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The Best Shampoos For Tangled Hair

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By Marissa DeSantis
Elite Daily/Amazon

In addition to cleansing, your hair-washing routine should improve the condition of your hair. But if you're noticing that your hair is more tangled post-shower than it was before sudsing up, it's time to reevaluate your shampoo. Sulfates, a type of surfactant that are found in many shampoos, are the most common culprit, as they can leave behind a residue that causes knots. The best shampoos for tangled hair, therefore, will generally be free from sulfates like sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and ammonium lauryl sulfate. These shampoos will also include ingredients that actively help to eliminate tangles by adding moisture and slip to your hair, like panthenol, avocado oil, and hydrolyzed wheat protein.

To further enhance the effects of your detangling shampoo, you'll most likely need to use a detangling conditioner or leave-in conditioning spray, too. It's also helpful to identify the cause of your tangled hair. All of those knots can simply be a result of having longer hair (which naturally tends to get tangled because of its length) or, they can be a sign that your hair is dry and damaged. In the case of the latter, you'll want to cut back on the underlying cause (most commonly, frequent heat styling, too-tight ponytails, or excess exposure to the sun or chlorine) while helping to avoid future damage by using heat protectants, leave-in oils, and reparative hair masks.

In addition to using products specifically aimed at detangling your hair, you can reduce knots (and the breakage that often accompanies them) by combing your hair from the ends up. Brushing your hair while it's still dry before you shower, and combing your hair after you wash it, can also help to reduce tangles, as can avoiding rubbing or wrapping up your hair with your towel. Sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase, like the Slip Silk Pillowcase, has also helped make brushing through my long, fine hair easier without encountering tangles in the morning.

To say good-bye to knots for good, scroll on to shop five of the best detangling shampoos for every hair type.

1. Best Budget-Friendly Shampoo For Tangled Hair

So gentle, it was designed for detangling children's hair of all textures, Fairy Tales Tangle Tamers Super Charge Detangling Shampoo is free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, gluten, soy, dairy, and nut-derived oils — so in other words, it’s an extra-gentle choice for people who have sensitive skin or allergies (and yes, that includes adults, too). The multitasking formula not only smooths away knots, but it also helps to reduce unwanted frizz and static as it simultaneously strengthens and imparts shine. Ingredients like jojoba oil and aloe vera extract promote softer hair, while hydrolyzed keratin and panthenol tackle tangles and help fortify hair for less breakage.

2. Best Shampoo For Curly, Tangled Hair

Curly and thicker hair textures are naturally more prone to knots, and can most benefit from shampoos (and hair products in general) that are heavy on the moisturizing ingredients. Mielle Organics is a Black-owned brand aimed at creating effective products that don't compromise your hair's health. Their Pomegranate & Honey Moisturizing And Detangling Shampoo was designed specifically for Type 4 hair (though it’ll work nicely for other curl types as well), and it offers a nourishing cleanse with its sulfate-free formula that harnesses honey and babassu oil to restore moisture to dried-out hair. To leave your hair feeling even smoother and stronger, ingredients like panthenol, hydrolyzed wheat protein, and muurumuru seed butter were included in the formula. Be sure to check out the rest of the pomegranate and honey line, which also includes an amazing leave-in conditioner.

3. Another Great Detangling Shampoo For Curly, Tangled Hair (& Extensions)

From another Black-owned beauty brand, Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Shampoo was formulated for curly hair textures from Type 1A to 4C, and even extensions. The gentle shampoo concentrates on restoring moisture with ingredients like sweet almond oil, avocado oil, and hydrolyzed wheat protein, which work to strengthen the hair shaft and add shine while naturally reducing knots. The sulfate-free shampoo is also cruelty-free and free of parabens, paraffins, and mineral oil.

4. Best Shampoo For Fine, Tangled Hair

Finer hair textures that fall on the lengthier side can get their fair share of knots, too. And while moisturizing ingredients can help the tangle situation, they can (more often than not) leave fine hair feeling weighed down and greasy. Leonor Greyl Paris's Volumizing Shampoo solves both problems with a formula that uses spirulina extract to boost volume and leaves out the heavy oils. Instead, the shampoo (which does contain ammonium lauryl sulfate) uses hydrolyzed wheat protein and mineral-rich seaweed extracts to weightlessly condition, detangle, and strengthen volume-lacking hair.

5. Best Luxury Detangling Shampoo For All Hair Types

This Oribe Run-Through Detangling Shampoo was created to make combing your hair a breeze, but it includes a list of powerful ingredients that every hair type can benefit from. The sulfate-free shampoo uses shea butter, panthenol, and rice seed protein to condition and soften hair for fewer knots, as well as red algae extract, tea plant seed oil, and tara fruit extract to protect hair from damage caused by environmental aggressors. The brand's signature complex, which includes watermelon seed oil, lychee, and edelweiss flower, provides another protecting boost from the environment that helps to prevent the deterioration of keratin and color. And true to Oribe form, the shampoo smells good enough to wear as a fragrance, and it’s housed in a chic bottle to amp up the luxury factor of your shower.

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Another effective way to eliminate tangles and knots is by adding this quick treatment into your hair-washing routine. After you shampoo your hair, massage the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths 8 Second Wonder Water through the lengths of your hair for just eight seconds before completely rinsing it out and following up with your usual conditioner (though if you have fine or oily hair, you may not need the conditioner as well). The concentrated, sulfate-free formula uses vitamin E and hydrolyzed wheat protein to completely detangle hair and promote a smooth, glossy finish. And since the treatment is truly as light as water, it won’t weigh your hair down at all, even if it’s fine or thin.

Studies referenced:

Hair cosmetics: An overview, by Maria Fernanda Reis Gavazzoni Dias; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387693/

How to stop damaging your hair, by American Academy of Dermatology Association; https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage