Curly Girl Method – The Beginner’s Guide to Beautiful Curls in 2021

Home » Hair Care » Curly Girl Method – The Beginner’s Guide to Beautiful Curls in 2021

The Curly Girl Method is a formula for looking after curly and wavy hair. It originates from the book Curly Girl: The Handbook by hairstylist Lorraine Massey, which came out twenty years ago. Today the same guide is still being used by millions of women who want to enhance their curls and tame frizz. You will find dozens of Facebook groups and wash day hair products just dedicated to the cg method! This post tells you everything you need to know to get started with the Curly Girl Method.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.

curly girl method

What is the Curly Girl Method?

The Curly Girl Method is a hair care routine that achieves perfectly moisturised, defined and bouncy curls. The method involves replacing your regular shampoo with a co wash, and always using a deep conditioner and styling product on your hair. With the cg method you should only ever air dry your hair and never use hair irons or curling tongs. The table below breaks down exactly what the Curly Girl Method suggests you should do and avoid.

AlwaysNever
✓Air dry your hairx Use heat on your hair – no hair dryers, irons or curling tongs
✓ Use sulphate free shampoo or co washx Use harsh chemicals on your hair
✓ Use fingers or a wide tooth comb to detanglex Use hairbrushes on your hair
✓ Trim your hair every 4-6 monthsx Use sulphates, non-water soluble silicones, alcohol or fragrance

The cg method was designed to enhance your hair’s natural curl pattern, which is something many people don’t even realise they have! I thought my hair was just frizzy until I read the Curly Girl: The Handbook! The author, Lorraine Massey, famously says: “frizz is just a curl waiting to happen”, and that all it needs is moisture. 

wavy hair

“Straighten your hair, and you might be happy for a day. Learn to love and care for your curls, and you’ll be happy for life! “

– Curly Girl The HandBook

The Original Curly Girl Handbook

This post shows you the basic steps to get started with the cg method, however I also recommend buying your own copy of the curly girl handbook – it’s become my hair care bible!

Curly Girl, the Handbook
  • Massey, Lorraine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 07/25/2021 (Publication Date) - Workman (Publisher)

Last update on 2021-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How to Follow the Curly Girl Method

Determine Your Hair Type and Porosity

Before going through the steps of the Curly Girl Method it’s first important to know both your hair type and your hair porosity. These two pieces of information will help you choose the right products for your hair in every step of the routine. I have written an entire guide on how to determine your hair porosity, however you can also do my two minute quiz below.

1363

What's Your Hair Porosity?

1 / 7

How would you describe the appearance of your hair?

2 / 7

What is your main hair problem?

3 / 7

Does your hair tend to break easily?

4 / 7

Do you regularly use hair dyes or relaxers?

5 / 7

Would you say your hair has been heat damaged from straighteners, curling tongs, or over styling?

6 / 7

How long does it take for your hair to air dry?

7 / 7

Which of these statements best describes your hair

0%

When it comes to working out your curl type, the chart most widely used was created in the 1990s by Oprah Winfrey’s hair stylist Andre Walker.  It categorises hair into four different types: type one straight, type two wavy, type three curly and type four kinky and coily. Each type is then broken down further depending on the tightness of the curl. You can use the image below to determine your hair type.

facebook groups for 3c hair

Once you know both your hair type and porosity level you will be better able to choose the right products and oils for your hair.

Now you are going to start the Curly Girl Method you should stop using your old shampoo and any other hair products that contain sulfates, alcohol, fragrance, or non-water-soluble silicones.

I am in the process of creating a guide of every hair product available that is cg approved, for every hair type and porosity, but I’ll recommend a few good products later in this post. In the meantime here are the steps you should follow.

Step 0 – The Final Wash

When you first start the Curly Girl Method, you will do the “final wash”. The final wash is the last wash you do with a sulfate shampoo or clarifying shampoo to remove all the product buildup and silicones from your hair. At this stage apply the clarifying shampoo to wet hair and shampoo as normal.

From now on the only time you will use sulfates on your hair is the first time you wash your hair when you start using the cg method, if you live in a hard water area when you will need to do another clarifying wash once a month to remove mineral build up, or if you have used silicones on your hair.

If you live in the UK, like me, you will most likely have hard water coming out of your tap! You can read my guide on the best shampoos for hard water to pick a good shampoo for your final wash. You may find you’ll need to repeat this stage again at least once a month to remove mineral build up and get rid of any dirt and oil that has accumulated.

