Detangling Super Straight Fine Hair
November 6, 2011 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for advice on a detangling product for super straight, fine, long hair.

My hair is about two inches past my shoulders and every time I wash it, I have to spend ten minutes with a hairbrush (I use this one) clawing huge tangles out of my hair. Literally all of my hair about halfway up my head from the ends is one huge tangle.

Right now, I'm using relatively cheap shampoo and conditioner from the drugstore, because I have a lot of hair and I go through a lot of shampoo and conditioner, so buying really expensive stuff would add up pretty quick. Washing my hair less is not an option, as I'm working out five days a week, and my hair gets gross and greasy really quick if I skip washing it for more than a day or two. Also, if I just get it wet and don't use any conditioner, the tangles are infinitely worse.

I'm looking for advice. All the previous questions I've found are about curly hair, and the solutions they have offered that are totally off the table include cutting it short and installing anything to change the water quality in my shower (I already have really tricky plumbing issues in the shower).

So, looking for advice. Is there a shampoo/conditioner combo that's worth the money that would help with the problem without sending me to the poorhouse? I've tried some of the detangler spray products, but I end up going through the bottles really quick because my tangles are so intractable, and they don't really help very much. Are those detangler brushes any good? Any other ideas?
posted by twiggy32 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, don't use a brush on wet hair. A comb is a lot less likely to cause breakage and other damage.

Also, you might try brushing your hair before you get it wet. I run my brush through my hair before I get in the shower, and then comb it after when it's wet, and generally I'm tangle free, at least for a few hours.

Because you wash your hair frequently, I would also suggest that you try not totally rinsing the conditioner out of your hair. Like, rinse it, but only a little, so the strands are still coated with a little bit of conditioner.

Or, you can continue to totally rinse out conditioner, and put product in after the fact. I find these two are decent enough, and in both instances a little goes a long way, You have to comb the product in, then brush through when everything is dry.

Good luck!
posted by emilycardigan at 3:01 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I too have super-straight, fine long hair. I use a brush like yours to lightly comb out my hair when it is wet, but a brush like this to brush it when it is dry. I find that the plastic-bristled brushes don't get the tangles out, dry -- they just pull my hair out.

Also if there is a beauty supply store near you, get yourself some awesome conditioner. For example, Generic Value Products Tea Tree Oil Conditioner. You can get a huge bottle for $12.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 3:03 PM on November 6, 2011

Wahh, that is so annoying, right? I have the same issues as you and it has been such a pain to deal with. But, I second what the first comment says -- brush through your hair once before you get in the shower, then comb it out after. Should help with the tangles.

Also, a better conditioner often helps -- and if all else fails, there's always the throw back to No More Tangles! I lived off that stuff when I was little!

Good luck!
posted by beloveddoll at 3:08 PM on November 6, 2011

Comb from the bottom. I know it sounds really counterintuitive, but start by combing the bottom inch or two of your hair out, then start combin an inch or two above that and repeat until you get to your roots. Learning to do that, plus using a great conditioner made a big difference for my hair.
posted by peppermind at 3:09 PM on November 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

Try different conditioners, you don't have to go saloon quality but try some other brands or maybe a more intensive conditioner in the same brand. Do you comb the conditioner through in the shower or just use your fingers? If you comb it through the conditioner can help make detangling easier, and then rinse it mostly out carefully so as to not tangle your hair up again it can come out of the wash tangle free. Don't rub it with a towel to dry just gently squeeze the moisture out. I'd also suggest not over blow drying it but letting it air dry, my hair quickly turns into a knotted mess if I do more than get the worst moisture out with a blow dryer.

Also do you start combing out your hair from the bottom up, so you are not brushing tangles into tangles.

As a reference I have thick hair but much longer than yours just past my waist. I find detangling sprays help me best if I spray the hairbrush and not my hair.
posted by wwax at 3:09 PM on November 6, 2011

I have the same problem. I keep tangles in check by brushing my hair five or six times during the day and before a shower. Johnson's No More Tangles really is as good as anything else out there, and not expensive. I use a heat protectant spray (Frizz Ease), and that works like a detangler, too. A smoothing conditioner (Suave's smoothing conditioner is cheap and good) helps as well.
posted by elizeh at 3:18 PM on November 6, 2011

I have hair similar to yours and if it gets tangly it's hard to get the snarls out. I find if I put in conditioner in the shower (I'd look for moisturizing condition vs. volume or anything like that), and then use a wide tooth comb while still in the shower to work the conditioner through and work out any tangles it basically negates the time I have to spend detangling after. Another probably pretty obvious thing is to not add tangles when you're drying your hair. Squeeze your hair with a towel instead of roughing it up.

