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Why Is My Natural Hair So Tangled After Washing?

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Having curly hair and experiencing so many tangles is an awful experience.  Unfortunately, the nature of curly natural hair is that the strands of hair naturally twist and tangle around each other. 

No matter what type of curly hair you have you have likely experienced some form of tangles before.

You might even be wondering why your natural hair is so tangled after washing.  There’s a good reason for that.

In this article, I’m going to break down why your hair tangles much more when wet than dry and some things you can do to prevent that from happening so that you don’t end up damaging your curls.


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What Happens When Hair Is Wet?

There are a few things that tend to happen when your hair is wet.  This can lead to hair breakage and also having tangled strands of hair.  The reason for this is that when your hair is wet it is a lot weaker than when it is dry.

Wet hair stretches and swells, the same for damp hair.  When this happens the hair cuticles lift which can cause tension and cracks on the hair strand.  This also means that the hairs tangle a lot easier too because as the strands rub against each other, they snag and can easily snap.

Your hair is mostly made up of keratin which is a protein that causes your hair to be strong.  These protein layers are covered to keep them safe.  When your hair stretches whilst wet it is difficult for it to spring back into shape.  The outer layers of the hair can easily become damaged causing the hair to be weak, crack and snap leading to breakage.

How you treat your hair when wet is very important.


What To Do Now Your Natural Hair is Tangled

We’ve all been there before where we find tangles in our hair.  I’ve heard of people doing some interesting things when they find a tangle.  Some people chose to cut it out if the tangle is too complicated, others pull on it in the hopes they can release some of the strands.

Both of these are wrong.  You must never pull on a tangle when you find it.  

Doing this will either, make the tangle tighter or break the strands of hair that are locked up in it.

Cutting out the tangle also doesn’t fix the problem.

The best way to deal with a tangle, complicated or not is to gently pull it apart.  I do mean gently.  You mustn’t apply any pressure to it at all.  Start from the bottom of the hair strand and slowly begin to separate the hairs until you can feel them becoming undone.

I won’t lie to you sometimes this can be a little bit of a process so you will need to have plenty of patience. Never try to detangle your hair when you are in a rush.  You are likely to make the tangle worse and damage the strands at the same time.


How to section curly hair


How To Prevent Natural Hair From Getting Tangled When Wet

Hopefully, by implementing some of the tips I’m about to show you, you should begin to see a drastic decrease in the number of tangles you get in your hair.


1. Deep Condition

Deep conditioning your hair is very important.  When you deep condition your hair you allow the cuticles to open up and moisture to penetrate deep into the hair shaft.  Regular conditioner is great but sometimes we need to go one step further to get the right levels of moisture in our hair.

Deep conditioning is particularly important if you have very coily or kinky hair.  The tighter your curls are the harder it is for your hair to retain moisture.  Tight curls tend to get drier much more easily therefore deep conditioning is essential. You can also try a hair mask like this one too if you prefer.

By adding extra moisture to your hair there is a lower risk of tangles.


2. Pre-Poo Your Hair

Pre-pooing your hair is a step that many people like to miss.  I get it because wash day is long enough for many of us.  Honestly speaking if you are prone to getting a lot of tangles when your hair is wet then I would say that pre-pooing can make all the difference.

Pre-pooing simply means doing some type of treatment to your hair before you begin to shampoo.  That might mean using an oil or a different type of moisturiser.

Pre-pooing will do 2 things.  Firstly it will help to protect your hair before using something as harsh as shampoo which often strips the hair of moisture. Secondly, it will add shine to dull, dry looking hair.

If you want to know more about how to pre-poo your hair you can read about it here.


3. Wash In Sections

The game completely changed for me when I discovered washing my hair in sections.

When you wash your hair in sections, not only do have better control over your hair because it is in smaller sections but also it makes detangling in the shower a lot easier.  

You have better access to all the sections of your hair meaning that you can find tangles easier and detangle them but also washing becomes that much faster and easier to do.


Related post: Why you should section natural hair


4. Don’t Towel Dry

Towel drying your hair is a huge mistake.  When you use a towel to dry your hair it sucks up too much of the moisture that you have just put into your hair.

Also, towel drying your hair causes a lot of friction which can lead to more tangles.  

You are much better off using something like an old t-shirt or a microfiber towel which will only absorb excess water.  The fibers are also much softer than a regular towel.


5. Use A Wide-Toothed Comb

Some people like to use a wide-tooth comb in the shower to detangle.  If you are going to do this make sure it’s a wide toothcomb like this one.  You should always begin detangling from the bottom of the hair strand and work your way up.


Wide toothed comb 


6. Finger Detangle

Finger detangling is another great option to help with tangling. Many people even prefer this to using a wide-tooth comb because you can actually feel the tangles and know how much strain you can put on a strand of hair before it actually snaps and breaks.

Learning how to finger detangle takes time so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it straight away.

You can read more about how to safely do the finger detangling process here.


7. Use Lukewarm Water

It can be very tempting to use hot water to wash your hair throughout your wash.  I know, it was one of my very bad habits for a long time. In fact, by doing this you are stripping your hair of its natural oils and causing a lot of frizziness and friction.

It’s much better to use lukewarm or cold water if you can bear it. This will not strip your hair of moisture and leave it feeling dry. Rather it will keep your hair looking nice and shiny and the moisture locked in.


Things You Can Do After Washing Your Hair

Let’s take things one step further, now we have finished washing our hair because that’s only half the battle.  Your hair is still wet and now we need to get it to a point where the risk of tangles is even lower.  

Here are a few things you can do after washing your natural hir to continue to prevent tangles from occurring.


1. Use A Leave-In Conditioner

Leave-in conditioners are an extra step of moisture for natural hair. Leave-in conditioners typically help to moisturise the outer layer of the hair strand, while deep conditioners get more to the core of the strand of hair.

Using both in your routine is going to be great for your hair.

Not only will using a conditioner add moisture to your hair but it will also add some slip making it difficult for your hair to tangle so easily.




2. Oil

Adding oils to your hair can also be a great way to lock in moisture and moisturise your hair too.  Coconut oil or olive oil are great oils to use if your hair likes that.  I always say to people you need to understand the different types of oil out there.  Some will seal your hair, some will moisturise your hair and some will not work well for your hair just because of the hair type that you have.

Before choosing an oil its best to have some basic understanding of what you want and what your hair needs. The right products for your hair are important.

This article explains a little more about oils and your natural hair.


3. Detangling Spray

Detangling spray is great for helping to moisturise and smooth out the hair shaft.  This will help to prevent the individual hairs from snagging on each other.


Other Things That Can Cause Tangles


1. Hair Type

Your hair texture can definitely contribute to how much your hair tangles. High density hair and tight natural curls tend to wrap around each other a lot easier because the hair strands are close together.

Tight curls also struggle with moisture retention and therefore are prone to becoming dry and tangling a lot easier than looser curls like hair type 3c for example.


2. Frizz

Frizzy hair is a magnet for tangles. When your hair is frizzy the chances are that the cuticles have lifted and therefore they are causing friction and catching on each other leading to extra tangles.


3. Insufficient Moisture

Moisture is always a key factor in natural hair.  The better your hair does with moisture the fewer problems you will have with your hair. Dry hair equals tangles in a nutshell.


Related Post: Protein, moisture, balance.  3 words you need to know!


4. Product Build Up

Having product build-up is another problem. Too many hair products sitting in your hair all working against each other will weigh your hair down and can cause your hair to easily matt.


5. Not Rinsing Your Hair Properly

When you wash your hair in small sections you will find it a lot easier to rinse your hair and get rid of the shampoo and conditioner.  Not rinsing your hair properly can cause matting and tangles. 

The leftover product will keep your curls stuck together.


6. Overuse of Heat

Heat is one of those things you always have to be careful with.  If you overuse heat, you run the risk of damaging your hair strands and the cuticles of your hair. This again will lead to unnecessary tangles and hair knots.


7. Fine Hair

Having fine hair can also make getting tangles after washing your hair a problem.  Remember there is a difference between having fine hair and having thin hair.

Fine hair means that each hair strand is very thin.  This may mean that you have more stands of hair. If you have more stands of hair (especially if you have long hair) the chances are that they will wrap around each other and tangle a lot more easily than the person who has dense strands of hair.


Final Thoughts On Why Is My Natural Hair So Tangled After Washing

There are so many things that can lead to your hair becoming tangled after washing. As we have already seen when your hair is wet it is more susceptible to tangles and breakage.  Once you have a good hair care routine and know how to care for your hair when wet you will see the difference in the growth of your hair and the overall health of it.  Remember it’s always hair health before the length or anything else.

Try some protective styles in between washes too to help prevent tangles if you are trying to grow your natural hair.

Do you have any extra tips when it comes it avoiding tangles after washing?


Related posts:

6 Reasons your natural hair is not growing

Should you be doing protein treatments?

Why does my natural hair shrink?