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Detangling sprays don’t just remove knots. Learn about the other benefits your spray has

One of my core childhood memories is my mom brushing through my thick and wavy hair after cheerleading competitions. It was always an epic (and painful) battle between my hair brush and my knots. One product I didn’t have in my toolbox back then that I do now that could’ve made the process far less painful is a detangling spray. The primary function of these sprays is to remove knots from hair strands by coating the hair with a slippery substance to make combing or brushing easier, according to Sabrina Ahmed, a hairstylist at The Benjamin Salon.

I spoke to four hairstylists about how to find the best detangling sprays for your hair type and texture, and I included their go-to products along with NBC Select-staff favorites below. 

SKIP AHEAD The best detangling sprays in 2024 | How to shop for detangling sprays

How we picked the best detangling sprays

When building this list, our experts recommend we keep the following in mind:

  • Ingredients: Detanglers with oil (including argan or coconut oil), or aloe or glycerin will add moisture and condition hair, according to Ahmed. Avoid formulas with alcohol or sulfates, as they can be drying for the hair, according to Ahmed.
  • Additional benefits: While the primary purpose of a detangling spray is to remove unwanted knots and tangles, it can also have other beneficial aspects, like heat protection, frizz control and adding shine to hair. 
  • Price: Depending on the ingredients and formulation, costs can vary. Our list has options as low as $5 and as high as $39.

The best detangling sprays in 2024

Best overall: Amika The Wizard Silicone-free Detangling Hair Primer

What we like

  • Has heat protection
  • Safe for color-treated hair
  • UV protection

After being introduced to this detangling spray by her hairstylist, NBC Select production coordinator Kelsey Fredricks says she now can’t live without it. Not only does it help detangle her type 2B/2C curls, but it also noticeably reduces her frizz, she says. While it works on her curly hair, it’s also suitable for all hair types and textures, according to the brand. To use, Fredricks adds a few sprays from her ends to the middle of her hair and then brushes the formula through before either air drying or diffusing

Formulation: spray | Scent: vanilla, clover and fresh citrus 

Best for medium to thick hair: R+Co Candy Stripe

What we like

  • Has heat protection
  • Lightweight feel

Something to note

  • Not for intense tangles
  • Scented

When it comes to detangling thicker hair, Jeffrey Jagling, a hairstylist and owner of Art + Autonomy, a salon in New York City, recommends this option from R+Co. You can use this fast-absorbing spray to help prevent breakage and seal your cuticle, which can actually prevent tangles from forming, says Jagling. 

I also own and love using this on my dry hair — it helps make it more manageable before I brush it and style it with hot tools. To use, I spray the creamy spray from my roots to my ends. I love that even though I spray a lot, it doesn’t weigh down my waves and maintains my volume. 

Consistency: spray | Scent: notes of juniper berries, blood orange, and violet 

Best for sensitive scalps and hair: Briogeo Aloe + Oat Milk Ultra Soothing Detangling Spray

What we like

  • Safe for color-treated hair
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Minimizes irritation

This milk-like detangling spray, which has a 4.0-star average rating from over 600 reviews at Sephora, is specifically formulated for those with reactive and sensitive skin. It has oat milk, aloe vera, and green tea to moisturize, soothe and protect your hair, according to the brand, and reviewers say it’s best for those with thick hair since it can be too heavy on fine hair. 

Formulation: spray | Scent: fragrance-free 

Best detangling serum: Iles Formula Haute Performance Finishing Serum

What we like

  • Conditions hair
  • Safe for color-treated hair
  • Allergen-free fragrance

Something to note

  • Not in a spray formulation

This Iles serum is suitable for all hair types, though it’s especially great for those with fine hair because it’s lightweight, according to Ahmed, who says it also gives the hair a silky finish. While it comes in a pump and is has serum consistency rather than a typical spray, it still has detangling benefits and helps protect hair from heat damage, humidity and more, according to the brand. (One consistency isn’t better than the other, but a serum is generally better for finer hair because you can concentrate on specific areas without over-saturating your hair, according to Ahmed.) You can also apply it to wet or dry hair. 

Formulation: serum | Scent: white tea 

Best for coarse hair: SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Moisturizing Detangler

What we like

  • Best for curly to coily hair
  • Thick, creamy consistency
  • Reduces brushing time

This detangler, which has a 4.4-star average rating from over 3,000 reviews on Amazon, comes in cream form rather than a traditional spray; creams  can give coarser hair more moisture, according to the brand. It has ingredients like shea butter, sea kelp and argan oil to give your hair some needed slippage to release knots while also minimizing breakage, according to SheaMoisture. While you can use it post-shower, you can also use it as a pre-shower treatment if you’re experiencing extreme tangles and knots.

