Tangles develop in the hair because of the texture of the strands. Although you can't see them, tiny protein molecules make up the outer covering of each hair. These molecules can become raised or lifted as you wash and condition your hair. When the protein fibers are not flat, they can become caught on the fibers above or below them on the strands or on adjacent hairs. This results in the formation of knots and tangles.
All detanglers work in one of two ways. Some formulas create a sleek, slippery coating on the strands with oils or silicone. This makes the hairs slide over one another instead of becoming caught and tangled as a result. Other detanglers lower the pH of the hair, making it slightly acidic. This causes the strands to constrict and flattens the protein fibers.
There are two primary categories of detanglers as well. Rinse-away formulas are used in the bathtub or shower and also contain ingredients that nourish and condition the hair. They are applied immediately after shampooing and are typically used in place of a daily conditioner. Leave-in conditioners are applied to damp hair that has been toweled dry. They may spritz on or come as a lotion that is spread through the hair with the fingers. These formulas are lightweight and do not require rinsing.
Tangles and knots can be particularly distressing for kids and their parents. Most children have a hard time sitting still while their hair is combed, and some find the pulling that is required to loosen knots uncomfortable or even painful. Some detanglers are designed specifically for children to make styling simpler after bath time. These formulas contain milder ingredients than most formulas designed for adults. This also makes the products ideal for adults that are prone to skin sensitivity.
Some detanglers contain supportive ingredients that help to overcome hair care concerns while reducing tangling. Moisturizers or proteins may be added to make the hair more pliant and much smoother. With regular use, these formulas can diminish the amount of knots that form and even reduce breakage and split ends. Some detanglers contain ingredients that break the sulfide bonds that make hair form waves and curls, helping to straighten the strands. Anti-frizz detanglers lessen the effects of humidity by forming a moisture shield over the tresses.
Detanglers can go a long way to protecting your hair from damage due to combing through knots and tangles, but to keep your tresses in the best possible condition, other steps should be taken. Only use a wide-tooth comb when styling wet hair, and apply styling products to protect your tresses from heat when you blow-dry, curl or straighten it. When you keep your hair in good condition, tangles and knots will be less likely to form.
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