Curly-haired sisters and brothers, I have gathered you here today to spread the gospel of the Curly Girl Method. If you have wavy hair, a tight curl or kinky locks, you know the pain of frizz, the frustration of unruly strands and the horror of waking up with what looks like a wild animal on your head.
I feel your pain. And I'm also here to tell you that there IS a way out of this hair hell. It's called the Curly Girl Method, an approach to hair care that will enhance your natural curl pattern, cut frizz and give you overall healthier hair.
As a five-month convert, I can personally testify that the Curly Girl Method works. And I'm psyched to be able to spread the good word in hopes of making your life a lot easier. But before you get started on this journey, it helps to know a few ins and outs.
Personally, I first attempted this method a couple of years ago. But when I started to read about it, I was so overwhelmed by all the jargon and talk about curl types, hair porosity levels and products that I threw in the towel after two weeks.
To make your journey easier and help you stick to the Curly Girl Method, I want to explain the basics of this approach to curl-care that could change your hair and your life.
What Is the Curly Girl Method?
The Curly Girl Method (also sometimes known as the CG Method) is not some recent hair fad. More than a decade ago, hairstylist and curl expert Lorraine Massey wrote a guide called, Curly Girl: the Handbook. In it, she explains how to get the most out of your curl pattern while reducing frizz and breakage.
The key? Using the right products and styling techniques. While the original guide was aimed at tighter curl patterns, the method has been modified over the years to include everything from loosely wavy hair all the way up to coil-filled and kinky hair.
There is a ton of information on this method out there! In addition to the original book and website, there are literally hundreds of articles, Facebook groups, websites and youtube videos with helpful tips and before and after pictures of curl transformations.
The problem for a beginner is that it can all be a bit overwhelming. And while no two curly heads are alike and all need their own cocktail of products, the CG Method's overall guidelines are the same for everyone.
A lot of the Curly Girl Method has to do with what you should AVOID doing to your hair. So first, let's take a look at things you will no longer be doing when you start your CG hair journey.
Things to Avoid in the Curly Girl Method
To help your curl, you might have to unlearn a few things — like how you style your hair and the kind of hair products you use.
Most traditional shampoos are filled with sulfates, which is a harsh detergent that will end up stripping your hair. And that leads to dryness and frizzy breakage. About 90% of the shampoos on the market contain sulfates and will have to be avoided.
So what will you use to wash your hair instead? Conditioner! (In Curly Girl jargon, this is called "co-washing.")
Yes, washing your hair with conditioner sounds crazy. But fear not! It actually works and won't leave your hair limp and greasy. Of course, you will have to know which conditioners to use, but we'll cover that off a little later.
Along with sulfates, silicones are one of the top baddies when it comes to your hair health. And you will usually find them as one of the main ingredients in most styling and conditioning products.
Yes, they're supposed to give you that sleek, shiny look. The problem is that you can't get them out of your hair without using a sulfate shampoo. So in order to avoid silicone buildup (which leaves hair flat and greasy), you have to use a sulfate shampoo (which dries it out).
In other words, it's an endless cycle that damages your hair and messes with your curls.
Alcohol, Waxes and Mineral Oils (and other ingredients)
Although some alcohols are okay for your hair, many of them can damage your cuticle. Waxes and mineral oils, like silicones, buildup on your strands and can only be removed with a sulfate shampoo.
To be frank, there is a long list of ingredients that need to be avoided in the CG Method. But don't let that deter you! Product recommendations are everywhere in this world, and there is also a website called Is It CG? that can tell you straight away if the product you want to buy is Curly Girl approved or not.
Towel Drying Your Hair
Who knew that a towel could be your hair's worst enemy? The problem is that it roughs up your cuticle and leads to frizz.
What you'll do instead is carefully lay your wet hair in a microfibre towel or old t-shirt and wrap it around your head. You'll find that in the Curly Girl world, they like to give some very simple procedures names that sometimes confuse the issue.
In this case, the technique is referred to as "plopping." Here's a quick video to clear up any questions you may have.
You see, not so hard after all!
Heated Styling Tools
Unless you've been living under a rock, you must know by now that heated styling tools can severely damage your hair. That means no flat irons, curling irons or straightening brushes.
That may sound limiting, but this method is actually going to give you healthier hair while it sets you free from some time-consuming hairstyles.
On the upside, you can use a blow dryer WITH a diffuser on low heat.
