The Best Hair Detanglers for Kids With Knotty Locks

Expert stylists recommend the SoCozy Detangler and other kid-friendly products

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Brushing through kids’ hair can be a real adventure for caregivers, and detanglers were created to help make the process a little easier. “A detangler is like a watery conditioner or leave-in conditioner,” according to certified hair practitioner, and owner of Absolutely Everything Curly, Gaby Longsworth, PhD. There are also detangling combs and brushes that claim to get those knots out. The goal of all of these is to help brushes and combs glide through the hair without causing breakage or pain.

Reviewed & Approved

SoCozy Detangler & Leave-In Conditioner Spray for Kids is a clean product that is effective and smells delightful. Kinky-Curly Knot Today Leave-In Conditioner makes detangling kinky, coily hair an easy task for both you and your little one.

As with any hair product, it’s important to find one that is either designed for their locks’ texture and style or is made with the best ingredients for their specific hair type. “There are several methods to choose from when it comes to detangling hair,” Jess Van Diest, licensed stylist and salon manager at Kidtopia Salon in Virginia, tells Verywell Family, “The hardest thing is figuring out what works for your child.” 

To make this process easier, we’ve created a list of some of the best hair detanglers for kids on the market.

Best Overall: SoCozy Detangler & Leave-In Conditioner Spray for Kids

4.8
SoCozy Detangler & Leave-In Conditioner Spray for Kids

SoCozy

Pros
  • Free of harsh ingredients

  • Delicious smell

  • Weightless formula for most hair types

Cons
  • Might not be strong enough for tight curls

The SoCozy Detangler and Leave-In Conditioner Spray for Kids is our favorite because it’s made with clean ingredients, smells great, and really works! Cozy Friedman, licensed stylist and owner of Cozy’s Cuts for Kids in New York City tells Verywell that she created this detangler for kids because she struggled so much to find products that met her standards and that kids didn’t mind smelling. This detangler is free of sulfates and phthalates, as well as common allergens like gluten, wheat, and nuts. It’s formulated to work with most hair types, is weightless, and not only detangles, but it also strengthens hair.

Key Ingredients: Keratin, soy protein, kiwi extract

What Experts Say

“I created SoCozy hair care because I couldn’t find products to use in my salon that met my criteria of clean and effective. And they smell great, too—so kids love them!” — Cozy Friedman, licensed stylist, and owner of Cozy’s Cuts for Kids in New York City

Best Detangling Spray: Fairy Tales Tangle Tamer Static Free Detangling Spray

Fairy Tales Tangle Tamer Static Free Detangling Spray

Fairy Tales

Pros
  • Budget-friendly (especially for a 12 oz bottle)

  • Safe for toddlers and kids

  • Free of common allergens including soy, dairy, nuts, and gluten

Cons
  • May be too heavy for fine hair

We love this hair detangling spray because it's free of sulfates, gluten, and parabens, and it’s formulated for several different hair types including oily, wavy, frizzy, curly, and damaged. It’s also one of Jess Van Diest, licensed stylist, favorites because it’s budget-friendly. 

“Sprays allow [caregivers] to focus the detangler directly at the problem areas,” she says. This makes the detangling process easier and less painful for kids. 

The Fairy Tales Tangle Tamer Static Free Detangling Spray helps clear knots out of hair, manages frizz, and adds moisture to locks without leaving a gunky residue behind. It’s safe for kids and toddlers and is free from nuts, soy, dairy, and gluten.

Key Ingredients: Vitamin E, keratin, jojoba, and aloe vera

Best for Natural Hair: Kinky Curly Knot Today Detangler

Kinky Curly Knot Today Detangler

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Natural and organic ingredients

  • Leave-in conditioner and detangler in one

  • Specifically formulated for natural hair textures

Cons
  • Not a spray formula

For tight curls and natural texture, Kinky-Curly Knot Today Leave-In Conditioner is a must-have. It can be used as either a conditioning rinse for wavy hair or a leave-in treatment for kids with thicker, kinkier hair. Most of this conditioner’s ingredients are organic and natural, and it’s formulated not only to detangle but to deeply moisturize and repair coils. This can be used at any time, but it’s especially great for aiding in the detangling process after taking down braids and other protective styles. 

