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Detangling Debate: Before or After Co-Washing?


I’ve never been what you would call the gentlest of detanglers – in my teen years, raking a pik through my strands sufficed enough to get the job done (and prior to that, my good old friend the boar bristle brush was the tool du jour). For the past few years, I’ve been strictly a finger detangler – attempting to gently extract any knots or tangles with patience and care (which doesn’t always happen, particularly if I grow impatient. I know, I know – it’s something I’m working on). In the past few months, I’ve been researching different hair care methods, with a particular interest in Fran from Hey Fran Hey. Fran uses coconut oil to finger detangle while her hair is dry, prior to shampooing/co-washing/deep conditioning, etc. Science tells us that hair is weaker when it’s wet, and therefore more prone to damage and breakage (check out this discussion and comparison); with this in mind, I decided to try adopting Fran’s method of detangling on my dry strands prior to any conditioning treatment. I tried this for about 2 months before I realized something significant: my hair was not loving this process. Although the coconut oil treatment is wonderful in theory, and can be very beneficial for my strands when left in overnight, what was usually happening was a hasty, somewhat painful detangling session peppered with a few snips from my hair shears to get rid of fairy knots. I was starting to notice some more breakage in my hair, along with some fairly gnarly split ends. As my routine hadn’t changed too drastically from before, I had to attribute these new annoyances to finger detangling when dry.


This is all a very long way of saying that, having tried detangling on dry hair, I’ve switched back to doing this task on wet, super conditioner-laden strands. My hair loves the slip and extra moisture when I’m combing through with my fingers; knots are easier to unwind, and I’m overall gentler with my hair in this state because it doesn’t resist as strongly as when it’s dry. Hopefully this little experimentation will aid in my hair length goals!




  1. ashley adams

    I also detangle while wet with conditioner. I use a brush though but I have tried the finger method, just takes longer. I find air dry also makes it less frizzy. Instead of a blow-dry, I lean over and ‘headbang’ in circles for a bit to fluff it up. The majority of the time I don’t put anything in it because I just don’t flippin care, but when I do its either herbal essence mousse or Schwarzkop stuff. I recommend trying Schwarzkopf. They have a cream. Glad we can share techniques!

    • Do you leave conditioner in your hair? I find that when I don’t, it goes into a giant puffball. And YES I love sharing techniques!!

      • Ashley

        nah not really. makes it too flat and greasy. my fav is just to go au naturel !
        I usually just don’t put anything in it, brush it straight out of the shower, shake it off and head bang upside down, then when its dry i put some body lotion on the ends.
        lol the weird strategies we have for curly hair.

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