Curly Girl Method: How to Take Care of Curly Hair
The Curly Girl Method: you’ve probably heard of it as it’s all over Pinterest and Instagram.
Do you have wavy, curly or coily hair and are you looking for a new hair routine that will give you beautiful, healthy and more defined curls? Have you had a long battle with dry and damaged hair due to bleaching or colouring your hair and blow-drying on the highest setting? Do you long for more defined curls and to make frizz a thing of the past?
The Curly Girl Method might be just what you’ve been looking for. In this article we share a roadmap on how to get started with the Curly Girl Method with all the information you need to start a successful curl journey!
In this article:
The Curly Girl Method, also known as the CG Method, works with all different hair types. It is the ideal hair diet for textured hair, coils, waves or curls.
Because on the one side you stop using products with sulphates that deprive your hair of moisture and on the other hand by cutting out silicones your hair can really help your hair absorb moisture and nutrients.
It’s amazing how people can completely transform their hair by simply avoiding silicones and sulphates! Many happy women have preceded you. Even straight hair will become more beautiful and healthier.
What is the Curly Girl Method?
The Curly Girl Method is a mainly natural hair routine that promises to bring out your best curls. The method was coined in 2007 by Lorraine Massey, who describes it in her now famous book ‘Curly Girl: The Handbook’.
It’s a hair care method that trades out harmful habits for a healthy curly hair regimen, by choosing nourishing products without sulphates, silicones and parabens.
In short, this method bans harmful chemicals and shampoo as well as heat treatments and other damaging habits. You replace these ingredients and products with milder ones such as conditioner, hair masks and gel.
The CG Method is based on a number of basic guidelines, such as removing harmful ingredients and hair products. Then by discovering your curl type and hair characteristics you will learn which nutrients your hair needs to thrive!
Curly Girl Method: The golden guidelines
Despite the incredible results that the Curly Girl Method has for many people with curly hair, we fully support adjusting these Golden Guidelines to fit in with your lifestyle, preferences and the needs of your unique hair characteristics. Experiment freely and discover what works best for you!
The CG Method: What to avoid?
- Say no to shampoos with sulphates We strongly recommend avoiding shampoos that contain sulphates such as sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), as they are very harmful and drying. That said, if you are not ready to exchange shampoo for co-washing, there are many excellent sulphate-free options, which gently removes impurities from your hair without sulphates. There is just one incidence when you will need a sulphate based shampoo, which is when you are doing a final wash which removes silicones and build up and prepares your hair for the Curly Girl Method!
- Stay away from heat and styling appliances such as blow dryers, hair straighteners and curling irons If you do use these appliances, you risk seriously damaging your hair. Loraine Massey jokingly calls blow-drying “frying your hair” because you are literally frying your locks. There is a better way to blow-dry your hair, by using a diffuser that spreads moderate heat evenly over your curls. However, it is strongly recommended to let your hair air dry as much as possible. But that is of course easier done in the warmer months. If it is the middle of winter and it is freezing outside, going out with wet hair is not recommended!
- Limit usage of brushes and combs Detangling your hair with your fingers is definitely preferable to combing or brushing for a number of reasons. Using your fingers is much more intuitive. You are more aware of where your tangles are, and instead of breaking through them you can carefully work them out. This prevents hair breakage, which can lead to frizzy hair and makes it difficult to grow your hair long. In addition, if you use your fingers while you have a hair mask or treatment in your hair, you simultaneously massage moisture into your hair. You don’t spray lotion on your body, just hoping it will be absorbed, right? The same goes for conditioner. It must be massaged into your curls for it to be most effective. And if you really can’t say goodbye to your brush, make sure you don’t brush or comb dry hair, do it when you are in the shower and your hair is lathered with conditioner or a hair mask. And we’re not going to lie… We love a Denman brush for styling our hair!
- Banish hair products with harmful chemicals One of the most important elements of the Curly Girl Method is banishing products that contain sulphates, silicones that are not water-soluble, wax, non-natural oils, harmful alcohols and perfume from your hair regime.
- Don’t wash your hair too often How often should you wash your hair? It really depends on your hair type and preferences. With Massey’s method in mind, if you have wavy hair, shampooing should only be done once a week. For curly hair textures, washing should take place once every 10 days with a co-wash once a week. For coily hair textures, Massey recommends shampooing as little as possible and opting for only co-washes instead.
