How to detangle matted hair painlessly

By: | Last Updated: April 12, 2022

Self-confidence can be fragile, and matted hair only brings it further down. 

It’s so easy to continue ignoring tiny knots throughout the day, but once they assemble themselves into a matted clump, that’s when the true horror starts. 

Well, detangling may take time, but it is not rocket science. So rest easy because you will learn how to detangle matted hair painlessly once you finish this article. 

Bring that confidence back up, and those strands smoothen out. 

How can I untangle matted hair?

How can I untangle matted hair

Matted hair is no one’s favorite way of waking up. 

You run your fingers through your hair and come to a halt as you realize that you will be late for work or lose your rest day as you take your time untangling your unsightly clumps. 

What a bummer. 

Matted hair occurs when loose strands of your hair twist among themselves, severely tangling, until they form into a solid mass of keratin over the head. 

Accumulated dirt and, in worse cases, other exuded matter from the scalp glues together this whole mess. 

In other words, your everyday knotted hair leveled up into something that can break a comb!

Matting due to bad hair care and poor hygiene often takes the first place among the reasons someone can have matted hair, especially for otherwise healthy individuals. Harmful detangling methods, periodic trimming, and overnight friction also contribute to matting. 

Although matting can happen to everyone, curls and coils show a greater tendency towards it. 

Everyone who woke up to the same matted situation knows that ignoring a smaller clump will guarantee you a bigger problem later on.

There are two options to try: cut the matted hair or you can untangle it completely.  Obviously, one would be more time-consuming than the other. 

If you choose the less hassle option of cutting, take the matted hair and cut it halfway. Always remember to face scissors away from your face to avoid accidents. Work conditioner through the cut ends and salvage what you can. Use a wide-toothed comb to loosen any manageable strands. If this doesn’t work, you may need to remove the matted portion entirely. 

Even if you choose the latter, more time-consuming option, you may still need to trim it after untangling it with a wide-toothed comb. Manage your expectations well!

Should you detangle matted hair wet or dry?

It would be best if you didn’t do either. 

Wet hair becomes prone to breakage due to the raised cuticles in your hair. If you start tugging your hair at this state, you will likely lose healthy strands.  

Dry hair will be painful and complicated as it provides no-slip to lessen the friction. 

At most, you will only need to dampen your hair when untangling it. 

How to untangle matted hair without cutting it

You don’t need to go to a professional to solve your problem. 

If it is not in its most hopeless state yet, your hair will only likely require patience and some hair tools and products to straighten out. 

You will need a spray bottle of water, a conditioner, and a wide-toothed comb. 

You can use a fine-toothed comb for the final part to ensure complete detangling. Make sure you have it on hand too.

  1. Dampen your hair first with your spray bottle. You can hold your hair under the shower for a few minutes but do not come out with dripping wet hair. Friction on wet hair leads to breakage. 
  2. Saturate your hair with conditioner. You can use any ordinary conditioner and leave it on for a few minutes. Ensure the clumped area gets soaked in as much product as possible, so it’s easier to loosen. You may use detangler spray or oils as an alternative. 
  3. Work your fingers through the easier knots. There are loose knots you can detangle first before going after the large clumps. Take your time identifying what you can separate without a comb. Using the wide-toothed comb, start brushing from the tip downward. You can then begin to go upwards once you detangle the lower section successfully. This may seem like an endless ordeal but do not force your way through it because that will only end with you in pain. Ouch! 
  4. If your scalp feels bruised from all the combing, grasp a portion of your hair and twist it slightly outwards. Comb the part accordingly. Hold your hair near the roots to reduce pressure if you are on the upper sections already. Always remember to take a breather! This is where your patience must be at its maximum. 
  5. Switch to a fine-toothed comb once all the more extensive and worse knots and tangles are free. This keeps the strands completely separated and tangle-free. 
  6. Rinse your hair thoroughly with cool water and ensure no hair products remain. 

FYI: If you notice hair falling out, do not be alarmed. Several shedded strands ended up bundled together with the matted clump instead of falling altogether. 

See? That wasn’t so bad at all. Elbow grease and patience can save you a visit to the stylist. 

However, there might be cases when simply relying on your comb won’t offer a solution. Severely matted hair, for example, may not be because of poor hygiene. 

In such a case, you must improve your methods. Don’t give up! You can get out of this tangle-free!

How do you untangle severely matted hair?

How do you untangle severely matted hair

When your hair upgraded from a mere tangled nuisance to a possible health condition, you have every right to feel anxious. 

Although a rare condition, acute matting may affect individuals with long, curly hair and those with damaged hair. This is diagnosed virtually and has the following clinical indications: 

  1. The clump or mass does not only have hair and dirt but also ooze, crust and blood. 
  2. The matted section comprises 70% of your hair, making it look like a ball on top of your head.
  3. Hair loss may be observed on the rest of the scalp.
  4. There might be lice or nits found too. 
  5. In some cases, there can be swollen occipital lymph nodes observed.

If you have severely matted hair like this, it becomes a health condition that needs a doctor’s consultation since this may have a physical or behavioral cause.

You may require a stylist with experience in untangling matted hair. With severely matted hair, conditioners may not be enough. The process may require more cutting and trimming than you would prefer. In fact, in the most severe of cases, shaving the entire scalp might be necessary.

Dire as it may be, there’s been proof that it can be done— even with six-month-old matted hair


If you want to DIY, you can employ the same steps above using deep conditioners instead of ordinary ones. 

