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 vigor you’ve been trying to achieve with your own hair for years.
How do they do it?
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 this 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 It
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 this 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.
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.
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”.
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 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!
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- Work your conditioner into your hair, ensuring it is evenly coated. Use warm (not hot!) water to evenly distribute it. If your hairy 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.
- 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.
Products to Use for The Curly Girl Method
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 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.
The Curly Girl Method for Kids
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 them on CG sooner, you might help them avoid a life of damaging hair rituals!
Follow the same steps 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.