Hair Care

The Curly Girl Method UK & Products To Use

If you have naturally curly or wavy hair, you’re probably more than familiar with the challenges of getting your curls to pop and look healthy.

It’s frustrating, indeed.

Especially after flipping through fashion and beauty magazines, where the beautiful curls of celebrities such as Solange Knowles, Aisha Dee and Sarah Jessica Parker, seem to be literally bouncing off the pages with the kind of naturally sparkling vigour you’ve been trying to achieve with your own hair for years.

How do they do it?

Well, you can emulate these stars with The Curly Girl Method.

What is the Curly Girl Method?

In the case of the aforementioned Solange Knowles and Sarah Jessica Parker, it all comes down to using the Curly Girl Method, which was first introduced by the founder of the famous Devachan Salons, Lorraine Massey.

Her 2011 book, Curly Girl Method: The Handbook – an updated edition is now available – changed the lives of many a curly-haired girl who had no idea how to make the very best out of their hair, through styling methods and a new understanding of the hair products they use.

You’d think that knowing how to treat your hair should come to you naturally, but depending on your hair type, this is not always the case.

It’s all about trial and error and, unfortunately, the most popular styling-methods today – straightening, flat-ironing, etc. – are extremely damaging to your hair.

This often means that, by the time people become aware of the Curly Girl Method, their hair is already so damaged, the transition from frizz to beauty can be rather awkward and demotivating – but it’s so, so worth it.

Similar to the no-poo method, the Curly Girl Method is all about keeping it as natural as possible. The philosophy is simple, albeit somewhat overwhelming, especially for those who have been relaxing, straightening and treating their hair with chemical products for years and years.

To some, the thought of ditching shampoo entirely and taking on a gentler approach to wild manes that you were only ever able to tame with aggressive tactics, can be super scary and yet, the outcome will be better – and cheaper! – than any other approach you’ve tried over the course of your hair-styling years.

Once you really get into following the Curly Girl Method, you’ll be surprised to see just how effective it is to be gentler and kinder to your hair and scalp, and how ineffective and destructive hair-products packed with chemicals really are. Trust us when we say, you’ll be wishing you’d adopted this method a long, long time ago.

Hair Types That Can Use The Curly Girl Method

A girl with curly Afro hair

Whether you’re wanting to breathe new life into your afro or get the best out of your curly hair, the Curly Girl Method can be applied to pretty much all hair-types.

While the guidelines in Massey’s book are mainly based on curly, wavy and afro hair textures, you can personalize the method to fit the needs of your own head of hair.

The main factor behind the Curly Girl Method is the total or partial elimination of shampoo, which will encourage the natural oils present in our hair to take on the job of moisturizing and nourishing dry, split ends.

There are four hair types – 1, 2, 3 and 4 – which can be split into the subcategories A, B and C. Type 1 is straight, whilst Type 2 hair is wavy; 2A hair usually has a slight, undefined wave, whereas in Type 2B hair, we can already notice the wave of the hair taking on a lovely “s” shape, the most defined of which can be found in 2C hair.

Wavy, type 2 hair will not need as many products as Type C hair, which is the type that needs the most moisturizing and experiences the most shrinkage when dry.

Before you get all geared up and ready to dive into applying the Curly Girl Method on your own hair, it’s a great idea to try and determine your hair type and porosity to help you prepare for a personalized approach to your curls.

When switching over to natural hair care, knowing how porous your hair is will make it easier for you to find the best product for your hair. There are different ways to test whether you have high or low porosity hair.

One, is to place a few strands of clean hair – this is important as oils or products can alter the results – in a glass of water; if it sinks immediately, it’s high porosity, if it’s still floating after four minutes, it’s low porosity.

Another way to test porosity is by doing the “slide-test”.

Grab a strand of hair and slide your fingers towards your scalp; smooth rides indicate low porosity hair and clumsy slides are a sign of high porosity.

How it Works

Let’s get the most daunting part of it all out of the way first: you’re going to have to kick shampoo. Maybe not entirely, but for the most part. It is an important aspect of The Curly Girl Method

Don’t worry, you don’t have to go cold turkey, you can wean yourself off at your own pace. It may even be a good idea to start your new haircare regime when you’ve got some time off work, in case you’re worried about complete styling fails thanks to this new method.

Even if you can’t get your hair to look the way you want immediately – this is referred to as the “transitioning stage” – you will feel all the benefits of going sulfate and silicone-free very quickly.

It’s all about unschooling yourself and letting go of the idea that we need non-water-soluble silicones, alcohol, heat and fragrance for our hair to look and feel its best.

Chances are, you’ve been shampooing, conditioning, towel and blow-drying, combing and brushing your hair for years and can hardly imagine a hair care routine that doesn’t involve these seemingly crucial elements.

As hard as it might be to wrap your head around all this, you can’t deny that, in pretty much every aspect of life, the natural approach is always the best – so why not your hair?

Why lather up with sulfate and silicones when you could be treating your hair to coconut oil, shea butter or Kinky-Curly Curling Custard instead?

It’s all starting to make sense now, isn’t it? Good. So, let’s dive right into the do’s and don’ts of the Curly Girl Method:

The Dos & Don’ts

Now that you’re ready to embrace a whole new outlook and method to your curly hair care routine, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the “rules” of the Curly Girl Method.

As we’ve mentioned before, the truth is, you should always feel free to tweak and adapt these rules to work for you and your own hair, so you’re by no means doing anything wrong if you should decide to bend them a little bit here and there. Always do what’s right for you using the Curly Girl Method as a guideline.

Don´t

  • Don’t use shampoo, specifically shampoos containing sulfates such as ammonium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate, or non-soluble silicones found in styling products and conditioners.
  • Don’t wash your hair too much – seriously, don’ It really isn’t necessary and you’re doing it more harm than good by going in for the daily wash. Once or twice a week is enough, three times a week, max.
  • Don’t use heat to dry, style, curl, straighten and even wash your hair. Heat is one of the greatest sources of damage to hair and the dreaded frizz problem.
  • Don’t – wait for it – brush or comb your hair. This is might sound ludicrous to some, but it makes perfect sense. By using a brush or comb, you’re pulling out your hair’s natural curl pattern, which is exactly what we want to avoid. If you feel you can’t live without one, opt for a Denman brush.
  • Don’t towel-dry your hair – no, not even gently. It creates frizz and roughens up the hair cuticles.
  • Don’t use alcohol as this will dry out your hair.

Feeling intimated by the many “don’ts” on this list? Not to worry, we’re getting to the good part now. Here are all the things you should do!

Do

  • Use a cleansing conditioner or a conditioner approved by the Curly Girl Method to ensure you reap all the cleansing benefits without bombarding your hair and scalp with aggressive ingredients that will further dry out or damage your hair. Always check product labels to ensure it does not contain any of the ingredients mentioned above.
  • As good as it can feel, don’t use your fingernails when your massaging in your chosen cleanser – apply gentle pressure with your fingertips instead.
  • Use your fingers to untangle your hair by starting from the bottom and working yourself up, preferably when your hair is still wet.
  • Use natural ingredients such as coconut oil, shea butter, jojoba or olive oil to moisturize your curls.
  • Use a cotton t-shirt or micro-fibre towel to dry your hair or wrap it up for plopping.