- Don’t use terrycloth towels Regular terrycloth towels roughen the cuticle and cause a lot of frizz and damage – no matter how gently you dry your hair. Many websites recommend microfiber towels but we much prefer cotton t-shirt towels and muslin cloth.
- Color, bleach or dye your hair with caution When coloring, dying or bleaching your hair, the ingredients and process can be extremely harmful, so it is not recommended. But it is definitely possible albeit slightly harder, to color your hair and maintain healthy curls. In any case, make sure you do a final wash after dyeing your hair to wash out any silicone. Then moisturize very well with a hair mask that contains protein, we also love OLAPLEX for color treated hair!
Curly Girl Method: Steps for succes
Once you’ve removed or limited the above mentioned products, ingredients, and habits from your hair routine, it’s time to move on to the steps that Lorraine Massey recommends in her book.
Before you start with the Curly Girl Method, it is important to remember that the ideal hair routine will be different for everyone: what works for one person will not automatically work for your hair.
During your curly girl journey, keep experimenting with various products and steps until you have found a routine that makes you and your curls happy. We’re not going to lie, you’re going to need more than a little bit of patient as you progress on your curly journey!
A very helpful tip is to keep a record of how your hair reacts to everything you do and try in a diary or notes on your phone: from washing and styling to how your hair reacts to various weather conditions and ingredients. We strongly suggest you download our free Kurlify Curly Girl Diary to help you keep track of your journey.
Step 1 – Discover your curl type and hair characteristics
To be able to determine which hair products and methods are best for your unique hair characteristics you will have to do some tests. We have written 3 in depth articles to guide you through this process.
Before continuing with the steps in this guide first read our articles on curl type, hair thickness and density, elasticity and porosity, to learn more about your hair!
What is my curly girl curl type, hair thickness and density?
Curly hair is divided into several curl types: wavy hair, curly and coily. In addition to your curl type, the density of your hair and hair thickness are also important. If you know your curl type, hair thickness and density, you can adjust your routine, products and hairstyles accordingly. With this knowledge you can provide even more beautiful and healthier curls!
Read our article to discover your curl type, hair thickness and density.
Hair elasticity: what is it and how to test it?
The elasticity of your hair determines whether you should use products with or without protein . Elasticity is measured by pulling out a curl and watching how quickly your curl bounces back. If your curl does not bounce back quickly, it is a sign of a lack of hydration. With an imbalance you can, for example, suffer from dry or fragile hair.
Read our article to discover your hair elasticity.
This is how you discover the porosity of your hair
Porosity is about the extent to which you absorb and retain moisture. You can measure this by checking how quickly your hair dries after washing – is it fast or slow? If your hair doesn’t absorb moisture easily, you need thicker, richer creams.
Read our article to discover your hair porosity.
Step 2 – Choosing CG proof hair products for your unique curls
With the information you obtained about your hair characteristics in Step 1, the next step is to determine which nutrients and ingredients will benefit your hair and which ones to avoid.
We’re here to help you on this part of your curly journey which in our opinion is the most complicated, time consuming and an ongoing challenge within the Curly Girl Method.
Depending on your hair type you should best use lighter or heavier products and your hair elasticity determines if you should use products with or without protein.
The most important nugget of information to remember in this process is that your curl type (for example 2a, 3b, 4c) does not influence your product choices, these are based on your hair’s elasticity, porosity and how fine or coarse your hair is!
As this step is complicated and differs for everyone, we have written an in depth guide to help you along.
We also highly recommend keeping track of hair products you try and their effects on your hair in our free Kurlify Curly Girl Diary to help you keep track of your journey.
Step 3 – The Final Wash
To make sure you can start the Curly Girl Method with a – literally – clean slate, you’ll need to do a Final Wash.
This requires you to wash your hair one last time with a shampoo with sulphates, an aggressive cleansing agent. Make sure the shampoo contains sulphate but is without silicones. Because your final wash is intended to wash the build up of silicones out of your hair.
Build up is an accumulation of hair products and even dirt, which has built up in your hair over time. We definitely want to get rid of that before starting our new hair diet! It will help your hair to absorb all the nutrients from your new hair products.
