Eccentric (fab blog) asks, 'i'm wondering how often you'd advice women with natural hair to comb. i tried to stop combing because i heard it was good for curl definition. however my hair got really tangled and broke easily.'
There is a lot of research on combing hair and its potential effect (breakage).
1. In African hair, because of its tight and curly nature, daily combing can be the equivalent of a hair cut (J Am Acad Dermatol, 54(5):886-8,2006). The type of comb used was not described and whether hair was combed wet or dry was not confirmed.
2. Combing hair produces mainly short breaks in hair (less than an inch) but brushing tends to break longer pieces of hair (over an inch long). However, both methods do both have long and short breaks, therefore combing is not necessarily better than brushing (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, Vol. 26, No. 6, 289-297,1975).
3. Combing hair with conditioner reduces breakage (J Cosmet Sci., 58(4):477-84, 2007).
So what would I recommend? First how often should you comb - only when you need to- meaning for styling purposes. Try washing your hair in several loose braids (4 or more depending on your hair length) as this helps to stop it from tangling. Second, how should you comb? I have two options
1. Lisa Akbari's finger combing method (my choice) - Use a detangler and your fingers (no combs). At the most basic level, water can be a detangler. Use the spray to do the detangling and gently use your fingers to pry open any tangles. I don't use any of Lisa's products myself because I'm happy with water but this does not mean they are not good (anyone who uses them, feel free to give us a product review). You can braid the sections as you go along to keep some length. I think this is the best method for type 4 hair.
2. Teri's method - This is probably the best method for type 3 hair. Use conditioner as a styling aid to clump curls. Many type 4's will not like this method as it will shrink your hair a lot and can sometimes feel crunchy. I don't think either of these are bad because shrinkage is normal and the crunchy feel is sometimes just the feel of clumps which are normal too. Type 4 hair does not clump in spirals either so be prepared for that.
To see Lisa's detangling method on video - click here
To see Teri's conditioner method on video - click here
How do you detangle your hair, does it work well?