Tangles and knots are a part of, well, having a head full of hair — but they don't have to ruin a good hair day. Thankfully, there's a product out there that will help reduce the amount of time you brush your strands and help keep your hair silky and smooth.
"A detangler is a leave-in conditioner that contains a variety of oils for hair hydration," says celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons. "It is used to smooth your hair cuticle by filling splits and breaks, reducing friction between strands and making tangles more manageable." And since there are a variety of formulas for specific hair types and concerns from thick, curly hair to fine, thin strands, you're practically guaranteed to find an option that works for you.
The GH Beauty Lab tests haircare products endlessly, and with the combination of technical information and consumer feedback, we evaluate products on criteria such as ease of use, application, texture and look and feel of hair after use. While we haven't tested every one of these detanglers, we rounded up the best hair detanglers that include fan-favorites from Good Housekeeping Institute tests, GH Beauty Award-winners and formulas that reviewers can't stop raving about. Bid adieu to knots and tangles with these powerhouse formulas:
This GH Beauty Award Winner is a nourishing milk that literally melts tangles away. Not to mention, the combination of oats, rice extract and aloe juice add moisture to parched strands and add softness, too. One tester raved, "I could comb damp hair with almost no effort."
- Softens strands
Infused with Brazilian Keratin, this detangler leaves hair silky and smooth making brushing a breeze for long, knot-prone locks. Not to mention, it's super hydrating and smells like Starburst.
- Nicely scented
- Affordable price tag
One of Fitzsimons favorites, this treatment strengthens and smooths the hair, while making detangling easier, too. "It restores, conditions and speeds your blow dry or air dry time, too," he raves.
- Works on color-treated hair
- Repairs damaged strands
When hair is matted, a lightweight spray may not do the trick. This detangling ghee is exactly what you think — it's buttery, rich and conditioning. Its ghee-like texture and super hydrating ingredients like cocoa butter, horsetail and barley ensure that hair has extra slip so you can un-matte knots and tangles without ripping or breaking your strands.
- Adds tons of slip
- Super moisturizing
- May be too heavy for fine, thin hair
This 2019 Beauty Award Winner was afavorite amongst testers for our Good Housekeeping Insititute. "I was extremely skeptical, but it really did work amazing," one tester said. "I also tried it on my 6-year old who has long, fine, curly hair and there were no tears."
- Works on both wet and dry hair
- Loosens knots without pulling on them
- May be a little rough on sensitive scalps
The blend of abyssinica seed oil and ginger root and acerola extracts help melt tangles away while boosting hair's natural sheen. This formula is also infused with pro-vitamin B5 which thickens and builds volume, and reviewers love the refreshing eucalyptus scent.
- Not ideal to use on dry hair
This tangle releaser takes all the hard work out of detangling, with a buttery and rich formula that saturates each strand making it easier for your comb, brush or fingers to glide through. But don't worry if you apply too much, you can easily rinse this product out once your tangles are gone.
- Super thick consistency
- Rinse-out formula
- May be heavy if overused
This detangling spray works lightning fast: Its formulation has a protein-base which is ideal for strengthening damaged, weak and brittle locks. Nearly 7,000 reviewers give it 4.8 stars, saying, "my hair is tangle free and the softest it has been in years." Plus, it offers protection against UV and thermal damage.
- Adds hydration
- Built-in thermal and UV protection
- May not work with hair that is sensitive to protein treatments
Aloe vera, oat milk and green tea extract enrich and nourish the hair and make this detangler sort of like a second round of conditioner (win!). And since this formula was made with skin sensitivities in mind (fragrance, lactose, soy and gluten), you can expect a gentle formulation that won't cause irritation.
- Hypoallergenic formula
This cult-favorite detangler is like a two-in-one: It detangles and deeply conditions curls and coils for super defined and hydrated spirals after each use. The super creamy formula smooths each strand of the hair and adds moisture, so tangling is a whole lot more manageable. Bonus: You can leave it in as a styler or rinse it out.
- Deep conditions
- Doubles as a leave-in styler
- May be sticky if overused
Bring on the slip! This curly girl favorite is all about the slip it adds to each curl making tangles and knots slide out with little effort. For best results, apply this product before shampooing and detangle from the bottom up.
- Adds slip to matted curls
- Designed for in-shower use before shampoo
- Can only be used on wet hair
If you love blow outs or can't stay away from a curling wand, this detangler is for you. Not only does this keep tangles at bay thanks to coconut oil, it has a built-in cuticle-sealing formula that protects strands from heat styling and keeps frizz to a minimum.
- Smoothes frizz and flyaways
- Thermal protection
- Not made for natural hair styling
For super knotty hair, you may want to start the detangling during your cleanse and conditioning session. That's where this wallet-friendly conditioner comes into play. It really is miraculous and helps to soften, smooth, hydrate and detangle even the most vulnerable of strands. And for just $5, it's definitely worth the purchase.
- Softens and hydrates strands
- May be too heavy for fine, thin hair
Fitzsimons says he reaches for this leave-in conditioner that locks in moisture, prevents breakage, reduces frizz and strengthens weak hair. It's milky formula and lightweight feel make it ideal for all hair types: No greasy build-up here.
- Helps restrengthen damaged locks
- Works on all hair types
This detangling comb is great for those with textured hair who prefer to detangle their strands while wet. The wavy, wide teeth help for easy gliding without ripping or snapping the hair and it even works to define and separate waves and curls.
- Great for wavy and curly hair
- Wide teeth gently work through knots
- Handle can be flimsy
In short, you want a formula that will add slip to the hair. Fitzsimons says it's best to check the ingredients list before you buy. He recommends slippery elm, flaxseed and marshmallow root. "Products formulated with these ingredients produce thick, gelatinous substances that coat hair strands and allow fingers, brushes and combs to glide effortlessly over them."
A good detangler will make light work when it comes to getting rid of knots and tangles, but Fitzsimons says you also need to make sure to use the right tools when detangling. You can use your fingers, a wide-tooth comb or a brush, but "it's also best to work on damp or wet hair," Fitzsimons advises, since "the more damp your hair is, the better your conditioning product will sink into the hair shaft."
And don't just brush or comb carelessly: Be gentle, go slow and start at the ends and work your way up when detangling your hair. "It will not only make your hair easier to work with, it will ensure that all knots are removed completely."