Picture this: As you’re combing your fingers through your curly hair to give it a voluminous boost, the end of your fingernail snags on something midway through your curls—a knot. Since this likely isn’t your first rodeo with the tiny (but mighty) knots that can form in natural hair, you know better than to keep yanking until your finger returns victorious from the squabble.
These hair knots are called fairy knots, & they’re not as endearing as their namesake suggests. Thankfully, there are multiple ways to rid your strands of these little knots.
From incorporating protective styles to detangling like a pro using the best curly hair products, we’re sharing everything you need to know about fairy knots including what they are, ways to manage them & how to give your curls the love they deserve to avoid them in the future.
What Are Fairy Knots?
It’s a cute name, right? It sounds as if a sweet little fairy left you a pint-sized gift deep inside your curly tresses. Except when you find the gift, you realize it’s a tangled knot that only a mischievous fairy the size of a hairpin could have created.
Fairy knots occur when individual strands of hair become tangled within themselves to form single strand knots. On its own, a single strand knot may not seem so bad. But once it recruits other pieces of hair to join its ranks, you’ll find yourself with a larger & more challenging knot to detangle.
Curly & coily-headed individuals are more likely to notice fairy knots because their hair follicles are more oval-like in texture. This makes it easier for strands to loop-de-loop themselves into tiny tangles.
3 Ways To Get Rid of Fairy Knots
Fortunately, if you’re dealing with fairy knots, you can take matters into your own hands by removing the knots you currently have & decreasing the likelihood of inviting any fairies (or their knots) back with a few preventative steps.
Here are three techniques you can try to help you get rid of fairy knots in hair:
#1 Separate the Knotted Strands
If you feel a tiny knot in your hair, your first instinct might be to put the pedal to the metal & brush straight through it with brute force. Unfortunately, trying to brush or comb directly through the tangle will not only contribute to natural hair breakage but it will probably tighten the knot & make it harder to unwind. The last thing you want is to create an even bigger knot!
Instead, try getting to the root of the problem by using your fingers to detangle the knot. This is step one of learning how to detangle curly hair. You can do this by separating the strands away from one another. Rather than focusing on multiple strands, set your sights on one singular piece & try to dislodge it from the others. Then, move on to the next piece, & so on.
#2 Use a Deep Conditioner
Another method to help you remove the fairy knot is by utilizing a deep conditioner to loosen it. Once you’ve got your eyes on the prize (a.k.a. the knot), follow these simple deep conditioning steps to remove it:
- Step 1: Apply a conditioner, such as PATTERN’s Intensive Conditioner, to the knot.
- Step 2: Rub the conditioner in until it begins to loosen & part.
- Step 3: Use the pointed end of a rat tail comb to begin more formally separating the strands from one another. The smooth texture of the conditioner should coat your hair shafts, making them easier to detangle from one another.
#3 Search & Snip
If neither of the above methods works, you can try the old-fashioned “search & snip” technique. This involves a pair of scissors & a steady hand. If you do it semi-regularly, the knots will be minimal—you won’t notice where you’ve snipped & you’ll decrease the likelihood of forming much larger knots in the future.
Here are the steps you need to complete the search & snip method:
- Step 1: Part your hair into easy-to-manage sections.
- Step 2: Starting with the first section, use your fingers to comb through your hair to feel for any snags.
- Step 3: Once you’ve found a knot, home in on the culprit & use your scissors to cut just above the knot. Boy, bye.
- Step 4: Repeat the process throughout your entire head of coils.
How to Give Your Curls the TLC They Deserve
Once all of your fairy knots are gone, the real fun can begin—giving your curls a whole lot of TLC to help them stay fairy knot-free in the future.
Take a look at some of our top tips & for keeping fairy knots at bay with our favorite hair care techniques:
Apply a Pre-Shampoo Treatment
Curly-haired queens are prone to having dryer hair than other hair types. This often occurs because the scalp’s natural oil (sebum) has a harder time reaching the ends of the hair due to the natural curl pattern.1 In other words, those beautiful twists & turns make it more challenging for the sebum to make its way from root to tip. Unfortunately, shampoo can add to the dryness by stripping away the sebum you do have.
