Scientists say brushing hair from the tip to the roots is the optimum strategy for removing knots


Need to de-tangle your hair? Scientists say brushing it from the tip to the roots is the optimum strategy for removing knots

  • Harvard researchers have found short brush strokes that start at the ‘free’ end of the hair and move towards the ‘clamped’ end are most effective for detangling 
  • When an incorrect strategy is used, it can be painful and damaging to the hair 
  • The team is now looking to study the mechanics of brushing curlier hair

Anyone who has ever had to brush long hair will have experienced the arduous task of trying to get the knots out.

It’s a tricky combination of patience, perseverance and gritted teeth.

But scientists have discovered the key to freeing the tangles – by beginning at the ends and moving upwards.

Harvard researchers created a model that simulated two entwined filaments to represent a tangle of hair, and analysed different ways of ‘brushing’ it so the hairs became free.

Short brush strokes that start at the ‘free’ end of the hair and move towards the ‘clamped’ end are most effective.

Their results, published in the journal Soft Matter, revealed short brush strokes that start at the ‘free’ end of the hair and move towards the ‘clamped’ end are most effective.

‘By developing a model of tangled fibres, we understand from a model-based perspective how hairs must be entangled,’ the researchers said.

‘Start from the bottom and slowly work the way up to prevent “jamming” of the fibres.

‘This is something everyone who has brushed hair has learned from experience, but is now something we can demonstrate through a model.’

When an incorrect brushing strategy is used, the process can be very painful and damaging to the hair, they warned.

Professor Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan (CORR), one of the authors of the study, said he learned the mechanics of combing years ago while brushing his young daughter’s hair.

‘I recall that detangling spray seemed to work sometimes, but I still had to be careful to comb gently, by starting from the free ends,’ he said.

‘But I was soon fired from the job as I was not very patient.’

Next, his team aims to study the mechanics of brushing curlier hair and how it responds to humidity and temperature.

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