I'd Rather Not End Up with a Bald Spot
January 22, 2010 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Help! I have a knot in my hair, and I can't get it out. I think there is some gunk in there, but I'm not sure what it is. I've tried mushing some peanut butter in, but that didn't really work (after washing the peanut butter out, it was still there, but perhaps I didn't use the pb correctly?). Is there some other remedy I can try before cutting a chunk of my hair off? It's in the back and on the top, so it would look a little weird to cut it.

I'm also willing to try a stronger shampoo, soap, or other hair product to help it get out, so those recommendations are appreciated as well.
posted by bluefly to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total)
As you can't see it, perhaps you could hand a willing assistant a comb and ask for help?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:59 AM on January 22, 2010

WD-40? I really have no idea what it would do to your hair, but it seems to fix everything else.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:59 AM on January 22, 2010

I've heard of mayo being used to get Stuff out of hair.
posted by jquinby at 8:00 AM on January 22, 2010

Best answer: When I get knots in my hair, I get a very fine-toothed comb and very carefully try to comb it out. I start on the very edge of the knot, on the side FURTHEST away from my scalp -- push the teeth through, and comb just that little bit out. When that's loose, then I go back to the knot, right at the edge again, on the side furthest away from my scalp - push the teeth through, comb just that out. Slowly, but surely, I work enough of it out on the edges and work my way in to a point where eventually I get to the heart of the problem, and it combs out completely.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Apple cider vinegar will not damage your hair (it's a similar pH to natural scalp oil, I believe) and will help lubricate the whole thing.

You really want an assistant for this. An assistant with a comb, who can work the vinegar in (diluted, since the smell is so strong) and then slowly, working from the bottom of the tangle, comb out whatever junk is in there.
posted by muddgirl at 8:03 AM on January 22, 2010

Coat the knot in conditioner, then get a wide tooth comb and slowly work on the knot from the bottom up. The conditioner will coat the strands and make everything slippy. Use the wide tooth comb to avoid damage and once that goes through, you can move to a smaller tooth comb. Working from the bottom up will go a lot better; attack it piecemeal, in effect.
posted by Salmonberry at 8:03 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

EmpressCallipygos is right.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:06 AM on January 22, 2010

I do what EmpressCallipygos posted. It might take a little while to work through the knot but it definitely works.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:15 AM on January 22, 2010

Conditioner helps immensely, doesn't matter what brand. You'll need to coat the knot thoroughly and let the conditioner reach all of the tangled hairs - you might have to use much more than you'd normally use while washing your hair, like handfuls. Let the conditioner soak in for five or ten minutes, and then very gently run your fingers or a wide-toothed comb through the knot.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:15 AM on January 22, 2010

Olive oil?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:18 AM on January 22, 2010

I believe that hair is strongest when it's dry, so try to let it dry before tugging at it anymore. When I get really terrible knots, I start by trying to separate just a few hairs at a time. Often if you can gently free a few hairs from the knot the rest of it will be a lot easier to undo.
posted by defreckled at 8:25 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd add some conditioner with a some slip, something with silicones in it, to the knot when it's dry and then do what EmpressCallipygos suggests.
posted by 8dot3 at 8:29 AM on January 22, 2010

Nthing dry hair slathered in the an unholy amount of the most slippery conditioner you've got in your house, then use EmpressCallipygos's technique.
posted by desuetude at 9:00 AM on January 22, 2010

I once was getting my hair cut at a beauty college, and they were having problems forcing the comb through it (I dyed it and didn't brush it enough and it was generally a rat's nest). The teacher pulled out The Detangler, which I had the impression wasn't used very often. It was basically two combs that vibrated, and it slid through my hair with the greatest of ease.

So... call some local beauty colleges and ask if they have Detanglers? Explain that you mean the plug-in kind, not the conditioner. It might also be called a detangling comb.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:12 AM on January 22, 2010

When my kids got knotty and gunky I used some product made for kids, No More Tangles I think it was called, it worked great.
posted by mareli at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2010

More Peanut Butter!! And some jelly too.

Only joking. Oil. Hair oil if you can find it (Indian store) but otherwise just olive oil and then, yes, re-read Empress Callipygos's post. Slowly, slowly does it (your shoulders will get a nice work out ).
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 10:11 AM on January 22, 2010

Best answer: If there is "gunk" in there, just combing it out will be painful, even if you do it the careful way suggested above. See if you can get a sample of this gunk under your fingernail or figure out what it was. Knowing what it was is essential to getting it out.

Peanut butter is recommended specifically for gum. The oils break up the stretchiness of the gum (ever eaten a piece of chocolate while you had gum in your mouth?) and make it easier to comb out, but only if you leave it there for about an hour.

Just plain washing will get anything sugar-based, and, with shampoo, gets some basic glues, as well as any sticky-type hair products (gel, spray, mousse). Be sure to use plenty of conditioners and don't attack it too hard. I've always been told that hair breaks more easily when wet, but I've had pretty good luck pulling knots apart in the shower. Otherwise, consider if you've been near any other adhesives/glues, and whether thre's a solvent or you're SOL.

If the knot is gunk-related, rather than actual-entangled-hairs, you might have more luck pulling the hairs loose instead of combing the goo out. Given a messy blob, pick some hairs that are almost peripheral to it, grab them just above the mess (i.e. pinch between the mess and your scalp) and try to slide them out, either to loosen them off the side of the sticky thing or to pull the length of the hairs through. Conditioner or spray detangler would help with that, too. The more hairs you slide out of the goo, the smaller it becomes, and the more loosely other hairs tend to cling. In some sense, this is the same technique as Empress Callipygos suggested, except trying to loosen at the top/edges instead of out the bottom of the knot, so heck, try both. If you ended up deciding to cut it out, these are also the techniques you'd use to try to minimize the number of hairs involved in the cutting.
posted by aimedwander at 10:14 AM on January 22, 2010

If it's gunk-related, consider buying some Clarifying Shampoo. Redken makes a good one. Clarifiers are used by many salons to remove product build-up prior to color and relaxer treatments.
posted by zarq at 10:21 AM on January 22, 2010

Aimedwander and EmpressCallipygos have it. Pantene is as slippery as conditioners come.
posted by moira at 10:58 AM on January 22, 2010

I have used "goo gone" although I do not think it is a recommended use of the product.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2010

Response by poster: OK! I've seen the gunk in the mirror. It's not gum. I think it might be some sticky gel combined with with something sugary/doughy that I seemed to have come in contact with in the kitchen (yes, I tasted). There's only a very tiny amount of it (although the knot is large), so I think some combination of the conditioner, loosening, and careful combing might work. I'll stop by a drugstore to buy some Pantene conditioner and a clarifying shampoo.

Unfortunately, I live alone, so I'm going to try and comb it out with mirrors (tonight is date night, so all the more reason to deal with this ASAP. But, who knows? maybe I'll get an assistant out it).
posted by bluefly at 11:36 AM on January 22, 2010

Response by poster: Success! Thanks.
posted by bluefly at 2:25 PM on January 22, 2010

Awesome! Have fun on your date tonight! :)
posted by zarq at 2:36 PM on January 22, 2010

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