Skip to main content

Ask a Hairstylist: How to Keep Your Hair From Tangling

Make your mane more manageable with these tips.
How to keep hair from tangling

Q: Hi Billy! I have very long hair that I'm struggling to style. I used to have layers, but they have now grown out, so my hair is all one length. I want to keep my hair long, but I can't style it in anything but a ponytail, and there's too much of it to put into a bun. 

From The Styling Edit Archives

How to keep hair from tangling

Maria's long, damaged hair tangles easily.

My biggest problem is that it's always such a tangled mess. I can barely get my brush through it. After I wash my hair, I use conditioner and work out the tangles. But inevitably it becomes tangled throughout the course of my day and looks completely unkempt.

I'm also struggling with my colour and can't decide if I should stay dark or go lighter. I hate the faded-out brown colour that I have at my roots, but the nearly black colour at the bottom won't fade at all. 

How to keep hair from tangling

Maria isn't sure whether she should keep her dark hair colour or go lighter.

I would really appreciate your help! — Maria

A: Maria, thank you for sending along your request for a consultation. The long hair does suit you, and with a few adjustments, I think we can solve the issues that you are having with its manageability.

First of all, when anyone's hair reaches this length and magnitude, it turns into a hair blanket. This is not a bad look, as long as you cherish it and treat it well....

My first course of action for you would be a haircut.

Mila Kunis Ted Los Angeles premiere 2012

Mila Kunis at the 2012 Los Angeles premiere of 'Ted.'

I would take off several inches in length, so that it falls at or just above the bust line. I also recommend cutting a lot of long layers into your hair.

Mila Kunis Oz the Great and Powerful London premiere 2013

Mila Kunis at the 2013 London premiere of 'Oz the Great and Powerful.'

Doing these things will remove a lot of the weight and re-balance your hair for a more modern look. Your hair will be able to fall where it wants to, instead of being a part of a mass—so there will be less tangling.

This will also get rid of the most of the damaged dark ends that you don't like, and which make the tangling worse. Damaged hair snags and knots more easily because the hair cuticle is open instead of being closed and smooth.

It sounds simple, but even just parting your hair in the middle or just slightly off-center will better balance the weight. This way, there won't be as much hair to clump together and get tangled.

Josephine Skriver Tiffany Blue Book Gala 2018

Josephine Skriver at the 2018 Tiffany Blue Book Gala.

Another way to diffuse the weight of your hair is to add a bang into the mix. I would do a long, eyelash-skimming fringe.

Elizabeth Olsen Avengers Endgame world premiere 2019

Elizabeth Olsen at the 2019 world premiere of 'Avengers: Endgame.'

Keep it on the thicker side, and as it grows you can sweep it over to one side or wear it as curtain bangs.

Shailene Woodley ABC TCA Party 2009

Shailene Woodley at the 2009 ABC TCA Party.

The bangs will also help to make buns and ponytails look more interesting and more polished.

Felicity Jones Golden Globes 2017

Felicity Jones at the 2017 Golden Globes.

Regardless of what you decide with your cut, I would encourage you to lay off the heat styling and start deep-conditioning your ends once or twice a week. Use a mask for repairing damaged hair, such as Kérastase Resistance Masque Force Architecte.

Kerastase Resistance Masque Force Architecte

Kérastase Resistance Masque Force Architecte

On a daily basis, apply a leave-in conditioner like Oribe Priming Lotion Leave-In Conditioning Detangler. This will hydrate and smooth the cuticle, making it easier to comb or brush through.

Oribe Priming Lotion Leave-In Conditioning Detangler

Oribe Priming Lotion Leave-In Conditioning Detangler

As for your hair colour, I feel that you can be quite versatile with your skin and eyes, and many tones will look great on you. 

If you wanted to lighten things up, I love this light brown colour with tone-on-tone highlights to emphasize the long layers.

Sophia Bush Magic Mike Los Angeles premiere 2012

Sophia Bush at the 2012 Los Angeles premiere of 'Magic Mike.'

This will be a process to achieve from your current colour, so I suggest leaving it to a professional who is skilled in colour correction techniques.

If you prefer to stay dark, you could just as easily rock this deeper brown with rich chocolate lowlights. 

Jennifer Love Hewitt The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie Los Angeles premiere 2004

Jennifer Love Hewitt at the 2004 Los Angeles premiere of 'The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.'

I know that you want to keep your hair long, but I have a feeling that this length, with the richer colour and side-swept fringe would be a super-fresh new look for you. Framed like this, your eyes will pop.

I trust this will give you lots of new ideas for how to reduce the tangling and take your hair in a more manageable direction.


If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. See our Disclosure for more information.