Also, as far as detanglers go, I find my hair does better with leave in conditioner than with spray on detangler. My favourites (neither is cheap, but I find slightly more expensive product tends to go a lot further) are Smooth Infusion by Aveda, or AG Fast Food. These are the two products where I notice the difference in my hair tangle-wise and just appearance-wise immediately.

Another pretty cool thing to look at for overall hair awesomeness is The Beauty Department's Hair Bootcamp. It shows you exactly how to care for each hair type in quite a lot of detail.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 3:21 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi, I have your hair. Recently on a whim I tried Pantene Nature Fusion because it smelled good. I don't know what black magic they're using, but suddenly I can now comb out my waist length hair torture free. If I do end up with a knot, then I spritz on some no more tangles.
posted by asockpuppet at 3:25 PM on November 6, 2011

Comb from the bottom. I know it sounds really counterintuitive

Why would that be counterintuitive? If you start from the top the tangles can't untangle, they just hit more tangles on the way down making it worse.

I'm not sure why cutting your hair short isn't an option - it seems like it would solve 2 problems in 1 (tangles and needing too much shampoo/conditioner to be able to afford quality products). Although, you say your hair is fine and its not that long so I'm not entirely sure where the problem is but maybe you could consider layers - that would reduce the amount of hair whilst retaining the length.

In addition to brushing before you shower - when you're in the shower, are you a 'vigorous scrubber'? My mum is a 'vigorous scrubber' and my hair would be so tangled after she'd shampooed it - she would scrub my head/hair like she was trying to scrub red wine stains out of white jeans. I'm a 'gentle massager' - never go against the direction of the hair and no scrubbing. I try to minimise the number of tangles introduced while shampooing and then when I condition I run my fingers through my hair or comb it if I find tangles. Then comb again after rinsing.
posted by missmagenta at 3:29 PM on November 6, 2011

Yeah, don't scrub your hair at all. Use one hand to lift your hair up, use the other hand to scrub your scalp underneath your hair. If you brush it well before you get it wet and don't scrub then after your shower it should still be detangled. Also yes to brushing several times per day--not "a hundred strokes" but just enough to get the tangles out, just more frequently. Finally, try to contain your hair a bit so it doesn't tangle so much in the first place. A french braid (or dutch--your option) is probably best, good for things like exercise or riding in a car with the window down.
posted by anaelith at 3:36 PM on November 6, 2011

This is what I used after I utterly destroyed my hair after spending a month in a country with sulfuric water and shampoo only (I tried to save space by not packing conditioner). It's like magic. And you only do it once every couple of weeks so the bottle lasts forever even though it's expensive. All of the advice about air drying and brushing technique and what-not are exactly what you need to do for the long term, but if you're fighting massive tangles every day, you've done some (probably a lot of) damage to your hair, and that stuff will fix you right up.

If I were made of money I would use the matching shampoo and conditioner all the time, but alas I have to limit myself to just the heavy cream.
posted by syanna at 3:38 PM on November 6, 2011

This is not anything to do with product, but a word of advice for those prone to hair tangling: under no circumstances use flannel pillowcases. The lint provides a ton of nuclei for tangles.
posted by gingerest at 3:39 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love this John Frieda Daily Nourishment Leave In Conditioning Spray for getting out tangles. I have really fine long hair and most products are just too heavy and/or sticky after my hair dries but this one works well for fine hair without weighing it down. Now I don't even use conditioner after shampooing every day, I just use this daily instead.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 3:45 PM on November 6, 2011

I'd also recommend once a month using the olive oil hair mask that black women use. They come in a small envelope for a dollar or so at Walgreens. This will eliminate any need for daily conditioning.
posted by asockpuppet at 3:46 PM on November 6, 2011

I have similar hair and similar problems, especially in winter. I use conditioner *and* a leave-in spray detangler, the key ingredient of which is silicone. That's what my stylist said would keep the tangles away, and she's right.

What also helps: occasionally cutting 1-2 inches off the bottom. My wild-ass guess is it's effective at reducing overall weight which in turn allows my fine hair more space between hairs, more swing and movement, and thus less chance to tangle.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:04 PM on November 6, 2011

Using a brush on wet hair is asking for trouble. After you've washed your hair gently, start the detangling process with a VERY wide toothed comb like this. Then, finish with a regular comb. Only use a brush on dry hair.