Curly Girl Method Step by Step Guide

You’ve done your homework and gone through your checklist – congratulations, you’re now officially ready to put the Curly Girl Method to the test. Here’s how to start:

  1. Hop under the shower, wet your hair and use gentle, circular scrubbing motions to stimulate your scalp and work in the conditioner – or your product of preference – using only your fingertips (no nails!). The recommended intervals for hair cleansing are: once a week for wavy hair (always conditioning before and after using no-poo shampoo); once a week/every ten days for curly hair (co-washing with water or conditioner); wet your hair in between co-wash days and condition if you have coily hair.
  2. Work your conditioner into your hair, ensuring it is evenly coated. Use warm (not hot!) water to evenly distribute it. If your hair is wavy, rinse it for a few seconds, if it’s curly, you can leave the conditioner in. Coily curls like to be wrapped up for around 15 minutes; this natural form of heat will give it a great moisture boost. Rinse completely when done. This is the best time to comb and untangle your hair using your fingers.
  3. Air-dry or t-shirt-dry by gently blotting your curls. If you must use a tool, go for the diffuser. Use CG approved gel and scrunch it into your hair from the bottom upwards toward the head, saving the top layer for last. Curly hair will get great definition if you fluff the bottom layer while bending forward; just try to avoid futzing around with the top part too much, this will only create frizz.

The Curly Girl Method: Approved Products to Use

So, now that you’ve ditched all your old shampoo brands, what are you going to use for conditioning and/or co-washing?

Fortunately, there are many Curly Girl Method approved products available and they’re all fantastic. A true favourite amongst the Curly Girl community is DevaCurl’s No-Poo Decadence which is a “zero lather, ultra-moisturizing milk cleanser”.

Shea Moisture’s 10-in-1 Renewal System with a superfruit complex is another great option, as it can be used for multiple purposes: as a cleanser, a rinse-out and/or leave-in conditioner. If you want to go full-on radical, you can also opt to wash your hair with baking powder or apple vinegar.

// As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I get a commission if you buy any of the below products via the links provided. It doesn’t affect the price you pay and helps us run this blog (thanks!)

Here is a full breakdown of Curly Girl Method friendly products:

Shampoos

Kinky-Curly Come Clean

Sale
Come Clean, Natural Moisturising Shampoo, 8 oz (236 ml)
  • Kinky Curly Come Clean Natural Moisturizing Shampoo Sulfate Free 8 oz
  • 8 oz

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo

Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo & Conditioner, 16 oz.
  • Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo and Conditioner Pack
  • Enriched with Organic Botanical
  • Balanced Shampoo That Will Clean and Protect
  • Cruelty Free (Never Tested on Animals) - No Animal Products in Ingredients

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

DevaCurl Low-Poo

Curl Low Poo Original Mild Lather Cleanser 12 Oz
  • A moisturizing shampoo for curls
  • Features a mild-lathering, moisturizing formula

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

SheaMoisture Organic Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo

Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo, 379 ml
  • Raw shea butter extra moisture retention shampoo with sea kelp and argan oil
  • This sulfate free shampoo helps moisturise and repair dry, damaged or over processed hair
  • For damaged, transitioning hair
  • With organic and fair trade shea butter
  • No sulfates and no parabens

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Aubrey Organics Island Naturals Replenishing Shampoo

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Conditioners

Giovanni Direct Leave-In

Giovanni Hair Care - Direct Leave-In Conditioner, 8.5 fl oz liquid [250ml]
  • For all hair types: Restores strength, luster and nourishment to abused hair. Moisturizes and builds body. Detangles for easy comb-out and easy styling.
  • Package Description: 8.5 fl. oz. (250 ml)
  • Serving Size: ..
  • Number of Servings: ..
  • Unit Type: Each

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

DevaCurl One Condition Decadence

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

VO5 Moisture Milks Strawberries and Cream Conditioner

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl and Style Milk

Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Curl and Style Milk, 254 ml
  • Coconut and hibiscus curl and shine shampoo with silk protein and neem oil
  • This moisturising styling cream detangles, conditions and controls curls while restoring body and shine
  • For thick and curly hair
  • With organic and fair trade shea butter
  • No sulfates and no parabens

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Aubrey Organics GPB Balancing Protein Conditioner

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Gels

Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel

(2 Pack) - Fruit Of the Earth - Aloe Vera Gel | 12 ounce | 2 PACK BUNDLE
  • Quantity: 1.
  • Gel Hydrating Conditioner that effectively soothes the sunburn, minor burns, redness and itching.
  • Forms a protective barrier that helps preserve the skin's moisture levels and to promote healing.
  • Soothing cold effect of Aloe Vera plant.
  • Free of perfumes and dyes.