Key Ingredients: Organic mango extract, organic slipper elm, organic marshmallow root, and organic lemongrass

Best Conditioner: Johnson’s Ultra Hydrating Conditioner

Johnson’s Ultra Hydrating Conditioner

Johnson’s

Pros
  • Hypoallergenic 

  • Tear-free formula specifically for kids

  • Protects, moisturizes, and strengthens hair

Cons
  • Not a spray detangler (pro for some)

According to Friedman, one of the best ways to detangle hair is to cover the hair in conditioner while your child is in the tub and comb through it before rinsing. We particularly love Johnson’s Ultra Hydrating Conditioner for this because it’s formulated with vitamins and proteins that not only protect your kiddo’s hair but it also helps to keep strands moisturized and strong. It’s safe for toddlers and kids, it’s tear-free (so it won’t burn if it gets in their eyes), and has a gentle formula that’s free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and dyes. It’s also hypoallergenic and super budget-friendly. 

Key Ingredients: Pro-vitamin B5 and proteins

Best for Curly Hair: Cantu Kids Conditioning Detangler

Cantu Kids Conditioning Detangler

Cantu

Pros
  • Made specifically for curly hair

  • Moisturizing with shea butter, coconut oil, and honey

  • Lovely scent

Cons
  • Only 6 ounces

For curly hair, you can’t go wrong with Cantu Care’s Kids Conditioning Detangler. It’s formulated specifically to nourish and protect coils, curls, and waves by adding enough slip for fingers, combs, and brushes to glide through without causing pain or frizz. 

We like that it's made with shea butter, coconut oil, and honey to keep hair soft and moisturized throughout the day, and without any harmful ingredients. This detangler helps reduce breakage during the combing process and will leave hair feeling bouncy and healthy once it’s dried.

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, coconut oil, and honey

Best for Fine Hair: Honest Conditioning Detangler

Honest Conditioning Detangler

Honest

Pros
  • Very gentle on the hair

  • Sweet orange vanilla scent

  • Lightweight formula

Cons
  • May need to use more at a time since it's so gentle

For fine hair, we are big fans of Honest’s Everyday Gentle hair conditioning detangler, and our kids are too. According to Friedman, “Fine hair can get weighed down by a heavy conditioner.” This means a lightweight detangler is ideal. 

While it’s technically made for all hair types, we love it for fine hair because it’s formulated with lightweight, naturally derived ingredients like quinoa extracts and jojoba protein, as well as moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and argan oil. The Honest detangling spray is also free of harsh ingredients, so it’s super clean and gentle on the hair. It also smells great and will leave the hair feeling soft and smooth.

Key Ingredients: Argan oil, jojoba protein, shea butter, and quinoa extracts

What Our Editors Say

 "When my son decided to grow his hair long, I was so worried about it getting irreparably tangled. He's got enough hair for about three people! But I'm able to get him to brush it every day as long as we spray it with Honest Conditioning Detangler. He thinks it smells 'like cake,' and he doesn't cry (well, not too much) when I have to comb through the occasional nest in the back of his head." — Sabrina Rojas Weiss, Parenting Editor, Verywell Family

Best Long Lasting: WetBrush Time Release Detangler for Kids

WetBrush Time Release Detangler for Kids

WetBrush

Pros
  • Lasts up to three days

  • Minimizes split ends

  • Protects hair from heat

Cons
  • Lavender scent may not be ideal for those with sensitivities 

The great thing about this innovative detangler is that one application can keep hair knot-free for up to three days. It’s made with keratin, which soaks deep into the hair follicle to not only hydrate but also strengthen and protect it, resulting in way less breakage. Not only is it a long-lasting detangler, but it also protects hair from heat damage—in case your kid likes to use a hairdryer or other hot tool—and minimizes split ends. Since it’s made without any harsh ingredients, it’s also super gentle on the hair.

