How To Detangle Matted Hair (Easy Step By Step Guide)

Hair can become matted for lots of reasons, and it can happen to any hair type. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having matted hair, don’t worry. In this article, we have advice on how to detangle matted hair and tips on how to avoid it.

How to detangle matted hair 1

To detangle matted hair, the process is as follows:

  1. Dampen hair.
  2. Begin to loosen matted clumps with a detangler oil or conditioner.
  3. Use your fingers to ease apart the loosest knots.
  4. Use a wide tooth comb to comb out the more severe knots.
  5. Rinse out any oil or product you have used in the process.

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What Is Matted Hair?

Matted hair is when clumps or tangles are formed from hair that is attached and hair which has been shed. These twist together to form the clumps and tangles, or ‘matting’.

What Causes Matted Hair?

There are quite a few reasons hair can get so tangled that it becomes matted.

Failure To Comb/Detangle Properly

Not combing hair, thereby not removing shed hairs can lead to knots.

The loose strands of shed hair get knotted around the hair, which is attached to the scalp, resulting in a tangle that leads to matted hair if not removed regularly.

Fine Brittle Hair

Thin, fine hair which is brittle can be prone to becoming matted. The longer your hair is, the more likely it is to get tangled and lead to matting.

Fine hair is more likely to break, leaving loose strands of hair. When a few of these strands get stuck together, this can lead to a knot forming and rapidly escalate to a mat if not dealt with promptly.

Curly Hair

Naturally curly hair is another hair type that can be prone to matting.

Those of you with tight curls may find that separate strands of hair often curl around each other, which causes knotting and can quickly lead to hair matting.

Long Hair

Longer hair is more likely to sustain mats than shorter hair. The simple fact is, there is more hair for individual strands to wrap around and become tangled in.

Frequent brushing and a good haircare routine can reduce the chances of excessive tangling and matting.

Processed Hair

Hair that has been heavily processed lacks moisture. It is dryer and more brittle, making it more prone to tangling.

Also Read: How To Spot Calcium Build Up in Hair (3 Ways To Fix It)

Is Cutting Matted Hair Necessary?

Cutting matted hair is an option, but it might not be necessary. There are a few other steps to try first before you take the drastic step of cutting your hair.

That being said, if the hair is stubbornly and excessively matted, it may need to be cut out with scissors.

Severely matted hair may already be significantly damaged, making it more likely to become matted again in the future.

Cutting away sections of hair that have become matted and keeping hair shorter in length can reduce the chances of matting further down the line.

How to Detangle Matted Hair

How to Detangle Matted Hair

Some people opt for a professional stylist to help them sort out their matted hair. However, it can be done at home- all you need is a little time, patience, and the right equipment.

You Will Need:

  • Spray bottle of water or showerhead
  • One of the following: conditioner, deep conditioner, detangler oil/spray or coconut oil, argan oil or olive oil
  • Sturdy wide tooth comb
  • Fine tooth comb
  • Detangling brush (optional)
  • Shower cap

N.b. An ordinary conditioner could be your first port of call if your hair is mildly matted.

For severely matted hair, you could try a deep conditioner or even a detangling conditioner, formulated to give hair more ‘slip’ and make it easier to detangle.

The oils mentioned above are another option and are good for afro-textured hair.


  1. Select a hair treatment as outlined above, according to your needs/ preferences.
  2. Dampen hair using the spray bottle or briefly run it under the shower head. But don’t let it become so wet that it is dripping as this can make hair more susceptible to breakage.
  3. Take a handful of the chosen treatment (2 handfuls if your hair goes past your shoulders) and work it through your hair in sections. Make sure you apply it to the ends also.
  4. Depending on your chosen treatment, timings are as follows:
  5. Ordinary conditioner will take a few minutes
  6. Coconut oil, argan oil and olive oil should be left to work for a minimum of 30 minutes, but no longer than 2 hours
  7. For deep conditioners, follow instructions on the packaging, but typically this is about an hour.
  8. After you have applied the treatment, pop on a shower cap, or secure a plastic bag around your head to keep hair up out of the way.
  9. When the treatment time is up, begin to gently pull apart the loosest knots. Looser mats and smaller knots can be pulled apart into smaller tangles from the side closest to the root of your hair.
  10. If you feel tension at this point, stop and try a different section of hair.
  11. Use the detangling brush to work slowly and carefully through the mat (you can skip this step and jump straight to the wide tooth comb if you prefer).
  12. Next, take your wide tooth comb and comb through the ends of your hair. Place the comb a few inches from the end of the tangled section and brush downwards.
  13. Repeat until this is free of tangles then move the comb up and do the same.
  14. Keep going until the entire length of hair is tangle free. If your hair is thick or very long this could take an hour or more.
  15. If your scalp is sensitive and the process is becoming quite painful, hold a section of your hair in your hand as you comb it through. Take a section, about the width of a thick marker and give it a half twist. This will prevent the combing motion from pulling too much on your scalp. Move your grip higher as the tangles come out and you move on to the section above.
  16. If necessary, add a drop of oil or conditioner to a particularly tricky section of hair if it is hard to untangle- this will lubricate the strands and hopefully loosen them.
  17. If a mat of hair is particularly stubborn, you may need to thin it out using scissors. Hold your hair tight with one hand and using an open pair of scissors in the other hand, run the bottom blade of the scissors along the underside mat. Then gently tug your hair to remove the loose strands.
  18. Now switch to the fine-tooth comb to tackle any smaller remaining tangles and knots.
  19. When your hair is completely tangle free, rinse out the treatment.