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Kinky-Curly Curling Custard

Kinky-Curly, Original Curling Custard, Natural Styling Gel, 16 ounces
  • Kinky-Curly custard gel is a herbal conditioner that's suitable for all hair types.
  • This alcohol-free hair gel can be used as a leave-on conditioner for thick or curly hair.
  • It's free of parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • This product is designed to work alone but ultimate curl definition

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

As I Am Smoothing Gel

Sale
As I Am Smoothing Gel, 227g/8 oz.
  • Smoother hair
  • No harsh ingredients
  • Gives you sleekiness
  • Organic
  • 227g/8oz

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Eco Styler Olive Oil Gel

Sale
Eco Style Olive Oil Styling Gel, Green, 946 ml,I905A
  • Eco Style Olive Oil styling gel is made with 100% pure Olive oil. Olive oil helps the scalp naturally regulate its moisturizing system
  • It attracts moisture to the scalp and holds it in while also taming frizz
  • Like all our styling gels, it's weightless and will leave your hair with a healthy shine & superior hold
  • Apply to dry or wet hair. Work desired amount through hair and style
  • Item display weight: 1.0 kilograms

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Camille Rose Naturals Aloe Whipped Butter Gel

Sale
Camille Rose Naturals Aloe Whipped Butter Gel 8oz
  • Aloe Vera & Macadamia Oil.
  • All Curl Types and and transition.
  • Holds your style.
  • Great for natural, colored and chemically treated hair.
  • Camille Rose Naturals Aloe Whipped Butter Gel 8oz.

Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Making the Transition: Co-Washing

A Final Wash – Yes or No?

You’ve done your research, studied our step-by-step guide, stocked up on the products that most appeal to you and are ready to fully embrace the CGM – congrats! It’s going to be a haircare journey you’ll never come to regret.

Just keep in mind that you have to get through the pesky transition part first. We promise this will be the bumpiest part on the road to healthy and beautiful curls, but it will require patience and, above all, determination. So, ease yourself into it properly by making the transition with a final wash.

Don’t be deterred by the term, “final wash”. As we’ve already discussed, it’s not like the CGM requires you to give up on washing your hair altogether. You’re just going to be ditching all the chemical curl enemies in your chosen products in favour of a no-poo approach.

How Do I Go About It?

To give your hair that reset prior to going cold-turkey, give it a chance to acclimate by using an “inbetweener” for your final wash – a clarifying shampoo that doesn’t contain silicones, but will give you one more fix of sulphates.

Sulphates are what make for that foamy, lathering effect we’ve all come to associate with the ultimate cleansing agents. And while they definitely know how to get the job done, we wouldn’t need them if we didn’t put so much poo (i.e. silicones, drying alcohols etc.) in our curls in the first place.

No or low-poo shampoos are just as effective, they just rely on different, natural cleansing agents to do the trick. After years of having used chemically-based shampoos, conditioners and styling products, however, one more round of sulphates will help you get rid of all that build-up.

So, if you’re asking yourself whether you should go for that final, sulphate-based wash, the answer is yes. A clean skull and squeaky clean curls will make the transition into the CGM method much easier.

What is Co-Washing?

Having gotten the final wash out of the way you can now move on to your main go-to form of hair washing from now on, namely the co-wash. Co-washing consists of using a co-wash specific conditioner only – so forget about your former two-step routine of shampooing followed by conditioning.

You’re going to want to find a light co-wash, one that won’t weigh your hair down leaving it looking greasy upon drying. Wet your curls thoroughly and massage your co-wash of choice in using your fingertips; follow-up with a scalp brush too if necessary.

