Since single-strand knots (SSKs) have been a major issue with me, I thought I’d share something of what I’ve learned.Also called fairy knots, these little critters seem to thrive in dry, frizzy hair – in other words, I’m afraid it’s a characteristic of naturally curly afro hair, particularly Type 4 hair. So if you have tightly coiled natural afro hair, SSKs are just part of the package.Single strand knots occur when a single strand of hair gets tangled and forms the most intricate knot around itself – hence the name fairy knots because they seem to appear magically. Naughty fairies!
I haven’t found any conclusive evidence as to why SSKs occur but it seems to be linked to shrinkage. I’m guessing that this is because the movement of the hair means each tiny curl coils back up and gets caught up in itself, resulting in a teensy tangle in the strand. Usually they occur at the ends of the hair but they can also be found further up the strand.
I also think that the general condition of your hair can be a factor. Single-strand knots seem to go hand in hand with other signs of damage, such as split ends.
I find that if I haven’t detangled my hair well enough, or if the ends of my hair are frayed or rough, the more SSKs I have to deal with. I’m not sure if this is a consequence of the SSKs or the cause, but they definitely affect the overall health of your hair.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do with fairy knots in your hair, except to trim them out. Some naturals can live with them – I can’t! For me, they’re a menace and I could spend hours seeking them out and eliminating them with a pair of sharp shears.
I think trimming them is the best course of action because as I mentioned before, they can affect surrounding strands of hair. The roughness of the tangle can cause friction with other hairs and cause damage to them too, or cause more tangles in your hair – but it’s up to you how you handle them.
How to Prevent SSKs
It’s very hard to prevent SSKs because, as I said before, it’s just part of the natural journey. You can try to keep them at bay by ensuring that there’s no shrinkage. My hair was at its best around four months ago, when I was sectioning in the shower while I washed my hair. My bad – I got lazy and stopping sectioning when I was washing my hair. So I’ll go back to sectioning as I wash, making sure that I tie my hair back up in manageable portions as soon as I’ve rinsed out the shampoo or conditioner so that it can’t bounce back and start knotting up. I’ve also started wearing stretched-out styles more. I’m a big fan of twists…although I’m still perfecting the technique.
Moisture, moisture, moisture! My hair’s become very dry lately, despite regular moisturising. There are a number of reasons for this – exposure to cold weather, heat indoors, too much protein, glycerine overload…I’ve made so many mistakes lately, I’m slightly annoyed with myself.
To compound it all, I haven’t felt like drinking as much water because it’s been so cold, so I’ve been drinking herbal teas (I kinda feel that drinking herbal tea is almost as beneficial as drinking pure water – if anyone knows if that’s true, please shout up).
So, keeping your hair moist seems to keep the answer to keeping SSKs at bay. I think this is because the more slippage you have along the hair shaft, the less likelihood of the hairs getting stuck together and tangling. Using a good oil to coat the hair is a great idea…but be frugal with heavy oils and butters, especially if you have low-porosity hair (we don’t want to prevent moisture from getting in now, do we?).
Detangling. Or rather, gentle detangling. The more gentle you are with your hair, the less the curls will bounce up and get tangled. I’ve been pretty impatient with my hair lately and I’m feeling the pain now. So whether you’re finger-detangling or using a comb, detangling wet or dry hair; be gentle about it. Set aside some time and tell yourself that it’s part of your pampering time so that you don’t become annoyed because it’s taking too long.
Finally, simply keep your hair healthy – and this means trimming regularly. Rough cuticles are common at the ends of your hair because it’s the oldest part of your hair. Every cuticle that sticks up is an opportunity for the strand to become entangled – if your strands are smooth then it’s more difficult for your hair to become all tangled up. So get rid of all those nasty, dry ends with a pair of sharp scissors.
Well, I hope that’s helped. Free free to post your comments here, or ask any questions through my forum…and did I tell you: we’re giving away a Huetiful Steamer for free! Yes, FREE, to one lucky member of the forum! Get going and be in with a chance to win this AMAZING prize – visit the Natural Hair Forum UK.