BIG DISCLAIMER HERE: I no longer follow the Curly Girl Method for a variety of reasons. To learn more about why, check out this post.
So, you want to wear your hair curly.
The Curly Girl Method…isn’t that the thing where you don’t wash your hair?
The Curly Girl Method (CG or CGM for short) is a hair care routine that aims to let your natural curls flourish. It focuses on good-for-you products and offers tips and tricks on how best to care for your hair. Because let’s face it – curly hair is hard! The name was coined by Lorraine Massey in her book Curly Girl: The Handbook, which aggregated Massey’s own methods with those used by curlies for years. I HIGHLY recommend reading!
Since its publishing, CGM has taken on a life of its own within the online haircare community – social media has allowed for new ideas to be shared which have only improved upon the method. Social media is how I first heard about it, and for that I am forever grateful! I and many others the world over have achieved beautiful, healthy curls by “going CG,” and have learned to love their hair (and themselves!) along the way.
This post will aim to explain the version of the method that I follow. Let’s start with basic principles:
- NO Silicones
- NO Sulfates
- NO Drying Alcohols
- NO Waxes
- And most importantly – NO STRAIGHTENING*
*At least while your hair is transitioning
Now, let’s hop right in!
Curl Types & More
Learning more about the hair on your head
Throughout this process it’s important that you take the time to learn about the hair growing out of your head. Below are a variety of methods used to “define” your hair – keep in mind that most people do not fall squarely into one bucket!
Use these definitions as a general guide for how you should treat your hair:
1. Curl Type
This is a typing system developed by Andre Walker (Oprah’s hairstylist!) in the 90s. It ranges from straight to wavy to curly to coily. The general rule of thumb is that wavier hair types like lighter styling products while curl types further down the line love thicker, more moisturizing products. Most people have multiple curl types on their head! I am 2C-3A.
The thing about curl type? It’s good to know, but isn’t super important. Learn more here.
Porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and hold onto water/moisture. This is determined by how the cuticle lays on your hair strands – is it flat or raised? You can learn your porosity by paying attention to how your hair behaves.
Low Porosity Hair:
Tight cuticle. Takes a few minutes to get completely wet in the shower and may experience LONG dry times. Less sensitive to humidity. Prone to buildup and may get weighed down easily.
Medium Porosity Hair:
Lets the right amount of moisture in and out of the hair shaft. Requires less maintenance than high or low porosity hair.
High Porosity Hair:
Loose cuticle. Typically, the result of chemical damage, although it can be genetic. Hair gets wet/dries quickly. Frizzes easily in humid weather and is prone to breakage. Needs a lot of TLC.
Similar to curl types, the general rule of thumb is that fine hair is more delicate and likes lightweight products, while coarse hair is stronger and isn’t as easily weighed down. Determine your hair width based on how your hair feels.
What products can I use when following the Curly Girl Method?
Let’s start with what you can’t use. The below ingredients are either drying (sulfates, alcohols) or require sulfates to remove from your hair/cause buildup (silicones, waxes).
- Sulfates: Typically ends in -ate, found in cleansers.
- Ex. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
- Drying Alcohols: Typically found in sprays.
- Ex. Isopropyl Alcohol
- Silicones: Typicaly ends in -cone or -xane. Found in cleansers, conditioners, stylers, serums.
- Ex. Dimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane
- Waxes: Found in some stylers
- Ex. Beesewax, candellila wax
Finding approved products
- Check ingredients lists on curlsbot.com or isitcg.com
- Make sure to check the ingredients of any products you already
have at home!
- Make sure to check the ingredients of any products you already
- Pay attention to what your favorite curlies online are using. Look for curlies with similar hair types to inform your purchasing decisions.
- Utilize the recommended products lists on naturallycurly.com
- Take advantage of stores with return policies (ex. Sephora, Ulta, Walgreens) or brands that offer travel sizes
Curly Girl Method-Approved Product Recommendations
My recommendations for beginners
I’ve done the work for you – here are some great products for beginner curlies! I recommend picking up one from each category.