Coloring Your Hair
We all know that coloring our hair isn't the best thing for it. But this is a rule that I and many other Curly Girls often break. And that's okay. Just be sure to stick to the overall method and deep condition your hair, and you should be okay.
You can also talk to your hairdresser about gentler dyes and highlighters. Personally, I found that with the Curly Method, I need to highlight my hair less often. One of the many benefits!
Combs and Brushes
What? No combs or brushes? I thought this was impossible at first, but give it a chance. Raking products through your hair with your fingers is actually effective and a lot easier on your locks than a brush. It also doesn't disturb your curl pattern.
When it comes to tangles, you will need some patience. But using your fingers (along with a lot of conditioner) will help you resist the urge to power through them with a brush, which can often break or rip your hair out.
If you can't live without them, be sure to use a wide-tooth comb or gentle brush like this one by Wet Brush, which has a handle to hang it in the shower:
The Basic Steps
Now that you know about the no-no's of the CG Method, it's time to cover off what you'll be doing on wash day. Here are the basic steps.
Reset Your Hair with a Final Sulfate Wash
Before you start your CG journey, you'll need to wash your hair one last time with a clarifying shampoo that DOES contain sulfates to remove any silicones or other waxy buildup. After that, it's bye-bye harsh detergents!
Co-Wash Your Hair
As mentioned, you'll be washing your hair with a Curly Girl approved conditioner. Make sure to massage it into your scalp for a minute or two. Then rinse.
Condition and Detangle
It may seem strange to condition your hair after you've washed it with conditioner, but it is going to give you some seriously hydrated and luscious locks over time.
Again, be sure to use a conditioner that is CG approved. And don't be shy with the product. Use a generous amount until your hair is feeling good and slippery. At this point, you can use your fingers (or a wide-tooth comb or wet brush) to rake it through your hair and detangle it.
Squish to Condish
This is more Curly Girl jargon that seems confusing at first, but it is actually quite simple. And since this is a term thrown around all the time in the CG world, it's best to learn about it now.
Once you have the conditioner in your hair and it's detangled, flip your head over. Now you're going to add just a tad more water to your hair, so it's really saturated (conditioner actually needs water to activate it).
Now scrunch your hair in handfuls up to your scalp. It should make a squishy sound, which is why this method is called "squish to condish." At this point, your curls will already start forming.
Now you can carry on with the rest of your shower routine while the conditioner does its work.
When you're ready to rinse, put your head upside down and let the water run over your hair to wash out the conditioner. You don't need to use your hands to get the conditioner out, as this can mess up your curl pattern. And you can even leave a little conditioner in if you like.
Add Your Styling Products
I know this is not what most have been taught when it comes to applying products, but you want to put them in while your hair is still soaking wet. I find that this is easiest to do while you're still in the shower.
So take your CG approved gel, styling cream or mousse and work it through your hair by either raking it through with your fingers or by using what's called the "Praying Hands Method," which disturbs your curl patternless.
Plop Your Hair
As explained above, plopping means gently wrapping your hair in either a microfibre towel or an old t-shirt to help it dry without disturbing your curl pattern. In case you skipped over the video the first time, here it is again.
How long you should leave your hair wrapped is something you may have to experiment with. For me, 5 minutes is enough. But other people choose to do it for 15 minutes or longer.
Dry Your Hair
You can either air-dry your hair or use a blow dryer with a diffuser and a low heat setting if you want it to dry faster. I hang my head upside down and gently cup clumps of my hair with my hands when I use this method.
If you decide to air dry, try not to touch your hair until it's completely dry, as this can disturb your curl pattern.
How Often Should I Wash My Hair?
There's a tad bit of controversy over this question in the curly community. Strict practitioners of the CG Method may tell you that you shouldn't wash your hair more than once a week. But since everyone has a different scalp and hair texture, there's some room to play here.
In general, you can get away with washing kinky or coil-filled hair just once a week. If you have thick curls or waves, you can probably wash your hair one to three times a week. If your hair is fine or prone to being greasy, you can wash it three or even four times a week.
Again, these are just general rules of thumb. You may have to do a bit of experimenting to find out what works best for you.
A Few Words on Curl Types and Hair Porosity
The first time I tried to do the Curly Girl Method, I was overwhelmed by all the talk about curl types and hair porosity levels. But before you start tearing your hair out, you should be aware that neither of these factors affects the basic method that you use to wash, condition and dry your hair. Phew!