Formulation: cream | Scent: shea butter 

Best for frizz-prone hair: Igk Good Behavior 4-in-1 Prep Spray

What we like

  • Has heat protection
  • Gives hair a shine
  • Safe for color-treated hair

Since I have wavy hair, humid conditions make my hair frizzy, so I always keep this multitasking spray in constant rotation. When I use it, I end up with fewer knots and less hair breakage since I don’t have to yank and tug on my hair while brushing. Since I have a lot of hair, I tend to be a bit more heavy-handed when using this spray, but my hair absorbs it quickly and it doesn’t leave it feeling waxy. 

Formulation: spray | Scent: floral 

Best for fine, thin hair: Unite 7 Seconds Detangler Leave-In Conditioner

What we like

  • Lightweight formula
  • Strengthens hair
  • Has heat protection

This detangler and leave-in conditioner hybrid targets knots while also repairing your hair and conditioning it, according to the brand. Suitable for all hair types and textures, reviewers say this doesn’t weigh down their hair and leaves dull hair feeling silky smooth. It has a 4.7-star average rating from over 9,700 reviews on Amazon. 

Consistency: spray | Scent: fresh 

Best for coarse, curly hair: Designme Curl Balm

What we like

  • Has heat protection
  • Designed for curly hair
  • Non-crunchy finish

If you have thick or coarse hair, consider this balm, which comes recommended by Ahmed. Although it’s not in spray form, it has “the best slip” and will also enhance natural curls, she says. The floral and citrus-scented balm doesn’t leave behind crunchy waves, curls or coils, according to the brand. 

Consistency: cream | Scent: floral, amber, coco-de-mer, pistachio and more 

Best for kids: Raw Sugar Kids Leave-In Conditioner Detangler

What we like

  • Reduces frizz
  • Allergy-tested
  • Softens hair

Strawberries, aloe and baobab oil give fine, untamed hair added moisture and manageability, according to the brand. Reviewers say this works great on their kid’s hair in  helping prevent tangles from forming after application. A little goes a long way, so only mist a little at first and add as needed because too much can leave behind a residue.

This detangling spray, which has a 4.3-star average rating from over 670 reviews at Target, is also available in a coconut and milk version, which is especially great for thick, unruly hair, according to the brand.  

Formulation: spray | Scent: Strawberries and oat milk 

Best for curly hair: Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Detangling Spray

What we like

  • Long lasting
  • Conditions curls
  • Has heat protection

When it comes to detangling her curls, NBC Select editorial projects manager Rebecca Rodriguez always reaches for this spray. “It works instantly to detangle my curls and also helps fight frizz, which, as a frizzy-haired girl, is a must for me,” she says. The spray has a powerful herbal and floral scent, so if you’re sensitive to fragrance, this may not be the best option for you. 

Formulation: spray | Scent: herbal and floral scent with notes of rose, bergamot and orange 

Best splurge: Oribe Run-Through Detangling Hair Primer

What we like

  • Improves hair health
  • Has heat protection

Reviewers say this Oribe primer, which has a 4.4-star average rating from over 1,400 reviews on Amazon, works well with all hair types and textures, including children’s hair, which can be prone to stubborn knots. It also helps seal the hair cuticle so hair looks and feels healthier and more shiny, according to the brand. 

Consistency: spray | Scent: notes of lemon, white butterfly jasmine, sandalwood and more 

How to shop for detangling sprays

When you’re shopping for a detangling spray to incorporate into your hair care routine, our experts recommend focusing on a formula’s ingredients and your specific hair type.

Ingredients

As mentioned, you’ll want hydrating ingredients like aloe, glycerin, argan oil and coconut oil in your detangling spray. Depending on your hair type and texture, you may need a variation of one or more of these moisturizers. For example, those with fine hair should look for lightweight detanglers that won’t weigh down the hair; look for options with argan oil and jojoba oil, says Ahmed. For those with coarse hair, you’ll want a detangler that can help soften and hydrate, so you should look for ingredients like glycerin and shea butter, according to Ahmed.

Consistency

Detanglers typically come in spray form, but you’ll also find them in creams or balms. If you have fine hair, you’ll want to opt for a spray because they’re more lightweight and won’t weigh your hair down, says Jagling. If your hair is on the thicker side or tends to lack moisture, consider using a cream instead. These products tend to be denser and will have more moisturizing ingredients, according to Jagling. 

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

Why trust NBC Select?

Bianca Alvarez is an associate reporter covering skin care and hair care for NBC Select. She recently reported stories on the best shampoo bars and hair dryers. For this article, she interviewed four hair experts and included their direct recommendations along with highly rated detangling sprays that were in line with expert guidance.

Catch up on NBC Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.



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