When you hop in the shower to shampoo your hair, you’re removing excess dirt & oil (which is the ideal way to maintain a healthy & clean scalp).1 But if you have little oil to begin with, this stripping process can further dry out your strands. To combat this, you can give your hair a pre-poo treatment before you wash.
With a pre-poo like our Detangling Nectar, your strands are more likely to remain hydrated after you’ve shampooed. With the added moisture, they’re less likely to tangle & cause potential fairy knots.
Take Advantage of Protective Styles
When it comes to avoiding fairy knots, easy protective styles are your BFF. From Bantu knots to cornrows (& every protective style in between), they can keep your hair moisturized, strong & absent of free-flowing strands that are more prone to tangling.
Before choosing a protective style, it’s helpful to prepare your hair. By completing the following tasks, you can make sure your hair is able to hold the protective style for an extended period:
- Wash – If you plan on wearing your style for a week or more, you’ll want to wash your hair ahead of time to strip it of any dirt & excess oil & start with a clean head of hair.
- Deep condition – After washing your hair, you can replenish any oil the shampoo removed with a product like our Heavy Conditioner or Intensive Conditioner. A deep conditioner can also help your hair lock in moisture & stay moisturized once it’s in the protective style.
Trim Your Hair Regularly
A quick trim can remove any curly hair split ends & keep the tips of your hair hydrated & healthy. With healthier hair, you’re less likely to notice knots—& if you do, they’re much easier to detangle than knots created from dry or brittle strands.
Aim for regular trims every three months to keep your hair in pristine condition.
Sleep in Silk
If you forget to prep your hair for sleep, you might be more likely to wake up to some surprises from those sneaky fairies in the morning. To lower the chances of this, you can try one of the following overnight hair hacks for curly or coily hair:
- Sleep with your hair in a silk or satin bonnet, such as PATTERN’s Silk Cap.
- Use a silk pillowcase to decrease the amount of friction between your hair & your pillowcase throughout the night.
- Put your hair in a braid or in a loose pineapple shape on your head with one of our Satin Scrunchies.
Detangle, Detangle & Detangle Some More
Sometimes, it’s tempting to put off any detangling efforts on your hair until wash day. But when that day comes, you might realize that you have an entire nest of fairy knots that need untangling.
To avoid this, you can detangle your hair more frequently with the help of either of the following products:
- A detangler
- A leave-in conditioner
Try the following steps for a stress-free detangling experience:
- Step 1 – Dampen your curls with a water-filled spray bottle.
- Step 2 – Apply your detangler or a product like our Leave-in Conditioner to help loosen any knots.
- Step 3 – Part your hair into manageable sections.
- Step 4 – Use PATTERN’s Wide Tooth Comb to carefully comb through each section, pausing when you notice any knots.
- Step 5 – Separate the knots carefully & methodically using your fingers to loosen them.
When wash day does arrive, you can enlist the help of our trusty Shower Brush to help you dislodge any remaining knots. What’s more, our shower brush also works to clump your curls to amp up their definition as they dry. So basically, it’s a win-win.
Kiss Your Fairy Knots Goodbye with PATTERN
Fairy knots may be a part of living a curly-haired lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take matters into your hands to minimize how often they come to visit with preventative steps & a bathroom cabinet chock-full of PATTERN’s curl & coil-approved hair care products.
Start with our Detangling Nectar, which uses a slippy formula that gracefully eases brush through those gorgeous curls. Then, for an added boost, turn to our Styling Cream or Curl Gel perfect for enhancing those bouncy & beautiful curls. And if you're in need of extra control, our Strong Hold Gel for Curly Hair performs hair magic, all while ensuring your curls stay moisturizing & frizz-free.
No matter what type of products you’re looking for, you can find your hair care perfect matches with PATTERN.
- NIH. Hair Cosmetics: An Overview. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387693/