In the war for best detangling product, is a detangling shampoo or conditioner tops?
If you have natural 4b, 4a and 3c hair, detangling during your wash is probably not the easiest thing in the world. Due to the hair’s natural curls and coils, tangles run galore as the strands curl around each other whether the hair is wet or dry. To avoid serious knots however, detangling cannot be avoided.
If you are already into hair care then no doubt you probably detangle your hair during the conditioning stage. This makes perfect sense as your hair is already suitably wet and conditioner lubricates it with oils*, fatty alcohols or silicones making it easier for your comb to pass through.
Can a shampoo do the same job as a conditioner and possibly even better? The shampoo in question wouldn’t be any old shampoo but a detangling one. Let’s look at the science of how shampoos and conditioners work to make an informed decision on which would make your hair easier to detangle.
Conditioners – With the exception of reconstructors, conditioners fall into the category of surface acting conditioners. They work on the outer layer or cuticle of the hair shaft. The hair shaft is composed of scales that become raised through daily wear and tear and a conditioner coats the strand, making the scales close therefore making the hair easier to detangle as the strands slide easily over each other. In essence conditioners lubricate the hair shaft with oils*, fatty alcohols or silicones to make the hair ‘slippery’ and easy to detangle.
Detangling Shampoos – Detangling shampoos work in a very different way from conditioners. The detergent in shampoos reduces the surface tension of water allowing the water to get into smaller crevices in the hair shaft. So shampoo actually makes water ‘wetter’. Detangling shampoos will also contain oil, fatty alcohols or silicones to lubricate the hair and avoiding the excess dryness that shampoos alone are notorious for.
Now let’s look at this from the perspective of a 4b, 4a or some 3c hair types. When these hair types are exposed to water without agitation, it takes a little while for water to penetrate the hair shaft preferring to run over the surface of the hair, particularly if the subject uses oils or silicones in their styling products.
• A deep conditioner* with heat applied will penetrate the hair shaft making it very pliable, increase elasticity and make it easier to detangle.
• On the other hand a detangling shampoo, by making the water ‘wetter’, will penetrate the little crevices in the hair shaft making the hair easy to detangle.
The science suggests that for a quick wash, a detangling shampoo would be the wisest choice for detangling 4b, 4a and 3c hair before moving on to conditioning. If you have time for a deep conditioning* treatment with heat however, your hair will benefit greatly from the deep penetration that heat + conditioner will provide. As we haven’t always got time for a deep conditioning* treatment with heat, a detangling shampoo is an excellent secret weapon to have for your mid week washes.