If your hair is feeling particularly dry and brittle, leave the product in for an extra couple of minutes and let it work some conditioning magic. Rinse your hair thoroughly, ensuring you flip your hair over as well to get wash everything out. The residue could leave your curls looking and feeling greasy.

Extra Hydration for Thirsty Curls

Are your curls extremely thirsty? Then treat them to an extra hydrating regular conditioner as a follow-up for a refreshed look and feel.

Establishing a co-wash routine is easy – simply listen to what your hair is telling you. Once you feel it needs a good cleanse and moisturizing, hop in the shower and get to work. You’ll basically want to use your co-wash as your newly appointed shampoo.

A girl that has done the Curly Girl Method

Important CGM Rituals: Squish to Condish

We all have our own little rituals when it comes to our hair and curl care routines. Some are personal, such as our choice of weekly deep-conditioners or the tunes we lip-sing to and the hair product bottles we use as our microphones, for example.

Others have become curly community gospel. Like the squish to condish method, for example. Curly girls swear by it, and wouldn’t go through a conditioning session without going in for a good squish while they’re at it. And all that for good reasons.

Get Your Curls Into Formation

This is how you get ultimate hydration for your hair, the kind that will leave your curls feeling as satisfied as you would after chugging a glass of cold water on a hot summer’s day. It doesn’t require extra products such as leave-in conditioners and guarantees ultimate curl formation.

Simply follow your usual co-washing routine, then use your regular conditioner for the squish to condish method. Generously cover your curls in the conditioner to detangle, then flip your head upside down.

Use your hands to form a cup, collect some water in it, and use it to squish it into your ends and up towards the scalp. Part your hair into sections and repeat this process across them all, always adding new water to your cupped hand as you move on to a new section.

How does this method help to condition your hair, you ask? Working the water into your hair this way allows it to work in harmony with the conditioner, making for greater absorption and, thus, creating a stronger hydrating effect.

Plopping to Get Your Curls Popping

Prior to getting into the CGM, most of us didn’t give our post-wash hair care routine a second’s thought. We just got out of the shower, pulled our hair up into a towel turban and let it sit there while we went about getting ready.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the part about towel-drying your hair – the question is, what kind of towel are you using? If the answer is your regular and typically rough terry cloth towel, it’s time to opt for a different fabric, my friend. Microfiber towels or just an old t-shirt will make all the difference.

What is Plopping?

Wrapping your hair into either one of these options – also known as “plopping” – will help your curls maintain that bouncy shape they exit the shower with. You can do this before or after applying gel to your hair.

Finish by adding a squishing technique similar to the one used to condish (minus the water, plus the edge of your towel or t-shirt, known as “scrunching”), and you’ll be left with extra definition.

The Best Curly Girl Method Approved Gels Available in the UK

Opting for sustainability fits in perfectly with the CGM’s natural approach to curl care and styling, so refrain from investing in imported gels and casts from the United States or elsewhere, and opt for those available at your local supermarket instead.

There are some great styling gels available at Boots and your usual supermarkets like Tesco or Sainsbury’s – no need to buy an overpriced product from a hairdressing salon or specialized shop. And we promise they’re just as effective and gentle on your hair too!

Try the Ecostyler Oil Styling Gel made with 100% pure olive oil, for example. Helping your scalp regulate its natural moisturizing system, you won’t have to worry about it drying out your curls or leaving a crunch. On the contrary: it leaves your curls with a healthy shine whilst taming the frizz.

Another great CGM approved option is the Cantu Shea Butter Maximum Hold Strengthening Styling Gel made with Jamaican black castor oil. Alcohol-free, it promises the crunch-less, flake-less, no-itch styling experience we’re all after.

Drying & Diffusing

Chemically-laden haircare and styling products aren’t the only things we are made to steer clear of when following the Curly Girl Method. There is one thing so many of us have turned to time and again without even thinking about the damage it could do to our hair: the hairdryer.