Step 0 helps to “reset” your hair to get it ready for your new haircare routine. It promotes natural shine and hair growth.

Step 1 – Sulphate Free Shampoo or Co Wash

In step 1 apply your sulfate-free shampoo, cleansing conditioner or co wash to wet hair and massage into your scalp and hair. Massaging your scalp helps to encourage blood flow to the hair follicles and strengthen the hair roots. It also helps to lift any oil and sweat off your scalp and clean it away.

You only need to apply the shampoo to the roots, not to the ends of your hair. When you rinse the product from the scalp down, normally enough of the product reaches the ends. This method helps to avoid striping the hair of its natural oils.

Curly hair requires moisture to create defined curls and less frizz so it’s important not to wash the hair too often. The ideal interval is once a week for curly hair and once every two weeks for coily or kinky hair. It is also better to rinse the hair with cool water to help seal the cuticle and reduce frizz. This is especially important if your hair is high porosity.

Step 2 – Silicone Free Conditioner

The next step is to apply a silicone free conditioner to the hair. First gently squeeze any excess water from the hair and then distribute the conditioner throughout the hair from root to tip. Make sure the hair is fully saturated and coated with the product.

At this stage you may wish to use a wide-tooth comb to detangle any knots in the hair. Always work from the ends of the hair first when detangling. With the cg method you will only use your fingers or a wide-tooth comb to detangle the hair, and only ever when the hair is soaking wet and covered in conditioner. This will help to prevent the hair from breaking or pulling.

You may find this post helpful to choose a wide-tooth comb: 15 Amazing Detangling Combs.

To get the most from your conditioner try using the ‘squish to condish’ method. This involves putting the conditioner into your palms and then squishing it into your curls. This method will help to seal more moisture into the hair.

From now on always check the ingredient lists of your conditioners and ensure they only contain water-soluble silicones. You may also wish to invest in a leave-in conditioner to add extra moisture to the hair. Even if you don’t use a leave-in conditioner however, try to not rinse all of your conditioner from your hair. Especially if you have high porosity hair, leaving some conditioner on your hair will help to seal in moisture.

The LOC Method

LOC is an abbreviation which stands for leave-in conditioner (L), oil (O), cream (C), and this is the order you should apply the products. The LOC method is especially good for high porosity hair since this hair type has open cuticles and requires products to help seal the gaps in the hair shaft. If you have high porosity hair you should apply your oils, creams or butters after your conditioner.

Step 3 – Apply Styling Products to wet hair before drying

Styling products should be applied to wet hair before drying. It is important that you always make sure your hair is sopping wet before you apply the product. I always take my styling cream into the shower with me. If you wait until you are out of the shower and your hair has already started air drying the product will be less effective.

Dry hair starts looking for moisture in the air around it and this is what causes frizz. By applying a lot of product to the hair before it starts drying it seals moisture into the hair strands and stops frizz.

Your styling product could be a cream, mousse or gel. You can applying it to your hair by raking, scrunching or glazing. After you have applied your product take time to shape your curls either by forming curl clumps for big curls or scrunching curls upwards for looser curls.

Step 4 – Air dry

When it comes to drying your hair you should never use a hair dryer, flat iron, or any other heat tools such as curling tongs. Also do not use a towel on your hair as the harsh fibres can damage the hair and make it dry. Instead use a microfibre towel or a cotton t-shirt.

Try not to touch your hair whilst it is drying as this may ruin your curls and cause frizz. A crunchy cast may form on your curls from the styling product but don’t worry about this until the hair is completely dry.

If you want to speed up the drying time you could try hair plopping. This involves putting your head upside down and letting your curls fall into a microfiber towel or cotton t-shirt for 30 minutes to allow the cloth to absorb the water.

If you are in a rush you can use a blow dryer with a diffuser on a very low heat but try to avoid this if possible.

Step 5 – Scrunch Out Soft Defined Curls

This step is not mentioned in the original curly girl handbook however I have found that the hair gel leaves my hair crunchy when it’s dry. At this stage I scrunch my hair upwards with a small about of hair oil or serum. You could also use a dry cotton t-shirt or silk/satin scarf to gently scrunch your curls.

By scrunching your curls once they are dry they become less crunchy and look softer and more natural.

Step 6 – Maintaining Your Curls

Unfortunately no amount of moisturising will repair your split ends. You should trim them off regularly. Now that you are no longer using heat or harsh chemicals on your hair it will start to grow back healthier and stronger.