Even though you are adopting a new hair regime you may notice that build up still forms after time. Wavy hair and fine hair is especially prone to build up. If a CG-proof cleanser is not doing the job you could consider a final wash once every few months.
Read our extensive article about the Final Wash and which shampoos are best!
Tip: Because you are going to use a fairly aggressive product for your hair for the final wash, it can cause your hair to dry out considerably. We therefore advise you to pay extra attention to moisturizing and nourishing your hair after your final wash, by using a deep conditioner or hair mask.
Step 4 – Detangling
Before you wash your hair, it is best to first remove any tangles from your hair. This is called detangling. Preferably you don’t do that with a regular brush or comb, but with your fingers.
The Curly Girl Method teaches that the only time you really want to be detangling your hair is in the shower when it’s loaded with conditioner. You can use a wide-tooth comb or a wet brush if you really want to, but you actually don’t need anything other than your finger tips.
Another option is the Denman Brush, a brush that is famous among CG Method fans. You can also take a look at detanglers; hair products that are made to make your hair easier to tangle by giving your hair more slip. Check whether the product you want to buy is curly girl – friendly. For example, you could use castor oil if you have coily hair or a leave-in conditioner that provides slip.
However you detangle your hair, do it very carefully. If you work too coarsely, your hair my be more prone to breaking and frizz.
Read more: Discover which Denman brush you need
Step 5 – Co-washing: Using conditioner to wash your hair
A co-wash is the use of a conditioner or a specially formulated cream cleanser to remove buildup and cleanse the hair without lathering or harsh ingredients, such as sulfates or parabens, which are typically used in shampoos. Co-washing is using conditioner to wash and cleanse your hair.
On your future wash days after your Final Wash, you should no longer wash your hair with a sulphate based shampoo. Loraine Massey recommends washing your hair with a conditioner: co-washing. That is short for conditioner washing. However, here at Kurlify we also love using CG-Proof clarifying shampoos and cleaning creams.
The reason that we recommend to stop using regular shampoos is that they are harmful to your hair: they contain aggressive cleansers that do their job of cleaning so well that they wash away the natural oils from your hair and thereby affect the texture of your hair.
Ingredients to look out for are sulphates, such as such as sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), make sure you steer clear of them!
Co-washing is much milder and gentler for your hair and scalp. Your hair will take some time getting used to this new method, so count on greasy hair in the beginning. But please do not give up, your patience will be rewarded!
Read more: Our in depth article about co-washing includes tips on which products to use.
Step 6 – Deep Conditioning Treatment
When following the Curly Girl Method, deep conditioning is an important part of your hair routine. Perhaps you already use a hair mask, and this is similar. It is an extra concentrated and nutritious conditioning treatment that penetrates deeper into the hair and is extra nourishing. You can see it as a much needed treatment to restore dry and damaged hair.
You may be wondering if you need such a treatment after already having co-washed your curls. Yes, definitely! Even after co-washing you also need to use a deep conditioner.
Deep conditioning is a treatment method that focuses on nourishing your hair with a specially formulated treatment. Curls are naturally drier than straight hair and therefore need much more hydration. And deep conditioners are made for just that! You will see, this step is paramount in helping you get beautiful, healthy and shiny curls that are more defined.
Choose a quality deep conditioner that is CG-friendly, apply a decent amount to your hair and leave it on for about twenty minutes. Then rinse the conditioner out well. Do you have very dry hair or would you like to truly pamper yourself? Then you can leave it on for an hour or even overnight! We recommend using a deep conditioner hair mask once a week.
Read more: 5 Tips for Deep Conditioning your Hair
Step 7 – Styling your curls
After washing and caring for your hair, you naturally want your curls to get and keep their beautiful shape. For this you use the hair products that fit your hair and curl type according to the previous steps.
Rinse your hair with cool water to close the cuticles, take the shower off and throw your head over. Squeeze a little water from your hair and apply some leave-in conditioner using the praying hands technique. Then scrunch your curls well. Then apply a styling product, such as a mousse, gel or pomade, in the same way. This keeps your curls in good shape and seals hydration in the hair.
If you follow and maintain these Curly Girl Method steps, you will only have to style your curls 1-2 times a week or however often you wash your hair.
