goodbye, fine-toothed comb. hello. . . ?
By now, we know that the fine-toothed combs of yore are just about the worst detangling tool on the planet for textured or tightly-curled hair. Their abundance of tightly-packed teeth scratch at the surface of your tresses and even force hairs too close together, creating damaging friction between your own strands. What's more, their dense line of spiky teeth are also prone to snagging and pulling hairs – all of which causes mega breakage.
But what are the alternatives? The wide tooth comb has, for a couple of decades now, been presented as the ideal detangling tool for thick or curly hair. On many a curl-centric or long hair website, it's all about finger-detangling. Elsewhere, the focus is firmly on brushes, particularly those with rubber or silicone tips.
Soooo. . . which one is it? It all depends on your own unique head of hair. But to make it all a little easier, here's a look at the finer points of the top methods so you can pick the tool that suits your hair best.
Finger-detangling: does it really work?
The very idea of it may raise an eyebrow or two, but finger-detangling does work, and it comes with its own very unique rewards. Working tangles apart, knot by knot and mat by mat, means you can detangle your hair very thoroughly.
Using your fingers also means you can vary and control the intensity of detangling effort – something which is nigh on impossible to do with a comb or a brush. This allows you to concentrate the effort and force where it's needed, avoiding unnecessary strain on other strands. The close-up nature of detangling with your fingers also means you can sense more quickly when your hair might be about to break – and ease up the pressure accordingly.
The downside, as hinted above, is that the thicker your hair, or the more complex your tangles, the more time-consuming finger-detangling will be. Working in tiny sections is mandatory to reap the benefits of this super-meticulous detangling method. On thicker or more tangly hair, this necessarily means a maximum input of time and effort. If your hair fits either description then be prepared; you will need a lot of patience to try this method. It can take several hours on the most tangle-prone hair, making it a far from practical solution for some.
If you give finger-detangling a go and find it's not quite right for your hair, then remember you can use it in combination with other methods; it's great as a predetangler to gently separate mats before working through them with a comb or a brush. This minimises the required amount of force and time –and thus damage – when you follow up with your tool of choice.
Verdict: Best for thin, less dense hair or less tangle-prone hair. Can work for all hair types in combination with a brush or comb.
is a wide tooth comb gentle enough for my hair?
The great thing about wide tooth combs is that the lower number of teeth and the greater distance between them means a BIG reduction in damaging friction for your hair. What's more, their larger size means you can get through bigger sections of hair at once, finishing your detangling in record time.
The flipside, however, is that the big spaces can miss smaller tangles. For really dense or tangle- prone hair, this can mean that as the comb is sailing through, you might think that you're getting all the tangles out, but the little ones remain and even form locks over time. That's why many people with more tangle-prone hair use wide-tooth combs to get the main tangles out, then follow up with a brush or their fingers to remove the less subtle knots that slip between the big comb's teeth.
Interestingly enough, some hair types do not respond well to combs of any type – including those with smooth, generously-spaced teeth. For some, combing leaves the hair frazzled and uncooperative for days or even weeks after, as the separation of each cluster of curls breaks up the hair's regular pattern, leaving individual strands out of sync and vulnerable to moisture loss.
In other cases, the reverb that results from pulling a comb through the hair can cause the curliest of curls to spring back on themselves and retangle, making the entire detangling process even more time-consuming and stressful – for you and your hair.
Verdict: For low to moderate tangling, on fine to thick hair. Can be used as a predetangler to make way for a second tool on all hair types. Should not be used on “comb sensitive” hair.
the denman brush: made for textured hair?
These classic brushes are one of the most effective detangling tools on the market, hands down. The long bristles on the D4 model – made of silicone for minimised friction – make it a great tool for thick or curly hair as they can easily get down to the inner reaches.
Nonetheless, Denman detangling does have its downsides. One disadvantage some have noted is that the D4 can pull out a higher amount of hair than is usual with other tools. Sometimes, this is due to the removal of shed hair, which less thorough tools can miss.
Other times, however, the design can be a little too effective, so it's best to use it in ways that minimise pulling: detangle gently in small sections, tips to root and not too frequently – 1-2 a week max. And not all Denmans are created equal: pick up the D4 to get the results that have made Denman the go-to brush in the curly world.
Verdict: For medium to thick or super tangle-prone hair. Use gently – can pull hair if used incorrectly.
paddle brushes: gentle detangling for fragile hair
This is one of the gentlest methods, provided you choose a good quality brush. The broad base of the brush dissipates force so that your hair is not exposed to the full strain of each stroke. The best ones feature smooth, extended, bobble-free bristles, arranged in a concentric pattern that allows the brush to work its way through several layers of hair at once.
Still, even the most extended paddle brush bristles are not as long as the Denman D4's, so to get to all the tangles you will have to break the hair up into smaller segments, unless you have thin hair. This kind of brush tends to glide through tangles, given the right serving size, so the fast work makes up for the additional number of sections.
If you are not the gentlest brusher around, but have a sensitive scalp and delicate hair, the paddle brush is for you. It's far less prone to pulling the hair than narrower brushes, making it ultra-gentle for both scalp and hair.
Now for the bad part: Paddle brushes are notorious for randomly losing bristles, and once the first one pops, the rest are soon to follow. If you're a fan of detangling in the shower, there's even more bad news: the wooden base and rubber cushion design of many a high-end paddle brush will not hold up well to being soaked in conditioner and drenched under a showerhead.
Excessive exposure to moisture causes the wood to swell and erode, and the rubber to become brittle and crack very easily. With all that said, given the shorter comparative life of this particular tool, the high price point of the top-quality paddle brushes is yet another detractor.
Verdict: For all hair types. Not suitable for wet detangling.
Nico Cavallotto | Doralis Mesa | EternallyInAmber | Nicki Mannix | Rashida S Mar B
DHA Hair Care Experts