Monday, June 21, 2010

Type 4 Series: Knots and Tangles

This is a series on how to style and manage type 4 hair healthily. It doesn't matter whether you are natural, transitioning, or stretching relaxers.

Today's topic: Combatting knots and tangles.

Here are previous posts addressing knots and tangles in natural hair of any type (2, 3, 4, etc.):
Knots ... Be Gone!
When You Get a Knot

I recommend reading them first.

Tight coils, little to no curl pattern, and major shrinkage make type 4 hair a conducive environment for knots and tangles. Imagine tossing several tightly coiled wires into a bag haphazardly.  Now imagine removing these wires one by one from the bag. Knots and tangles galore, right? A similar event can occur in type 4 natural hair that is left loose, wild, and shrunken.

The basics to minimizing knots & tangles
Protective style frequently. Detangle thoroughly and regularly. Keep the hair moisturized. (For more details on the basics, read the earlier mentioned posts.) Tips: Use a wide tooth comb first then follow up with a medium tooth comb or a gentle paddle brush. Refrain from wearing wash-n-gos after passing 6-8 inches in length.

Further prevention ... Wash in braids
Washing loose hair is discouraged. (Think back to the bag full of tightly coiled wires.)  Instead, wash your hair in braided sections to minimize tangling. About washing in twists: Twists, unless done small or medium, tend to unravel during a wash. Thus, braids may be a better option.

Continuing on ... Short-term stretched styles
If you want to wear your hair out, stretched styles (i.e., twist outs, braid outs) are by far the best method.  However, allowing such styles to age beyond their limit leaves room for shrinkage and tangling.  Keep the style wear to a minimum.  Note: The higher the humidity, the shorter the wear. The longer your hair, the shorter the wear.

Speaking of stretching ... Use a thick, heavy detangler
During your regular detangling sessions, use a cholesterol-based or other thick, heavy conditioner to ease the process.  The conditioner will add weight to the hair thus stretching the coils temporarily. Alternative: Some type 4's prefer detangling on dry, stretched, lubricated hair since wet strands equate to shrinkage.

Do not wet the knot
In the event that you do get a knot, the worst thing you can do is apply water. Why? Because it will shrink the hair and make the knot harder to unravel. Instead, apply an oil or butter and gradually pull out each strand from the knot one by oneAlternative: Some type 4's have success applying conditioner to a knot while others do not. Do what works for you.  Depending on how serious the knot is, a thin tool - such as the end of a rattail comb - may be used to undo the knot. Refrain from using sharp tools, like needles or safety pins, which may damage the cuticle.


Jc said...

Definitely agree with everything here. Really valuable stuff! The longer hair gets, the more the knots. I saw an interesting concept,I think it was on Mwedzi's fotki. It was discussing a method where loose hair must be dry and wet hair must be braided. It was a pretty good rule that I stick to.

I also do agree, knotting is worse on hair worn loose for several days.

I'm quite scissor happy so I don't mind snipping off the knots and loosing the length. I do think for those trying to grow longer hair, it is a definite must to try and wear hair twisted or braided and tucked away

CallaLily said...

Great post. Love the metaphor used in the beginning.

NappyRina said...

Excellent tips here Looh! I've read or discovered most of these tips already but you are the 1st person I've heard mention the wisdom in shortening the amount of days in "out" stretched's true, the hair does shrink as the days progress which defeats the purpose of having a stretched protective style and encourages knots & tangles.

Do you think it matters if the person puts their loose hair in med-large braids or twists nightly to prevent daily shrinkage/tangling? I would think the finger-detangling & smoothing needed to re-braid/twist might help hmmm....

Loo said...

@Jc: Thanks! I like that motto: "loose hair must be dry and wet hair must be braided". Short, sweet, and true!

@CallaLily: Thanks! ;o)

@NappyRina: Thanks! Yes, that reality isn't addressed as much as it should be - that stretched hair can become a bed for knots and tangles.

Does it matter if the person puts their loose hair in med-large braids or twists nightly to prevent daily shrinkage/tangling? This is a good idea and it can delay the onset of gradual shrinkage/tangling. However, if one experiences daily humidity or rain, it may be better to just protective style rather than risk over-manipulation.

Hair I Am said...

I tried washing my hair in chunky twists for the first time and it worked like a charm! Detangling was so much easier and I didn't lose as much hair. Thanks for the great tip!

Loo said...

@Hair_I_Am: I'm so glad it worked out well for you! You're welcome!

Kadiane said...

You can keep you small twists in for 3 weeks before you unravel, as long as you stretch them after each wash to prevent them form shinking. shrinkage=knots. You can either roller set them OR cornrow them. I suggest you use a little bit of gel except from the week you are planning to unravel. The importance is to avoid shrinkage especially the day you have to unravel.