It’s been a good few months now since I first adopted the ‘Curly Girl’ method of haircare, so I thought it was about time I shared my experience with the world! The curly girl method, or CGM, is a set of rules for taking care of curly hair so as to best preserve curl, strength and shine, whilst keeping frizz and dryness at bay. It was created by hair stylist Lorraine Massey in her book ‘The Curly Girl Handbook’, and it has quite the following nowadays. If you already know about CGM and you’re just wondering about my experiences and routine, then skip this next part! But if you’re new to the method, I’ll start with a quick intro…
The main rules of CGM
No sulphates or harsh cleansers – these strip the hair of its natural oils and cause dryness. They can be found in almost all shampoos, even ones for dry hair! Use conditioner to wash instead, or one of a select number of shampoos that contain only the most gentle cleansing ingredients.
No harsh alcohols – alcohols can be broken down into two main types; long chain and short chain. Long chain or ‘fatty’ alcohols like stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol are moisturising and nourishing to the skin and hair, whilst short chain, like ethanol, isopropyl and others are very harsh and must be avoided.
No silicones, mineral oil or waxes – these coat the hair, which stops moisture from penetrating it, and can weigh it down. These ingredients also need to be washed out with a sulphate, so are incompatible with CGM cleansing techniques. Luckily there are LOADS of suitable styling products out there, for all budgets. You just have to know which to buy.
No chemical processes, heat or straightening – these weaken the hair and cause breakage, frizz and dryness. You can use a diffuser on a low or medium setting, or a soft t-shirt to dry your hair.
No brushing – this can lead to breakage and split ends. Detangle with fingers instead, and distribute product with a wide tooth-comb.
It can be confusing at first because there are lots of different techniques you can try, and you’ll probably have to replace almost all of your products and start a completely new routine. You also need to start becoming aware of ingredients lists, but there is a website called curlsbot.com that you can use to help you. It might seem like an effort, but it’s so worth it. For me, I’ve always worn my hair curly, so I didn’t really need to change my styling techniques, but I was using a shampoo that was far too harsh, as well as some products that contained silicones and waxes. I was shocked to learn that my ‘dry remedy’ shampoo contained a harsh sulphate, and that my argan treatment oil contained more silicone than oil!
My favourite Curly Girl Method approved products
So, here’s a quick rundown of my routine and the products I use…
This shampoo is what’s known as a ‘low poo’ – which means that it contains very gentle cleansing ingredients instead of sulphates. It removes product build-up and grime without stripping the hair of natural oils. I absolutely love this product, it’s amazing how it leaves my hair feeling super clean but not dry or stringy at all. I wash my hair about once a week, so I can get away with using this every time I wash. Lorraine Massey encourages you to try co-washing to begin with, but it doesn’t suit everyone, and it definitely doesn’t work for me. This shampoo is the perfect alternative. (Buy it from Boots – £12.99)
Because I only wash once a week, I use a really rich moisturising mask to make sure my hair is nourished and softened. This is a really thick mask, and it’s very, very hydrating. I love the smell, and it leaves my hair feeling silky smooth when I rinse it out. I apply a big glob of it to soaking wet hair, and then squish it into my hair (using a technique called ‘Squish to Condish’). When I rinse it out, I try to leave a little at the ends. I also find it to be surprisingly good for detangling! More on that below… (Buy it from Boots – £12.99)
This is a fairly new addition to my routine, but one that I am already in love with. The Hair Food masks (there’s also Banana, Aloe and Coconut versions) are ultra moisturising, and a LOT lighter than the Shea Moisture Masks. I like to use this if I’m going for a bouncier curl, knowing that my definition won’t last as long, but that my hair will have more body. I use it on washday in the same way I use the Shea Moisture Mask. I also use it as a leave-in when I want to refresh my hair – to do this I use a technique where I scoop a bit out, wet my hands, and then smooth it over the curls. It takes a while to dry, but it looks gorgeous afterwards! (Buy it from Boots – £3.49)
Not CGM, so if you want to follow it to the letter, skip this part. But because of the amount of hair I have, I would be spending hours upon hours detangling by hand, and I don’t have time for that! I detangle my hair upside down in sections, and make sure to keep both my hair and the brush soaking wet – this makes the conditioner more ‘slippery’ and helps the tangles to come out without breakage. I find that the Tangle Teezer is the gentlest of the three ‘curl friendly’ brushes – the other two are the Denman Brush and the Wet Brush. I’ve used all three a lot, and I find the Wet Brush to be totally inept (the bristles bend) and the Denman to be almost impossible to get through my hair. If you’re going to brush, go for the Tangle Teezer. Another popular use for a brush when you have curly hair is to use it to define your curls – you’ll find loads of tutorials for this on YouTube, and they’re usually done with a Denman Brush, but I find that the Tangle Teezer works amazingly well for that, and I love it when I want to make my hair form big, luscious curls. (Buy one from Boots – £11)
Whilst this has probably the worst product name in cosmetics history, it’s actually my FAVOURITE product EVER. This is a super super moisturising leave-in, which completely eliminates tangles and deeply hydrates the hair. It eliminates frizz without being heavy, leaving smooth, soft, really well defined, gorgeous curls. Seriously, I have so much love for this product it’s bordering on ridiculous, but it leaves my hair feeling SO GOOD. I apply it to soaking wet, freshly rinsed hair, and I do it in one of two ways. If I want smaller, bouncier curls I smooth this through all of my hair using a technique called ‘praying hands’, and then squish it in to get every hair coated. If I want sleeker, longer curls, then I flip my hair right side up, and smooth it over each curl individually, and again I squeeze it in to make sure it gets on all of the hairs. I was using Lush R&B for years before this, which was a sticky, heavy, waxy leave-in, and it’s such a joy to get all the benefits of that, without the gross residue. If you only buy one CG product in your whole life, make it this. (Buy it from Boots – £10.99)
I use a small amount of this soft gel to seal in all the goodness from the rest of my products. It works brilliantly to maintain soft definition, but it’s also really good for getting a ‘cast’, which is basically where your curls are defined to the point of being crunchy. If you use enough to get a cast, you can scrunch it out once your hair is dry (apply some oil to your hands first), and by magic, you get defined, soft, bouncy, frizz free curls! (Buy it from Superdrug – £5.89)
Even though I didn’t make particularly huge changes compared to a lot of people who start doing CGM, I’ve still seen amazing results and I’m over the moon with how my hair looks now. I’ve never been so happy with it! One thing I used to struggle with a lot was how quickly my hair would tangle, and since switching up my styling products, I now no longer have that problem. I don’t have any breakage or split ends, and my hair itself is extremely strong and very healthy (I can say that because my hairdresser told me lol). My hair was doing okay before I started CGM, but I absolutely freaking LOVE IT now. I really recommend giving the Curly Girl Method a try – it will help you to truly understand and enjoy your hair!