drunk elephant detangler

My Long Hair Was Impossible to Brush Through Until I Tried These Detanglers

When tangles and knots get to be too much, try using these products that smooth out your strands and help minimize the appearance of breakage.
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This story originally appeared on BHG.com.

I've pretty much always had long hair (except for one traumatic salon experience that left me with a short bob instead of the mid-length cut I requested). Once my hair grew back, I was determined to leave it long and resist the impulse to get it cut ever again. Since then, long hair has become my signature look. Because it takes so long to style, I usually wear it down with loose waves, so I only have to brush through my hair each morning without having to restyle it in between washes. Like so many others, I've let my hair grow out even more during quarantine, and I've noticed that the longer my hair gets the harder it is to detangle. Searching for a solution, I reached out to hairstylist Nunzio Saviano, founder of the Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City.

According to Nunzio, tangles can certainly be exacerbated if you are growing out your hair or are going a few extra months in between haircuts. "Because of the pandemic, salons were closed for a while and people stopped making salon visits. As a result, I'm seeing a lot of people coming in with long hair," Saviano says. "The longer your hair is, the drier it gets towards the mid-shafts to the ends of your hair. That dryness causes the hair cuticle to open, which is what causes the hair to tangle." Hair detanglers are a type of leave-in conditioner. They act as a quick fix that makes it easy to brush out tangles, especially when you are growing out your hair.

Hair texture and chemical treatments like hair color also contribute to tangles. "Curly hair is naturally drier, so it tangles easier. Similarly, highlighted hair tends to be drier than any other hair type, causing it to get more tangled as well," Saviano says. However, if you're noticing more tangles than usual (especially if it's been a while since your last haircut) it might be time for a trim. "Excess tangles are a sign of hair damage and breakage. Even just cutting off an inch or two can help get rid of that damaged hair," Saviano says.

No matter your hair type or texture, you should be using a detangler any time you are brushing through your hair, wet or dry. "When your hair is tangled, you can cause a lot of damage when you brush through it. Using a detangler will help prevent hair damage because it coats the open hair cuticle, filling in the gaps and making the hair feel less rough," Saviano says. When brushing through your hair, he recommends working your way from the bottom up. That way, you're not trying to get all of the tangles out at once and can work in more manageable sections.

Saviano advises using a brush that's strong enough to get through the tangles, but not too strong to where it snaps the hair. "If the bristles are too hard and stiff, it can easily cause breakage as you brush through the tangles," he says.

If you're prone to more serious tangles, try combing through your hair while you're in the shower.  Saviano recommends using a wide-tooth comb to gently pull through the hair while you are conditioning it. Then, after you're done showering you can towel dry your hair, apply a detangler, and brush it out the rest of the way. There will still be some tangles, but not nearly as many.

Sleeping can cause tangles, whether you go to bed with wet or dry hair. "If you sleep on your back, then the back of your hair is constantly on the pillow. That causes a lot of friction between the hair and the pillowcase, especially if it's cotton, so you wake up in the morning and your hair is really tangled in the back." To prevent those tangles, Saviano recommends using a silk pillowcase, because it won't cause as much friction. I love using this Slip Silk Pillowcase ($89, sephora.com); not only does it help prevent those morning tangles, but it also helps tame frizz and makes my hair so shiny.

Different hair textures may call for different types of detanglers. If you have fine, thin hair, try using a spray. "Sprays are a little bit easier to use because you can distribute it all over easier, so you don't have to use as much or worry about the product weighing down your hair," Saviano says. "If your hair is medium to thick, I would use a cream or a leave-in conditioner for the extra hydration." While detanglers are formulated with conditioning ingredients, they should never replace your daily conditioner because conditioners are formulated to penetrate the hair shaft and lock in moisture.

I love that in addition to smoothing out your strands, some hair detanglers also offer other hair benefits like heat protecting, adding shine, and priming your hair to make it easier to blow-dry. Below, shop my favorite hair detanglers that will make brushing through your locks a lot easier.

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Drunk Elephant Wild Marula Tangle Spray
Credit: Courtesy of Sephora


The superfine mist of this detangling spray does a fantastic job of detangling my hair, but it's also formulated with amino acids and nourishing plant oils that strengthen and smooth the hair, prevent frizz and static, and protect against heat damage. If you have fine, thin hair: this one's for you. The formula is lightweight and won't weigh your hair down. Plus, the spray contains sweet almond oil and almond extract that make your hair smell amazing!

Buy It: Drunk Elephant Wild Marula Tangle Spray ($25, sephora.com)

Odele Leave-In Conditioner
Credit: Courtesy of Target

Leave-in Conditioner

This leave-in is formulated with amino acids that reinforce and strengthen your hair, keeping it healthy over time. I love it because it hydrates my hair (which is wavy and tends to be on the dry side) and gives it enough slip to make detangling a breeze. It also provides much-needed frizz control and leaves my hair feeling soft and smooth. Because this product offers intense moisture, it's best for people with wavy or curly hair that's medium to thick texture.

Buy It: Odele Leave-In Conditioner ($12, target.com)

Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Hair Oil
Credit: Courtesy of Bumble and Bumble


With oils, sometimes I worry that my hair will look or feel greasy after I apply it. But this invisible hair oil was a game changer. It leaves my hair frizz-free and makes it so much easier to brush through my tangles after showering (and it doesn't leave behind any residue or make it look greasy at all). After towel-drying my hair, I apply the oil from the mid-shafts to the ends of my hair, using my fingers to comb it through. Because a little goes a long way with this product, I only have to use one pump at a time and the bottle lasts for several months.

Buy It: Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Hair Oil ($42, ulta.com)

Wet Brush Original Detangler Hair Brush
Credit: Courtesy of Walmart


This brush is the only brush I'll use when detangling my hair. The bristles are strong enough to get through the tangles in my thick, wavy hair, without ever causing damage. I notice that I don't have to pull or tug to get tangles out. Instead, I can gently brush through my hair and watch as the brush glides right through my tangles with minimal effort required.

Buy It: Wet Brush Original Detangler Hair Brush ($8, walmart.com)