Take a targeted approach when removing stubborn notes.

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Tangled hair is no fun. Strands are often painful to untangle if you don't approach the process the right way. According to Kérastase educator Vernon Francois, hair becomes tangled when the strands knot and become hard to separate; this can happen for a number of reasons, from lack of moisture and too much product to friction. So, what can you do? First and foremost, don't panic and pull—that will only make matters worse. Instead, take a targeted approach, one that takes your hair's current status (wet or dry) and type (straight, wavy, or coily-curly) in mind. Ahead, Francois and Bumble and bumble stylist Bianca Garcia to give us their tips on how to safely and gently untangle those knots once and for all, whether you're starting with out-of-the-shower hair or bed head.

close up of woman combing wet hair
Credit: Sol de Zuasnabar Brebbia / Getty Images

Straight Hair

On wet straight hair, Garcia likes to begin with a primer, like Bumble and bumble's Tonic Primer ($26, sephora.com), which she applies on towel-dried; this helps soften strands and makes them easier to maneuver. She then goes in with a Wet Brush ($6.99, target.com), working upwards from the bottom to the top to loosen those knots. As for when straight hair is dry, but knotty? Use a brush with strong bristles, say Garcia. She recommends something like a paddle or nylon bristle tool. Again, start at the ends and gently brush upwards. If the knots are truly unmanageable, try spraying on some primer to loosen them.

Wavy Hair

Those with wavy hair can take the above approach when strands are wet, says Garcia; just keep in mind that if your hair is wavy and thick, the process may be more arduous. The reason? Thin hair often has tiny tangles that a brush can easily pass right through—thick hair, on the other hand, will require gentler, more focused brushing to untangle. Francois, who actually prefers detangling all hair types while dry, says those with wavy hair should first divide it into sections (this might be two, four, six, or even eight sections, depending on how much hair you have). Next, use the palm of one hand as a base and the fingers of the other hand to gently massage tangles out. Stop when you feel a knot, he say, and continue using your fingertips, massaging it until it separates.

Naturally Curly or Coily Hair

For textured, curly, and coily hair, a moisture-rich conditioner, like Bumble and bumble's Bb. Curl 3-in-1 Conditioner ($34, ulta.com), is a must; massage it onto your tangles while you shower, says Garcia. She calls this a "pre-detangle," which will help the official detangling process along post-wash, when you go in with a comb or brush. Francois notes that beginning with a hydrating shampoo, like the Kérastase Curl Manifesto Bain Hydration Douceur ($35, sephora.com), can't hurt; lather it up using downward motions to help loosen tangles. Once you're out of the shower, Francois suggests using a microfiber towel to gently squeeze excess water out of curls and minimize more tangling; apply a primer at the ends before sectioning hair off. Next, go in with a wide-tooth comb and work your way up. Garcia says to keep a water spray bottle close by, in the event that your sections begin to dry before you get. to them.

As for detangling dry curly hair? This is where personal preference comes in. Garcia doesn't recommend attempting this; natural curls, she says, are already drier by nature and pulling at them may cause damage. She says that if you do choose to detangle dry curls, proceed carefully. For 2c to 3c type curls, she recommends using a soft bristle brush; for coils that are type 4 or curlier, she says to use the wet method only. Conversely, Francois says working through knots when curly hair is dry is safer. "Hair swells when it is wet and the outside layer, which is called the cuticle, becomes even more fragile," he says. He likes to gently separate curly strands while they are dry, breaking up difficult areas with hair serum, and brushing everything through with a wide-tooth comb.

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