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Reader Q&A: CurlyNikki on the Best Tools for Detangling Natural Hair

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Calling all naturalistas: Do you have urgent tress questions? If so, you're in luck. Every Thursday, natural hair blogger extraordinaire CurlyNikki will be solving your curly hair conundrums! Submit your questions by tweeting them to @EssenceOnline with the hashtag #AskCurlyNikki.

Check out the newest installment in CurlyNikki's reader Q&A series: 

READER QUESTION:
I have a question about hair detangling and curl definition. I dislike the Tangle Teezer and Denman Brush due to them both ripping and breaking off my hair (4a/4b/4c). However, I loved the curl definition they both offered. Are there any other tools out there that can give me curl definition without the breakage? --Leeza


CURLYNIKKI'S RESPONSE: Them 10 digits! I've used everything from the Tangle Teezer to the K Cutter, but always come back to finger detangling. It's much, much more time consuming, but totally worth the effort. And although I don't wash and go anymore, trust that finger styling will lend itself to some amazing definition.

I notice that when I ditch all the tools, I retain length and enjoy much-welcomed volume. My ends never look as good as they do when I've been finger detangling for a few months. But time constraints and Baby G often leads to amnesia and I find myself back in the grips of "the next best detangling tool." 

The Denman, aka Shredder, wasn't the best detangler, but left me with the most gorgeous clumpy curls. Unfortunately, it also left my already fine hair feeling even more sparse. After a few months of regular detangling and styling use, I experienced a for-real setback.

The Tangle Teezer detangles like a friggin' dream. It's quick, doesn't pull out a ton of hair and gives your dry hair the look of a blow-out. All good, right? No. After a few weeks of use, I noticed my ends looked like I'd sent them through a paper shredder. It tortured my fine strands and again, I experienced a setback.

I'm not a fan of the wide-tooth combs or paddle brushes. Every few months, I get the notion and impulsively pick one up while on a field trip to the Beauty Supply... but the affair never lasts long. Wide-tooth combs feel woefully ineffective, both during the process and after when I discover rogue mats and tangles. Also, I got zero definition from wide-tooth combs, just frizzy, piece-y curls. Paddle brushes, like the Denman, give great clumpage, but harshly pull through the hair, which of course leads to damage in the long run. I do still like and use the Ouidad Double Detangler. I don't use it often, but if I had to recommend one tool, that'd be it. It provides no help in the definition department but is great at effective, gentle detangling.

Which brings us back to finger styling: It rocks. It's time consuming... but it rocks. It'll take a little practice (and a crap load of patience) to master the technique of detangling solely with your fingers, but you'll enjoy a much happier head of hair. I do it in small sections, working from the ends up, and I'm able to gently remove shed hairs and tangles with minimal (if any) breakage. One of the benefits is that you can actually feel where the knots and problem areas are -- that's a major advantage! Also, as long as your fingernails are trimmed, you don't have to worry about snagging your strands on anything sharp or jagged, which reduces breakage and split ends as well.

In the styling department, fingers also win. Have you ever heard of shingling or finger curling? I got the absolute best wash and go's from these techniques. After applying a leave-in, I'd rake gel (Herbal Essence Totally Twisted Gel) through small sections at a time. The raking motion (which captured chunks of hair between my fingers) would create perfect little spirals.

Nikki "CurlyNikki" Walton is a successful psychotherapist and creator of one of the most credible online sources about natural haircare, maintenance, and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. Visit her at her blog CurlyNikki or follow her on Twitter @CurlyNikki.

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