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The Mystery of Fairy Knots

Do you have Fairy knots? They may feel like little beads along the hair shaft. They are annoying and most women comb as much hair as they can towards the front of their head, grab a pair of scissors and begin clipping away any knots in view. First, let me state that I do not advocate trimming your own hair, especially with any pair of scissors. Dull scissors can fray the ends of the hair shaft, leaving them in the same condition they were in before the makeshift trim, if not worse. Most importantly, there are some irregularities of the hair shaft that cause consistent knotting. This is most commonly seen in curlier hair types. Unfortunately some women will experience knots in their hair shaft on a regular basis. These knots are not always at the end of the hair shaft. Instead, single or multiple knots can be seen and felt along the length of the hair shaft. We have nicknamed this phenomenon “Fairy knots” but the technical term is Trichonodosis.

Curly, coiled strands are produced by a flat, curved hair follicle. The curly hair strand that grows out of this follicle tends to weave and loop around other hair strands causing the strands of hair to easily become knotted together. Now this is common in curly hair types. The ultimate concern is when this becomes a chronic problem and a single, or sometimes double knot occurs in the hair shaft.  Short, curly hair and tightly coiled hair types are particularly susceptible to this type of knotting. A considerable number of slack knots are often produced by friction from pillows or various hair manipulations, especially when shampooing.  Combing the hair with combs that have fine teeth may tighten the knots and even pull out hairs from the scalp prematurely.  As a result, wide tooth combs are always the best option when combing through the hair. Fine tooth or rattail combs should only be used to gently remove knots from the hair because the hair shaft can become fractured at the site of the knot if the hair is pulled or manipulated incorrectly.


Extreme care must be taken to prevent excessive knotting of the hair shaft.  Here are some extra tips to prevent and/or decrease the occurrence of Fairy Knots (Trichonodosis):


  1. Always detangle your hair before shampooing. When hair is not detangled, the water will cause your curls to tighten around any existing knots or build up in the hair. This makes combing the hair after the shampoo more difficult and frustrating.
  2. While shampooing, do not pile the hair on top of the head. Instead, massage the shampoo directly in to the scalp with the pads of your fingertips and gently finger comb the shampoo through the length of your hair in a down ward motion to keep the hair free of tangles.
  3. When drying the hair its always best to blot the hair dry and squeeze excess water from the hair. Do not use harsh movements with the towel.
  4. When preparing for bed, braid or twist the hair in sections to decrease the friction and matting that can be caused while the hair is loose.
  5. Incorporate reconstructing deep conditioners into your conditioning routine on a regular basis to keep the hair shaft strong.
  6. Have a professional trim your ends on a regular basis. On average for women who wear their hair natural, that’s once every 3-4 months, but it may be more frequently for those who have tighter coils and experience knots on a regular basis. So, monitor your hair growth cycle and how your hair feels a month or two after a trim. If you start to notice that your hair tangles more during and after a shampoo and/or you feel knots in your hair that is a sign you need a trim.


If you have knots in your hair shaft the only and best way to get rid of them is to cut them with proper shears. Do not comb, yank, pull, tear or use your kitchen scissors to remove the knots. You are only damaging your hair further. Lastly, do not get frantic if you are experiencing this problem. It is a common occurrence for some curly girls and comes with the territory of having curly hair. As long as you have the proper tools and information to manage the problem and prevent it from getting worse, you and your hair will be happy.


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3 thoughts on “The Mystery of Fairy Knots”

  1. VIBlackBerri says:

    Great advice!! Never thought pulling out that strand would could permantly damage the hair.
    I’d also advice to others when it’s time to detangle or deal with those “fairy knots” to do it when you’re less impatient, not hungry, upset, or sleepy and the full mindset of having healthier hair and less knots

  2. Imena says:

    In regards to shampooing what if you use aztec secret clay.. Is there a way to wash hair in sections since it gets hard?

  3. Deni says:

    This was great advice. As I continue to grow my hair out and do it myself at home, I am noticing more and more fairy knots at the tips. I stop relaxing my hair in 2009 and I was going to get my hair done professionally but as soon as I say “natural” they would tax on an extra $30! So I have resorted to doing my hair at home ; thus fairy knots became more frequent. I will follow these directions and keep in mind the tips to preventing more damage and tips to get rid of them. Thanks

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