If you want to treat yourself to a little frustration-free luxury, get one of these Mason Pearson detangling combs for routine use. I'm not sure what's different about it, but it really does go through tangles more easily and I've been happy I made the investment.

If static is contributing to your problem: I've found that using a few drops of a fragrance-free fabric softener on the ends of my hair controls static electricity much better (and cheaper) than any hair product I've ever tried for that purpose.
posted by Corvid at 4:52 PM on November 6, 2011

How vigorously are you washing your hair? You really only need the shampoo up by the roots. If you're piling your hair on top of your head and scrubbing you'll get lots of tangles.

For those stubborn tangles this L'Oreal product is cheap and good.
posted by 26.2 at 5:27 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Comb your hair in the shower while the conditioneer is in it. it combs very easily, and as you continue combing it helpsx to get all the conditioner out. when you get out of the shower wrap your hair in a towel for a few minutes to gently squeez the water out - as long as you don't crazily rub your hair with the towel it will stay detangled
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:18 PM on November 6, 2011

2nding extremely wide toothed combs. I just ran into a woman at the gym who used the same comb as me and she said "Yeah, and my hair is so fine if I use anything else I pull half the hair off my head!" and I said "And it took 25 years to figure that out, right??"

Fine hair, man. Ought to come with a manual.
posted by troublesome at 6:30 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

What conditioner are you using? I have long straight fine hair and I use Pantene Classic. I also use much more than the dime or quarter size they recommend. I figure that I have pretty long hair so that rule doesn't apply to me and I literally use a HUGE gob of conditioner - like probably almost the size and height of two oreos. I put it all over my entire head of hair and then comb it through with my fingers and rinse as much out as possible - I've never felt like that it was too much or weighed down or made my hair heavy in any way. If I still feel like it's a little tangley then I spray a detangler in (I use Aveda Curresence which has sadly been discontinued, but No More Tangles is a great idea and what I will probably buy when I finish my current bottle).

Other things that always help are brushing my hair out before I hop in the shower and keeping my ends trimmed. But mainly, LOTS of conditioner.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:04 PM on November 6, 2011

"a word of advice for those prone to hair tangling: under no circumstances use flannel pillowcases. The lint provides a ton of nuclei for tangles."
I love flannel pillowcases but microscopic lint particles make my curly hair knot up on itself like you would not believe- the fact that I have a lot of hair but the strands are baby-fine makes it worse.
posted by variella at 7:16 PM on November 6, 2011

You can make a cheap detangler by filling an empty spray bottle with warm water, adding a bit of light conditioner to it and shake to mix up. I like the Suave Naturals for this since it's not a heavy conditioner but probably any conditioner would work. Start out with making it way to weak and try it out on your hair to see how it works. Add more until it detangles but don't go overboard or it will weigh your hair down.
I also comb my hair before washing and it does cut down on tangles. If I've just colored my hair and it's feeling a bit fried, I'll gently comb through while the conditioner is still on and then rinse out.
posted by stray thoughts at 8:54 PM on November 6, 2011

I have fine, shoulder-length, super straight hair, too, and I have a lot of it, but it doesn't tangle the way you describe. I think you are using too much shampoo. Shampoo lasts forever at my house. As stated above, don't pile your hair on top of your head and scrub it around in circles like they do on TV, if that's what you're doing. Use like a nickel-sized bit of shampoo or less, and scrub your scalp/roots with your fingertips. Honestly, I try to avoid the bottom half of my hair for the most part, because most shampoos will strip it of natural oils that will help with the tangles. The stuff that's in shampoo is really not that great for your hair.

I absolutely love Aussie 3-minute miracle for de-tangling, and it's a cheap drugstore brand. Also, n-thing using a nice wide-toothed comb... consider using it in the shower while you're killing 3 minutes waiting for the miracle to work.

