What Is the Curly Girl Method?
The Curly Girl Method (CGM) was developed by hair guru Lorraine Massey and described in her book “Curly Girl: The Handbook”. It is a hair care method specifically for curlies to achieve healthy hair with defined curls. This hair care method recommends avoiding products that contain sulfates, silicones, mineral oil, waxes, or drying alcohols. It also recommends not using combs and heat styling in order to avoid stripping hair of its moisture. These recommendations may seem hard to adjust to at first, however, for most curlies, the results speak for themselves. Remember though – these are guidelines – experiment and modify to best suit your specific hair and lifestyle.
The don’ts of the Curly Girl Method
Here are the 6 things to AVOID when following this care method:
- Shampoos with sulfates. Sulfates are harsh cleaning agents that create the lather in shampoos. They strip the natural oils making it dryer, frizzier, and more prone to breakage. They are also not easily rinsed out and may cause build-up over time.
- Non-water soluble silicones. These silicones create a plastic-like, hard cast around your hair strands – they need to be washed out by shampoos with sulfates – which in turn dry out your hair. It is therefore essential to only use products with water-soluble silicones that can be washed out with just water.
- This also applies to waxes and heavy oils that can only be removed with sulfate-rich shampoos.
- High heat styling tools will dry out and damage hair.
- Combs & brushes on dry hair create frizz.
- Drying alcohols that dry out curly hair leading to frizz.
- Do not brush your curly hair while it is dry
- Use only wide tooth combs and then only after applying conditioner on wet hair while in the shower.
- If outside the shower, comb the hair only after applying a leave-in conditioner.
Here are some Do’s
- Clean your scalp and hair with non-sulfate shampoos or botanical cleansing conditioners. When switching to the CGM – especially if you are used to shampooing daily – your hair and scalp may feel greasy at first. However, they will adapt and adjust in a short period of time. That said, the key to healthy hair is a healthy scalp. If the scalp isn’t properly cleaned, build-up may form at the roots, especially if you use oils and butters, which can affect the health of the hair. So it may be beneficial to clarify at least twice per month to clean the scalp with a non-sulfate clarifying shampoo.
- If you swim in chlorinated water – do use a cleansing shampoo afterward to remove the harsh chemicals from your hair.
- Clarifying will help keep your scalp healthy and happy by removing build-up and pollutants, leading to bouncy curly hair.
When purchasing hair care products be sure to take a look at the ingredient lists. If you are unsure whether a product is CG friendly – just enter the product or brand name into this website to quickly and easily find out: https://www.curlplanet.com
This article on Deciphering the Ingredients is a good way to learn more about your hair products.
How to start:
Now you are ready to start embracing your natural curls and switch over to the CGM.
It is essential that you start with a clean scalp and clean hair. To accomplish this, you will use a shampoo with sulfates to remove any remaining silicones. To be clear, for CGM, this is the last time you will use a sulfated shampoo. Make sure this shampoo has no silicones! A safe choice is baby shampoo.
- (Optional or if you have dry hair) Before shampooing – lightly oil your hair (not the scalp) and use your fingers to detangle. This will help reduce tension in your hair. Use argan, sweet almond, avocado, or fractionated coconut oil for thinner, loose waves and curls. Use olive, jojoba, or castor oil for tighter, thicker curls and coils.
- Now using the sulfate (no silicone) shampoo, wash your hair thoroughly. Remember you will not use this shampoo again.
- Condition your hair using a moisturizing, silicone-free conditioner from roots to ends. Use a generous amount. Do not focus on how long the conditioner sits on the hair but instead focus on how well you work it in, how much water you pump into the strands, and how much you are able to raise the cuticle with warmth – the water will hydrate while the conditioner softens. In other words, ‘squish to condish’. Once you have gently detangled your hair with your fingers, rake your fingers through with conditioner, or use a wide-tooth comb. Then, add warm water and scrunch – pumping your hair from ends up to the scalp and repeating. This will guarantee more moisturized hair. The more time you spend working in your conditioner and pumping water into it, the better your curls will turn out when you are done and the less frizz you will have when the hair is dry. This will add about 3-4 minutes onto your routine but the results will be well worth it. If you love clumped, defined curls, this technique will help you achieve that. Make sure to rinse thoroughly.
- While your hair is still wet, and depending on your hair density, smooth on a CG-friendly leave-in conditioner or curl cream. If you have looser curls, you can use the praying hands technique to preserve your curls. Thicker and tighter curls may require a comb or wet brush to help you distribute the product throughout your hair. Squish to condish again (step 3).
- Next, if you have thick hair, section your hair using small hair clamps. This will ensure each section of hair gets enough product. Apply an alcohol-free gel by smoothing a dollop on each section with praying hands. This will create a cast around your curls and help clump them together. It will also protect against frizz.
- If you want tighter curls – use a cotton t-shirt, t-shirt towel, or microfiber towel to plop your hair. Meaning, tie a t-shirt around your head to help dry your hair.
- You can then let your hair air dry. If you need to use heat – use a diffuser attachment and a low heat or alternating cold air setting.
- Once the curls are fully dry, you will find that a hard cast has formed around them. This is what you want! Simply scrunch your hair to get rid of the crunch. The Scrunch Out the Crunch (SOTC) works best if you add some light oil (e.g., argan or sweet almond oil) to your hands first or you can use a scarf to break the gel cast. Then gently scrunch your hair and fluff the roots to create volume at the crown.
Although the CGM advocates using your fingers or a wide-tooth comb in the shower to detangle the hair, some folks use a wide flat brush or detangling brush. We suggest experimenting to see what works best for your natural waves, curls, or coils. Be careful with your hair. Whatever you use, do not pull or tug at your hair to avoid damage.
- From now on use a shampoo that has no sulfates and no silicones.
- If you exercise frequently, sweat heavily, or swim regularly, you may need to wash your hair more often. For the mid-week washes try to use a co-wash. A co-wash is essentially a specially formulated conditioner that you apply to your scalp in the place of a shampoo. Use your fingers or a soft silicone scalp brush to scrub the dirt out.
- Your hair regimen should include CG-friendly co-washes and CG-friendly shampoos to cleanse and clarify the scalp and hair.
- Another important component to your hair care regimen should be a weekly deep condition to maintain your curls.
- The CGM is not a magical solution – you may need to give your hair at least 4 to 6 weeks to adjust before you will see results. We also suggest waiting 4-6 weeks before you start modifying the original routine.
- The CGM will not change your hair. You must have a defined curl pattern to begin with – which means at least type 2a hair. Also, if your hair is wavy it will stay wavy, you will not suddenly have a head full of tight curls. The dramatic results seen online are often for people who had severely damaged hair where the natural texture was all but lost. Healthy hair will show the smallest transformation.
- You do not need to buy a mass of new products. Hair products can be expensive – all you need to start is a good shampoo, conditioner and gel, and a few hair tools. Check out the Ultimate Guides.
- Also keep a hair journal to jot down the products and techniques used on wash day as well as your progress.
For a few before & after examples go here:
The CGM recommends only using two products – a conditioner and a gel. However, over time many CG-friendly products have been included in hair routines, including sulfate-free shampoos, leave-in conditioners, creams, mousses, sealing oils, etc.
To find out if a product is CG-approved, go to www.curlplanet.com
CG Friendly Resources We Found Useful: