How to stop hair tangling
March 1, 2009 8:32 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to keep straight hair from tangling?

I have very fine, straight hair, which is fairly long. I would like to wear it down, but it quickly becomes tangled, even to the point of having painful knots. I wore it even a little loosely tonight (gathered at the back of my neck with a clip, but otherwise loose), and got home to find I had bad knots right under my hair near my neck.

I don't normally use conditioner, but wash my hair with only a small amount of shampoo - should I use it? a creme rinse? Wash my hair less? (I was trying to wash it only every other day, but I keep forgetting as my brain turns off in the shower).

Home or cheap solutions would be good - I live in a small working-class city, and I'm a student, so I can't afford salon-type treatments even if they were around (which they aren't).
posted by jb to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Conditioner will help immensely. Even the boring drugstore stuff. It's like giving your hair a Teflon coating.
posted by phunniemee at 8:36 PM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do you not use conditioner because it weighs your hair down? Maybe try using a bit of conditioner only on the ends. Also maybe try a Vo5 hot oil treatment every week or so - they're not too expensive and they don't weigh your hair down as much as using conditioner.

My hair is similar to yours, and sometimes in bad hair situations, I slather my dry hair in conditioner and wrap it in a warm towel for 10 or 15 minutes, then rinse it out. That usually helps a little.
posted by kerning at 8:37 PM on March 1, 2009

Yes, definitely use conditioner. It makes a world of difference. You can even keep hair from tangling when you wash it by first applying the conditioner, then carefully running a wide-tooth comb through it before rinsing it out. Getting a regular trim, even just a bit, will help keep the hairs all the same length, which, according to my stylist, makes it harder for them to tangle.

Oh, and if you do have to deal with tangles, Johnson's No More Tangles spray is a godsend. (You spray it on dry or wet hair, then comb the tangles out.)
posted by corey flood at 8:39 PM on March 1, 2009

Definitely use conditioner. Also try combing your hair with a wide-tooth detangling comb. I am a guy with fairly long curly hair that is prone to awful tangling and doing this (every day, but that might not be necessary for you) helps a lot.
posted by tealsocks at 8:42 PM on March 1, 2009

Being fairly bald I have the complete opposite of long hair - but since you ask for cheap solutions, have you tried washing your hair less frequently? My understanding is that to some degree conditioner is simply re-adding oil to your hair that would be there naturally if modern humans didn't bathe so much, like our primitive forebears and foremonkeys.
posted by XMLicious at 9:18 PM on March 1, 2009

Volumizing shampoo & conditioner. Comb the conditioner through your hair and leave in in while doing other shower activities. Rinse out at the end of your shower and comb through again. Also try using hair spray, just to keep the hair from getting too tangly during the evening - spray it on while damp, blow dry your hair (combing as it dries) and it should behave itself. I have very straight, very fine, very limp longish hair which tends toward tangles. Good luck!
posted by pammeke at 9:20 PM on March 1, 2009

I went a couple years not washing my hair with any sort of detergent. This means a LOT more hot water and effort (ultimately more than I was willing to put up with) to keep it clean but it was infinitely more manageable.

We're pretty aggressive with soaps and detergents. You could probably get by on even less shampoo than you are using and still have enough to float all the oil off your scalp.

Don't ever go to bed with wet hair. Your just asking for wake up a slab of felt on top your head.

Make roughly a zillion passes with a natural bristle brush every chance you get.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:23 PM on March 1, 2009

Conditioner. I have long, fine, straight hair and I don't have a tangling problem.

Since my scalp gets oily quickly, I have to wash my hair every day. I only shampoo the hair that touches my scalp, otherwise the rest of it gets dried out (and tangles). I only condition the hair that does not touch my scalp, otherwise my scalp is oily within hours. It works wonders.
posted by Nattie at 9:48 PM on March 1, 2009

Experiment with kiss my face honey olive bar soap, cleans gently without stripping natural moisturizer from your hair.
posted by hortense at 10:46 PM on March 1, 2009

I recently learned how to blow dry my hair, and for the first time, I can run my fingers through my hair and get all the way to the ends.
posted by Monday at 11:13 PM on March 1, 2009

I know that this may seem silly, but when you wash your hair, only use the shampoo on your scalp and the roots of the hair. The rest of your hair will get clean just from rinsing the shampoo out. Also, use a conditioner, but try to avoid the scalp and roots. And, if you can afford some sort of a silicone emolliant, it will do wonders for your hair. And, you'll only need like one or two drops of it (anymore and your hair will look greasy), and the bottle should last you a long time.
posted by kochanie at 11:28 PM on March 1, 2009

I have the same fine, straight hair and the same problem. Conditioner definitely helps, but also as Monday mentioned above, a good blow out can also make a huge difference. If I blow my hair out after washing, using a big round brush to firmly pull and straighten each section as I go, I find that my hair tangles much less, and as an added bonus, I can go one or two days longer without having to wash it. If you're not sure how to blow out your hair properly, ask your hair stylist to show you. I myself only learned how to do it right just recently, after 30-some-odd years of learning how to style my hair from a mother who would just wash her coarse, curly hair and go. That simply does not work for us fine-haired girls!

My other new fine, straight hair revelation - hot rollers with clips! Why oh why didn't anyone tell me about this miracle invention sooner??!! Three minutes to heat, three minutes to put them in, five minutes to put on makeup and get dressed while you wait, take them out, shake and instant gorgeous!
posted by platinum at 1:38 AM on March 2, 2009

If you're worried about an oily scalp from using conditioner, just gather your hair into a ponytail-style arrangement before you apply it. Put a quarter-sized dollop of conditioner right where you'd put your ponytail holder and then rake your fingers downward, distributing the conditioner to the ends.