You may want to invest in either a silk or satin pillowcase. It reduces the amount of friction on your hair whilst you are sleeping and you will find less frizz when you wake up. I have a silk pillowcase and find it is more gentle on my hair than a regular cotton one.

Curly Girl Method Approved Products

The products recommended in this post will work for all natural curls and natural waves.

Step 0 – Clarifying Shampoo

In my post on the best hard water shampoo the best selling product and the one that gets the best result is the Spa Master Molecular Cosmetics Micellar Chelating Detox Shampoo. It removes toxins and harmful chemicals from both the scalp and the entire length of hair, and is the perfect clarifying shampoo for starting the Curly Girl Method.

Spa Master Molecular Cosmetics Micellar Chelating Detox Shampoo

Spa Master Molecular Cosmetics Micellar Chelating Detox Shampoo pH 5.5 330 ml
  • DETOX shampoo - for deep cleansing of hair and skin from dirt, styling products, as well as chlorine...
  • Recommended for hair and scalp preparation for recovery and care procedures.
  • Detoxification - eliminates toxins and harmful chemicals from both the scalp and the entire length...
  • The desquamation of the scalp strengthens blood circulation, improves metabolism and helps penetrate...
  • Peeling of the scalp - exfoliates pimples, cleanses pores and hair from sebum and dirt.

Last update on 2021-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Step 1 – Sulfate Free Shampoo / Co Wash

The Curly Girl Method advises against lather but the Curl Low Poo Original Mild Lather Cleanser is extremely gentle and sulfate-free. It’s a little bit more expensive than other cg method shampoos but the results are worth the extra cost. It gently cleanses even fine-textured curls without stripping the hair of its natural oils. If you have fine hair this shampoo will help you to achieve curlier hair.

Curl Low Poo Original Mild Lather Cleanser 

Curl Low Poo Original Mild Lather Cleanser 12 Oz
  • Brand Name: DEVA Mfg#: 166045
  • Shipping Weight: 0.01 lbs

Last update on 2021-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Step 2 – Conditioner which is Curly Girl Method Approved

The Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Conditioning Curl/Style Milk is a great leave-in conditioner. It is enriched with coconut oil and shea butter to hydrate the hair and protect it from damage and breakage. It helps to tame frizz and leaves you with healthy curls.

Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Conditioning Curl/Style Milk

Sale
Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Conditioning Curl/Style Milk 237 ml
  • Our Coconut & Hibiscus collection blends exotic fruit and floral ingredients for radiant skin and...
  • Penetrates the scalp, hair and skin with restorative moisture
  • Tames frizz, while defining and maintaining natural curls
  • Treats dull and dry skin as well as skin discoloration.
  • Rich in Coconut Oil and Shea Butter 

Last update on 2021-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

At this stage you may also wish to use a wide tooth comb to detangle any knots in the hair. Use the comb after applying the conditioner as this will help the comb to gently break up the knots without tearing the hair

Wide Tooth Hair Comb Infused With Argan Oil for Detangling

Wide Tooth Hair Comb Argan Oil Infused With Comfortable Handgrip Handle - Detangling Comb for Thick...
  • Argan Oil infused Comb is made using an innovative new process that allows the blend of Argan Oil...
  • Less Static : Reduces frizz and helps restore dry, damaged hair.
  • Ergonomic : Comfortable lightweight handle designed for ease of use.
  • Smooth Comb: Adds shine and smoothness to your hair.
  • GUARANTEED: Comes with industry leading 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, which means your purchase is...

Last update on 2021-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Step 3 – Styling Products which are Curly Girl Method Approved

The Kinky Curly styling gel transforms thick, dry, frizzy hair into silky spirals and waves. It effectively locks in moisture and eliminates frizz leaving you with bouncy and defined curls. It contains natural ingredients such as horsetail, chamomile, nettle, aloe vera and marshmallow which will improve the health of your hair.

Kinky-Curly Original Curling Custard Natural Styling Gel

Sale
Kinky-Curly, Original Curling Custard, Natural Styling Gel, 8 oz
  • 8 oz, Essence Magazine, #1 "Beauty Best Sellers List" 2008
  • 8 oz

Last update on 2021-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Another good styling product is the Eco Styler Olive Oil Styling Gel. It’s made with olive oil to help hydrate the scalp and hair and reduce frizz. It is a very affordable styling product to add to your hair routine.

