If you have curly hair, you’ve likely encountered those pesky little knots that seem to appear out of nowhere. I’m talking about single-strand knots sometimes referred to as fairy knots – those tiny tangles that form at random spots in your hair and make detangling(not untangling) an absolute nightmare.
As someone with 3B curls myself, I know the struggle all too well. I used to spend ages trying to comb or pick out single-strand fairy knots (even with tiny needles and awkward angles in mirrors), only to find more pop up a few days later. But why do single-strand fairy knots plague curly girls like us in particular? And more importantly, what can we do to prevent them? Let’s address them one after the other.
How Are Single Strand Knots Different From Regular Knots?
Unlike traditional knots that form by intertwining two or more strands, single-strand knots occur when a single strand of hair wraps around itself, forming a self-contained knot along the length of the hair shaft. Over time these single knots wrap themselves around their neighboring curly strands to form hybrid bonds and trust me, that thing is a real nightmare to untangle!
The curl pattern inherent to curly hair makes it more prone to twisting, bending, and self-tangling, allowing single strands to tangle into knots. When these strands connect, at first, its not a problem. Then over time, hair grows, and the knot tightens, causing the sheaths to get damaged. This allows for disulfide bonds between two originally separate sections of the hair strand to be created. This chemically bonds the hair segments and makes the knot unbreakable.
I got knots! How do I get rid of them?
Attempting to rip out single-strand knots will do you more harm than good. You could try to unknot them. It’s possible, but its based on one main aspect.
Gentle, sustained traction is required to slide the knots apart without snapping the hair.
So here are a couple of ways.
Before trying them, make sure to moisturize the hair. This makes the hair strand stronger and less prone to breakage, by smoothing the external scales of the hair strand. This flattens them out, causing the hair strand to become straighter and stronger. We need this prior as we try to push and pull the knot apart.
So after applying your moisturiser/curl cream/ leave in conditioner, you’ll need to wait for the strands to strengthen. Give it some time, for a few days, so that the hair gets as strong as possible. Perhaps this would allow the hair to becomes less tight and could make our work easier. Also, it’s harder to untangle single-strand knots compared to your regular knots, but this depends on how long the knots have stayed.
1) Use a detangler spray – They work by smoothening the hair strands out, and applying a positive charge so that the hair strands repel each other. Apply the spray as per instructions, and then comb the hair lightly.
2) Fine tooth pick combs – Use them in an upward motion away from the scalp in short bursts. Be slow and consistent, until you get a hang of the motion. Start from the ends and focus on sections of hair, rather than strands. This would help loosen the knots as well.
3) If you can have a friend, then they can go even further with trying to detangle the knot. They could try to hold the strand of hair from either end and try to push the strand into the knot in an effort to loosen it. They could also use a toothpick to try to poke at the knot in order to open it up and then unravel it.
Finally, if you can’t detangle the knot, then you’d have to decide what’s best for your hair.
If the knot is towards the end of the hair strand (away from the follicle), then the best option would be to snip the strand just above the knot so that it would tie off that end, and possibly not allow for any split ends to develop.
Why Are Your Curls So Prone To Single Strand Knots?
Firstly you’ve got to understand that it’s perfectly natural for your curly hair to get single-strand knots from time to time. This doesn’t mean your hair has some deficiency or is unhealthy in any way. In fact, the natural structure and growth pattern of your curly hair make it especially prone to single-strand fairy knots. The greater the coil, the more knots you’re gonna get.
1. The Bendy, Coiled Structure
Unlike straight hair that grows in a straight line, curly hair grows in an S- or spiral-shaped pattern. All those twists and coils provide ample opportunity for strands to tangle back on themselves. Think of it like two DNA strands twisting around each other. This is the perfect setup for single-strand fairy knots to occur.
2. The Loose Cuticle Layers
The cuticle is the protective outer layer of each strand of hair. In curly hair, these cuticle layers are loose and uneven. This makes the hair strand more likely to catch onto itself and form knots.
3. Curly Hair Is Dry And Prone To Friction
Lack of moisture is another issue for curls. The natural oils from our scalp have a harder time traveling down the bendy curly strands. This leads to dryness and friction, which causes strands to tangle and knot.
4. Loose Curl Clumps Rub Against Each Other
Unlike tightly coiled curls that clump together, looser curl types leave more room for strands to rub and catch against each other as you move – again encouraging knots.
6 Tips To Reduce Single-Strand Fairy Knots In Curly Hair
After much trial and error, I’ve found a perfect routine to keep my fairy knots in check and leave my curls nourished.
1. Use A Wet Brush In The Shower
Gently detangle your curls with a wet brush or wide-tooth comb while conditioner is on your hair in the shower. The slip from the conditioner allows the brush to glide through tangles without snagging or breakage. This helps prevent knots from forming as your hair dries.
2. Apply Leave-In Conditioner
Leave-in conditioners provide you with the much-needed moisture and lubrication to smooth the cuticle layers down. I apply mine from roots to ends right after I get out of the shower. This protects strands from friction and rubbing as my hair dries.
3. Diffuse Your Hair
Letting curly hair air dry can lead to extra tangling and matting as strands rub together. I’ve found diffusing my hair on a low warm setting helps set my curl clumps in place so they don’t tangle as much.
4. Always Sleep With A Satin Bonnet Or Pillowcase
Cotton pillowcases cause friction all night long leading to (you guessed it) knots! Protect your curls overnight by wrapping them in a satin bonnet or sleeping on a satin pillowcase. Pineappling or braiding works just fine if you’re patient enough to have them on every night. The silky fabric allows strands to glide freely without catching.
5. Dust The Ends
Over time, split ends can snag onto other strands and cause knots. Every 6-8 weeks, dust your ends to snip any damaged, split hairs, and keep your ends smooth.
6. Try Oil Immersion
Doing an oil immersion treatment 1-2 times per week can also help prevent single-strand fairy knots. This involves coating your dry hair with a nourishing oil like coconut, olive, or argan. Pop on a shower cap and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before shampooing as usual.
The oils will help lubricate and smooth down the cuticle layers to reduce friction and tangling. I like to focus the oil on my mid-lengths and ends since that’s where knots usually form. Just don’t overdo it with the oil or it could weigh your curls down. A little goes a long way!
Make sure not to overdo oil immersion with those heavy oils unless you want your curls to go limp due to oil buildup.
Fairy Knots Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult To Manage
Dealing with single-strand fairy knots used to be a frustrating reality of having curly hair.
But by incorporating some of the simple tips mentioned above in your hair care routine removing those persistent fair knots will become a quick detangling session rather than a tedious hour-long ordeal.
Your curls will look and feel healthier, shinier, and knot-free. Now go ahead and flaunt those fabulous strands with confidence! No more picking knots out of your hair every five minutes. You’ve got this!
Common Questions About Single Strand Fairy Knots:
Are fairy knots and split ends the same thing?
Nope! Split ends are when the very tip of the hair shaft becomes damaged and splits apart. Fairy knots can occur anywhere along the length of the hair strand.
Why are they called fairy knots?
The term comes from the folklore idea that mischievous fairies would tangle and knot people’s hair while they slept! Of course, we know now it’s just the curl structure that causes them.
Do straight hair or wavy hair get fairy knots too?
They can, but it’s much less common. The coiled structure of curls makes them far more prone to knotting and tangling. People with straight or wavy hair will hardly ever encounter fairy knots.
Now that we know why curly hair and single-strand fairy knots go hand-in-hand, let’s talk about how to prevent them!