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How To Get Rid of Single-Strand Knots (Fairy Knots)

21 May 2024
How To Get Rid of Single-Strand Knots (Fairy Knots)

So teeny-tiny, you might think they were created by a fairy, these pesky little knots are in no way as cute as their name suggests. Fairy knots happen when the ends of your hair split and tangle around each other. They're extremely common in coily and curly hair and make styling and managing your curls a nightmare. But that doesn't mean you have to rock a tangled head of hair. If you've been stressing out over these stubborn little knots, take a breather. Because we're diving deep into the world of single strand knots ahead. Keep reading for the best hair care habits and high quality products to treat and prevent fairy knots in curly hair.

Understanding Fairy Knots

Fairy knots are tiny, single strand knots that happen when the ends of individual hair strands get tangled. The official name for fairy knots is trichonodosis and they're basically a curly-haired version of a split end. Although they come with the curly hair territory, there are things you can do to treat and prevent fairy knots. And it starts with identifying the cause of these tiny tangles. More on that below.

Identifying the Causes of Fairy Knots

The first step in eliminating fairy knots is finding out what's causing them. It's important to understand how your hair is getting tangled, so that you can put a plan in place to stop it. The most common causes of pesky little knots include the curl pattern, everyday hair shedding and poor hair care habits. Let's get into each.

Curl Pattern

Though all hair textures run the risk of getting tangled, natural, curly, kinky and coily hair types are especially prone to fairy knots. That's because the hair follicles on these hair types are oval-shaped. This causes the hair strand to grow out of the scalp in a coiled pattern, naturally winding around itself and encouraging tangles. This is particularly true for tighter textures, so the tighter your curl pattern, the more susceptible your strands are to fairy knots.

Hair Shedding

Another contributing factor is everyday hair shedding, which is typically 50-100 strands a day. When curly hair strands fall out, they have a tendency to lock around each other and create fairy knots. This happens even more when the cuticles of the strands are damaged. Those with split ends and damaged hair are also much more susceptible to this type of tangle; as hairs split, they wrap around themselves.

Poor Hair Habits

Fairy knots can also be worsened by improper maintenance and care. Things like not using high quality hair products, using sulfates and other harmful chemicals, excessive heat styling, rough shampooing or detangling and friction from rubbing against clothing or the pillow. These things disrupt the cuticle and cause strands to intertwine with each other or onto themselves, resulting in, you guessed it- fairy knots.

Treating Existing Fairy Knots

Now it's time to break down how to deal with existing fairy knots. Your first instinct might be to brush or comb through your tiny tangles, but don't do it! Brushing through these knots will cause more damage than the actual knots. This will not only contribute to split ends and breakage, but likely tighten the knot and make it harder to untangle. Instead, follow our guide below of these stylist-approved tips and learn how to detangle single-strand knots. Let's take a closer look at each.

Separate Your Strands

Start by separating your hair into four sections, two on top and two on the bottom. You may need more sections if your hair is very curly or thick. Use a hair clip to hold each section in place. Working one section at a time, pull your hair away from your scalp, holding it taut and gently separating any knots. Once you have a section detangled hold it out of the way with the clip again, before starting on the next.

Apply Conditioner

Applying a high quality leave-in conditioner can help you gently work through knots in your hair. The conditioner closes the cuticle, helping strands slip out of the tangle easier. Simply rub your favorite conditioner between your fingers and apply it to the knot, or gently rub the knot with conditioner. Be sure to avoid conditioners with parabens, silicones and other harmful chemicals.

Use Your Fingers

Removing fairy knots with your fingers is a safer, more effective way to work through your tangles than using a comb or brush to remove them. Using a brush or comb can put unnecessary pressure on the tiny knots forcing your strands to snap. If you find that you can't use your fingers, gently use a wide tooth comb, starting at the ends and working your way up.

Be Gentle

Avoid pulling or yanking single-strand knots if you can't untangle them gently. Sometimes the only way to get rid of a stubborn fairy knot is to cut it out before it gets more tangled and causes breakage. If this is the case, we recommend always using sharp hair clippers. Using dull household scissors when trimming your hair can cause damage to your ends.

Take Your Time

When it comes to untangling fairy knots, patience is key. Take your time and don't rush, which can cause you to carelessly pull through your strands and break them. Don't focus on multiple strands at a time. Instead, start with a small piece and try to detangle it from the others. Then, move on to the next piece and so on, until all the pieces in that section are untangled.

Prevention Techniques for Minimizing the Occurrence of Fairy Knots

Now that you've untangled those pesky little knots, it's time to talk about preventative measures to limit the formation of new ones. The best hair care practices for preventing fairy knots include moisturizing your strands, using protective styles and getting regular trims. Not sure how to incorporate these things into your routine? We've got you covered below.

Using Deep Conditioners for Fairy Knots

A good deep conditioner provides nutrition to your hair by replenishing the lost lipids in your strands at the deepest level. Deep conditioners help to smooth and repair the cuticle so that it lays flat, making it easier to slide the fairy knots apart. A deep conditioner in the form of a hair butter or hair mask is your best bet when it comes to detangling properties (especially if you've got damaged hair). Coat your strands while they're wet or damp to give them some slip and soften them up before detangling. Deep conditioner is the most important hair care product in your arsenal when it comes to treating fairy knots.

Importance of Regular Trimming

Split ends and damaged hair are breeding grounds for fairy knots. Getting regular trims will help you keep these at bay. Regular trims also help to keep your haircut looking fresh and clean. Especially if you've got lots of hair damage and are prone to tangled strands, regular trims are a must. It may seem counterintuitive, but regular haircuts are the best way to encourage healthy hair growth. Talk to your hairstylist about how often you should schedule your trims- they know your hair and style best.

The Role of Protective Styles in Preventing Fairy Knots

Protective styles help keep natural and very curly hair healthy by limiting its exposure to damage- and this includes fairy knots. Natural curls are already drier and prone to knots, so a protective style helps your strands retain moisture, while keeping them in place without getting tangled. Our favorite protective styles include box braids, which are easy to maintain and super versatile; faux locs that combine textures and curl patterns of extensions; and bantu knots for the perfect mix of playful and classic.

Recommendations and Final Thoughts

Fairy knots are a very real hair care dilemma that are in no way as endearing as their name suggests. These tiny, single strand tangles happen when individual hair strands get caught up on and around themselves. All hair types run the risk of tangling, but textured hair is especially susceptible. And if you're someone with very curly, damaged or natural hair you know what happens when weak strands curl and knot around other weak strands. It wreaks havoc throughout your hair, making managing and styling your strands next to impossible. If you' ve been stressing over single strand knots, stress no more! Because you can treat and prevent fairy knots in curly hair, with the right hair care habits and a few superstar product must-haves. Incorporate the best hair care practices into your routine and use only high-quality hair products for fairy knot prevention and treatment - like the damaged hair collection from Davines. And if you've got tips for managing fairy knots, share them in the comments. Still have questions about your hair or what products to use? Talk to a stylist in your area for personalized advice.

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