Help me tame my knotty/naughty hair!
April 29, 2020 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for suggestions on how to make my hair not so knotty. I would like to be able to run my fingers or brush through it without continually hitting snags.

I am 46, white, have very long, thick, somewhat wavy dark hair. Our shower has unfiltered well water which is hard and has lots of iron in it. I normally wash and condition my hair every 5 or 6 days with Loma products, use a microfiber towel and then leave it to air dry (don't even own a hairdryer). I used to use a shower filter but the one I had mostly helped with chlorine, which isn't an issue where I have lived for almost the past year. I have silkish pillowcases that I don't think help (does it need to be real silk?) My diet is... inconsistent. One day I'm eating fish and greens and fresh fruit, and the next it's pizza and chocolate. This has gotten worse in the last couple of months.

My hair texture has been becoming gradually tanglier for years now, but it was really done in by a hairdresser from early March who not only washed but soaked my hair in Paul Mitchell clarifying shampoo #3 for like 15 minutes, saying it would make it shinier and remove the buildup from our well water. It looked nice, but did NOT feel nice afterwards. The snags start almost right up at the scalp, vs before when the older part of the hair was snaggier.

I was hoping my natural oils and/or copious conditioning with my normal Loma or the Paul Mitchell treatment I got talked into buying would help bring my hair back to its less-knotty state. It hasn't. I can run my fingers through a section, or brush a section, an unlimited number of times, and it won't make the knottiness better at all. The next run-through will be fully as snaggy. It seems like my hairs have their cuticles permanently open and are grabbing onto the nearby hairs. This is not how it used to be in the before times.

I am open to any suggestions, dietary, shampoo/conditioner/treatments, shower water filter, or something else I haven't thought of. I will be more motivated to stick with ideas that have actually worked for someone here or someone they know, rather than theory. I would also prefer to help my natural hair texture improve rather than having to reapply goop all the time to make it seem better than it is.

This is actually bumming me out a lot. My hair was always considered my nicest feature, it's kind of been my security blanket my entire adult life, and this change is adding to my general anxiety and depression.
posted by nirblegee to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I cannot recommend Olaplex no 3 enough. My ends are a mess due mostly to dying, and I have slightly wavy unruly hair. This stuff just works. It makes your hair feel so soft and smooth and like you just came from a high high end salon.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 2:28 PM on April 29, 2020 [9 favorites]


My hair gets pretty wavy/curly when it is long and gets knotted pretty easily. So when I had my hair long I used L'oreal Kids Tangle Tamer to get the tangles out. It looks like they still make the stuff so that would be my recommendation.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:44 PM on April 29, 2020 [1 favorite]


I am African American so my hair different from yours but it does knot. Things I’ve found:
-look for conditioners with “slip” which allows us to detangle it easier. I’d try Kinky Curly Knot Today.
- Keep it moisturized. Use a bit of jojoba or sweet almond oil on it after washing.
- Avoiding letting it get tangled in the first place. After you detangle it, I’d dry it in a loose braid. The more you futz with it, the more tangly mine gets.
posted by Pretty Good Talker at 2:51 PM on April 29, 2020 [4 favorites]


I would ditch the shampoo and conditioner altogether and see if switching to New Wash (a 'shampoo alternative') helps. I have hair and water like yours, and was increasingly despairing at the knottiness and mix of coarseness and frizziness of my hair; I totally understand how it can affect your self-image and make you feel depressed! The second time I washed with New Wash I became a total zealot and now I tell everyone I know about it, it's that life-changing and I'm never going back (I even take it to the salon because I won't let them wash me with regular shampoo). It made me fall in love with my hair again and I swear I have the best hair of my life now. If you buy it make sure you get the scrubby brush in the Starter Kit.

I would also recommend using argan oil after you wash your hair; I use one pump of Moroccan Oil's The Treatment while my hair is wet, and then another pump each day afterwards until the next wash day, just combed through with my fingers. This particular product is my other holy grail product and I am stockpiling in case it ever gets discontinued.

