This Is Why You Get (and How To Stop) Single-Strand Knots

There are few things more unique, exciting, and complex than natural hair. No one curl is the same, nobody has the exact same texture, and everyone’s natural journey is different.
What a wonderful life it is to be a curly girl. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also acknowledge that textured hair requires a bit more work when it comes to styling, maintenance, and care. And in some cases, that results in more frequent hair snafus.

One such concern is single-strand knots (also referred to as fairy knots), which can be quite the nuisance. As the name(s) suggest, these aren’t big, bird’s nest-like knots. They’re the miniscule tangles that form around individual strands of hair. Ahead, we’re going to debunk certain myths about single-strand knots, figure out what causes them, and answer the question: should you just cut out pesky tangles?

What Causes Single-Strand Knots?

First, it’s important to note that single-strand knots are perfectly normal, and not necessarily an indicator of bad hair health or the quality of care you’re providing your strands. Let’s be frank, curly hair is more inclined to tangling in general, which means the occasional single-strand knot shouldn’t be a surprise. But what actually causes them?

There are a few culprits. Your hair regularly sheds—sometimes up to 100 strands a day—and when it does, the strands have a tendency to lock around each other (especially if you have curly hair), which creates fairy knots. Regardless of shedding, your curl structure alone can lead to tangles. Occasionally, a curl will tie around itself, ultimately causing the knot. This is particularly true for tighter textures and those with low hair porosity. Split ends can also lead to this type of tangle; the ends split and wrap around themselves. And while they’re really not a big deal, if not properly addressed, hair knots can cause problems.

How To Prevent Single-Strand Knots

Prevention really focuses on two key points: moisture and the health of your ends. Our first tip is to make your wash ‘n gos a bit less frequent. It may seem like a scary thought, but when your hair is left to air dry, it’s more prone to tangle. This isn’t to say that you should eliminate wash ‘n gos altogether, but if you struggle with frequent fairy knots, they could be a cause. In addition, when you do wash your hair, be sure to restore the moisture that was lost during the shampoo process. You can do that with a repairing hair mask, like the Monoi Repairing Hair Mask, and finish with an anti-breakage spray.

Next, while we know it’s not always an easy feat, make sure that you know how to detangle, and that you’re doing so frequently. If you need to moisten your hair beforehand, use hair treatments, like the Black Vanilla 4-In-1 Combing Creme, and run through them with a wide-toothed comb. You should also be ensuring that you’re properly securing your hair at night and utilizing a silk pillowcase; cotton tugs at the hair follicles, which can further exacerbate single-strand knots. Another nighttime tip is to place your hair into a pineapple, or one or two twists or braids, for further protection.

As with all natural hair care, it’s most important to moisturize your ends. The first step is to seal them with hair oils, like the Goddess Strength 7 Oil Blend Scalp & Hair Oil, every day or every other day to make sure they don’t dry up and get further tangled.

You can also stretch the ends to help prevent further knotting. When you wear stretched hairstyles, you’re less likely to experience these tiny tangles. (Read our article on the topic to learn all about 6 Ways To Stretch Natural Hair Without Heat.) Additionally, it’s worth noting that the overall most effective prevention tip is probably keeping your hair secured in protective styles more often. This will help keep your ends properly separated. Some of our favorite protective options are twist outs, bantu knots, and box braids, but there are so many to choose from.

Lastly, as another precautionary measure, it’s key to make sure that you regularly get trims. As you’ve likely gathered by now, improper maintenance of your ends tends to be the root of fairy knot problems.

How Do You Detangle a Single-Strand Knot?

Knowing how to get a knot out of your hair generally isn’t too difficult. However, unlike say, a knot in your necklace, it’s not as simple to undo a single-strand knot. Since they’re so small, they sometimes can’t be fully detangled. However, you can try immersing them in oil in an effort to get them to unravel by themselves.

You can also try applying a generous amount of conditioner, like Black Vanilla Hydrating Conditioner, to the knot and gently massage it between your fingers. This can help loosen the tangled strands. If they start to separate, use the end of a rattail comb to help (carefully) pull the pieces of hair apart.

Remember, these tiny knots aren’t very uncommon, so don’t stress if you get the occasional one and can’t detangle it with the above methods. If that’s the case, you really have one of two options: Let it continue to grow, being delicate with how you care for your hair, or as we’ll discuss next, cut it right off.

Should You Cut Fairy Knots?

To be honest, probably. It’s an easy solution. But be sure to use a professional—and ultra-sharp—pair of scissors to snip them off. If they are not sharp enough, you may ultimately create split ends, so only use ones that can make a clean cut. With knots that are the result of split ends, it may be time to book an appointment at the salon to trim your length and ditch those single-strand knots in the process.

Next: For more help with detangling not just fairy knots, but your entire head of hair, read about 5 Tips To Reduce Breakage With a Detangling Brush.