Key Ingredients: Keratin

Best Multi-Purpose: Paul Mitchell Kids Taming Spray

Paul Mitchell Kids Taming Spray

Paul Mitchell

Pros
  • Lightweight formula for all hair types

  • Detangles, calms, controls, and protects hair

  • Reduces static

Cons
  • Floral vanilla scent isn’t for everyone

This is one of Van Diest’s favorite detanglers for kids because it does so much more than just detangle. It’s a lightweight detangler and leave-in conditioner that helps calm, control, and protect all types of hair (including hair with dandruff). It works quickly (which is key for young kids), reduces static, and leaves hair feeling soft and full of body. We also really like that this detangler has a very faint floral vanilla scent that isn’t overpowering.

Key Ingredients: White ginger root extract, wheat protein, amino acids, and silicone quaternium-22

Best Detangling Comb: WetBrush Pro Detangling Comb

WetBrush Pro Detangling Comb

WetBrush

All of our experts agree that detangling combs are one of the best ways to free hair from knots, and we really like the WetBrush Pro Detangling Comb. “A wide-tooth comb does the least amount of damage to the hair cuticle,” Friedman tells us. This comb not only has a wide-tooth design, but the teeth are wavy to help evenly distribute wet hair for more effective and simpler detangling. Perfect for all hair lengths, the Wetbrush Pro has an easy-grip handle to help keep the comb from sliding out of your hand since water and conditioner can get very slippery. 

Key Ingredients: Not available

Best Detangling Brush: Tangle Teezer The Ultimate Detangler

Tangle Teaser The Large Ultimate Detangler
Pros
  • Super flexible teeth

  • Made for wet or dry hair

  • Available in a rainbow of colors

Cons
  • Second choice to finger detangling

If you’d rather go product-free, then the Tangle Teezer hairbrush is an excellent option for attacking knots. It’s made to work through either wet or dry hair with a  two-tiered teeth design that is super flexible, so it will be gentle on strands and your child’s scalp too. You can use it on your child no matter what hair type they have, and it will leave them with soft, smooth, frizz-free hair. Plus, it’s available in a rainbow of colors, so you’re sure to find something your little one will like. 

While we definitely love this hairbrush, it is important to note that the best way to truly minimize hair breakage is to comb through your child’s hair with your fingers. “Using a brush to detangle hair [...] can snag and pull at tangles at the ends of the hair, causing rips and breakage,” says Longsworth. “Finger detangling with lots of water and a detangler [product] is best.” However, finger detangling can be a real journey with wiggly toddlers and kids, so, in that case, both Friedman and Van Diest suggest using a detangling brush with a product to get your little one’s locks cleared of knots quickly. 

Key Ingredients: Not available

Best for After Swimming: Fairy Tales After-Sun Spray

Fairy Tales After-Sun Spray

Fairy Tales

Pros
  • Formulated specifically for after swimming in salt water or chlorine

  • Super moisturizing

  • Delightful smell

Cons
  • May weigh down finer hair since it's so moisturizing 

After a day of sun and water, kids’ hair can end up in a tangled mess, and that’s exactly why Fairy Tales After-Sun Spray was created. It’s made with banana leaf, coconut oil, and aloe, so not only is it great for hydrating, detangling, and strengthening hair, but it also smells like a summer day. 

The deeply moisturizing formula helps counter the dryness that comes with chlorine and saltwater, and the same ingredients that hydrate the hair also contain a good amount of “slip,” which is great for detangling hair after a day in the sun. Finally, it’s free of harsh ingredients and gluten, soy, dairy, and nuts, so it’s safe for kids with food allergies.

Key Ingredients: Banana leaf, coconut oil, and aloe

Final Verdict

We absolutely love the SoCozy Detangler & Leave-In Conditioner Spray for Kids because it’s formulated from clean ingredients to work with most hair types, and it smells delicious. For natural textures, the Kinky-Curly Knot Today Leave-In Conditioner provides the right amount of slip needed to make detangling tightly coiled strands a breeze.

How We Selected 

To create this list, we consulted with Cozy Friedman, licensed stylist, and owner of Cozy’s Cuts for Kids; Gaby Longsworth, PhD, certified hair practitioner, owner of Absolutely Everything Curly; and Jess Van Diest, licensed stylist and salon manager at Kidtopia Salon, to get expert insight into what caregivers should look for in hair detanglers for kids. We took their advice into consideration as we researched dozens of products on the market and ultimately landed on the suggestions on this list to suit a variety of hair types. 

