Tangled is a fun, family-friendly movie but it’s a terrible state for a preschooler’s hair. My kid has thick, wavy, gorgeous locks that are impossible to comb. And she hates when I suggest cutting it all off. So we have pushed through many heartbreaking hairstyling sessions ... until I, much like my daughter’s split ends, broke.
We tested nine of the most popular detanglers in the hopes of giving everyone in my household a screaming break. While my kid was generally comb adverse, the detangler that had the least resistance and best results was the Totlogic Kids Detangler Spray and Leave-In Conditioner(available at Amazon). It took out the tangles without leaving a significant amount of residue, and it has a pleasant scent to boot.
Here are the best detanglers for kids we tested ranked, in order:
Totlogic Kids Detangler Spray and Leave-In Conditioner
It’s always the unassuming ones. This bottle wouldn’t jump out to me on the shelves but don’t judge a bottle by its label. Totlogic packs the perfect punch in each spray. The fact that this is also a leave-in conditioner is a huge plus. I had to use a decent amount of the detangler on her locks but it left her hair soft and manageable. Her hair after use was shiny and smooth, and there was no residue. The lavender smell was subtle and it might’ve been the essence that actually calmed my child to make the whole experience reasonable. I was hoping to say enjoyable but I don’t think any hair brushing will ever be enjoyable no matter how great the detangler is.
I also liked that Totlogic doesn't contain any bad ingredients—it's sulfate, paraben, and phthalate free—so I wasn't super worried about spraying it near my child's face and mouth.
The only downside to this detangler is that the bottle says not to use it on dry hair, so it's not ideal if your child is usually in need of last minute, before-rushing-out-the-door detangling sessions.
I’m Steph Garcia, a comedy writer and mom of two. I’m always looking for quality products to make my parenting life easier and help life run a little smoother. And if they keep my kids happy, extra bonus. My reviews are informed by my mom lifestyle and my desire to make it to the next stages of my kids’ lives unscathed.
My daughter loves her long hair but unfortunately it has a tendency to get pretty knotty, pretty quickly. Prior to using these detanglers, my kid’s hair was seriously out of control. And those knots were no match for any detangler.
Once I got through those tears and screams, I was able to monitor the knots and test each detangler twice on wet hair and test those that worked on dry hair, at least once on dry hair. Then we also tested on two other kids’ hair that were different textures. We tested for ease of use, effectiveness, residue, the amount we had to use, and overall experience.
What You Should Know About Hair Detangler for Kids
My kid’s hair is thick and wavy, but as a frizzy, curly haired girl myself I know my products don’t work the same as they might on someone with thin, fine hair. Your knot accumulation could be more or less than us as well. My kid’s hair is knot city. Oily hair may also take on more residue when using these products than dryer hair.
Wet hair vs. dry hair
A few detanglers were only useable on wet hair. Generally, this isn’t that big a concern but a parent should take into account those last minute, heading out to school brush outs, that you may need on the fly.
All of these have at least a hint of scent. Some are definitely stronger than others. While we did not use scent in testing analysis, it can be a real factor when you’re spraying a good amount of detangler on a child’s hair inches from your (and their) face. Also, there’s a high probability that your child will most likely want to remain inches from your face long afterwards as well. So you want to like the way that hair smells.
Other Detanglers We Tested
Aussie Kids Detangler
Well, based on packaging alone, my kid and I were in. A couple of well-loved animated characters on a purple bottle? Sign us up!
In terms of actual effectiveness, the Aussie Detangler gets two thumbs up from us. The spray went on forcefully and was focused, and there was no residue once it dried. The only downside is that it can’t be used on dry hair. We didn’t find the smell overbearing but one of the other testers described it as "unbearable" so if you prefer a more natural smell, this may not be the best detangler for you.
This detangler sprays well and gets rid of the knots but it left so, so much to be desired. Particularly the "sweet pear" smell, which I found absolutely awful and chemical-y (and one of our other testers agreed). The spray was sticky on application, though it was effective on all of the different hair types it was tested on. It didn’t leave much residue, but I also didn’t want to apply too much on the knots given the lingering unpleasant scent.
I enjoyed how light this felt even though it meant I had to use a lot. I kept examining her hair and no matter how much I sprayed on, it never felt like there was much there. This definitely feels the most natural of all the sprays, using pure essential oils and flower extracts. The smell was also light and citrusy. The actual effectiveness on the knots was just okay, on both wet and dry hair. This was one of the pricier detanglers and I didn’t think it brought enough additional benefits to make it worth it, but if using a more natural hair product matters to you, this could be it.
A little disclaimer: Sheamoisture is my personal go-to product line, so I was excited to try it on my daughter’s hair. The scent was definitely a plus. The spray itself was a wide spray that felt so, so light that I had to use a ton to make it effective, both on dry and wet hair. There was definitely some residue after use, but the hair felt soft and looked shiny. If your child's hair is thin and fine, and you do not have to use as much as I did, it would likely just be shiny and soft—and smell nice, too.
“Tear Free” is a pretty big claim to live up to, especially when it comes to detangling hair. While none of this got into my kid’s eyes, she still cried at just the thought of hair brushing, so be careful what you promise.
Overall, I thought the CVS spray worked fine on the actual knots, although there was some residue left on the hair. The spray also sprayed wide and felt heavy. The actual detangler felt sticky like hairspray when initially applied, though that stickiness faded. The fragrance of the spray was neutral and didn't linger for hours, which we appreciated.
Johnson's is the classic detangling spray of many people's childhood. The spray of this detangler was wide and felt like it didn’t get much on any one spot, so I had to use a lot and kept reapplying on the knots. The spray was especially tough on dry hair. It also left a fair amount of residue and the smell was really strong and left a lot to be desired. The price, however, is very affordable, so this could be appealing to families on a tight budget.
Suave Kids Detangling Spray is really sticky when you apply it. The spray itself is contained and pointed, but I used a lot in each section and still felt like it wasn’t helpful in softening the knots, on both wet and dry hair. It was especially ineffective on dry hair. My daughter and I both hated the smell of this particular product, which made it a hard sell when it came time to use it.
The Honest Company detangler has the best scent of all of the detanglers. The aroma can make you feel soft just by smelling it. However, the spray is pointed and you do have to use a pretty large amount on the knots to make it useful. I got a smaller bottle which I feel like would run out quickly, and it can be pricey if you have to use a lot of it. It worked fine on wet hair, but the amount I had to use on dry hair—plus its lack of effectiveness on knots—made the Honest detangler disappointing. Once it dried though, I did love the wonderful sweet orange vanilla smell.
Steph Garcia is a writer in Los Angeles. She was recently a writing fellow in the NHMC's TV Writer's program and a writer for the CBS Diversity Showcase. She has also worked for shows on ABC and performs live sketch comedy at The Ruby LA.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.