Having grown up to our grandmothers warning us about going out with wet hair, painting all kinds of horror stories of deadly colds and ear infections, we were taught to trust in the caring and styling abilities of our hairdryers from a young age.

Ditch Your Regular Hairdryer Routine

In fact, most of us can’t even fathom a styling routine that doesn’t involve the use of a hairdryer. How else are you going to define those curls and get them to pop? By plopping or diffusing – the two drying methods that will cause no damage to your sensitive curls.

As explained above, plopping refers to wrapping your curls in a microfiber towel or an old t-shirt for as long as it’s necessary for them to towel-dry. Depending on the length and volume of your hair, this can take anywhere between 10 and 25 minutes.

The reason we opt for these very specific fabrics is that they are soft and gentle on your hair, and therefore do not cause the frizz that makes our curls dry out further and faster.

Enhance Your Styling Results with a Diffuser

If you prefer a proper drying and styling tool to work with, using a diffuser will favour your usual hair care routine. A diffuser is an attachment that comes with most modern hairdryers and is designed to evenly distribute low heat through your hair and enhance your curl pattern.

It might look intimidating at first, but it’s actually extremely simple to use. All you need to do is attach the diffuser to your regular hairdryer – you can buy a universal model separately if you’re hairdryer did not come with one – and pack sections of your hair on to it, and bring it closer to the scalp.

Hold your hair in this position for around two minutes, then move on to the next section of hair; repeat the process until you have gone through your whole head of hair. You can diffuse immediately after a wash or after having applied your preferred styling gel or mousse.

Scrunch it Out: Say Goodbye to the Crunch

Once you’ve applied your gel for ultimate curl definition, you’re going to want to take the preventative measure of scrunching out its cast. Once your styling gels sets, it tends to leave a cast that can result in flakiness and an overall crunchy look and feel – which is definitely not what we want!

Avoid this and simultaneously add another few days of perfectly styled curls on to your wash-day look by scrunching out any crunch residue. Do this by using your fingers or an old t-shirt and literally scrunching out the cast, leaving your curls beautifully defined and your hair wonderfully moisturized.

Curl Activators & Mousse

If you feel you there is still more definition to be gotten out of your curls, a curl activator or quality mousse will really get them popping.

Cantu’s Curl Activating Cream smells just as good as it works, and you only need little to make curl magic happen.

The Deep Condish

Regularly deep conditioning your curls is especially important in the beginning, transitioning phase of starting the Curly Girl Method. At this stage, your curls are most likely still recovering from mild to severe damage from years of harsh products and heat-based styling methods.

When to Deep Condition

Treating your curls to deep conditioning masks or leave-ins will restore their health quicker and will make them easier to work with. The best time to do so is after having had your regular co-wash or when you feel your curls are lacking moisture between washes.

How & Using What?

When working with a deeply moisturizing leave-in conditioner such as Shea Moisture’s Fruit Fusion Coconut Water Weightless Masque, you can even choose to leave it in overnight.

Keep your hair covered and protected in a bonnet or silk scarf, and wake up the next morning to feel and see the benefits of deep conditioning!

The Curly Girl Method for Kids

A small girl with curly hair

If the Curly Girl Method works for you, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use it on your kids too. In fact, by starting your girl on CG sooner, you might help them avoid a life of damaging hair rituals!

Follow the same steps of the Curly Girl Method you would use for yourself, adjusting them according to your children’s hair type.

You’ll see that morning and bedtime routines will suddenly become a whole lot easier thanks to a much gentler approach to washing (no eye-stinging products!) and styling (no pulling out hair with painful brushes!), and your kiddo’s hair will look better than ever.

Hati

I come from a land far, far away... and my hair is very curly, obviously! I have started this blog to share curly hair stories and what I use to manage my own hair. My other main passions are food, art and literature.

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