In between washdays you can refresh your hair by filling a spray bottle with water and a little leave-in conditioner. Spray this through your curls, apply a little styling product such as a gel, scrunch this in your hair and your curls will look like new again!
Read more: The Main Techniques of the Curly Girl Method
At night, you can protect your hair by putting it up into a pineapple and sleeping on a silk pillowcase.
Read more: 6 Ways to Sleep with your Curls
Step 8 – Drying your curls
How do you dry your hair? We recommend starting with plopping your hair: that is a technique to dry your hair without damaging it. In addition, it provides more definition, less frizz and helps your hair dry faster. You gently tie your curls in a cotton t-shirt or microfibre towel and let it sit for about fifteen minutes.
Then it is best to let your hair air dry. Another option is to dry your hair with a blow dryer with a diffuser, on a cold setting. Preferably do this for a maximum of 20 minutes, to protect your hair.
Is your hair dry and does it feel hard? Then you can apply the scrunch out the crunch technique. To do this, hang your head upside down, grab parts of your hair and squeeze gently until you feel the hard layer break. You work from your points towards your hair roots.
Read more: How to Dry your Curls the Right Way
Our Top Tips for Curly Girl Method Success
- The most important thing to remember is that this method takes time and patience. And we don’t mean weeks, but months and sometimes years to get your hair to its fullest curly potential.
- If your hair has endured straightening, blow drying, bleaching or other damage, you’re going to need extra patience… But don’t give up hope, you will be rewarded if you keep with it!
- Application and techniques are just as important as choosing the right hair products. to help reduce frizz and enhance curl definition. How you apply products to your hair can often make a bigger difference to your hair, how your curls form and settle, than the product itself.
- Wash your hair and apply all your products with your hair upside down. This helps reduce frizz and encourages curl definition on the top layers of your hair, and especially at the roots.
- Take regular selfies and remember to make notes of what products and techniques you used. See how far you’ve come on your curly hair journey. See how much your hair has grown, how shiny it is, how much more curly it is, and healthy it looks, and feels. You’ll soon realise what you’re doing is working.
- Download our free Kurlify Curly Diary to make keeping track of your progress much easier!
Curly Girl Method: When will you see results?
If you follow these steps and use the right products for your hair, you should see a change immediately after your first Curly Girl routine, less frizzy hair for example. And if you keep it up consistently, you should be able to see really good results after six weeks.
However, you will have to persist and experiment with your products. We also recommend you check your curl and hair type from time to time as this may change after you start using the Curly Girl Method. Your hair needs will change as a result of nourishing your hair.
After a year you will see the full results of applying the Curly Girl Method in your hair routine: shiny, manageable, hydrated and frizz-free curls!
Possible issues during the transition phase
Unfortunately, not everyone will experience a hallelujah moment right from the start. Your hair may have to get used to your new hair routine. How long it takes for your hair to adapt and what challenges will you encounter with your hair? The transition phase is different for everyone. To give you an idea of what you can – but not necessarily – expect, we have listed a number of frequently occurring problems.
By using shampoo your scalp produces too much sebum. Your scalp reacts to the drying effect that sulphates have on the sebum on your scalp. If you are just getting started with the curly girl method, your scalp needs time to adjust the sebum production to get it back in balance.
More frizzy hair
At the beginning of the curly girl method, some people suffer more from frizzy hair than before. That is because your hair can finally breathe, and is no longer burdened by silicone and heat. By sticking to co-washing, moisturizing treatments and silicone-free products, this should resolve itself in a few weeks.
Also read: How to treat frizzy hair
If you feel hair mushy, soft, and frizzy, you probably have over-conditioned hair. Although curly hair tends to be dry and needs a lot of moisture, some products can overload the hair. Especially if your hair is very fine. If this happens, clean your hair with a sulphate-free shampoo and use lighter conditioners and moisturizers on your hair. Do not use a deep conditioner too often.
Changing seasons affect your curls
The different seasons of the year require different care. In summer, use lighter products so you don’t choke the hair. Use less leave-in conditioner in your hair to prevent frizz and get more curl definition. In winter this applies exactly the other way around. Use heavier products and more leave-in conditioner to combat the dry, winter air.
