By Chinwe of Hair and Health
Tight coils, little to no curl pattern, and major shrinkage make type 4 natural hair an environment conducive to knots and tangles. Imagine tossing several tightly coiled wires into a bag haphazardly. Now imagine removing these wires one by one from the bag. You will get knots and tangles galore, right? A similar event can occur in our natural hair when left loose, wild, and shrunken.
1. The basics to minimizing knots & tangles
Refrain from wearing wash-n-gos once your hair reaches 6–8 inches in length. Protective style frequently. Detangle thoroughly AND regularly. Keep your hair moisturized.
2. Further prevention — Wash in braids
Washing your hair while it is loose is highly discouraged. (Think back to the bag full of tightly coiled wires.) Instead, wash your hair in braided sections to minimize tangling. About washing in twists: Twists, unless done small or medium, tend to unravel during a wash. Thus, braids may be a better option for some naturals.
3. Continuing on — Short-term stretched styles
If you want to wear your hair out, stretched styles (i.e., twist outs, braid outs) are by far the best method to minimize knots and tangles. However, allowing such styles to age beyond their limit leaves room for shrinkage and defeats the purpose. Keep the style duration to a minimum. Note: The higher the humidity, the shorter the wear. Also, the longer your hair, the shorter the wear.
4. Speaking of stretching — Use a thick, heavy detangler
During your regular detangling sessions, use a cholesterol-based or other thick, heavy conditioner to ease the process. The conditioner will add weight to the hair thus stretching the coils temporarily. Alternative: Some naturals prefer detangling on dry, stretched, lubricated hair since wet strands can lead to shrinkage.
5. Do not wet the knot
In the event that you do get a knot, the worst thing you can do is apply water. Why? Because the strands will shrink and the knot will become harder to unravel. Instead, apply an oil or butter and gradually pull out each strand from the knot one by one. Alternative: Some naturals have success applying a conditioner to the knot while others do not. Do what works for you. Depending on how serious the knot is, a thin tool — such as the end of a rattail comb — may be used to help with unraveling. Refrain from using sharp tools, like needles or safety pins, which may damage the cuticle.
Do you get knots and tangles? How do you combat them?