And I would look into another shower filter, do a final rinse with cold water, and keep using silk/satin pillowcases!
posted by stellaluna at 2:58 PM on April 29, 2020 [2 favorites]


If a whole house water softener isn't an option, maybe try a showerhead filter? I used this brand for a few years and was really happy with it. I actually primarily used it because hard water was drying out my skin, but it made my hair quite a bit softer and shinier and less dry and frizzy.
posted by rachaelfaith at 3:08 PM on April 29, 2020


A shower head filter that removes the iron helped immeasurably with my curly, dry hair.
posted by fshgrl at 3:16 PM on April 29, 2020


It's possible that your problem is too much protein in your hair. It looks like the Paul Mitchell shampoo which exacerbated this issue has wheat protein, and Loma uses creatine and quinoa. Symptoms of too much protein include dry, brittle, straw-like hair that tangles easily. Here's a random link I found on google that goes deeper into it.

I'd try subbing out your go-to products with low protein ones for a while and see how it goes. Good luck!
posted by Behemoth, in no. 302-bis, with the Browning at 3:28 PM on April 29, 2020 [2 favorites]


Some people are adamantly opposed to silicon products, I don't know why. My hair is similar - thick, wavy, frizzes easily, coarse. I use a silicon-based shine product, it will have a main ingredient that has something-icone or -siloxane. I've used Fructis brand happily. Silicone serum makes each strand a bit slippery, reducing tangles. It also makes the hair cuticle/scales lay flat, making it shinier. I also use gel, making it possible for me to have long hair in Maine's humidity.
posted by theora55 at 4:10 PM on April 29, 2020


I asked a similar question, and as a result, using products with silicone and a chelating shampoo about once a month worked for me.
posted by Grandysaur at 4:51 PM on April 29, 2020 [1 favorite]


I have similar hair and similar problems. I’ve tried a lot of things, but the one thing that makes a huge difference is a water softener.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:06 PM on April 29, 2020 [1 favorite]


Oh I feel you. It's tough to troubleshoot for sure. I'm not sure if the iron content in your water is the problem? I've never considered that but sounds like a good theory? I definitely have had to experiment a lot with shampoos and conditioners--and change them up as my hair gets used to something. My hair also hates certain ingredients--shea butter for instance. You can feel it right away when it's not for your hair. My favorite shampoo and conditioner is Kerastase (expensive, kind of heavy on the perfumes, but makes it silky). I also like Oribe hair oil for extra conditioning since my hair gets frizzy. Also, as an aside, I don't use a microfiber towel--it makes my hair frizzy so I use a cotton tshirt (but I know that's not causing your issue).
posted by biscuits at 5:15 PM on April 29, 2020


You and I are around the same age, and like you, I have dark, wavy hair. Our water is also fairly hard. Like you, I found my hair texture changed for the worse in my mid 40s. Here are a few things that I noticed/were helpful:

-Perimenopause and hormones have affected my hair and made it drier and wavier. I need a lot more conditioner and I need to use products meant for dry hair.
-Because of perimenopause, I have low ferritin levels and I have to take an iron supplement. This has made my hair better. It was really bad when my ferritin was low—a dry, dull, tangled mess no matter what I did to it.
-It makes my hair drier if I don’t wash it *enough*. I wash and condition at least once every other day, and my usual routine is actually once a day. YMMV obviously, but I thought I’d mention it because the prevailing wisdom is that daily washing dries out your hair, and I don’t find that at all. My hair dries out, tangles, and looks and feels awful the longer I go between washes.
-I use a leave in oil (Davines’ Oi Oil Beautifying Potion) after every wash. It is one of the only things that restores my hair to anywhere close to its previous state. I love this stuff and it doesn’t weigh my hair down at all.
-I’m one of the people Behemoth mentioned who learned the hard way that my hair feels like straw with too much protein. I avoid shampoos, conditioners and styling/leave-in products with protein or protein-mimicking ingredients. They may have the word “protein” in there or they may not. I avoid anything that says “protein” but also anything that has keratin, silk, oat, collagen, soy, or hydrolyzed [something].

Good luck! I hope at least some of this is helpful!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:38 PM on April 29, 2020 [1 favorite]


I find my long, wavy hair has slightly changed texture post menopause; the hair shafts themselves are thinner and don't hold oil or stay hydrated like they used to when I was younger. Here are the things that have been helpful for me:

I keep my hair braided when I sleep. I spritz hydrate my hair and bind it for twenty minutes or so when it gets dry. I only shampoo every four days or so. I keep it bound up on my head until the last minute in the shower and minimize the amount of water and keep the temperature cool. I do a single wash of Fructus Honey Treasure, then comb the conditioner though, finish with the gel and Avocado mousse on the very ends, and leave it to air dry. If the ends get dry, I apply additional Avocado mousse with the hydrating spritz above.

It's taken about a year, but the combination of less shampooing and the Fructus products have really improved my hair and it tangles much less, the ends are so much better. The Fructus is a mild, inexpensive shampoo that never irritates my skin, and it's not made with some oxidizing oils like coconut or cocoa butter that, for me, smell good initially, then begin to stink to high heaven once they are on my body for a while.
posted by effluvia at 5:53 PM on April 29, 2020 [1 favorite]


My hair is not exactly like yours, but it does tangle easily. I use honest conditioning detangler, a leave-in conditioner spray. It makes a difference for me.
posted by medusa at 6:07 PM on April 29, 2020


I have curly hair and I use Suave Rosemary Mint Shampoo and Tresomme conditioner in the shower. Then I use the conditioner as a pomade to comb out my hair after the shower. Then I let it air dry.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:25 PM on April 29, 2020


I would also prefer to help my natural hair texture improve rather than having to reapply goop all the time to make it seem better than it is.

This isn't such a black-and-white situation. There are lots of natural hair "goop"s that do help your natural texture improve rather than trying to change it, the same way moisturizer might help your skin look its natural best without painting anything on top of it.

If your hair is getting tanglier with age, and even tanglier after a clarifying shampoo, that makes me think you're missing some natural oils. Your scalp gets less oily as your hormones change (just like teenagers get lots of oil and zits, old people's skin and scalps start to dry out), and clarifying shampoo strips lingering oils away. So, okay. You can add oils back. There's no shame in that any more than there is in using moisturizer.

I'm a 40-year-old white woman and I follow the same advice as Pretty Good Talker: a natural hair conditioner, some kind of leave-in goop with a bit of oil, and braid it up or put it under a bonnet while it dries. It doesn't leave my hair feeling artificial or like there's a lot of product in it, just brings back the nice texture I remember it having at its best.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:35 PM on April 29, 2020


2nding New Wash. It saved my hair from frizz hell--after Olaplex had done nothing for me. Definitely get their brush for your scalp. You can use the tangle teezer brush after that, which is a miracle product for knotted hair (always use it with New Wash or conditioner).

In fact, it works very nicely with Kinky Curly Knot Today, mentioned above, as a leave-in.

Seriously. Game. Changer.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 8:57 PM on April 29, 2020 [1 favorite]


Deep conditioning treatment + leave-in conditioner and/or anti-frizz hair serum. I’ve used a variety of deep conditioners - the best are Olaplex 3 and Bumble + Bumble overnight hair mask.

After washing and conditioning (rinse with as cold water as you can stand!), use a leave in conditioner. I let my hair air dry and it feels so soft after this treatment. Daily I use dry shampoo and either a dry oil spray, or sometimes curl cream to boost my waves.

Also I rarely brush my hair as this just gives me static and causes tangled. Instead, I use a wide-tooth comb in the shower and try to stick to fingers or a comb for product distribution.
posted by DoubleLune at 2:59 AM on April 30, 2020


I have the same hair (wavy, thick, brown) but not long. My solution to this is to shave it all off occasionally when it gets to be too much trouble.
posted by aniola at 12:32 PM on April 30, 2020


Try out the Devacurl low-poo Delight products and the curly girl method.
posted by woodvine at 12:52 PM on April 30, 2020


Just want to warn that the Devacurl products are now the subject of a class-action lawsuit that alleges hair loss and lots of other problems.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 9:25 PM on May 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


I wanted to follow up in case anyone looks at this thread again in the future.

I tried Olaplex. I'm now done with the whole container. It did not improve my texture one iota. It was expensive ($36 with shipping) and time-consuming, too. I read some more about it online and, long story short, it really seems it's designed for colored or bleached hair, which mine is not. I'd also like to point out that it's not a conditioner at all (it's referenced as a "deep conditioner" in these comments) and you still need to condition your hair after washing.

I'm going to try New Wash next. We're also getting an iron filter for the whole house (yay!)
posted by nirblegee at 11:38 PM on July 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


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