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2 Techniques for Finger Detangling Natural Hair

Avatar • Sep 27, 2012

By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom

Finger detangling is a delicate and intricate procedure. If done properly, it is entirely possible to go without combs and have an exclusive finger combing routine. This is especially beneficial for women who have hair that easily breaks during the detangling process. It is also possible to incorporate finger combing as a first part to your detangling routine prior to combing in order to reduce breakage.

Here are two very good videos that demonstrate the process of finger detangling on dry hair and wet or damp hair

1. Dry finger detangling


This is one of the slowest and most painstaking processes. The huge benefit of it is that if you adhere to the rule of patience, it is possible to significantly and positively impact length retention. This is because there is much less breakage as hair is stronger when dry than when wet and there is no shrinkage involved to complicate detangling.

However, the emphasis is on proper handling as dry hair is less flexible and therefore does not tend to stretch as much. Provided that you take your time and  handle your hair in manageable sections this is the preferred method for maximum length retention. If you reach a point where the hair is not able to be detangled (matting or knotting) do not be afraid to reach for a an oil or conditioner to help create more slip.

Adjustments that you can make: In this video, Chery goes on to comb her hair , this is entirely optional, if you wish to do the same, you can but the finger combing on its own is good enough to keep your hair detangled (see the previous how to on keeping hair in sections while washing as that will help to stop hair tangling after washing).

2. Wet/damp or conditioner finger detangling

This is an easier and faster detangling process that suits most naturals especially those who are new to patient detangling and those with a loose curl. It definitely will help with retention of hair length but you must be careful not to overstretch hair as wet or conditioner soaked hair is highly flexible.  If you have high shrinkage, it may be a little more difficult to conditioner finger detangle but it is still much easier than dry detangling if you are pressed for time.

The key principle of this method is to use the slip that the conditioner provides to reduce breakage and allow hair strands to slide past each other. It is therefore imperative to choose a conditioner which has a lot of slip (usually very light in consistency more often in a bottle than a jar, low in heavy conditioning agents like behentrimonium chloride, high in ingredients that give slip like oils and silicones — many naturals preferring water soluble silicones).

Adjustments that you can make: You can opt to not comb your hair as Vanisha does in this video but you should aim to be very thorough with finger detangling instead (i.e handle smaller sections than shown in the video). Most conditioners also usually work much better when given a short time to adsorb(yes with a D ‑meaning stick to the surface) to hair. You can opt to apply the detangling conditioner to each section, twist or braid it up, wait for  5–10 minutes and then proceed with detangling.  You can also opt to use a water and oil mix instead of conditioner but I do not recommend just plain water or a plain water/glycerin mix as that does not give hair any slip at all and can lead to breakage.  Always involve either conditioner or oil.

Which technique do you use to finger detangle? Why does it work for you?

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Lil-Ly
Lil-Ly
8 years ago

I’m absolutely in love with dry finger detangling!! I have been from Below Shoulder Lenght to BSL in 9 months by not using any type of comb! And it has learned me to be more patient!!

goyta
goyta
8 years ago

i am in love with the finger detangling process. i never use combs at all. it’s been about 3 months since i last used a comb, and my hair has never been in better condition! i don’t have split ends, my breakage is profoundly minimal, like maybe 2–3 per session and i detangle/wash once every 2–3 days, which works itself out to one hair broken per day. it’s very easy to do and not time consuming at all once you get the hang of it.

Jax
Jax
8 years ago

Finger detangling is a must for me, and surprisingly, I’m able to detangle my entire head faster with my fingers than with a comb. Significantly cuts down on breakage and split ends as well.

mangomadness
mangomadness
8 years ago

I do wet/damp or conditioner finger-detangling.

Before shampooing, I finger-detangle in 12 sections with oil and conditioner [coconut oil ; Shea Moisture Purification Masque] or a homemade conditioner [DIY Aloe-Castor Hair Mask (Lily of the Dessert aloe vera gel/castor oil)].

I’ve been finger-detangling since late 2010. Finger-detangling has greatly lessened breakage in my kinky coily hair and simplified my wash-n-style routine.

Selinda
Selinda
8 years ago

I lover finger detangling! However-shrinkage is more apparent and of course forget about being able to have anyone else do your hair-I’ve never heard of a stylist being willing to finger detangle-not to say that it’s not possible. Lastly, do you ladies just trim your own hair? Those are my challenges-but I noticed that I lost hair (breakage not simply shedding) after allowing my hair to be combed and brushed by others. No one will ever have the patience with your hair like you do. Nor do they have the time I imagine. Also, I need another haircut and this… Read more »

A.J.
A.J.
8 years ago
Reply to  Selinda

I’m not sure where u live but look around on the internet for shops that specialize in natural hair. Most of those shops take there time with ur hair and they prefer not to use heat. Iknow ‘that damn hair salon’ here in Atl promotes healthy natural hair growth and encourage u not to use heat on ur hair. I plan to have them do my trim and color in feb 4 my 2 year natural anniversary. LOL!!

luminous
luminous
8 years ago

Finger detangling never worked for me… 🙁

Dawn
Dawn
8 years ago

I dry (with oil) and wet finger detangle. Last year, my hair saturated with conditioner, I got this bright idea to speed up and improve my detangling session. I said, “Let’s try using a comb!”

As soon as I gently raked the comb through the ends they cried, “SNAP! POP! YO MAMA!”