What to Look for When Buying Hair Detangler for Kids

Hair Type

According to our experts, the first thing to consider when buying hair detanglers for kids is what type of hair it’s made for. “Look for the detangler that addresses your child’s hair type,” Friedman says. Some different hair types include fine, wavy, curly, thick, textured, natural, or straight, and sometimes a child’s hair can be a combination of textures. If the product you use isn't made for their hair type, it could make knotty hair messier (and make the experience less than fun for little ones). 

“Generally, detanglers heavier in oils and butters work better than water-based detanglers, but they may also be a bit heavy for fine hair strands,” Longsworth says. For fine hair, she suggests looking for detanglers in spray bottles, as they’re typically “thinner and more water-based than [detanglers] in a jar or pump bottle.” Similarly, keep in mind that the best detangler for your child’s hair may not be a spray or leave-in treatment at all—it could be a comb or a brush that works best.

Ingredients

Another important factor in finding the right detangling product for your child is the ingredients list. “Always look for clean products that avoid sulfates and phthalates,” advises Friedman. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a surfactant that is found in many cleaning products, soaps, and personal care products. While sulfates are effective at cleaning, SLS can be too harsh for strands and the scalp, causing excessive dryness and irritation that can lead to breakage. Phthalates are chemicals that are used in various industries, including hair care to create a gel-like texture. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is unclear on the effects of phthalates on human health, the uncertainty is enough reason to avoid the chemical wherever possible. The FDA also reports that the use of phthalates in products intended to be used by people of all ages has decreased over the last two decades.

As for what ingredients you should look for, Longsworth recommends looking for products with a lot of “slippery ingredients” such as marshmallow root, shea butter, jojoba oil, slippery elm, coconut oil, aloe barbadensis (aloe vera), fatty alcohols, and/or glycerin. The slippery ingredients coat the strands to prevent tangle-causing friction, making it easier to run a brush, comb, or your fingers through the hair. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are kids detanglers good for hair?

    According to Jess Van Diest, licensed stylist, detanglers are really good for hair because they help prevent the breakage and damage that may occur if you try to forcefully brush through tangled hair without any protectant. “[Detanglers] add enough of a slip to hair to get the brush or comb through,” she says. 

  • How do I detangle my toddler’s hair?

    Toddlers are really good at getting gunk in their hair and getting it all tangled up, and they also tend to be pretty bad at sitting still while caregivers try to manage the mess. To make it easier, Van Diest says, “I always try to make it as fun as possible.” That can be anything from singing songs together while you brush, letting them color while you work through their hair, or giving them a little screen time to distract them. 

    Gaby Longsworth, PhD recommends these steps:

    1. Use lots of water. Saturate the hair with water and use a detangler with a lot of slip.
    2. Section the hair. The smaller the sections, the least amount of tugging and pulling for little ones. Mist the sections often to keep the hair wet and add more detangler if needed. Each section you detangle should feel slippery like seaweed and make a quacking sound when scrunched or squeezed. If it does not do this, add more water and more detangler.
    3. Start from the ends and work up towards the roots. This will keep the pulling and tugging to a minimum. 
  • How do you make a kids’ hair detangler?

    For a DIY hair detangler, Longsworth offers three recipes, and they’re all super simple. First, combine equal parts olive oil and coconut oil and then dilute the solution with water. Another option is to dilute your regular conditioner (or leave-in conditioner) with water in a spray bottle. Finally, you can also just use aloe barbadensis or shea butter to add enough slip to detangle your child’s hair. 

Why Trust Verywell Family

Ashley Ziegler is a full-time parenting writer and mom to two daughters, a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. Her daughters both have very different types of hair that is constantly tangled, so she understands the pains of combing through a wiggly kid’s knotted hair, and the confusion of finding the right hair products for fine and straight hair as well as for thick and wavy hair.

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2 Sources
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  2. Bondi CAM, Marks JL, Wroblewski LB, Raatikainen HS, Lenox SR, Gebhardt KE. Human and environmental toxicity of sodium lauryl sulfate (Sls): evidence for safe use in household cleaning products. EnvironHealthInsights.