How to deal with fairy knots

We ask the pros for their top tips on how to prevent and treat those pesky tangles that can make and (quite literally) break our style.

Hair & Beauty

In the words of Pattern Beauty founder Tracee Ellis Ross, most curly girls suffer from “hair entanglement.” So to tackle the issue once and for all, we ask the pros for their top tips on how to prevent and treat those pesky tangles that can make and (quite literally) break our style.

What causes fairy knots?

Single strand knots, AKA fairy knots, are tiny stubborn tangles formed in single strands of hair. Commonly found in curly, coily and kinky hair types, they are often perceived to be a bigger pain than traditional knots and tangles: fairy knots appear to be near impossible to detangle. Why are they called fairy knots? Because they suddenly appear without warning - as if by some magical mystery. So if you’re suffering with these tangled beads that are clinging to your hair shaft and you want to get rid, you need to know why they are appearing in the first place.

Fairy knots in curly hair

Fairy knots tend to occur in curly to kinky hair textures due to the hair follicles being oval like in shape. This encourages tangles with single strands of hair as during growth it the twists, turns and loops to form the curl pattern. This causes hair to tie around other hair strands, which then forms tangles and the knots. Another contributing factor is that we all shed hair daily, (typically, 50-100 strands a day). So when our strands fall out, they tend to lock up with each other. This happens even more when the cuticles on the strands of our hair are raised.

How can you prevent them?

These fairy knots, technically known as trichonodosis, can cause a great deal of concern for those with curly hair. Everyday styling becomes more difficult and hair health is harder to maintain. Before reaching for the scissors, there are several ways to prevent their occurrence, so we ask the experts for the best DIY methods.

Knot to mess with

Regardless of texture or style, there’s one thing most of us want: hair that looks like it’s been through the hands of a salon professional every week. But if that isn’t an option, we’ve got some great tips for creating the salon look at home. From celebrity stylists to haircare founders, here our leading ‘hurr’ industry experts reveal their golden rules for tackling the delicate knots.

 Andria Asare
Andria Asare

Keep your strands hydrated

“Thirsty curls can be an invitation to fairy knots. If you have low or high porosity hair, moisture can be an issue. Hydrating mists can solve this problem. Packed with varying combinations of herbs, minerals and natural oils, these mists will quench your dry curls. The water, herbs and minerals will penetrate the hair shaft, providing nutrients and hydration, while the oil will seal in the moisture.” - Andria Asare, Think Pretty salon owner

Lorraine Dublin
Lorraine Dublin

Go for regular trims

“If you want to get rid of split ends and damaged hair, then regular trims will help reduce the occurrence of fairy knots. The wear and tear that comes with everyday styling can not only hurt your ends, but damage can travel up the hair shaft too, causing splits and tangles on the way. Dry hair is an invitation for knots, so don’t forget those trims every six to eight weeks because your hair will thank you in the long-run.” - Lorraine Dublin, celebrity hairdresser

Paula Francis
Paula Francis

Protect your hair at night

“If you haven’t slept on a silk pillowcase or protected your hair with a silk or satin bonnet, there’s a chance your curls are experiencing friction during the night. This can leave it feeling dry and tangled with knots. Satin and silk help to retain the hair’s moisture and also reduces friction. So if you’re getting fairy knots and aren’t covering your hair at night, make the change now to see a difference.” - Paula Francis, founder of SuperfoodLx

Vernon Francois
Vernon Francois

Protect your ends

“You can use protective styling as a strategy to tuck your ends away and avoid fairy knots. Braids and canerows are just some of the styles you can wear. Avoid plaiting all the way to the ends as this weakens the tips. Normal friction caused by hair being in contact with shirts and jackets can result in these knots appearing. So if you know you’re wearing your hair down, go the extra mile by wearing a silk or satin top.” - Vernon Francois, Redken global consultant

Myriam Kone
Myriam Kone

Detangle your hair properly

“Brush out your hair before you shampoo. It’s important to detangle before you fully immerse your curls under water. Knots tend to tighten in water, making them more difficult to unravel. Hair should be divided into sections so you can work through and identify the knots. Detangle using your fingers or a wide-tooth comb along with a pre-poo, which will give slip to release the stubborn knots.” - Myriam Kone, Mimi et Mina salon owner

Michelle Sultan
Michelle Sultan

Deep condition

“Conditioner is a critical part of your haircare routine. Not only does this hair staple provide your strands with extra nourishment and moisture, but it also works to improve your hair’s strength to reduce excess friction and tangling. Deep conditioners help to improve elasticity, which will lessen the occurrence of knots. Using products that contain natural oils will keep the hair lubricated, defining curls and making them pop.” - Michelle Sultan, Imbue creative director

Shannon Fitzsimmons
Shannon Fitzsimmons

Praying hands method

“When applying shampoo and styling products, massage them into the hair with your fingertips then smooth down the lengths. This is also known as the “praying hands” method, where you sandwich your hair between your hands. I’ve found that this technique helps make my hair more manageable during washing or styling. It also keeps my hair tangle-free for longer without manipulation.” - Shannon Fitzsimmons, founder of O So Curly

Hair must-haves

LuxeBonnet
LuxeBonnet, £19.95
Crème of Nature Anti-breakage Leave-in
Crème of Nature Anti-breakage Leave-in, £6.49
Imbue Curl Restoring Intensive Mask
Imbue Curl Restoring Intensive Mask, £12.99
SoulCap Hair Towel
SoulCap Hair Towel, £24.99
Flora & Curl Gentle fro pick
Flora & Curl Gentle fro pick, £6

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