Reader Question: Fairy Knots

I hate that I don’t have much to update as far as my hair goes, and I will… without shame blame it solely on my new devotion to the twist. I have been on a two-strand twisting binge for the past few weeks, & each glance in the mirror further deepens my love for them. Alas, I can’t quit my twists, so instead my brain is nudging me to answer a reader questions that I’ve neglected for much too long;-).

liberalheart writes:

I am looking for some information on how to avoid or tame the little knot kernels at the end of my TWA. They are driving me crazy!!! I don’t know if I am the only person that suffers from this or not, I have been looking for info on the matter to no avail.

This is a tricky question for me simply because I never experienced knots at the end of my TWA many moons ago. I did however experience them a few months back when my hair was in dire need of a good trim. The ends of my hair were brittle, dry to the touch even after an adequate deep conditioning making the only option a snipping session.  Over time, you learn to rely on your instincts as far as when or how often to trim your hair, yet being forced into a trim due to knots and snarls is a whole other story.

During my TWA years, I rarely wore my hair out and about. My fro was, and still is naturally prone to dryness and while it was readjusting to a new texture…well, essentially it battled its own state of confusion as far as retaining moisture &  relating to its new environment. I was also on the fast track to obtaining length. I was obsessed with reaching a hair goal similar to my relaxed days. I was routinely fixated on all the natural haired pictures I came across while flipping through pages of Essence or Honey because in all honesty, they were few and far between. To protect my ends & to abstain from foreseen knotting, I wore protective styles for the majority of TWA years, prolonging the styles until my hair was well past shoulder length. I never endured snarls at the ends of my hair because they were always well hidden or protected from environmental elements.

Bottom line, if you & your hair are going through a period of frustration, it’s time to take a step back & evaluate your regimen.  Or, if you haven’t developed one, time to treat your hair to a regimen based on consistency.  No two heads of natural hair are the same. Ever, and this goes way beyond the surface & the look of one’s style, therefore no matter the length of your hair, knots are a part of a natural haired person’s life, & subsequently the factors attributed to these knots will vary from fro to fro.

One of my favorite bloggers, Alice of Diary of a Kinky Curly Transitioner, devoted a post to this sometime last year:

Fairy knots are tiny, single strand knots in your hair. They got their name from the fact they are so small only a fairy could have tied them! These generally appear on the ends and then work their way up if you don’t take care of them ASAP. If you wear your hair out a lot (wash and gos, wild and loose, etc.) you’re going to be more prone to them because your ends aren’t protected and when you add the nature of curly hair (curls on itself) you’re asking for some trouble.

There are two ways to take care of them:

1) Snip them off. Easy. Breezy. Beautiful.

2) DETANGLE them out. This can be time consuming, I’ve had some luck with a heavy co-wash conditioner and olive oil. I gently combed the ends with my Denman to get them out. It took FOREVER and I snapped most of my hair off at the knots while detangling them so you’re REALLY better of with option 1.

Prevention is easy. Keep your hair relatively snag free (watch your collars!), condition and wear protective styles so the fairies won’t get you!

If you decide to detangle them out of your hair, be sure to use a wide enough comb, a conditioner with a variable amount of slip (a good cheapie is VO5’s Moiture Milks line;-), or be sure to add/use a penetrating/nourishing oil such as coconut or olive oil.

Figuring out which products work best for your hair is also quite important during TWA stages, though arming yourself with the knowledge of what your hair inherently needs is very different from shopping willy nilly for a whole host of twisting creams & gels. Determining your hair’s porosity, texture & moisture balance are all key to determining what products will work best on your hair. Marsha, from the fab Curl friendly line, Curl Junkie wrote a very detailed & informative post on this a few weeks back:

First let me say that we all have to remember that there are many factors that go into determining whether or not a product works for you. Here are just some things to consider (assuming you haven’t found your perfect combos yet):

1)Outside Weather – including Dew points, temperature, relative humidity, wind, rain, snow, etc…

2)How you treat your hair – Do you use heat regularly? Do you color your hair? Do you sleep on a cotton pillowcase vs. satin vs. whatever… Is it damaged or generally healthy?

3)Inside Environment – Humidity – is it relatively dry or most in your home or office?

4)Hair Texture – Fine through normal through Coarse (For the sake of this article, on a 1-10 scale, I’ll say that the very finest of hair is a 1 and the coarsest of hair is a 10). I find that most people who think they have really coarse hair don’t. This is mainly due to frame of reference. You’d need to feel truly coarse hair (which is typically given as Asian/Native American, although I have felt variations there as well and have seen the coarsest hair in my life on a Caucasian head…2 actually…and they were both red-heads…humm…). This isn’t to say that you aren’t right, but it is likely that your hair is in the 6-9 range. Just as with fine hair, you’ll be in the 2-4 range. It turns out, when I compare my hair strands with other folks hair, that I fall in the normal to fine range (about a 4)…that was a surprise to me!

5)Hair Porosity – Low-normal-high (which most people will not have unless their hair is damaged/bleached/etc). For the sake of this article, low porosity hair will feel smooth moving your fingers up and down the shaft and also has problems absorbing water/product/chemicals (you may see water beading up on the hair). High porosity hair will feel bumpy or a little rough (due to the cuticle layer not laying very flatly) and absorbs almost too much of everything (and will release it easily too, including moisture!).

6)Hair Density – Do you have a lot of hair on your head or very little (so you see your scalp easily)?

7)Wave/Curl Pattern – I think this a factor, although not the major one. For example, generally speaking, I think that if you have a weaker wave/curl pattern with fine-normal hair you may want to use a hard holding gel with your products to support your pattern.

8)Products you use on your hair – again, the quality, gentleness or harshness of the products you use regularly on your hair. Sometimes you can do damage with a harsh shampoo, sulfate or sulfate-free. Sometimes you need some protein and sometimes not. Sometimes you need a particular type of protein (like say the protein in an ingredient like Lecithin which even coarse heads seem to be OK with…).

9)How many times per week do you wash/condition/style your hair?

10)The temperature of the water you use to wash your hair…think about it, if you shower in hot water (like I do), then you create a great moisture rich environment for your hair to soak up moisture…you almost turn your conditioners into Deep Treatments! I find that even folks who normally avoid say glycerin in products, could use it in this environment and rinse it out (making sure not to use glycerin in their stylers). The glycerin helps to soak up the moisture in the shower air (this is not scientific, just what I’ve found! :-P)

Before giving into the frustrations of the fairy knots, try deep conditioning with a non-drying, silicone free conditioner that won’t cause an excess in buildup. Clarify your hair/scalp at least once a month ( Apple Cider Vinegar is a great option!), try protective styling! I used to LOVE wearing my hair in tiny two-strand twists which always produced the cutest curly fro, or moisturized single coils which are often easier to maintain and style than two-strands.

Hope this helps & you find a solution to those stubborn knots;-)!

One Comment to “Reader Question: Fairy Knots”

  1. Using castor oil on my ends really made a huge impact on the reduction in my single strand knots.

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