hair tangles

How to (really) Deal with Tangles

Your tresses will be much better off after these seven tips.

While being an athlete does wonders on pretty much every other aspect of your body, working out can lead to even more terrible tangles. “The mineral salts in sweat introduce another textured medium into the hair that increases its tendency to tangle,” says Ryan Babbitt of Tsubo Salon in Chicago. Throw in a swim cap, chlorine, and the cumulative effects of the sun—all of which can dry out longer hair and increase the potential for tangling, too—and you can count on spending some serious QT with your hairbrush. 

Specific hair types are more prone to tangles, too. “Longer, fine hair allows for more intertwining. And coarser hair or hair that has been bleached may have more of an opportunity to hook onto other hairs, too,” says Babbit.

But there’s something you can do something about it:


Pull it up
Babbitt recommends using a ribbon tie to keep your hair off your body and knot-free while you sleep and while you sweat. “A braid may help keep hair tidy, but a single ponytail or bun with less weaving is probably likely to tangle hair less when you’re sleeping and working out. If the hair is long, keeping the ends completely off the body during a workout will reduce the sweat it soaks up. Headbands or something to absorb brow sweat might keep it from depositing into the hair, too.”
One to try: Idle hair ties

Condition while you work out
“Working a lightweight conditioner or smoothing product through the hair before exercising can definitely set you up for an easier time with tangles,” Babbit says. For swimmers, he recommends saturating the hair with unchlorinated water and conditioner before putting on a swim cap, which could keep hair from absorbing pool water.
One to try: Honest Conditioning Detangler

Comb your hair wet and brush it dry
Babbitt recommends using a wide-tooth comb in the shower when your hair is completely wet with some conditioner in it. Once the hair is dry, he opts for a brush that’s a combination of soft boar and nylon bristles. The soft boar hair smooths the cuticle while the longer firmer nylon bristle grabs tangles and coaxes them apart.
One to try: Handy Mixture Nylon & Boar Bristle Mason Pearson hair brush

Go low on the lathering
“Smoothing shampoos and conditioner or products for color-treated hair are more likely to contain ingredients that act as lubrication to resist tangling,” Babbit says. Get your hair very wet before shampooing and use as little shampoo, preferably low-lather, as possible, working it through the hair with longer, smoother motions rather than intense scrubbing.
One to try: DeVa Curl Loo-Poo Mild Lather Cleanser

Dry out with tourmaline or ceramic components
“Hair dryers with tourmaline or ceramic components introduce negative ions into the air flow that should help keep the hair cuticle down and lower resistance and friction while combing,” says Babbitt. “In general, it's best to work out tangles and knots before introducing any heat into the hair.” He says heat lifts the cuticle, which makes hair look clean and fluffy but can exacerbate tangling.
One to try: Solano Supersolano hair dryer

Catch zzz’s on a silk pillowcase
“Because silk fibers are smoother and finer than other fabrics, it’ll roughen your hair less than other fibers like cotton or polyester,” Babbitt says.
One to try: Slip silk pillowcase

Detangle with a de-frizzer
“Products for frizz, smoothing, and heat protection generally contain ingredients that coat and soften the hair surface, making brushing and combing more fluid. A lightweight product with oils like coconut or shea and water-soluble silicones (which increase the hair's slip) is what to look for. A spray may be best for those with specific problem areas, but even thicker products should disperse easily through wet hair,” Babbitt says.
One to try: L’anza Healing Strength Neem Plant Silk Serum