Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Knots in Individual Hair Strands

Q: Hi. I am 40 years old. I have very curly shoulder length virgin hair and would like to grow it to waist-length. For the past year and a half, I have followed a conditioner-wash only routine, don't blow-dry/hot iron and use a pick only. This routine has prevented split ends, but I can't seem to avoid knots in individual strands. Do you have any advice?
A: First let me applaud your determination. Few women with your hair type have the perseverance or discipline needed to stick to the routine you follow. Don't fret too much over the knotting, though. I'm sure it's not something you are doing. Due to the way curly hair grows, and the fact that the individual hairs curl more as you travel down the length of the shaft, the hair is prone to knotting. There are a few things I can recommend which should help.
The first thing to check is the techniques you use to shampoo, condition, and towel-dry the hair. When shampooing or applying the rinse-through conditioner, you should apply the product by placing a small amount into the palm of the hand and spread it between both hands, then passing the hands and fingers through your wet hair. Work the shampoo into lather by using small, circular massaging motions at the scalp and using the fingers to comb the shampoo through the hair to the ends as needed. (Note: Unless you have a particularly oil scalp, or often expose your hair to a lot of environmental soiling, you don't have to shampoo every day.)
Conditioner should be applied using a similar method, except you want to work from the ends of the hair upward. Just remember to avoid roughing the hair too vigorously when it is wet. Curly hair particularly becomes prone to tangling and knotting in the shampoo/conditioning process unless it is treated with care.
When toweling the hair dry, be sure never to "rub" the hair with the towel. Use the towel instead to blot the hair at the scalp, and then squeeze the lengths of the hair in the towel to remove the excess moisture. You can also opt to simply wrap the hair in a towel in turban fashion and let the excess moisture be wicked away while you continue your dressing routine.
You may need to try a different shampoo and conditioner formula. I recommend looking for a formula specifically geared to give "smooth and silky" hair. These formulas help to smooth down the cuticle layer of the hair shaft and will help the hairs to slide off of one another. When the hair is properly cleaned and conditioned, the strands are smooth and less likely to knot.
You should also be using a spray-on, leave-in conditioner/detangler as well as your rinse-through conditioner after shampooing. This product helps to add more moisture protection, as well as lightly coating the hair with essential oils to help further smooth the cuticle layer. The leave-in conditioner should be applied to the hair after it is towel-dried.
Another product to add to the hair care regimen is a smoothing serum. There are many brands to choose from. For best results with this product, you should apply it to your wet hair before towel-drying and use a wide-tooth comb or pick to distribute it evenly.
Just remember to be gentle with your hair and add a few products to help you smooth your hair's cuticle and you should see much more satisfying results.
Related post: How to minimize post-shampoo detangling