And just since I don't think I see it mentioned, there's this whole stupidly-named "no-poo" method (sorry for the crunchy website) that walks you through giving up shampoo and conditioner forever, and some people with our hair-type swear by it. Basically, you stop washing your hair---so do this on a beach vacation or work from home or something---and after a few days, you clean your scalp with a baking soda and water solution, then condition with an apple cider vinegar rinse. It's a great cleaning method, and actually, the rinse is another fantastic de-tangler. Anyway, eventually you are supposed to get to a point where all you need to do is rinse your hair and do the baking soda/cider thing every few days/weeks, and love your brand new amazing hair forever. I tried and tried, but I still found I had to wash with baking soda just about every day and I liked using products better. Oh well. Maybe it would work you though!
posted by juliplease at 11:26 PM on November 6, 2011

I have very fine and fragile hair and use one of this (easy to find on eBay too). It looks cheap and horrible, but it works really well for me.
posted by lux at 6:03 AM on November 7, 2011

It will help a LOT if you comb your hair with a wide-tooth comb while you are in the shower and have conditioner in your hair. Also, start combing at the bottom of your hair and work your way up.

Have you talked to whoever cuts your hair about this? I always get tangles under my hair at the base of my skull, and when I mentioned that to my hair stylist he said it was because I have a hair whorl-the hair grows in a different direction than the rest of my hair. He did some haircutting magic under there and it doesn't get nearly as tangled. In fact, when it starts feeling tangled, that's when i know it's time for a trim.
posted by zoetrope at 9:31 AM on November 7, 2011

I have super-straight, baby fine hair, same length as yours, and a ton of it. I can't remember the last time I used a comb or a brush. How exactly are you washing your hair? If I let my hair hang down and then rub shampoo along my roots, I get all sorts of tangles. If I pile my hair on my head in a mound and rub in shampoo, I get all sorts of tangles. What I have learned to do (and I wash my hair every single day) is flip my hair upside down in the shower, get it soaked, and put the shampoo on the back of my head, working it forward. Leave it on a minute or so, rinse, condition, and leave the conditioner on for at least 5 minutes while I do my other shower cleaning routines. Rinsing the conditioner is the very last thing I do before I get out of the shower, and I do it the same as the shampoo, with my hair flipped forward. Washing/conditioning this way and leaving the conditioner on for a long time means that I can get all the tangles out in the shower by just running my fingers through my hair.

I would also step up the amount you spend on shampoo/conditioner. Even Suave Professionals is tons better than cheap-o Suave. I generally alternate between John Frieda, L'oreal Vive, and right now I'm using some Aussie stuff that I like. But those VO5-type products are just horrible. Spend at least 2-3 bucks per bottle, you'll notice a difference.
posted by jabes at 4:38 PM on November 7, 2011

I think that the method you've been using to shampoo your hair, combined with the cheapie shampoo, combined with washing your hair five days a week (which is a lot!) = your hair is a dry mess of tangles.
-Nth that you are probably using too much shampoo and shampooing improperly. I squeeze a little blob into my hand, rub my hands together, and scrub the crown. Squeeze out another little blob and scrub my temples. Continue until scalp is clean. This really doesn't take a lot of shampoo at all.
-I find that it's realllllly hard to find a good, hydrating CHEAP shampoo. There are lots of great, cheap shampoos that should be used a couple times a week (Suave Daily Clarifying) but they are just too drying to be used every day. Go to Sally Beauty Supply and get a Generic Value Product (GVP) shampoo + conditioner, which someone mentioned upthread. There are brands like Paul Mitchell, Chi, and Biolage for less than 50% of what the name brands retail for. I have similar hair to you and right now I'm using their knock-off of Paul Mitchell Rosemary Mint hydrating shampoo. It's great.
-5 days a week of shampooing is really hard on your hair. If you must do it, then it's really important to get a hydrating shampoo that is gentle enough for everyday use. If you'd like to shampoo less, dry shampoo really does wonders. There are loads of product recommendations and tutorials on youtube.

If all else fails, apparently walmart makes a really good spray-on detangler. It gets great reviews on makeupalley.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:09 AM on November 9, 2011

Ok, so I tried a lot of the things mentioned in the thread and here's what worked for me. First of all, I was piling all my hair on top of my head and scrubbing vigorously when I shampooed, so I stopped doing that. I also started brushing my hair before I showered. I also started finger combing the tangles out of my hair in the shower when I had the conditioner in, rinsing gently, and just wrapping and squeezing with the towel instead of rubbing. I tried using the Mason Pearson detangling comb to comb out my hair after my shower, but for some reason, that seemed to actually cause pretty massive tangles. But if I do all the other things and then brush gently with the same brush I was using before, no more tangles! I didn't end up changing my shampoo or conditioner or adding any detangling products. Thanks for all the advice!
posted by twiggy32 at 2:31 PM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older DJ Screw - where to begin?   |   Hanged by the neck until dead, in Firefox Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.