What could be simpler? Start and the root and tug, right? Wrong! In fro-baby world, up is down and right is left. Fro-babies' hair is more likely to snap from the stresses of combing generally and due to the curly pattern of the hair, more likely to tangle or knot. The best way I've heard to unsnarl these "naps" as we call them down south is with gentle tlc, not an iron fist. Traditionally, the approach has been to "bust those naps" and yes, it sounds as brutal--and for those "tenderheaded" fro-babies (like yours truly) as painful--as it sounds.
First and formost, detangling for fro-babies should involve one key component: lubrication! There is nothing worse than trying to comb dry, tangled, knotted hair--and nothing more damaging! Once Georgia got to be about 3 months or so, a lot of that natural oil in her hair from when she was born started to dry up and her hair became frizzy and began to knot. The Angel Baby Oil I used to eradicate her cradle cap found a new beginning as a daily hair conditioning oil. Not only does the oil help lubricate for easier combing, it also combats the frizzies, so it helps to keep the hair from re-knotting as the day goes by. If your fro-baby's hair is a little finer, you may want to try Noodle and Boo Polishing and Conditioning Mist. This also works well for Georgia for detangling purposes, but she often needs the extra moisture from the oil throught the day. Not all fro-babies do.
Now, on to combing. A while back (a long while back) there was a product for African-American hair sold by a supermodel named Wanakee, whose hair was all the way down her back. One of her tips for helping to preserve length was to start detangling at the ends, not the roots. This is the most effective and least traumatic way I've found to effectively remove knots and tangles.
I usually separate a small area of hair to start and gently comb the ends. If the ends have no tangles I move up about a quarter centimeter up from the ends and continue this way all the way to the roots. If I hit a snag, the best way to untangle is not to yank the comb through the hair, but rather tap the area gently with the teeth of the comb. This loosens the tangle and dislodges some of the hairs from the snarl. It's surprising how many tangles will come out using this method.
If there is a stubborn tangle or an out and out knot, conventional wisdom would chalk that knot up as a loss and go ahead and break it--and the hair off. Lots of knots can actually be pulled apart using your fingers. The best method I've found is to put the knot between your thumb and forefinger and gently pull hairs leading into the knot with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand, continuing to hold the knot. Start with a few strands at a time, always holding the knot. Eventually--in most cases, you can pull the knot completely aloose (is that a word? it is in NC where I grew up :D). Sometimes, there will be a small amount of hair that cannot be unknotted...alas...just means you need to come the hair more often! :D
Hopefully this technique will save thousands of hairs of fro-babies everywhere!