Afro hair

How To Detangle Matted Hair

Published By: Kennedy

Last Updated: March 14, 2022

Dealing with matted hair can be a pain, especially if you don’t know how to approach it. This article will help you understand how to best detangle matted hair without further damage. 

What is matted hair?

Matted hair is hair that has become so tangled that it clumps together with shed and attached hairs. It is the progressively worse stage of knots and tangles. 

Matted hair looks like big clumps, and is hard or almost impossible to comb through. Those with drier, curlier hair types are more prone to matting hair, because curly hair tends to wrap around itself. 

There are forms of matting, such as dreadlocks, that are intentional and a style choice. However, this article will deal with how to detangle unintentional, matted parts of the hair that was caused by neglect. 

How to Detangle Matted Hair

1. Apply Conditioner and Oil

Before you start to untangle your matted hair, you want to soften it. Matted hair is coarse and brittle due to dryness and dirt. You need to soften the hair so it is easier to comb through. You should first use a conditioner. 

A regular conditioner is probably not going to be effective on matted hair, so you will need to use a deep conditioner. Deep conditioners penetrate the hair shaft more and provide more moisture. Once you apply a deep conditioner, you can also apply oil to provide extra moisture. Moisture will help to untangle the hair. 

One of the best oils for moisture is olive oil. Let the conditioner and oil sit in your hair for at least an hour. While you are letting it sit, you can wear a shower cap to trap the steam. Heat will help the product to penetrate the hair shaft quicker. 

2. Dampen Hair

Dryness makes hair hard to comb through. You want to make sure the hair is damp before you begin, but not soaking wet. The best way to dampen your hair is to spray it with a spray bottle. 

3. Rub Products into Hair

After the hair is damp and you will need to rub the products into the hair, this will help the product to reach the inner parts of where the hair is matted. You don’t want to rub too hard, because you risk tangling the hair even more. 

4. Finger Detangle

After you have left the product in for a while you can start the detangling process. You will need to start with finger detangling. Finger detangling is simply combing out your hair with your fingers instead of a comb. 

The reason why this detangling method is beneficial is because you pull out less of your hair and are able to untangle knots more gently. The other benefit to finger detangling is that you can feel what your hair needs.

When you are finger detangling matted hair, you can feel what areas need to be detangled the most. As you detangle, gently pull the hair out of its knots. This is a process that shouldn’t be rushed because if you try to pull too quickly, you risk hair loss. Separating the hair strands may be tedious, but the strands will separate after a while.

4. Comb

Once the finger detangling is done, the hair can be combed out. It is important to completely finish finger detangling before you comb, or the comb will pull out the hair. The best comb to use is a fine-toothed comb so that the hair can be completely untangled. The hair should also be combed in small sections. 

5. Rinse

After the hair is combed, the hair needs to be completely rinsed out with lukewarm water. The hair will be very dirty at this point, so rinsing thoroughly is important. After the hair is thoroughly rinsed, then it should be washed. 

A good shampoo is critical to this process. The shampoo that you use should be gentle and moisturizing.

Usually, cheap shampoos are the ones that do the most damage to your hair. It is beneficial to the health of your hair to invest in good quality shampoo, free of harmful ingredients such as sulfates and parabens – which dry out your hair even more. After shampooing the hair will need to be conditioned again.

What type of hair matts the easiest?

Curly hair matts the easiest, especially type 4 hair. The curlier the hair, the more likely it is to matt. Type 4 hair will start to matt after 3 months of not being combed because the curls will start to interlock with each other. 

If hair is matted, do you have to cut it?

Many people take the easier route of fixing matted hair and simply cut it off. However, you do not always have to cut it. There are some times when hair becomes so matted that it can no longer be separated, this is when it will have to be cut. 

How to Prevent Matted Hair

1. Regularly Comb Hair

Hair needs to be combed and brushed on a regular basis to prevent tangles and knots from getting worse. Hair is in its best state to be combed while it is damp. Conditioning the hair before combing it out will also make it easier to comb through, and will make the hair softer.

 If curly hair is not combed after 8 weeks, it automatically starts to dread. This is something to take underconsideration if you are wearing a protective style and have your hair braided underneath for a long time. 

2. Protect Hair at Night

To prevent matted hair, you will need to retain its moisture. Much of the moisture is lost in your hair at night, which can cause problems if your hair is also loose and rubbing against a cotton pillowcase. 

Protecting your hair while you sleep is not only more comfortable, but it helps the hair retain moisture. Wearing a silk bonnet or scarf is best for sleeping, because it is soft and slippery and will not cause friction when you move your hair against it. 

3. Limit chemical processing

Chemically processing your hair dries it out. Treatments like relaxers bleach can cause the hair to be prone to matting, due to the hair being dry. Limiting how often you chemically treat your hair can prevent how often your hair tangles and knots – which can prevent matting. 

4. Moisturize

Moisturizing your hair is key to preventing it from matting. All textures of hair need moisture, some more than others. One of the best ways to moisturize curly and dry hair is to apply the LOC method. The LOC acronym means applying liquid to hydrate the hair, oil to lock in moisture, and cream to prevent moisture loss. This method is used as a means to keep moisture in the hair throughout the day.

 For the liquid element, applying water to your hair is enough. Water helps to hydrate the hair and helps the hair to absorb the products being placed on it. It is important to remember that your hair cannot be moisturized without water.

Applying oil is such a key part of moisturizing hair. Not only does it lock in moisture, but it also gives the hair a nice shine. 

The cream for the LOC method could be a curl cream, moisturizer, or hair lotion. I would recommend a curl cream so that you are also getting some nice curl definition. 

The Final Word

Detangling matted hair is a long and delicate process, which is why it is also important to take preventative measures to keep your hair tangle-free. 


I have always had a love for writing and have been blogging for about 3 years now. I have a passion for teaching what I have learned over the years, especially about hair. I have had almost every hairstyle - typical of a cosmetologist’s daughter- including the big chop in 2015. With all the knowledge I have gained, I feel it is my duty to help others on their healthy hair journey. I believe education can be fun, and I strive to make it fun to learn about beautiful black hair.

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2 thoughts on “How To Detangle Matted Hair”

  1. Thanks for sharing, I have not combed my hair in months, because I have been very depressed and to embarrassed to let anyone see how I let my hair get. I will be trying your suggestions this week. Again thanks for sharing .


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