I tossed the comb and have since learned to use the water spray to aid in finger detangling. No one likes being insulted. :/

JenniD
JenniD
8 years ago
Reply to  Dawn

Lol! My hair is the same way. I have found a happy medium. I dry finger detangle and comb gently and only( the combing) on wash day. I’ll finger detangle as needed but that comb has to be limited to combing thru deep conditioner on towel dried hair. Even then I go so gently. If you are experiencing those little broken hairs all over the shower and floor, and on your clothes as you CARE FOR AND STYLE your hair give finger detangling an honest try. I had this problem for several years as a natural and couldn’t figure out… Read more »

Michelle Briscoe
Michelle Briscoe
7 years ago
Reply to  JenniD

I’m so glad I ran across your statement I never could figure out why my hair was breaking off those littles hairs everywhere the floor, sink, shower, my clothes now I know thanks.

O0oro0O
8 years ago

I dry finger detangle with oils, it can be longer but it worth it. I feel like my hair is less prone to tangles that ways it stretches the strands and since I use oils I’m sure that way it is well distributed and it promotes penetration. I’ve tried wet finger detangling but I didn’t like I feel like my strands are more fragile :s and that they may break.

Natalie
Natalie
8 years ago

I always finger detangle in the shower after my DC.

Zoopath
Zoopath
8 years ago

Finger detangling was a big failure for me. It took forever and wasn’t particularly great on my ends either. I have normal strand thickness, normal elasticity 4a‑c hair so I figured that I could never detangle my hair in the shower. There was an article on nautral bloom that said if your curls clump when wet then wet detangling might work for you. I tried it and it was so much easier and gentler! I’ve tried finger detangling in the shower but a wide tooth comb works better for me. I get rid of knots when I’m sectioning my hair… Read more »

Vonnie
Vonnie
8 years ago
Reply to  Zoopath

I’mma have to be a part of the minority and agree with you on this one. Finger detangling, for it to be more tedious, didn’t seem to help much with my tangles. Maybe I did it wrong. Oh well. I use a seamless wide tooth comb and get along just fine. Also dry detangling — NO BUENO! Even coated with oils too much of my hair came out. Wet detangling works best for me. I’m a 4b/c type.

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty

I do a sort of combination of both. When I dry finger detangle I guess its sort of cheating because I add some oil and conditioner to give it a little slip. I always follow this method before a wash.

Then, I wet finger detangle in the shower with gobs of my fave conditioner — my new fave is Dove Nutritive Therapy conditioners

I used to love Hello Hydration but in becoming more conscious of the chemicals, I switched. I know that the Dove is not all natural but at least it doesn’t contain that blue dye.

Dawn
Dawn
8 years ago

I use HH now in place of suave naturals coconut (wuteva it is). Is Dove as effective or better than HH in terms of slip and conditioning?

Christina
Christina
8 years ago

I have gone back and forth between finger detangling for a month at a time, but would eventually go back to the comb, Denman, or Tangle Teaser. I decided to give up all three this June and have been finger detangling exclusively since then. This time I have a great handle on my technique; I can do dry or wet detangling and I’m very gentle and patient now when it comes to untangling hairs from each other. My hair has been retaining length so much better these past 4 months. Along with protective styling, deep conditioning, and trimming splits when… Read more »

Rashida
Rashida
7 years ago

I am having the worst time with detangling. I have about three inches unrelaxed hair an six inches of relaxed ends. My wash days are horrible because of the tangles and knots. I detangle my hair while its dry with coconut oil with no problems. But when the water hits it, it just draws up and tangles in the worst way. Ive tried wet detangling with Carols Daughter Monoi repairing hair mask, CD Khoret Amen detangling hair smoothie, Assie 3 minute miracle, Tresemme Naturals nourishing moisture conditioner, Taliah Waajid the Great Detangler and maybe more. I dont know. Im wore… Read more »

Dananana
Dananana
7 years ago
Reply to  Rashida

I’ve seen a lot of naturals (and transitioners) swear by washing/conditioning their hair in twists or plaits. Perhaps that could cut down on your tangles when your hair is wet?

rafy
rafy
7 years ago
Reply to  Rashida

wow,seems like u were describing my hair,i also have the same problem and stil have no idea on how to fix it,even sectioning doesnt help.belive me u are not alone.

bittersweet
bittersweet
7 years ago

@Rashieda &Rafy… I have the same issue as you ladies. My hair is fine and thinning because all of the breakage, tangles and knots. I looked at so many tutorials on youtube and nothing still helps. If any advice please do tell.

Michelle Briscoe
Michelle Briscoe
7 years ago

Sept 21,13 I decided yo finger detangling my hair for the first time in my life I’ve thought about doing it then I said to my self this will take forever. But on this day I just said lets do this so I section my hair in 4 parts saturated with water and Aussie moist conditioner and I just finger detanged my hair it actually didn’t take that long I did this while in the shower after I did that I DC the same way using my cream of nature intensive moisture treatment conditioner let that set on the hair for… Read more »

Jennifer Moore
Jennifer Moore
6 years ago

I finger detangled my hair for the first time. Ive been natural for a while, but I recently cut my locs. Falling back to my old routine which worked good, I bought a few wide tooth combs. I had been wearing a twa but now my hair is getting longer and I’m able to do double strand twists, are easier to maintain my thick hair. Anyways, I tried finger detangling after hearing about it and it’s great! I don’t see myself using a comb again, unless it’s a pick to achieve a classic fro. But for twists and braid outs,… Read more »

Mikalia Bell
Mikalia Bell
5 years ago

I’ve finger detangled my hair before, and I have to say that I loved it!! I’m thinking about going back to using this method.

Lovemythickcurls
Lovemythickcurls
4 years ago

I honestly don’t know how finger tangling really works for thick tight curls. I always have thick roots from growth and I tried finger detangling and it may help to remove some shredded hair from the ends but it doesn’t do anything for thick hair at your roots. I been only doing finger detangling on wet and dry hair for over a year and I just gave up on it, it took me forever to do my thick hair and I always still seem to find shredded hair that would tangle my hair further because my fingers wouldn’t be able… Read more »

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