hair is making sure that your hair is always well-moisturized. As well as using detangling shampoo and conditioner when you wash your hair, it’s also a good idea to use a hair oil or hair mask every week and leave it on for at least an hour.

Using a serum or light oil like argan or rosehip oil on damp hair is another way to hydrate your locks. Apply the treatment by using your fingers to comb it through your locks, and avoid rubbing the strands together as the friction may damage them.

woman spraying detangling spray in wet hair to prevent matted hair

Detangle Hair After Every Wash

One of the easiest ways to end up with matted hair is to put off detangling until later. Knots and tangles can quickly turn into severe mats, so make sure that you comb your hair every day and use detanglers with every wash. Detangling shampoo and conditioner can help to smooth your hair and reduce friction between the strands.

It’s also a good idea to avoid using hot water when washing your hair, as this causes dryness and split ends. Wash your hair with lukewarm water and then give it a final rinse with cool water to smooth the cuticles of your hair, this will make your locks less likely to get knotted and tangled.

Use Moisturizing treatments like Coconut or Argan Oil 

It’s vital to keep as much moisture as possible in your locks if you want to avoid getting tangled and matted hair. Using hydrating products like deep conditioners, coconut oil or Moroccan argan oil will help to get moisture in and prevent protein loss. Regular protein treatments can also help to decrease friction and tangling by filling in any gaps in your hair cuticles.

You should hydrate your locks regularly as part of your hair care routine but if you see any knots starting to form, apply a little moisturizing product to them as soon as you can.

Sleep With Hair in a Wrap or Braid 

Fabrics like cotton will absorb moisture from your hair strands and increase the risk of tangling. So wrapping your hair in silk at night is a great way to avoid dryness and tangling, and also helps to prevent frizziness and breakage.

Brush your hair and braid it or tie it up in a loose pineapple, then wrap a silk scarf around your hair or pop on a silk bonnet. If you don’t like wrapping your hair, you could also try sleeping on satin or silk pillowcases.

Get Regular Hair Trims

As well as making your hair look dry and frizzy, split ends can also make your hair more likely to get tangled and matted. Trimming your hair every 6-8 weeks keeps your mane looking healthy and is an important part of avoiding hair tangles. 

female stylist is cutting a man's curly hair in a salon

Remove Protective Hairstyles Regularly

If you leave your protective hairstyle in for too long, it can lead to your hair becoming tangled and matted. That’s because you can’t comb your hair, and combing helps to remove the 100+ hairs that you shed daily. Generally, it’s best to remove protective styles after 4-6 weeks.

And to avoid tangling, you should make protective styles on hair that has been washed, detangled, and thoroughly moisturized.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals 

Chemical procedures like coloring, perming, or relaxing your hair usually involve restructuring the hair strands. This can make it more difficult for your hair to retain moisture and lead to your hair becoming dry and brittle. 

So if you know you have hair prone to tangling, it’s best to avoid this type of chemical exposure. If you do want to use chemicals on your hair, it’s important to care for it with regular moisturizing treatments and always use a heat protectant before using heat styling tools.

How To Detangle Matted Hair Video

Matted Hair FAQ

If your hair tends to get tangled and matted, it’s important to deal with it quickly. Here are some of the most common questions about detangling matted hair painlessly:

Should You Soak Matted Hair?

Yes, it’s much easier to deal with tangled and matted hair after you’ve dampened it. But don’t try and detangle soaking wet hair, as this can stretch and break more easily.

The best option is to dampen your hair with water and then apply conditioner or another moisturizing product very generously throughout the matted area.

Why Does My Hair Get Matted at Night?

When you toss and turn in your bed at night, the strands of your hair rub together and get tangled. Over successive nights, this tangling will get worse until eventually, the hair becomes matted.

So it’s important to detangle your hair regularly or ideally prevent it from getting tangled in the first place.

What Brush Is Best for Matted Hair?

The best tool for teasing heavily matted hair apart is actually your fingers, as you can use them to gently work the mat apart. Then you can move to a wide-toothed comb or specially designed brush to gently work through the matted and tangled hair.

You should only use a fine toothed comb or regular brush once you have removed most of the tangles.

Do You Need to Cut Matted Hair?

You can usually detangle matted hair painlessly without needing to cut out the mats. It takes time and patience but with some work, you can normally save your locks.

Is It Better to Brush Matted Hair Wet or Dry?

It’s better to detangle matted hair when it’s damp rather than dry or very wet. The additional moisture makes it easier for the hairs to slip against each other, which helps to untangle your locks.

Why Does My Curly Hair Get Matted So Easily?

Curly hair gets matted more easily than straight or wavy hair because of the hair’s natural texture. Without regular moisturizing and detangling, the curls and coils can grow around each other and get tangled up. If this isn’t dealt with, more tangles can develop into matted hair.

How Does Apple Cider Vinegar help to Detangle Matted Hair?

There’s no definite proof that apple cider vinegar will prevent tangled hair. But there’s some evidence that suggests it might lay the hair cuticles down, making the hair smoother and easier to detangle.

The Bottom Line 

Detangling matted hair isn’t an easy job. But if you have the correct tools and techniques and you’re willing to put in the time, you can detangle your hair painlessly and without cutting it.

And now you know how to avoid your locks getting tangled and matted so hopefully, you won’t have to deal with tangled hair again!

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How to Effectively Untangle Matted Hair Painlessly text overlay on tangled hair

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  1. I have very long hair it’spast my waist but my problem is it’s gotten matted it’s at the underneath and some on top about between my shoulder blades and my hair is very think and don’t want to cut it this has never happend before so please help me what can I do to save my hair my hair is like my security please and thank you in advance

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