If you have long hair, you have probably heard your fair share of hair advice from the ladies and gentlemen in your life. Whether they’ve warned you to avoid brushing your wet strands or told you that sleeping with sopping-wet locks is an absolute no-no, everyone has an opinion on how to take care of your tresses. But one thing that seems to be universally agreed upon is this: Wet hair is delicate. That’s why you should only comb your strands when they are partially dry, not completely sopping wet. However, many of us often skip this step, causing our strands to suffer from excessive pulling and damage. Fortunately, there’s actually a right way to comb wet hair that will protect it from breakage and keep it healthy.
Wet hair is in a fragile state because the proteins that make up each strand (keratin) have weaker hydrogen bonds when wet, making them more susceptible to stretching and damage. This is why your hair stretches when wet, and why it snaps easily when you tug at it. Wet strands are also more vulnerable to frizz and tangling, especially if you rub it against towels or other items while you’re detangling.
All of these factors combine to make your strands extremely vulnerable to breakage, which is why it’s so important to treat them with the care they deserve. To minimize breakage, comb your wet strands in small sections and use a wide-tooth comb with teeth that are spread far apart to prevent friction. You can also use a detangling brush that’s made specifically for wet hair, like the Body Shop Detangling Brush ($7). These brushes have thin, flexible bristles that are gentle on your strands and help to detangle without harsh pulling.
It’s also important to remember that wet hair is more vulnerable to bacteria than dry strands, so be sure to wash your comb or brush regularly and to always comb gently. You should also try to avoid rubbing or touching your wet strands with your hands if possible, and only allow them to air-dry in a towel before combing.
Of course, we all know that it can be difficult to resist the temptation to brush your strands after a shower, especially when you’re running late for work or are already exhausted by the end of the day. But if you can’t resist, just make sure to wait until your strands are at least partially dry and only comb them with a wide-toothed comb or detangling brush. And, if you can, try to schedule your shower for earlier in the day so that your strands have time to fully air-dry before you need them for anything other than a night of sleep or a quick run to the store. Doing so will not only keep your strands from drying out and breaking, but it’ll also help to eliminate those annoying tangles. Good luck!