However, it may not work as expected since conditioners work well with damp hair and severely matted hair has already locked into a ball, and water would simply sit on the surface. 

It would help if you tried to seek a stylist in your area or at least get someone else’s help for this task because it may take more than a day to call it a success. 

Here are the steps on how to detangle severely matted hair.

  1. Soak your dry hair with a whole bottle of detangler cream. Get in between large clumps and saturate yourself as much as you can. It may take two bottles of cream to do this. This is not the time to hold back.
  2. Wrap the hair with cling film and apply heat to the matted section with a dryer. This will help the cream seep through the roots, making detangling easier. 
  3. Unwrap the film afterward. 
  4. Using the metal tip of a rat tail comb, pick through the matted section. Always take your time here. There might not be a clear direction to follow, so you have to make your way to what is noticeably the easiest to untangle and break through strands slowly and carefully. You may need to apply more cream as you go through this. 
  5. You can pick large loose chunks of matted hair apart with a plastic rat tail comb. However, a metal tip becomes preferable for webbed hair strands where you can’t see any opening.
  6. Separate the detangled section using a clip or a braid. 
  7. If you can’t finish in a day, leave the detangler cream overnight and wrap your hair in a cling wrap to further soften the matted hair.
  8. Repeat the heating step and detangle thoroughly. 
  9. Shampoo and condition thoroughly afterward and ensure no more cream remains. 

Voila! It may take more persistence and determination, but it is a sacrifice worth taking to get back the crowning glory you once had!

How to detangle super knotted hair

Knotted hairs may be more due to hair type and styling frequency than anything else. 

More porous hair does not have flat cuticle layers, so the strands stick out more and become prone to tangling with each other. 

You can also have higher porosity if you use heat tools and go through bleaching often since cuticles open up during these processes.

Grab your supply of detangler spray because it will be your main weapon against your knots.

  1. Choose a detangler spray suited for your hair. Some sprays work on damp hair, while others require dry hair. Read the labels carefully. 
  2. Section your hair into four using hair clips. 
  3. Spritz to saturate a section with detangler spray thoroughly.
  4. You may require a metal pick to ease your way through the knots initially before you can comb it. If necessary, use a wide-tooth comb to detangle before switching to fine-toothed ones. 
  5. Proceed with the other sections. Remove the clips afterward.
  6. Brush through your hair until you feel no resistance. 
  7. Rinse the product if stated on the label. 

How to detangle severely matted black hair

If you have black or natural hair, you know how fast it goes from awesome to disastrous if you leave it be. 

The texture of your hair requires a lot of conditioning and maintenance, and failure to do so will surely come back as dry and matted hair. 

So no, don’t believe that your only option was to rip it out. That may have worked in the old days, but today, you have products to help you detangle it in a breeze. 

You can try the method listed for super-knotted hair first. 

Although, you may have to do subsections after the initial four sections to saturate your hair entirely. It may be trickier and more painstaking than dealing with straight hair, but it is similar. 


Here are some quick reminders to remember when untangling curly or kinky hair.

  1. Dampen your hair with spritzes of warm water, especially if you have low porosity hair. 
  2. Choose a slippery product rather than one that softens the hair. Put on oil for the primary detangling, followed by a slippery product to further loosen the thicker curls. 
  3. Use different detangling tools rather than sticking to one. 
  4. Regularly detangle your hair, and do not delay. The difference in a day is significant for people with black hair.

How to detangle matted hair with mayonnaise

There’s no shame in not having a detangler spray or cream at a moment’s notice. 

Sometimes, you forget these things as you shop for essentials. 

But, do you know what you likely picked in the grocery aisle that can help your matted hair dilemma? The mayo jar.

That’s right! There’s no need to go back to the store. Your mats and knots may be manageable enough by your mayonnaise. 

On the matted section of your hair, smear some mayonnaise and leave it on for five minutes to soak through. You can then start finger combing your hair and working it through with a wide-toothed comb. Once you have smoothed out your hair, rinse out the mayonnaise thoroughly. 

There are several home remedies for matted hair you might want to look out for. 

  1. Oils (coconut, olive, shea, argan, and even baby oil)
  2. Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  3. Avocado
  4. Peanut butter

They contain a lot of fats and slip through the hair effortlessly. It’s handy if you have time to research the chemicals involved in detangling products. 

What can I use to detangle matted hair?

What can I use to detangle matted hair

Before going into battle, you should know what you can bring to win it. There are a few tools and products that you can rely on, so untangling doesn’t have to be painful and taxing.


  1. Wide-tooth comb or a paddle brush
  2. Fine-tooth comb for complete untangling
  3. Blow dryer for severe matting


  1. Conditioner for pre-detangling
  2. Water in a spray bottle 
  3. Detangling spray or cream
  4. Support detanglers like oils and slippery products

It’s also wise to remember to maintain a knot-free and mat-free hair. You have to choose safer products for your hair to reduce damage while maintaining good hygiene.

Here are some excellent tips to follow:

  1. Finger comb your hair before you shower to detangle it.
  2. Shampoo your scalp to remove the day’s accumulated dirt. 
  3. Invest in hair masks and conditioners as dryness can cause tangles and knots. 
  4. Split ends can contribute to tangles. Lessen your exposure to chemicals and trim your hair after 4-6 weeks. 

Now and then, detangling might be unavoidable. So if you have tangle-prone hair, adopt a routine that prevents more tangling while buying products that can hydrate and smoothen the hair. 

CHECK OUT: Rats Nest Hair

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