You don't need anything fancy. This site has reviews on everything from DIY concoctions to drugstore products to ultra-spensive salon stuff.
posted by houseofdanie at 2:42 AM on March 2, 2009

Nthing conditioner. If you're looking for cheap stuff, Vo5 and Suave are both a buck a bottle, available at drugstores, and do the trick quite well.

When I had long hair, I shampooed the roots and conditioned the ends and it worked for me.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:03 AM on March 2, 2009

Best answer: I have long, fine hair with a bit of a wave to it, and it mats at the nape of my neck if I'm not careful about necklaces and collars and such. It was awful when I was a kid, I had to keep it around chin-length to avoid the tangling.

Apart from frequent combing, I braid my hair loosely at night and secure it with a scrunchie - the idea is to keep it from rubbing on my pillow and tangling, but also to not stress it too much with a tight braid and hair elastics. I use conditioner about half as often as I shampoo.

Sometimes in the summer I mix up a "salad dressing" with a bit of olive-oil and water and a few other things (depends on my mood, sometimes lavender oil, sometimes lemon juice if I'm going to be out in the sun and will be rinsing it within an hour) and spritz it on my hair as a leave-in conditioner. Macadamia nut oil is really amazing for hair, too, tho a little harder to come by than olive oil.
posted by annathea at 6:38 AM on March 2, 2009

I use this glossing creme when my hair is still damp. Detangles and prevents further tangles. It's kind of expensive but I use a tiny amount even on my long hair so it lasts many months.
posted by mai at 8:05 AM on March 2, 2009

My hair isn't perfectly straight, but it's very thick, with super fine strands. Tangles are a huge issue for me.

Paul Mitchell Detangler will change your life! You can get a tiny trial size to see if you like it. You actually only need a tiny amount. When your hair is clean and super wet, rub a small amount all over your hands, then sort of comb your hands through your hair until it's easy to get your fingers through the strands. This will prevent the product from getting all over your scalp where it's not needed. Then barely rinse it out, and you're done!
posted by peep at 9:24 AM on March 2, 2009

I have long, fine hair, and I really like Herbal Essences Body Envy line - use the shampoo and the conditioner. They're around $3 a bottle each. Another one I love is Redken All Soft, but that's much pricier (about $13 a bottle and I use it more sparingly). My hair does what yours does when I don't use conditioner.

Also, wash all your hair, but keep conditioner at the crown and below so as not to weigh down the roots. The wide-toothed comb after washing helps remove loose hairs and helps untangle the rest.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:37 AM on March 2, 2009

I have thick, long hair which doesn't tangle nearly to the degree yours does, but at the end of the day I would be hard pressed to be able to run my fingers through it without getting stuck but good. This doesn't really bother me because I don't spend a lot of time running my fingers through my hair. However, I have only encountered one thing that will keep my hair absolutely tangle free for two days with no brushing: a hair straightener.

I hate having my hair straightened because it gets rid of a certain level of body, but the woman who cuts my hair does it every time after I see her. I don't think I could retangle my hair if I tried.
posted by Bibliogeek at 10:42 AM on March 2, 2009

I have thick, but fine, blonde, barely wavy hair, and I've battled tangles all my life. Couple things.

You definitely need to use conditioner.

Be very patient and gentle combing tangles out. So often it pulls tighter and breaks. In fact, I don't comb them out, I tease them apart with my fingers, so as to avoid kinking or roughening the hair further.

Try a boar bristle brush. Brush your hair after you shower. I've never had too much trouble with brushing wet causing any kind of damage, but I understand you're not supposed to. Wet or dry, get a soft, natural bristle brush. It feels great and distributes oil beauitufully down the hair shafts. You could try it with a leave-in conditioner or detangler, too. This is a better alternative to blow-drying in my opinion, because it straightens without drying.

I actually prefer not to use leave-in conditioner, and do find it heavy. I use a volumizing shampoo and a really thick conditioner that I don't rinse totally, thoroughly out. I'm sure most of it comes out on the towel.

Also, I now have layered hair, which is not something you see too many guys with long hair wearing, but I can tell you it makes a big difference in the tangling problem. You definitely need to be getting a trim every month or so, conditioning, doing what you can to avoid split ends, and so you might consider trying some very long layers. They add body, shape and style, and will guarantee a little less knotting. If you don't like the look, they're not hard to get rid of, you just cut another inch off. They also look better toward the end of your need-a-haircut phase, I think. Less raggedy and straw-like.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:01 AM on March 2, 2009

Well, conditioner does not get rid of my hair knots. I have hair that makes people ask, "Did you use conditioner?" just after I got out of the shower and did.

I recommend just getting a brush with bristles as far apart as you can manage (those pink breast cancer ones are miracles).
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:47 PM on March 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you for all of your suggestions.

I think that my hair had gotten excessively dry (perhaps due to the freezing weather). I actually had some Vo5 conditioner (yes, $1/bottle) and slathered it on and then wrapped all in a towel for 15 minutes before rinsing, and it did seem to help my hair a lot, though it felt somewhat sticky and weighed down this morning. (Which definitely has been my fear with conditioners). But I haven't washed it all since, just rinsed. And I will definitely cut back on the shampoo even further, and use more conditioner for regular.

I think I would like to try the olive oil and lemon juice idea - I like the idea of knowing exactly what is going on my hair, and I always have those (they are both tasty).
posted by jb at 4:15 PM on March 2, 2009

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