How Long Will It Take to Detangle Your Matted Hair?

How long it takes to detangle matted hair all depends on how severely matted your hair is, how long your hair is and how thick your hair is.

So, really, it could take anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours to detangle hair.

Top 5 Detangling Conditioners

There are lots of products out there that promise to aid you in your mission to detangle those tresses. We have rounded up 5 for you to try:

The Honest Company Sweet Orange Vanilla Conditioning Detangler

The Honest Company Sweet Orange Vanilla Conditioning Detangler

Formulated for all hair types, this nourishing detangler spray is a blend of argan oil, shea butter jojoba protein, and quinoa extract. It separates strands and combats fly away hair.

Check Price on Amazon

Stream2Sea Leave-In Hair Conditioner

Stream2Sea Leave-In Hair Conditioner

This light and non-greasy formula detangles hair and restores natural shine. The keratin proteins replenish and strengthen damaged hair.

Check Price on Amazon

Design Essentials Natural Super Moisturizing and Detangling Conditioner

Design Essentials Natural Super Moisturizing and Detangling Conditioner

Blended with avocado, almond, and coconut oil, this product restores hair’s moisture while aiding the detangling process.

Specifically formulated for wavy, curly, coiled, and kinky textured hair, this conditioner promises to revitalize hair’s natural luster.

Check Price on Amazon

Tangle Teezer, The Ultimate Detangler Hairbrush

Tangle Teezer, The Ultimate Detangler Hairbrush

With 325 unique and flexible teeth, this brush is a popular choice to keep tangled hair at bay.

It flexes over tangles without pulling or tugging, reducing the chance of damage to your strands and minimizing the discomfort for your scalp.

Check Price on Amazon

Detangling Hairbrush and Comb Set by Lily England

Detangling Hairbrush and Comb Set by Lily England

This brush and comb set promises pain-free detangling, using the innovative 274 flexible bristles. The bristles gently glide through knots creating less friction than other hairbrushes, resulting in less hair breakage.

A versatile product, it can be used on fine, thick, curly, straight, wet or dry hair. And with its rose gold shade, it looks pretty good sitting on your dressing table.

Check Price on Amazon

How To Prevent Hair from Getting Matted

How To Prevent Hair from Getting Matted

There are a few steps you can take to help prevent your hair from succumbing to mats in the future:

Regular Trims

Aim to get your hair trimmed every 6-8 weeks to avoid split ends which can lead to tangles and hair mats.

Regular Protein Treatments

Apply protein treatments on a regular basis to fill the gaps in damaged cuticles. This helps by decreasing friction thus reducing tangles and matting. This could be a deep conditioning treatment.

Detangle After Washing

Every time you wash your hair, make sure you detangle any hair which has become knotted afterward.

Otherwise, this can build up and result in trickier to-deal-with knots and mats. Use a wide-tooth comb or a detangling brush or comb.

Avoid Protective Styles For Longer Than Recommended

Braids, twists, and faux locs are protective styles that are great for keeping your hair protected from the elements and shielding it from damage.

However, if these are left in for too long, shed hairs can’t be brushed out and can become twisted in attached hairs leading to mats.

As a rule of thumb, these styles should only be left in your hair for approximately 6 to 8 weeks.

Silk scarf/bonnet

Before you turn in for the night, cover your hair in a protective silk scarf or bonnet.

This reduces the risk of your strands twisting together causing the hair to mat. It also helps to lock in the hair’s moisture, leading to healthier hair.

Loose Braids

An alternative to a silk scarf at night is to wear your hair in loose braids, or even a bun. This helps keep the strands in place and reduces tangling.

Regular Brushing

In general, hair should be brushed regularly as this prevents the formation of mats by getting rid of shed hair and tackling any small tangles just beginning to take hold.

Wash Out Product

If you have used any product in your hair, wash these out thoroughly before going to bed. Clumps of product in the hair reduces friction and can lead to hair mats.

Separate Sections

If your hair is afro-textured, or another type of hair prone to tangling, separate it into several sections before washing.

Clip these sections to keep them apart. When washing your hair, unclip these sections one at a time.

Clip them back together before unclipping the next section. This reduces the chance of severe mats taking hold.

If you do find yourself in the position of having matted hair, you are now well placed to tackle it by following the advice above.

And you are also armed with tips on how to prevent matted hair, so it can become a thing of the past.

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