How do you proceed with the challenges described above? First of all, give your hair time to adjust to your new hair routine. Also:
- Fight the – understandable – urge to return to blow dryers, hair straighteners and products with sulphates. Believe us: curlies who persist are really rewarded!
- You can choose to gradually remove sulphates from your hair routine and gradually reduce their usage. The CG Method actually prescribes that you stop completely at once, but we can imagine that this is difficult. Take it at your own pace! However, keep in mind that it will probably take longer before you will see the full CG results.
- Start simple! You have noticed that there are many different product types and brands. The point is not that you buy and use as many products as possible for your curls, but that you find which ones work and master and apply new techniques and habits.
CG Modifications: Lazy Girl Method, Wavy Girl Method, Eco Curly Girl, Coily Girl Method
Not everyone follows the Curly Girl Method 100%, which is also known as ‘mod CG’. It means that you use the Curly Girl Method as a foundation for your routine, but deviate from the rules where it serves you better. Because it feels right for your hair. You may like products water-soluble silicone. That’s completely okay. The longer you apply the CG Method, the more you will learn if your hair is happy following the CG Method as closely as possible or if you want to walk your own path. Many people see the most benefit in avoiding sulphates, which dehydrates your hair so terribly.
Expore our favorite Curly Girl Method variations
- Lazy Girl Method: For Busy Girls and their Curls
- Coily Hair Method
- Wavy Girl Method: The Routine for Wavy Hair
- Eco CG: The Method for Curlies with a Sustainable Heart
We are curious how you like the Curly Girl Method. Will you let us know in the comments below? And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!
Top 20 questions about curls & the Curly Girl Method
The Curly Girl Method is a hair routine to take care of curly hair as naturally as possible. The method is based the following basic principles: cut out harmful ingredients (as example: sulfates) and products (as example: dryers and brushes), learn your curl and hair type and embrace new habits such as drying your curls with a cotton T-shirt in instead of a towel. The Curly girl Method was invented by Lorraine Massey and described in her now famous book ‘Curly Girl: The Handbook ‘.
We are happy to explain this to you in detail via our Curly Girl Method step-by-step plan. Summarized, you start with a final wash, where you remove the build-up of silicone on your hair and scalp. This is also the last time you use a shampoo that contains sulfates. Then you determine your curl and hair type, so you can determine what your hair’s needs. From that moment on, you only wash, care for and style your curls with CG proof products and techniques.
The Curly Girl Method is just as applicable to men’s hair as it’s to women’s hair. It’s certainly not girly to take good care of your hair as a man (unless that’s your thing – then it’s cool). We love men and boys who embrace their natural curls. We didn’t come up with the name of the method, guys… All hair care tips on our website are also 100% applicable to men’s hair.
Simplified, the Curly Girl routine is as follows (for the extended version you can read our blog Curly Girl step-by-step plan): remove your curls from the burdock, co-wash, care with a deep conditioner, style with your favorite products and, finally, dry your curls. Depending on your hair type, repeat this routine a few times a week. In between you can refresh your curls.
Do you like to freshen up your curls between your (co)washes? Of course, no problem! Fill a spray bottle with water and a bit of leave-in conditioner for extra hydration, and spray this through your curls. Then apply your styling products, scrunch it into your hair and your curls will look refreshed and like new.
After you start with the Curly Girl Method, how long does it take for your beautiful and healthy curls to appear? That is different for everyone. Yet, count for at least six weeks before you see the real result of your hard work. To reassure you: because your hair will respond well to your new mild products due to the final wash, you will often start seeing differences immediately after your first full CG routine.
Is the Curly Girl Method suitable for coily or kinky hair? Yes of course! Coily hair falls under curl type 4 (coily: coarse), thick hair with spiral-shaped curls that are close together. This type of curl seems robust, but is very fragile and often dries out quickly. Your biggest challenges? The fight against endless tangles and maintaining the moisture level in your curls. Knowing more? Then read our article about the different curl and hair types.
Unfortunately, there is not one simple answer to this question. First, it’s important to properly analyze your hair. Yet, also the products you use for your curls and your lifestyle affect the number of washes required. Fortunately, this also means that you can have some influence on this. Interested in more? We wrote an article on how often to wash your hair.
