Today's topic: Combatting knots and tangles.
Here are previous posts addressing knots and tangles in natural hair of any type (2, 3, 4, etc.):
Knots ... Be Gone!
When You Get a Knot
I recommend reading them first.
Tight coils, little to no curl pattern, and major shrinkage make type 4 hair a conducive environment for knots and tangles. Imagine tossing several tightly coiled wires into a bag haphazardly. Now imagine removing these wires one by one from the bag. Knots and tangles galore, right? A similar event can occur in type 4 natural hair that is left loose, wild, and shrunken.
The basics to minimizing knots & tangles
Protective style frequently. Detangle thoroughly and regularly. Keep the hair moisturized. (For more details on the basics, read the earlier mentioned posts.) Tips: Use a wide tooth comb first then follow up with a medium tooth comb or a gentle paddle brush. Refrain from wearing wash-n-gos after passing 6-8 inches in length.
Further prevention ... Wash in braids
Washing loose hair is discouraged. (Think back to the bag full of tightly coiled wires.) Instead, wash your hair in braided sections to minimize tangling. About washing in twists: Twists, unless done small or medium, tend to unravel during a wash. Thus, braids may be a better option.
Continuing on ... Short-term stretched styles
If you want to wear your hair out, stretched styles (i.e., twist outs, braid outs) are by far the best method. However, allowing such styles to age beyond their limit leaves room for shrinkage and tangling. Keep the style wear to a minimum. Note: The higher the humidity, the shorter the wear. The longer your hair, the shorter the wear.
Speaking of stretching ... Use a thick, heavy detangler
During your regular detangling sessions, use a cholesterol-based or other thick, heavy conditioner to ease the process. The conditioner will add weight to the hair thus stretching the coils temporarily. Alternative: Some type 4's prefer detangling on dry, stretched, lubricated hair since wet strands equate to shrinkage.
Do not wet the knot
In the event that you do get a knot, the worst thing you can do is apply water. Why? Because it will shrink the hair and make the knot harder to unravel. Instead, apply an oil or butter and gradually pull out each strand from the knot one by one. Alternative: Some type 4's have success applying conditioner to a knot while others do not. Do what works for you. Depending on how serious the knot is, a thin tool - such as the end of a rattail comb - may be used to undo the knot. Refrain from using sharp tools, like needles or safety pins, which may damage the cuticle.