How To Deal With Your Kid’s Tangled Hair

by Gigi Ross on January 8, 2014

tangled hair

Back in November, I wrote a post called My Kingdom for a Hairbrush: Why Won’t She Brush Her Hair? in which I recounted my daughter’s tangled hair and her refusal to brush it. Like, ever. Part of why she doesn’t brush it is because it’s always tangled and it hurts. And it won’t be untangled until she brushes it. And the vicious cycle continues.

I was surprised at how many other moms responded to this post via comments or on Facebook. I’m not alone in this struggle, apparently!

And the really  nice thing was that many of the moms gave me some wonderful suggestions to try to make the hair-brushing battle a little less intense. I thought it would be great to share some of these ideas with my readers, too!

Put them in pigtails.  Keeping hair secured back during the day can help minimize tangles and make hair-brushing time a bit less stressful for everyone. Not always easy to require a tween to wear pigtails, though.

Braid it wet. One tip that worked for a lot of moms was washing their kids’ hair at night, gently combing out the tangles, and braiding it while still wet, and letting the child sleep on the braids and wear them until the next bath or shower.  It’s hard for hair to get more tangled when it’s braided up!

Get a no-tangle brush. Some moms swear by these; we’ve had only limited success with the types we’ve tried. The three brushes I’ve seen for snarls and tangles are the Tangle Teezer, The Ultimate Detangling Brush and the Knot Genie. We’ve tried the first two. The Tangle Teezer definitely worked much better than the The Ultimate Detangling Brush. The Tangle Teezer seems to do much better on wet hair than on dry. We haven’t checked out the Knot Genie. I *do* think having your kid involved in picking the brush out will make it more likely they’ll actually use it!

Use a detangling spray or leave-in conditioner. We’ve tried several different sprays. The one that works best for us so far is REALLY expensive. It’s called It’s A 10 Miracle Leave-In Product. It really smooths out the tangles better than anything we’ve used, so it’s worth the money to save the tears. However, other moms suggested HealthySexyHair’s Soy Tri-Wheat Leave in Conditioner or Johnson’s No More Tangles Spray. Again, these seem to be most effective on wet hair, not dry.

Use conditioner when washing hair.  In addition to putting a leave-in product in Little CEO’s hair, she always uses conditioner on her hair after shampooing in the shower. It makes bathtime a little longer, but combining the two conditioners seems to really help.

Keep hair trimmed. Split ends can make tangles worse, so regular trims can go a long way toward helping minimize those tangles.

Try using argan oil. Putting a little Moroccan or argan oil on hair can smooth out tangles as well. If using dry hair, you’ll want to use a wet comb to help it get through the snarls.

Cut it short. Several moms couldn’t handle the daily battle over hair-brushing and tangles, so they simply got their children’s hair cut in a cute pixie cut or shorter bob. This is probably easier to do on a younger child than a tween. I can’t imagine my daughter sitting still for a forced haircut!

Threaten to cut it short. Sometimes, the looming threat of losing her lusciously long locks is enough for a child to do more consistent hair brushing. I’ve threatened a short haircut a few times, with sporadic success. It usually helps Little CEO straighten up and fly right for 2 to 3 days, but then we’re back at square one. The problem with threats (in my opinion) is that they’re only powerful if you’re willing to follow through. But I think it depends on the child. If they have a people pleasing personality, a threat might be effective. (My kid is not a people pleaser).

Any other ideas I’ve missed? I still need to try several of these myself!



Sili January 8, 2014 at 6:47 am

Oh Gigi! This post made me smile. Not because I wish tangled messes upon your tresses but because as you know, my child has a ridiculous amount of hair and in 3 curl types. There was a day when I actually thought about just running away but then figured if I did and came back later, her hair would still be the same.

If Little CEO’s hair is tangled, don’t detangle it while dry. Do it in the shower with some conditioner. You have great thoughts and ideas here already. Maybe also put her hair in protective styles during the day so that it doesn’t get tangled. I don’t leave the frog princess’s hair out anymore because of that.

Hope that helps and keep me posted. Also, if you ever get tired of it, send her my way. I’d love to do a hair exchange program ;-).

Gigi Ross January 8, 2014 at 8:25 pm

We do detangle when wet…the problem is in the morning, or on the off days when she doesn’t shower. the intervening 24 hours means the hair is a gnarled mess and I hate making her shower and dry out her skin every day when she’s only 8 and has the rest of her life to shower every day, you know?! :)

heather January 8, 2014 at 8:36 am

We tried the tangle teezer on my daughter’s ridiculously thick & curly hair, it worked ok but she still complained that it hurt when she brushed it. What has really worked is getting shampoo, conditioner & leave-in conditioner for her hair type. We also switched to “The Wet Brush” which is amazing!

