Single Strand Knots - How to Fix That

Those tiny little single strand knots. Some call them fairy knots but there’s nothing pleasant about them. Most of us with natural hair have to deal with them at some timr or another. They cause breakage, split ends and hair loss. But you can deal with them and beat them.

What Causes Single Strand (Fairy) Knots?

There are so many websites out there offering tips, tricks and promises about how to stop this happening but the truth is, it comes with the kinky, coily, nappy haired territory. Our natural 4a, 4b and 4c hair type is highly textured and coiled. This means O’s, Z’s, S’s, L’z etc... all appear on our individual hair strands. Type 4 hair strands are shaped from oval to flat like curling ribbon. This shape is what gives us the curl, coil and texture and unique feel our hair has.

One of the consequences of this is that the hair strands bend twist, curl and roll back on themselves and sometimes, through themselves. 

This action creates a perfect, tiny little knot on an individual hair strand that you will feel as a little bump when you run your hand down the hair strand. Some call these "fairy knots" but there is nothing nice about them. There is a medical term for this: Trichonodosis

trichonodosisThe problem with these knots is that once they are in, they don’t come out and that knotted strand will become weak at the knot and break off. You will also “catch” these knots in a fine-toothed comb and break your hair off. If you find them.... the best thing to do is cut them off. Don't tug, play, pull at them and break them off. This will only cause split ends.

These knots usually appear midway to near the end of the hair shaft and if you get too many of them you can cause serious breakage resulting in split ends, especially if you get too many. You may even find many little knots on one strand and that spells bad news for that strand. If you feel them right at the end of your hair, that means your hair has already broken off at that knot.

So if you think your hair is “not growing” it may be breaking off due to these damaging little knots.

You will find more of these knots if you are wearing “outs” wash and go’s and undefined styles such as knot-outs, afros and puffs a lot more than if you wear your hair in smoother, stretched, or tucked styles such as wraps, tails, updos, etc, which prevent the hair from naturally curling up on itself.

Unfortunately, getting knotted strands is a consequence of loving to wear our “outs” and the best thing you can do to minimize breakage from these knots is to alternate your hairstyles. But you can minimize these knots by changing and improving your natural hair routine.


  • When it is time to wash your hair after wearing an “out” style for any length of time, and before you wash it, section it into big sections (how big to section is up to you – I make  4 – 6 sections)
  • Grab a creamy conditioner, add a little castor oil to it and coat the section well with it. Holding the section at the base and starting from the ends, comb or brush your hair out gently, smoothing out any tangles, working your way up to your scalp then braid the section.
  • Do this for each section. Leave the conditioner/oil mix in your hair for at least 30 minutes to get the best benefit.
  • Now when you go to wash your hair, saturate it with water first, then take out the sections and shampoo and condition as usual. You can do this section by section or all at once. It is up to you.

This is also a great method to detangle your hair generally, especially if you have thick, dense hair, no matter what style you have worn your hair in. Sectioning the hair and working in sections is faster, causes less breakage and makes styling after washing easier.

You will find fewer knots in your hair if you do this every time you wash it


  • Section your hair, detangle it, put a moisturizing butter on the ends and put into big twists or braids, tucked under.
  • If your hair is too short to twist or braid, put a little hair butter on and brush it out.
  • Always sleep in a satin cap or at least on a satin pillowcase.


The only way to completely get rid of these is to either shave your head, grow locs or only wear your hair in protective styles, extensions, weaves or wigs where your hair is unmanipulated and covered. But even then you have to wash and style your hair and when you do... the knots may happen. So let's be realistic and just focus on how to minimize them.

  • Whenever you wet your hair, use a little light oil or a slippery whip to help keep moisture in and your hair manageable.
  • Don’t wear out styles every day. Alternate with protective styles every couple of days if you can.
  • Keep your ends extra-moisturized. Put some hair butter on your fingertips and pull at your ends all over your head, from about halfway down the length of hair. When you have finished that, rub your hair from forehead to ends using the palm of your hand, to distribute the hair butter evenly. After that, follow up with a nourishing oil like Argan or denatured coconut oil (don’t use the coconut oil that solidifies at room temp.)
  • Check for split ends and trim your ends regularly. Every couple of months should be enough.
  • If you find single strand knots, you can cut them off but never pull at them.
  • Use protein conditioners that repair and reconstruct the hair shaft. These will help strengthen the hair strand and minimize breakage.
  • Deep condition with a restorative conditioner at least every 7-14 days if the knots are bad.
  • Use an ACV cold water rinse to help close the hair’s cuticle after shampooing and conditioning.
  • Protect, protect, protect those ends by any means necessary.

If you do all of this, you will win the battle with single strand knots and get your hair back on track.

Last modified on Thursday, 12 September 2019 13:21
Patricia Gaines

Patricia Gaines aka Deecoily is the founder and creator of Nappturality in 2002, the beginning of the natural hair movement. Since 2000 she has been blogging on all things natural hair, Black culture and politics.

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