• Devacurl* Low Poo
• Bounce Curl Moisturizing Shampoo
• Shea Moisture Curl & Shine Shampoo
• Not Your Mother’s Tahitian Gardenia & Mango Butter Shampoo
• Pacifica Pineapple Curls Shampoo
• Jessicurl Gentle Lather Shampoo
• Innersense Pure Harmony Shampoo
• Innersense Color Awakening Shampoo
• Devacurl* One Condition
• Bounce Curl Cream Conditioner
• Tressemme Botanique Coconut
• V05 Strawberries & Cream
• Shea Moisture Curl & Shine Conditioner
• Innersense Pure Inspiration Conditioner
• Innersense Color Radiance Conditioner
• Giovanni Direct Leave-In
• Cantu Curl Activator
• Devacurl* Styling Cream
• Devacurl* Super Cream
• Alikay Naturals Leave-In
• Bounce Curl Leave-In
• Bounce Curl Clump & Define Cream
• Innersense Sweet Spirit Leave-In
• Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie
• Shea Moisture Curl and Style Milk
• Pantene Curls Mousse
• Aussie Instant Freeze Gel
• LA Looks Sport Gel
• Not Your Mother’s Curl Talk Gel
• Devacurl* Light or Ultra Defining Gel
• Innersense I Create Volume
• Innersense I Create Hold
• Bounce Curl Light Creme Gel
- Shampoo: Bounce Curl Clarifying Shampoo, Bounce Curl Moisturizing Shampoo, Devacurl* Low Poo
- Conditioner: Bounce Curl Cream Conditioner, Devacurl* One Condition
- Cream: Devacurl* Styling Cream, Bounce Curl Leave-In
- Gel: Bounce Curl Light Creme Gel, Devacurl* Light Defining Gel, Innersense I Create Volume, Innersense I Create Hold, Aussie Instant Freeze Gel
*NOTE: There are allegations that Devacurl products have caused increased hair fallout and various scalp issues. I am currently taking a pause from using these products, but I have never had an issue with them. Use at your own discretion!
I used CG-approved products but I didn’t get good results…
You may not have good results with the first CG products that you purchase…and that’s okay! Just because a product is CG-friendly does not mean it will work well with YOUR hair. It may take a few tries to find the right mix. When trying new products, make sure to give them a fair shot, trying them a few times with different product ratios/styling techniques.
Basic Curly Girl Method Routines
You went how many days without washing?
Once you have your products, the next step is to build a routine! Here are two basic routines that you may use during your wash week:
Shampoo > Condition > Stylers
I use this routine when my hair feels dirty. During a typical week, I’ll wash with a shampoo on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday. Sometimes, I wash even less than that! Experiment and see what cadence works best for your hair.
- Sufate-free shampoo that suds
- Silicone-free conditioner
I do this routine approximately 2-4x a week
Cowash/Condition > Stylers
Cowash = conditioner wash. No shampoo! You can use any conditioner OR a product that is sold as a cowash. When cowashing, make sure to REALLY Scrub your scalp with your fingers or a scalp brush. I do this when my hair still feels clean, for example, if I need to wash two days in a row.
- Cowash (conditioner only)
I do this approximately 1x a week
A Note on Washing
Try not to wash every day! I can wear my hair down for a couple days after washing it. Other days, I throw it in a bun. The longest I’ve gone without washing is six days – some curlies can go even longer! Curly hair is naturally drier than other hair types , so it’s actually good to let our scalp’s natural oils have a chance to moisturize the hair shaft.
For your first routine, I recommend using 1 moisturizing styler + 1 gel. For example, Bounce Curl Leave-In + Bounce Curl Light Creme Gel. I recommend using a dime-size amount of cream *or less* and 3-4 quarter-sized amounts of gel *or more.* Pay attention to how your hair feels when applying – you want it to be coated. I also recommend experimenting with gel only and different product ratios.
There are LOTS of different ways to apply product to your hair. I recommend seeking out product application tutorials on Instagram and YouTube. Most curlies have one on their page! Here are a few ways you may want to explore:
Be gentle, y’all
The Curly Girl Method isn’t just about choosing the right products. Below, I’ve listed out other ways that you should be taking care of your hair!
- Extend your wash. See how many days you can go without washing – your natural oils are good for your hair! I can go 2-4 days without washing, depending on how good my wash day was.
- Deep condition regularly. I try to deep condition a few times a month.
- Blow drying? Low or no heat. The less heat, the better! I typically diffuse on low heat for 5-20min and then air dry the rest of the way. Other curlies will diffuse to 100% on low heat – do whatever fits your schedule!
- Sleep with protection. Sleeping with your hair wrapped up can extend your wash (see above) and prevent breakage. I use a buff – other curlies have success with silk scarves, bonnets, or silk pillowcases.
- Get regular trims. Curly hair is more prone to damage and split ends than other hair types. Putting off trims causes the hair to split further up the shaft, which is not good for your long-term hair shaft. I trim every 3-4 months.
- Listen to your hair. Pay attention to what your hair needs. You know your hair better than anyone!
A Note on Transitioning
Transitioning refers to the time it takes damaged curls to come back to life. I’ve always worn my hair curly, but still had to transition as I did not take care of my hair prior to CGM. The transition period can take anywhere from a few months to over a year. While that may seem like a long time, it is WORTH IT! Take progress pictures, love your hair, and resist the urge to straighten.
Additional Curly Girl Method Resources
Here are some great resources around the web:
- r/curlyhair (reddit)
- Science-y Hair Blog
- isitcg.com and curlsbot.com
- Facebook Groups (Jannelle O’Shaughnessey has a great one – Wavy & Curly & Coily Connect)
Remember: there is no magic product, technique, or tool that will give you healthy, beautiful curls. Only time + fully embracing your hair in its natural state will allow it to transform. So put down the straightener, say a big FU to traditional standards of beauty, and start scrunching!
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