Gigi Ross January 8, 2014 at 8:39 am

is wet brush a product, or do you mean that you only brush her hair when it’s wet? Curious! We always brush it when wet, but then she sleeps on it, and in the morning it’s a tangled mess AGAIN….

Gigi Ross January 8, 2014 at 8:25 pm

I need to try the Wet Brush! I bought a cheaper leave in conditioner today and it did not work at all…for now I am sticking with the pricey It’s a 10.

AJ Collins January 8, 2014 at 10:12 am

So wait… you are saying the years of just saying {what my mother said to me} “It hurts to be beautiful” doesn’t cut it? Shoot. My little princess used to scream… now she’s 8 and we have discovered that ample conditioner and threats that we will cut it all off seem to keep her brushing her own hair a few times a day… and she rarely cries (*though there are days I will walk by the bathroom and she’ll be crying as she brushes her own hair… it’s a little sad….)

Gigi Ross January 8, 2014 at 8:23 pm

You’re doing much better with your 8 yo than I am with mine. Threats didn’t work, and conditioner works at night but in the morning it’s a mess again…sigh…

Trish January 8, 2014 at 1:16 pm

How did you know we are in tears every night over tangles?! The littlest one escapes this particular drama because she’s the only one willing to rock a pixie cut. The tween is insisting her hair should be longer and the middle girl does nothing but cry and shout “NO!” when we discuss cutting her hair.

Gigi Ross January 8, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Sounds just like my house. My husband is the only one allowed to touch my daughter’s head because Mean Mommy is way too rough. I keep telling her if she brushed it twice a day, the tangles wouldn’t be bad, but…that doesn’t help!

Katy @ Experienced Bad Mom January 8, 2014 at 6:04 pm

I like the wet braiding tip. Gonna try that tonight! We also like “The Wet Brush”. Our stylist recommended it and sells it at our salon for $10. I may try the Knot Genie one day, too.

Gigi Ross January 8, 2014 at 8:22 pm

A few people have mentioned the Wet Brush…need to check that out myself!

Lisa @ Je suis alimentageuse January 8, 2014 at 7:44 pm

I’m not a mom or a kid, but I have really long hair that gets knots in it all the time from the wind/life/whatever. The best way to get knots out without pulling out clumps of hair is to brush it when its dry, in small sections at a time, brushing from the bottom and working the way up. That way any knots that occur higher up in the hair don’t get pushed down to create a giant knot of doom at the bottom =)

I also brush my hair in the shower with conditioner (with the same sort of technique) and it acts kind of as a hair lubricant/de-tangler =)

Stephanie January 24, 2014 at 11:47 pm

So glad to read I am not alone in the hair battle of an 8 yr old with curly hair. Like all of you we brush only when wet, dry brushing leads to frizz ball and massive hair. Currently we use the knot Genie which has been a life saver for the last 2 years. Still some tears when extremely bad, but has cut the battle in half if not more. Our detangler, spray in, is
Mizani D’tangle. It’s on the spendy side, more than I would like to spend but worth it. They have a whole line, but I just haven’t brought myself to spend that much on the whole line up. Courius about learning more about the wet brush.

Alexi March 8, 2014 at 11:00 am

We have found showers to be more effective than baths. In a bath, hair seems to tangle in the washing process. In the shower, our 7 year old combs her fingers through her hair after applying conditioner. Then she washes her body while the conditioner sits on her hair. She rinses by putting the very top if her hair in the water first then slowly working down to rinse the tips. Her hair reaches midway down her toosh, so it’s pretty long. We give it a quick brushing while it’s wet, then use Moroccan oil and brush again when it’s nearly dry.

Gigi March 9, 2014 at 9:07 pm

My daughter had a full head of hair when she was born and never lost it. It’s very thick and a bit wavy. I don’t wash her hair every day. We have used the knot genie for quite a few years and love it!!! I even bought one for friends. I do use good shampoo on her hair now that she is 8, usually whatever I use (Goldwell, Redken, Pureology) I always use a separate conditioner. The two-in-one do not work. I comb through her hair with the conditioner with the knot genie first and then wide tooth comb in the shower and use Moroccan Oil before I blow dry. (Never go to bed with it wet or she winds up with a matted) Whew! Sounds like a lot but its not. There are no tears and no struggling to brush. It goes in a loose pony tail or braid at night. :)

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