What these two factors do impact is how often you wash your hair and the type of products you're going to choose. In brief, hair type is how curly your hair is (lightly wavy all the way up to coil-filled or kinky).
Hair porosity has to do with the cuticle and how easily your hair absorbs moisture. In low porosity hair, the cuticle lays flat and doesn't easily absorb moisture. Low porosity hair is generally known as shiny, healthy hair.
In high porosity hair, the cuticle has been uplifted due to damage from styling or sometimes heredity. This type of hair soaks up moisture because the cuticle is uplifted instead of flat.
Again, these two factors won't affect the basic method outlined above. But they will affect your product choice. So it is helpful to know your hair type and porosity level. You can learn more about both these subjects on naturallycurly.com.
The site is also helpful for product recommendations for your hair type. But to give you a general idea when it comes to styling products, kinky and coil-filled hair tends to like thicker creams and butters, while loose waves and fine hair do better with gels and mousses.
It's a Journey
One of the most important keys to getting the Curly Method to work for you is patience! It may take a little time to get the basic method down, but once you do, you'll find that it's way easier than it appears at first glance.
Yes, you'll probably be spending a little extra time in the shower. But because your hair will start to behave better, and you won't be using heated hair tools, you will save time on the other end.
There's also a lot of chatter online about what's called the "transition period." As your hair and scalp adjust to new methods and you experiment with finding the right products, you may have some bad hair days. But as hundreds of curly girls can tell you, this will pass!
So how long will it take before you start seeing results? That depends a lot on what kind of condition your hair is in. If it's pretty damaged, don't expect to see a complete transformation overnight. It may take several months before you notice a marked change and longer for a complete transformation.
If your hair is healthier, the results will be quicker. Personally, I was already using no sulfate shampoo and washing my hair two times a week when I started the CG method (for the second time).
The key to transformation for me was washing my hair with conditioner and using products that were right for my wavy, high porosity hair. I actually saw results the first week I started (less frizz and more defined curls), and my hair continues to change.
This brings me around to finding the right products…
Starter Products for the Curly Girl Method
Once you figure out your hair type and porosity level, you'll find that there are literally hundreds of product recommendations from other curly girls online. But I don't suggest buying a ton of stuff at first.
To begin, all you need is a clarifying shampoo, a conditioner to wash your hair, a conditioner to moisturize your hair (which can be the same one) and one styling product.
Here's a Curly Girl approved lineup of products for your starter kit.
Clarifying Shampoo: Suave Naturals Daily Clarifying Shampoo
This is an economical and effective clarifying shampoo for removing silicones and other buildups from your hair so you can start with a clean slate.
Conditioner for Washing Your Hair: Zotos All About Curls Daily Cream Conditioner
This is what I use to wash my hair with, and it has worked like gangbusters for me. It makes my hair slippery and easy to detangle, but it doesn't weigh it down. My hair is fine and wavy, but I've even heard praise for this product from girls who have tight, kinky hair.
Moisturizing Conditioner: Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl and Shine Conditioner
The entire Shea moisture line is well-loved in the CG community. And though the label for this conditioner says for "thick, curl hair," I find that it moisturizes my hair but doesn't weigh my curls down.
Styling: Zotos All About Curls Soft Definition Gel, Zotos All About Curls High Definition Gel
I love the soft definition gel from Zotos, which holds my locks in place without weighing my waves down. If you need more hold, try the high definition gel.
And that's your starting product lineup!
3 More Pro Tips
You probably have more than enough information to digest at this point, but there are just a couple of more tips that will help you on your journey.
First off, if you don't have an old t-shirt to plop with, you may want to invest in a microfibre towel to help your hair dry faster and avoid frizz.
I also recommend investing in some silk or satin pillowcases to reduce friction on your hair and, yes, cut frizz.
Lastly, every curly girl needs some silk or satin scrunchies to avoid hair damage and creasing. These are genuine silk and a good value for the money.
"Frizz Is Just A Curl Waiting to Happen" - Lorraine Massey
We hope this beginner's guide to the Curly Girl Method helps you wade through all the information out there and make your journey a little simpler. Yes, you can expect some bumps (and maybe some frizz) along the way. But if you hang in there, this method could transform your hair and make your life so much simpler.
I'm glad I hung in there the second time around. I live in a high humidity climate where straightening my hair took a lot of time, and also did some damage to my hair. Not only is my hair healthy and happier, but I spend so much less time on it!
So hang in there, Curly Girls. And remember that "Frizz is just a curl waiting to happen!"
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