Natural Hair Detanglers

Written by contributor Tiffany Larson.

Lucky or not, my daughter inherited her curly hair from both her father and I. On bad days, we both grumble about her mass of knotted curls but on the good days, I gush over how her curls match her fun and charming personality. If you have a curly headed child, you can probably empathize with me.

If you’ve followed my green goals for 2012, you know that I’ve planned to make more personal care products at home this year.  So I started with natural hair detangler because I use it every day.

In the past, I’ve used some great natural hair detanglers purchased from the store. If you aren’t the DIY type, you might like one of these. Kiss My Face Kid’s Detangler Creme loosens the knots in my daughter’s hair however it leaves  it fairly greasy if we don’t wash it every day.  I’ve also talked to moms that love Nature’s Baby Organics Detangler.

My favorite natural hair detangler from the store is Tru Kid Dancing Hair Detangler. Not only does it detangle but it adds just enough hold to my daughter’s curls to last the day without any greasy left over.

For those of us on a mission to do it ourselves, I tested out three different homemade detanglers to see if any were successful.


Remember the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding?  In it, the father uses Windex to cure everything.  Well, white vinegar is my natural version of Windex.  I keep a spray bottle of it in the kitchen and use it for everything.  Can’t find the hand soap?  Vinegar.  Fingerprints on the chrome?  Vinegar.  No buttermilk?  Add vinegar.  So it was just natural for me to try out vinegar first.  I tried both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar (separately).

So did they work? Yes and no.  They did coat her strands enough to comb out the tangles but I’m not sure they worked any better than water alone.  Additionally,  the smell was not a hit.  As my daughter said, “Mommy, I don’t like this potion.”  The apple cider vinegar gave her curls great shine but the white vinegar left her hair crunchy.  Crunchy curls are not my favorite look.

aloe veraPhoto by robertivanc

Glycerin and Aloe Vera

I also tried a recipe using 8 ounces of water, 1 tsp of aloe vera gel and 1 tsp of glycerin. You could also add a couple drops of essential oil.  I combined them in a spray bottle and shook to mix.  While this detangler did help to soften the knots, I was hoping it would add a little hold to her curls for the rest of the day. Once her hair was dry, the curls loosened up and were a bit more frizzy than I prefer.

Natural Conditioner and Water

After two strikes, I decided to go with the old standby: conditioner.  Her hair always looked great after conditioning it in the shower so I thought I might as well try using it on her dry hair, as well.  I added water and a few drops of natural conditioner to a spray bottle, shook it up and sprayed.  This has to be the easiest and most frugal homemade “potion” ever.  Simple Homemade contributor Stacy Karen agrees, she’s been using her own recipe of conditioner and water for nine years.

After using this mixture for a few days, I found that it worked better if I sprayed it on and let it sit for a minute or two and then combed.  The knots came out easier and the conditioner helped keep her curls soft and defined all day.

I’ve found a winner.  I’m crossing homemade detangler off the list.

What is your favorite detangler? Do you have a homemade hair detangler recipe that you use?


Tiffany lives, plays and works in sunny Bend, Oregon with her husband and 2 kids. When she isn't outside playing or dreaming about her next vacation, you can find her writing here.

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  1. I use a lemon & honey rinse after shampooing my hair with my home made goat milk shampoo. I like this so-o much better than vinegar and I have found my hair to be much less “tangly”. My recipe is general – 1 quart of water, approximately 1 tablespoon of lemon juice & 1 teaspoon of honey. Maybe this would work as a detangler too?!

    I have been following your blog for several months now. Thank-you for the simple, natural inspirations!

  2. Kara E. says:

    I actually like that Simple Organic has become Simple Homemade. The change fits with the path the blog has gone down over the past year or so. Anyway…

    For me, I don’t usually need a detangler, but when I do need something I like to use a very small amount of my conditioner diluted in my hands with water, then apply to the tangled areas. It’s pretty much the same concept as your spray bottle, I just don’t have to store an extra bottle in my small bathroom.

  3. Katherine says:

    I love the idea of a leave in conditioner/detangler. Where can I find a recipe for the conditioner?

  4. Thank you so much. I am constantly struggling with detangling my daughter’s thick hair.

  5. Tamikko Gordin says:

    I have naturally curly hair and one of my daughters has straight hair with a little bit of a wave that gets matted in the back when she sleeps. The best thing I’ve tried is coconut oil or homemade flax gel. We use apple cider vinegar in the shower instead of conditioner. We don’t no-poo anymore but we do use homemade shampoo with coconut milk, Dr. Bronners castile soap, olive oil and essential oil. We love it and I will never use anything else now.