One of the basic principles of the Curly Girl Method is to eliminate shampoos that contain aggressive cleansers such as sulfates and ingredients such as silicones. We hear you thinking: how should I clean my hair and scalp then? With a co-wash, also called a conditioner-wash. If you want to know exactly how co-washing works and which suitable products you can use, read our blog!
That’s the big secret of the Curly Girl Method! Basically, you treat your hair gently and don’t damage it with blow dryers, chemical treatments, and brushes. This improves your hair and the condition of your scalp and for the lucky few among us, will result in a luscious bunch of curls.
It’s a healthier way of taking care of your hair. You delete hair products that damage your hair or cause build-up. This allows your hair to absorb more moisture and nutrients. This leads to healthier hair and healthier hair is shinier and more beautiful. For some, it even leads to discovering that they actually have wavy or curly hair. So yes, definitely worth a try!
Do you suffer from a dry, itchy or flaky scalp, greasy hair (even after you just used your co-wash), products that suddenly stop working properly or lifeless curls? Then it’s likely your curls could use a clarify. It could be that layers of dirt, oil, product or minerals (such as calcium) have built up on your hair. You can easily remove them by giving your hair a clarifying treatment, which actually is just a CG-proof shampooing treatment. There are even special CG-proof clarifying shampoos for sale.
According to the Curly Girl method, it is better to avoid hair dryers, or actually any styling tools that use heat. Can you really not live without? Do you otherwise get unwise fluffy hair? Do you simply not have time to let your curls air dry? Then try drying your hair with a diffuser! It’s best to use a diffuser as follows: apply your favorite styling product and light up your curls with clips, put your hair dryer on medium or even better on cold, whip your hair: throw your curls forward or to the side, move the diffuser through your hair to blow air at your roots, continue until your curls are about 70-90% dry, scrunch out the (gel) crunch until your hair is dry, shake out your curls.. and that’s it!
We think only one answer is right here: stick with the Curly Girl Method! With patience, good habits and the use of products suitable for your hair, we promise that over time, soft, healthy and vibrant curls will appear. Just look at all your predecessors!
There is no quick cut-off route to healthy and shiny curls. At least, not CG proof. The ingredient that is often added to hair products to make your hair shine is silicone. Silicones leave a layer on your hair that provides the shine. This makes it look like this ingredient nourishes your hair. However, you are better off avoiding silicones because they seal your hair: they leave a film on your hair that will seal your hair. Due to frequent use of products with silicone, these thin layers build up. Ultimately, this build up can lead to dry and brittle hair. Silicones are a no-go. How do you get shine? With the Curly Girl Method, with a little patience and persistence, you will see your curls shine on their own: the sign of healthy and bouncy hair.
If you’ve just washed your curls, squeeze out the excess moisture in a cotton T-shirt. After you’ve applied your styling product, gently wrap your hair back into that same T-shirt and let it sit for 20-30 minutes. Then you let your curls air dry. How quickly your hair dries depends on the porosity of your hair. If you have hair with low porosity it will take a long time for your curls to dry, while hair with a high porosity dries very quickly.
Not all alcohols are bad for your hair. You also have so-called ‘fatty’ alcohols that feed your hair. You can find them on product packaging under the following names: behenyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, lauryl alcohol, propylene glycol, stearyl alcohol, isocetyl alcohol, isostearyl alcohol, C30-50 alcohol, lanolin alcohol.
Porosity is about the degree to which your hair can absorb and retain moisture. It’s useful to know how porous your hair is so that you can use the most suitable hair products. You have low, medium and high porosity. Do you want to test which porosity your hair has? We wrote a blog with useful tips and tests!
Deep conditioning is a treatment method for your hair that focuses on nourishing your hair through the use of a good hair mask. Curls are naturally drier, this because the path that the natural oils on your scalp must travel to your hair ends is simply longer than that of straight hair. Therefor, deep conditioning is an essential part of your curly hair routine. Find a selection of fine deep conditioning hair masks with protein here.
As you now know, the Curly Girl Method is, to say the least, not a fan of brushes and combs. As a curly girl you often suffer more from tangles than women with straight hair. After your co-wash, you can try to detangle your wet hair by gently going through it with your fingers (otherwise you will experience hair loss). Isn’t that enough for you? Then consider purchasing a Denman Brush. Knowing more? We wrote a blog about the different types of Denman Brushes.
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