For nearly a decade the Curly Girl Method by hairstylist Lorraine Massey has changed the way women have cared for their natural curls and waves.
In 2011, Massey, who also owned Devachan salons at the time released a book with Michele Bender called Curly Girl: The Handbook. In it, she describes the Curly Girl Method, a hair care and styling routine that has not only proven to be successful (just check out all the social media clubs and posts dedicated to it) but one that will likely continue to evolve and gather even more believers.
What is the Curly Girl Method?
This hair care routine is all about taking claim of your natural curls and undoing damage from mainstream methods that actually hurt the natural texture of curly hair. The Curly Girl Method ditches the products and processes that are weighed down in chemicals and harmful routines that actually damage, dry out and flatten curls and introduces a process that allows your hair to fall into its natural curl pattern. When all steps are followed and the right products are used, the Curly Girl Method has proven to make curls fuller and more defined.
The Curly Girl Method: Do's and Don'ts
While the original steps and products work well, you can still make this routine your own and find the process and products that work best for your curls. There are several online communities on social media dedicated to the Curly Girl Method and thousands of before and after photos can be found on Instagram with #CurlyGirlMethod that will definitely inspire curly and wavy hair girls to give this hair care routine a try.
1. Say goodbye to traditional shampoos with sulfates.
We are big fans of using the right shampoos for your hair type. We’re also big proponents of reading ingredients on hair products carefully and it’s a non-negotiable with the Curly Girl Method. Many shampoos contain sulfates that are drying and harsh. A bad sulphate to avoid is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), there are others however that are less harsh and irritating such as Sodium Lareth Sulfate (SLeS) and using these shampoos can help for curly girls who need more cleansing if they have oily or greasy hair. Other gentle cleansing shampoos or “low-poos” can also include gentle cleansing ingredients such as cocamidopropyl betaine and decyl polyglucose which help to cleanse gently without stripping the hair.
2. Ditch the combs and brushes.
Instead of bristles and teeth that pull, break and weaken hair, the Curly Girl Method says to ditch harmful combs and brushes and use your fingers instead. With your fingers you can get an exact feel for knots and control how you work your way through your hair. Using your fingers also helps in massaging the scalp to help follicle stimulation and you’re also working in moisture into your locks—especially when applying approved Curly Girl Method products like conditioner.
3. Avoid non water-soluble formula products
These cause build-up and can weigh hair, especially curly hair, down. Non water-soluble products are also harder to wash out, for those who want tight, full curls, these products are a no-no and are not recommended for curly or wavy hair.
4. Do not use products with silicones, fragrance and alcohol.
These products should be avoided for all hair types actually. These ingredients strip the hair of natural oils, can cause irritation depending on the make up of the products and fragrance, and can also dry out the hair. While it’s easy to be lured by alluring smells or perhaps go-products you’ve always used without looking at its ingredients list, it’s best to chuck these products from your hair care routine to maintain the healthiest curls.
5. Avoid heat-styling.
This may seem difficult especially when you want the option to quickly dry hair or tame it. Using a diffuser on low heat and heat protect product can be incorporated, but it’s best to gently blot or pat your curly hair dry with a microfiber towel and hair dry to maintain longevity, elasticity and strength in your curls.
The Curly Girl Method for hair washing
Step 1: cleanse
When cleansing, use your fingertips and not your nails to work your conditioner or co-wash in. This can be done 1-2 times a week depending on your curl type. Those with wavy hair have the option to use shampoo once a week if needed, those with curly hair should use conditioner and water once a week. For girls with coily hair, wet hair as needed in between co-wash days that work for your hair.
Step 2: condition
Apply conditioner and coat the hair with conditioner, a wide tooth gentle comb can help spread the product if used sparingly, but as always, fingers are better. For wavy hair, be sure to condition before and after shampoo and rinse out conditioner after about a minute. For curly girls, rinse or leave in conditioner depending on how dry your hair is or how much moisture you need. For coily hair, allow conditioner to sit and wrap the hair. When safely wrapped (not too tight) low-setting heat can be used to seal conditioner in. Rinse thoroughly to avoid build-up.
Step 3: dry and style
It’s time to put those harsh blow-dryers down and pick up a microfiber towel. Instead of blasting your curls with heat, simply bend forward allowing curls to fall over (if they’re long enough) and if not, simply cup your curls in your towel and begin to gently scrunch your gel from the ends towards the scalp. Do so in sections, starting at the nape of your neck and working up scrunching your top layer last. You can use a hair clip to keep sections apart.
For wavy hair, you can pin curls to help them stay or use some extra scrunching. For curly hair, fluff hair from underneath for more volume and avoid scrunching or fluffing the top to avoid fizziness. For coily hair, wash and go! This texture is so naturally held well, it can be styled as you please after a wash.
Must have Curly Girl Method Products
1. Conditioner or co-washes
A cleansing conditioner is your BFF on the Curly Girl Method. Finding a conditioner or co-wash to cleanse and condition/moisturize helps to keep hair clean without harshly stripping it.
Go-to co-wash and cleansing conditioner products:
- A go-to co-wash that also smells delicious: As I Am Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner
- A cleansing conditioner we can count on: Ouidad Curl Immersion Low-Lather coconut cleansing Conditioner
- Sulfate-free safe shampoo that is also Curly Girl-approved: Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Green Tea Clarifying Shampoo
Use products that are rich in emollients such as shea butter, olive oil and also rich in proteins such as wheat, wheat germ or soy. Emollients help to moisturize and strengthen hair while proteins help to restore hair follicles and prevent breakage.
Moisturizing products with amino acids and aloe vera are also great especially for certain kinky or coily hair types that are naturally on the dryer side.
2. Moisturizing products for curly to kinky hair
- With organic ingredients, you can use this everyday: Mielle Organics Moisturizing Avocado 8-ounce Hair Milk
- For softer, shinier and moisturized hair: DevaCurl Melt Into Moisture Matcha Butter Conditioning Mask
- More moisture, better curls: Bask & Bloom Essentials More Moisture Cream
Styling gels with PVP or PVP/VA give your curls bounce and more lift. PVP is a water-soluble polymer and is used in a ton of products as a binder or fixative helping to keep hair in place without being stiff or as many girls with curly hair will know – crunchy as some products do.
3. Styling products to give your curls life
- Sounds just as good as it works: EDEN BodyWorks Coconut Shea Curling Jelly
- Natural and delicious for your hair: Miss Jessie's Curly Pudding
- Shea, coconut and hibiscus come together for the ultimate styler: Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style Milk
What every hair type can learn from the Curly Girl Method
The Curly Girl Method was made for girls with wavy to curly and coily hair, but the foundations of this hair care routine can be applied to other hair types as well. In particular, the focus on sulfate and alcohol-free shampoos and products. The emphasis on moisturizing is also big thing to keep hair healthy for all hair types. Whether though hair oils, masks or other protective and restorative hair products and methods, giving your hair an extra moisture boost helps to strengthen hair and even improve shine.
Written by: Rosalyn Solomon