Finger Combing: What Is It and Step-by-Step How to Guide

A cute black woman with wavy hair showing off her natural curl pattern after using the finger comb method.

Finger combing is one of those things we’re encouraged to do for healthier hair. Unfortunately, many people do it incorrectly and end up with split ends and breakage.

If you want to try finger combing, it’s important to gather all the information you can about it, and we can help in this regard. In this article, we’ll tell you how to finger comb your hair step by step. Let’s get right into it!

What Is Finger Combing?

Finger combing is exactly what you think it is:  it’s combing through your hair with your fingers rather than a comb. The purpose of finger combing is to reduce split ends and minimize breakage.

The idea behind it is that your fingers can feel for and identify tangles, making it easier to remove them without breaking your hair. You don’t have that same luxury with a comb, which can yank healthy hair strands out.

Many proponents of finger combing state that they’ll never go back to combing their hair with a comb.

A beautiful serene African-American young woman with very narrow teeth after detangling natural hair strands.

How to Finger Comb Hair for Detangling Purposes

The main reason that people finger comb their hair is to reduce breakage during the detangling process. There’s a right way and a wrong way to finger comb hair, and we’ll teach you the right way here.

Finger Detangling 101| A Comprehensive Guide & Demo for Natural Hair

  1. Wet your hair down with water. The wetter your hair is, the more pliable it’ll be. You can spray your hair down with a spray bottle, stand over a sink, or hop in the shower.
  2. Use your fingers to separate your hair into several sections to make the detangling process easier. Most people can get by with 4 to 8 sections total.
  3. Put an elastic or ponytail holder on each of the sections. Doing so will help keep unwanted sections of hair out of the way as you work on a given section.
  4. Choose a section and remove the rubber band or elastic from it.
  5. Apply a slippery detangler to the section of hair. The detangler will make your hair slippery, so removing the knots will be a piece of cake. Without a detangler, your strands won’t slide past each other freely and make it harder to get through those knots and tangles.
  6. Begin detangling that first section of hair while it’s wet and covered in detangler. You’ll use the pads of your fingers to strategically pull apart the knots. Avoid using your nails to detangle your hair; doing so can leave you with split ends and weak spots along certain hair strands. It could take several minutes to detangle one section of hair, so be patient during this process. Once all of the knots in the section are gone, run your fingers through the hair, starting at the ends and slowly moving up to the roots.
  7. Once all the knots are gone, move to the next section of hair, apply your detangler, and get to work removing tangles.
  8. When you’re done with all of the sections, run your fingers through your hair.
A charming young female with curly hair used a wide-toothed comb as a gentler method to remove shed hair.

Dos and Don’ts of Finger Combing

Finger combing may seem easy enough, but there are many ways things could go horribly wrong. Read the below dos and don’ts to avoid a hair-detangling disaster!


  • Do ensure that your hair is wet and covered in a slippery detangler before you start finger-detangling your hair.
  • Do choose a detangler that is super slippery.
  • Do clip and file your nails before finger detangling with them. Your nails can scratch at your strands and defeat the purpose of finger combing.
  • Do finger detangle in sections. Trying to finger comb all of your hair at once will be extremely overwhelming. The smaller the section, the easier it’ll be to pinpoint and detangle the hair.
  • Do start detangling at the ends and slowly move upward to the roots.


  • Don’t let your hair dry out while finger detangling. The drier your hair is, the more difficult it will be to work through those tangles. Detangling wet hair (or damp hair) with solely your fingers will provide a much better outcome.
  • Don’t rush through the detangling process. Rushing means ripping through the tangles to get done quicker, and that’s a surefire way to snap your strands and increase split ends.
  • Don’t hesitate to add more water or detangler to your hair as you finger comb. The more slip you have, the better for your hair.
  • Don’t detangle your hair in-between wash days unless it’s absolutely necessary. Detangling your hair, even with your fingers, requires a lot of manipulation. So to preserve the health of your hair, you should minimize it.
A young multiracial woman talking to a friend about whether aggressive brushing is better on wet or dry hair.

