Detangling your tresses might seem like a no-brainer — after all, you’re just getting the knots out of your hair, not creating a complicated Lady Gaga-level style. But with snapped strands and broken combs, there’s plenty that can go painfully wrong, no matter your texture. While tugging a brush through knots or pulling your hair into a bun to avoid them altogether seem like the easiest ways to handle hair hang-ups, there are a slew of styling solutions to ensure your strands start feeling smooth without the snags. Here, our go-to stylists explain how to undo your knots without losing your locks — or your patience — in the process.

Start in the Shower

We’ll admit that there’s a bit of a debate when it comes to what state your strands should be in when your begin to undo knots. But most of the experts we spoke with agreed that wetting your hair can make it easier to run a tool through it, especially for thicker, curly, or textured tresses. “It’s better to detangle your hair wet especially if it’s curly,” says Jonathan Colombini, a L’Oréal Paris celebrity colorist and stylist. “With dry hair, you risk a lot more breakage.”

But you’re going to need some extra slip after you step into the shower. The stylist recommends coating your coif from mid-lengths to ends with a conditioner like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Moisture Conditioner ($8) and allowing it to soak into strands. If you’re leaning towards taking your conditioning efforts past your shower doors, Kérastase celebrity hairstylist Jennifer Yepez favors slathering on a leave-in conditioner like the brand’s Elixir Ultime Original Oil ($50) or Résistance Serum Therapiste ($39) while locks are still wet. Just keep in mind that if you have finer hair, it’s best to only use one pump of the oil or a quarter-sized amount of the serum.

After applying your conditioner or leave-in treatment, use a wide-toothed comb or even your hands. “A wide tooth comb helps pull the tangles apart, as opposed to pushing the tangle tighter,” explains Michael Dueñas, a Garnier consulting celebrity stylist. “Since there is a larger gap between the teeth, the hair has more room to open up, and not tangle against the masses of hair next to it, such as it would when using a more dense brush.”

…Or Detangle When It’s Dry

On the other hand, Dove Celebrity Hairstylist Mark Townsend prefers to brush when your tresses are dry, especially when styling or if you’re about to apply a treatment. Even when working with dry hair, Townsend stresses the need for a little extra conditioning in the process. Where he reaches for Dove’s Quench Absolute Detangler ($6), Dueñas uses Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Detangler ($6) — both of which are terrific options for finer strands, as they hydrate without weighing hair down. “The detangler is meant to seal the cuticle, but it’s great if you can find treatments that have nourishment in there as well so it can get inside the hair shaft while smoothing it out,” he explains. “I start almost all of my styles now with the Quench Absolute Detangler spray because it’s super light, [and] it’s going to allow me to get through the hair.”

While combs work well with wet hair, Townsend often turns to his Harry Josh Pro Tools Detangling Brush ($20) when he needs to tackle a few knots. The plastic bristles are coated with a ball at the end so it feels soft against the scalp as you work the brush through your roots. “His detangling brush is fantastic!” he exclaims. “I like to use one with plastic bristles that have a cushion to it, so they won’t actually snap the hair. I like them to have a little bit of a give to it.” Yepez notes another amazing option: the Tangle Teezer ($12), which she loves thanks to its nimble size and ability to unsnarl snags without ripping.

But No Matter What, Start From The Bottom

All of the stylists agreed that the biggest mistake most make, whether your hair’s wet or dry, is working your way from roots to ends. It can lead to a matted mane with lots of breakage and split ends if you pull too hard. As Duenas put it, “You are just pushing more tangles into more tangles.”

When it comes to brushing or combing your coifs, Townsend says we should “follow the rule of Drake: start at the bottom to get to the top.”

Toss Out the Towel Turban

Even if you condition and comb your hair with care, it’s pretty easy to create knots or make them worse before you even step out of the bathroom. Townsend and the other stylists argue that terrycloth towels tend to make your tresses feel worse since the fibers can prevent the cuticle from closing, which contributes to knots and frizz.

A microfiber towel or a turban like Aquis’s Striped Lisse Luxe Hair Turban ($30) can dry your hair without messing with your mane’s cuticles. Townsend also suggests snapping up an old (but clean) T-shirt to towel off your tresses.

Apply Product To Prevent Tangles

The prevention doesn’t stop once you start styling either. Townsend finishes with a touch of soft cream and a light spritz of dry shampoo to seal styles while preventing against future knots. Where the soft cream conditions, the dry shampoo coats the hair with a little bit of powder or starch that keeps the strands from sticking together and creating tangles.

While it might sound counterintuitive, he stays away from hairsprays and other finishers that can leave your coif feeling crunchy. “Products that are heavier in alcohol have a tendency to open the cuticle, those little snags are little openings in the cuticle [that] turn into tangles,” he says. And, if you have really curly hair, he recommends using Dove’s STYLE+care Curls Defining Mousse ($5) since it doesn’t dissolve into nothingness but actually melts into a lotion that coats strands during styling.

Select a Style To Disguise Snags 

Just because you follow the pros’ advice doesn’t mean that tangles won’t turn up throughout the day. If your hair is starting to snag, the stylists refer to standard styles like buns, top knots, and messy chignons as on-the-go options. Tommy Buckett, a Garnier consulting celebrity stylist, also advises keeping a travel brush or comb on hand in case you have a few minutes to smooth out your strands again. Now, if your ends are frayed and always end up a mess, Buckett points out that it’s probably time for a trim. “You more than likely need a haircut to cut off dry ends that are sticking to each other,” he says.

Not feeling a no-frills bun? No worries. While there are a number of styles that can help you avoid a matted mess, the most popular on our social feeds and IRL are braids of all shapes and sizes. That’s because they offer a way for you to keep your hair in place while also adding some interest to an updo. “Braids are really a summer savior,” Townsend says, explaining why he adds them to many of his seasonal styles.

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