Eco Styler Olive Oil Styling Gel

Sale
Eco Styler Olive Oil Styling Gel 473 ml
  • Eco Style Olive Oil styling gel is made with 100% pure Olive oil. Olive oil helps the scalp...
  • 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...
  • Apply to dry or wet hair. Work desired amount through hair and style

Last update on 2021-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Step 4 – Drying

You should not use a regular towel on your hair so it would be good to invest in a microfibre towel or head cap. I have this cute bear shaped one. It holds the hair in place and helps to speed up the drying time. It also helps you to not touch your hair whilst it’s drying! This prevents frizz and helps to give you curlier hair.

Microfiber Hair Wrap Bath Spa Head Cap

Ruiqas Hair Dry Towel, Cute Bear Shape Fast Drying Shower Hat Microfiber Hair Wrap Bath Spa Head Cap...
  • Cute bear shape to make you look adorable, suitable for travel or home use to speed up the drying...
  • Easy to use, simply slip it over wet hair, it will hold in place with high elasticity.
  • Super water-absorbent microfiber, can help dry your hair faster with high efficiency.
  • Healthy way to dry hair without hurting your hair.
  • Size: appr.30*26cm

Last update on 2021-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you are in a rush and need to use your hair dryer then add a diffuser to the end to reduce the likelihood of your hair being damaged. Also try to use a very low heat.

Hair Dryer Diffuser Nozzle for Curly or Wavy Hair Styling

UUCOLOR Universal Hair Diffuser Suitable for 1.4 in to 2.6 in Adjustable Hair Dryer Diffuser Nozzle...
  • ⭐Universal Hair Diffuser: The hair dryer diffuser is a universal diffuser that fits hairdryers...
  • ⭐Create Perfect Hairstyle: All types of hair are great for diffusing, especially curly hair. The...
  • ⭐Excellent Design and Hair Protection: the blower diffuser use honeycomb outlet to ensure...
  • ⭐Quality Material and Easy to Use: The hair diffuser is made from high quality environmentally...
  • ⭐Ideal Gift and Lifetime Warranty: The universal hair diffuser is a great gift for friends,...

Last update on 2021-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Step 6 – Maintenance

To keep your hair in the best condition as possible in between washes I would recommend buying a silk pillow case. Silk pillow cases help to reduce the amount of friction on your hair in the night and leave you with less frizz in the morning.

Mulberry Silk Pillowcase for Hair and Skin Health

ALASKA BEAR 100% Mulberry Silk Pillowcase for Hair and Skin Health, Hypoallergenic, Standard Size...
  • ✅【100% MULBERRY SILK & HYPOALLERGENIC】100% 19 momme mulberry silk, 600 thread count, a...
  • ✅【COOL TOUCH & ULTRA SMOOTH】Dermatologists recommend natural silk pillow cases for the cool...
  • ✅【HIDDEN ZIPPER】Hidden zipper for style, comfort and better fit; Handmade, top-quality...
  • ✅【STANDARD SIZE】Standard size: 51 cm x 76 cm (20 x 30 inches), fits most UK standard-sized...
  • ✅【CHEMICAL FREE】Chemical-free, naturally dyed, no color shading or fading. OEKO-TEX Standard...

Last update on 2021-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

FACEBOOK GROUPS FOR THE CURLY GIRL METHOD

It can take some time before you see the Curly Girl Method work. It takes discipline and perseverance to maintain a healthy curly hair regimen. To help you stay motivated you may wish to join one of the Facebook groups dedicated to the cg method. I’ve listed a few active ones below.

Curly Girl Method Approve Products for Different Curl Types

I am writing a guide for each curl type which will contain recommended products and tips. You may wish to check out the posts below for wavy and coily hair. I will update this post as soon as I’ve written the curly hair guide.

I am also researching which popular brands are curly girl approved.

This post was a Beginner’s Guide to the Curly Girl Method

Thank you for reading my beginner’s guide to the Curly Girl Method. Starting the curly girl method was the best thing I’ve ever done for my hair. I’ve found this hair care method adds so much moisture to natural hair. Now, I’m interested to hear about your own curly girl journey, or even if you have straight hair and have used any of the products mentioned in this post, please leave me a comment below.

Olivia Herlihy

Olivia is the owner of UK Beauty Room and founder three other successful websites. She gained an online following after creating a natural haircare routine which completely transformed her hair. Olivia has since written an eBook on Ayurvedic hair care to help others use the same formula to improve their own hair.

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