What’s the Best Detangler for Finger Combing Natural Hair?

Finger-detangling sessions are only as good as your detangler. You need one that will lubricate your strands, so they glide smoothly past each other. One of the best detanglers to use for this purpose is Kinky Curly Knot Today Natural Leave In/Detangler.

Kinky-Curly Knot Today: Leave In Conditioner and Detangler
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Curl Centric may receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link, at no additional cost to you.

This detangler contains several slippery ingredients that smooth your hair cuticles and make your strands super slick. What’s more is that a little goes a long way, so you won’t have to use a ton of product to detangle your hair.

Can You Finger Comb Your Hair Exclusively?

Most of us have used a comb all our lives and can’t imagine never picking one up for detangling. It’s a nice thought, but chances are you will have to eventually use a comb to detangle your hair.

The thing you need to understand about finger-detangling is that there’s no way to guarantee all the knots are gone after a given session. What’s more is that, no matter how well you finger-detangle, there will be some shed hairs left behind.

These shed hairs increase your risk of severe knotting.

To ensure your hair is actually knot free after the detangling session, it’s imperative to pull out a wide-tooth comb or a Denman brush after the finger combing is done.

It won’t take much brushing or combing to remove the rest of the shed hairs or knots with either of these instruments. Ensure your hair is still wet and coated in a detangler before combing or brushing.

African-American woman with healthy hair after treating her precious locks with natural oils to reduce hair breakage.

Pros and Cons of Finger Combing the Hair

Choosing to finger comb your hair is a big deal. But you shouldn’t jump all the way in until you’ve considered the pros and cons of the detangling method.

The main pro of finger combing natural hair is less breakage and split ends. Your fingers can detangle your hair more gently than a comb can. Combs, by contrast, are rougher.

The disadvantages of finger combing include the following:

  • You may not be able to remove every single tangle or knot from your hair.
  • Finger combing will leave some shed hairs behind, which can cause more tangling.
  • Finger combing takes longer than combing with a traditional comb, a wide-tooth comb, or a brush.

Should You Finger Comb with Short Hair?

You can definitely finger comb if your natural hair is short. In a case like this, it’ll be very easy to do and won’t result in as many of the finger combing cons we mentioned above. So if you want to finger comb your hair, go for it!

A newly transitioned natural with loose strands used wide tooth combs on her hair regularly to remove stubborn knots.

Is Combing Your Hair with a Comb That Bad?

The hype surrounding finger combing could make you develop negative feelings about combing your hair with a regular comb. But it’s important to know that combing your hair isn’t inherently horrible.

If you don’t comb your hair gently, though, it can lead to some pretty severe hair problems. To minimize issues that stem from combing your hair, we encourage you to wet down your strands and use a detangler before going in with a wide-tooth comb.

Is Finger Detangling Better Than Combing?

Many people believe that finger detangling is better than combing because it is gentler on the hair, reduces breakage, and helps to maintain curl definition. Finger detangling allows you to feel for knots and tangles and gently work them out with your fingers rather than ripping through them with a comb. Additionally, finger detangling allows for more control and precision.

Is Finger Combing Good for Natural Hair?

Finger combing is a great option for those with natural hair because it can help to reduce breakage, maintain curl definition, and promote healthy hair growth. Finger combing allows you to gently work through tangles and knots with your fingers, rather than using a comb or brush that can be harsh on the hair.

Is Finger Combing Good for Wavy Hair?

Finger combing can be good for wavy hair because it enhances and defines waves while reducing frizz and breakage. Finger combing allows you to gently work through tangles and knots with your fingers, which can help to maintain curl definition and promote healthy hair growth. Finger combing also distributes natural oils throughout the hair, which keeps it moisturized and healthy.

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So, there you have it–everything you need to know about finger combing your natural hair. We hope you have found all the information you were looking for and wish you the best of luck with your natural hair journey.

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