    • I’m trying to find a recipe for homemade milk shampoo. Could you share the amounts of coconut milk, castile soap and olive oil that you use? Thanks.

  6. Barbara says:

    My daughter’s hair is nearly to her waist, very thick and very curly. After several years of searching and trying many products, I too have found that the conditioner and water in a spray bottle works well. After we spray, we put her hair up in a ‘towel turban’ and leave it for 5-10 minutes and it combs out very nicely.

  7. Katherine says:

    I love the idea of a leave in conditioner/detangler. Where can I fid a recipe for the conditioner?

  8. Even though I’ve been making detangler for a long time, I’m still amazed at how easy it is and how well it works!

    And it’s so inexpensive. That is a great bonus.

    Thanks for sharing my recipe, Tiffany.

  9. I know this sounds like a backwards question, but are the homemade natural hair products okay for use on chemically dyed hair? I just didn’t know if it would react or anything. I have been wanting to try some natural homemade options, but didn’t want to ruin my color job!
    Thanks for humoring me!
    My latest post: Depression is NOT being sad

  10. Her curls are so adorable! I switched to natural conditioner (Jason’s) this winter, but I’m still using the same old detangler I picked up at Target on my girls and it is not natural.

    I’m going to concoct my own using the Jason’s immediately!

  11. Ever since I read Stacy’s recipe, I’ve been planning to try it when my CA baby spray ran out for my daughter’s easily tangled, long straight hair. We recently ran out so I made it. It works great! And sprays out much finer than the store-bought version. I just use our CA Baby conditioner mixed with water.

  12. Thank you for doing these tests! We have a great detangler for my 3 yr old daughter but I realize now the ingredient list is a bit suspect.
    Can’t wait to test out the conditioner spray.

  13. Annette Holbrook says:

    As a curly girl myself, I have had a love/hate relationship with my curls during my lifetime. Over the past 15 years, I’ve been mostly in love with them. I credit my love of my curls to a great book “Curly Girl The Handbook” by Lorraine Massey. It’s been the best $10 I have ever spent on my hair. Lorraine is a curly girl herself and owns a salon in NYC that is dedicated to curly girls. Her book offers many all natural recipes for curly hair care. I highly recommend it! When I became pregnant 3 years ago, I wished for a curly haired baby and my wish was granted. My little curly girl will hopefully grow up LOVING her curls because I know just what to do with them.

  14. This is the same recipe we use for my 3 year-old daughter’s hair – a little bit of coconut oil conditioner with water in a spray bottle. We spray her hair before combing it every morning and wash it every other day. It is easier to put her hair into braids or pony tails and it doesn’t get too greasy.

  15. I have used vinegar as a conditioner, and it works pretty well but leaves a residual smell in your hair for a while. I’ve been washing my hair with a lavender castile soap/baking soda paste, and I recently added a squirt of jojoba oil to the “shampoo” that I make. After rinsing, it gets very, very clean (and I’m not really able to run my fingers through my hair). So I put a small amount of jojoba oil in my hand, and work it through my hair – scalp first, then I bring the ends up and get them too. It works wonders! Just that small amount will work for my entire head of (long) hair, and when I rinse it out, it works through the ends even more. I haven’t needed any further conditioner since I tried this. If your hair tends to be oily this might not work well, and if you use too much your hair will also look oily (trust me on this). 🙂
    Hope that this works for someone else, too!

  16. I wonder how well a hard lotion bar would work for this? I’m not a curly girl *at all* but since conditioners contain some oils, maybe an oil-based solid lotion bar could be effective for this? You could apply just a bit of hard lotion bar to your hands and smooth your hands through lightly damp hair (could be pre-misted with water).

    Then you wouldn’t even have to worry about the other weirdo ingredients in some of the conditioners (silicones/preservatives, etc.) Or the issue of molds or bacteria growth in the homemade conditioner spray, since all that added water is a breeding ground for different bugs. (Probably best to make small batches of this or use a clear spray container so you can at least see the contents and watch for grody things.)

    I use lotion bars in my hair for conditioning, but I’m not positive about how effective they’d be at detangling, since I’m not blessed with hair that tangles. Has anyone here used a hard lotion bar in this way?

  17. Love this! I have a big head of curly hair myself and I use conditioner as a general “hair lotion” – detangles, holds, etc.

  18. After looking at the ingredient list of Suave detangler and realized it was practically the same as any old conditioner. That was when the lightbulb went on for me! I could buy a pricier Organic Conditioner that I preferred, dilute it and use as detangler and the conditioner lasts almost a year or longer since we don’t use it in the shower. It works as well as any commercial detangler without the chemical additives that I worry about.

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