Matted hair is the combination of attached and shed hairs entwined in clumps or web-like tangles. They are more severe than regular tangles.
How does it happen?
Matted hair occurs when it has not been combed to remove shed hairs. Loose hairs can knot several times around attached hair, create a tangle, and lead to matting if not removed. Some people are just prone to knotting while other may be suffering from a damaged hair cuticle, causing more friction from the lifted cuticles.
Does it have to be cut out?
No, matted hair can be successfully detangled without cutting the hair. It takes patience, work, and the right tools, but it can be accomplished and end up saving your strands and your nerves from being shot.
How to detangle it
While some may decide to seek a professional (hair stylist) to fix their matted hair, it can be done at home with a few tools and some serious patience.
STEP 1: DAMPEN HAIR
Dampen your hair with a spray bottle of water, or briefly holding it under a shower or sink at low water pressure. Most hair treatments are meant to be applied to damp hair, but if you let the hair become dripping wet, it may be more susceptible to breakage.
STEP 2: LOOSEN
Loosen the matted strands by saturating hair with a good detangler, oil, or moisturizing conditioner but never a shampoo and water only. This is not the time to skimp so really saturate it. Deep conditioners are great at restoring moisture to your hair and making them easier to untangle, while detangling conditioners are meant specifically to add more slip to your hair.
Coconut oil, olive oil, or Moroccan argan oil can be used instead, and may be especially useful for textured hair. If you dislike the feel of oil in your hair, you can try a hair detangling spray.
If using ordinary conditioner, it will finish moisturizing your hair within a few minutes. Coconut oil and similar oils should be left in for at least 30 minutes for maximum effect, but no longer than 2 hours.Deep conditioners vary as shown on the packaging instructions, but are typically left in for at least an hour, and may be left in overnight for extreme cases.
STEP 3: PULL APART THE EASIEST KNOTS WITH YOUR FINGERS
Once the hair treatment has had time to take effect, attempt to gently pull apart the tangled sections of your hair. Small knots or loose mats can sometimes be pulled into smaller, separate tangles from the root side of the knot, nearer to your scalp.
STEP 4: COMBING
A comb with sturdy, widely spaced teeth is essential for combing out severe tangles. Fine combs and brushes are likely to meet too much resistance, forcing you to either pull out clumps of hair, or stop brushing.
Always comb tangled hair starting near the ends. Place the comb a few inches (several centimeters) from the end of the tangled hair, and brush downward. Repeat until that section of hair is free of tangles, then move the comb slightly higher up. Repeat until the entire length of your hair is combed. For long or thick, severely matted hair, this may take an hour or more.
If you have a sensitive scalp, hold a section of your hair as you brush it. Grasp a portion of hair about the thickness of a marker or glue stick between your fingers, and give it a half-twist to keep the comb from pulling directly on your scalp. Comb this portion of hair beneath your hand, moving your grip higher once the hair below it is successfully untangled.
If a mat of hair refuses to come apart despite all your efforts, you may need to thin it out. Open a pair of scissors and hold your hair tight with your other hand. Run the bottom blade of the scissors along the underside of the mat, then gently tug at your hair to remove loose strands.
Use a wide-toothed comb until the severe mats and tangles have been straightened out. Switch to a fine-toothed comb or a brush to remove any small knots that may remain.
There will be significant shedding so do not panic and remember we lose on average 100 hairs a day, and since the hair is matted those shed hairs are locked in and need removal.
STEP 5: RINSE OUT YOUR HAIR
Rinse out any hair treatments completely once your hair is untangled. If you have tightly coiled hair, and the severe mats have separated enough to allow you to part your hair, clip each section of hair to keep them separate, and rinse one at a time.
HOW TO KEEP HAIR FROM MATTING:
- Do detangle regularly to decrease the chances of it occurring, especially if you are prone to matting
- Do not put off detangling, as it may turn into a more tedious and damaging detangling session or matting
- Do regular protein treatments to fill the gaps in damaged cuticles, as this will decrease friction, tangles, and matting
- Do not keep extensions in any longer than advised