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How to start the Curly Girl Method

Inside: My experience with the Curly Girl Method.

I was born with an ever so slight wave in my hair but as soon as I reached my teenage years my hormones shifted and my hair turned poker straight. Assuming I’d be stuck with straight hair forever, I’d long for curls and buy all of the tools I could that would give me the look I wanted.

And then I had children.

Baby number 1 gave me a kink. Baby number 2 gave me a wave and baby number 3 cemented that wave into a tight s-curl. Utter madness!

I hadn’t known what to do with the situation and have spent the last few years straightening it or just throwing it up into a pony. And considering I longed for curls, that is just ridiculous.

Since starting the CG Method my hair has gone from an s-wave to ringlets – I actually cannot believe it but the process works. I won’t lie, there have been times when I’ve wanted to quit.

Days when my hair wouldn’t play ball and days when I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. But I am telling you it is worth the bad days to finally get to those better days.

What is The Curly Girl Method?

The Curly Girl Method, from Lorraine Massey’ book ‘Curly Girl; The Handbook’ is a method designed to enhance your curls by cutting out certain products and other damaging processes.

I’ll be honest, I had never even considered what I was putting on my hair, I’d just chosen products based on the belief that they cleaned my hair well.

The rules of the CG method

Before I start, I want to say now that these rules were set in place by Lorraine and there are people who follow them to the letter. But for me, I used them as a starting point and went from there. Your hair belongs to you and as such, you should do what works for you.

That being said, the fundamentals should be adhered to otherwise you won’t see progress.

Things to cut out

  • Shampoo
  • Sulfates
  • Alcohol
  • Silicones
  • Styling brushes
  • Extreme heat

How to wash curly hair

When I first found out I had to cut out shampoo I was horrified. I suffered with terrible dandruff and I didn’t see how I could possibly clean my scalp without it.

Once you realise that shampoo actually dries out your hair and your scalp by stripping all of the natural oils, you realise that all of this time it has been the shampoo that has been causing the issues!

If you really are afraid of cutting it out straight away, you can wean yourself down by using low-poo.

The final wash

Before you start, you need to do a final wash to remove all of the build-up from your previous washes. After a lot of Googling, I found that using baby shampoo is good for this. It will strip you down to nothing so you are ready to start afresh.

Curly Hair Wash Routine

There is a set curly girl routine for washing and it involves 2 – 3 steps depending on your hair type. To discover your hair type, click here.

Depending on your hair type, you will also find that the length of time between washes will vary. As a rule, wavies will need to wash more frequently and also may find that a sulfate free shampoo once a week helps keep hair free from build-up.

Curlies will use a co-wash (water and conditioner only) and may be able to stretch to 10 days between washes.

Co-wash – Washing with conditioner instead of shampoo.

Garnier Ultimate Blends Almond Milk Normal Hair Conditioner

It sounds absolutely crazy to use conditioner instead, but if you think about it, as long as you give your scalp a good old rub then the dirt will just slide away. Curls need moisture and so using conditioner gives them all of the goodness that they need.

But be warned, many conditioners use silicones to coat the hair. You need to seek out Curly Girl approved products.

There are different types of conditioner, some like the Garnier one add in more protein and can begin to weigh your curls down after a while. This banana conditioner helps to balance your hair out again, leaving it light and bouncy once again.

Deep condition (every now and then)

Ultimate Blends Argan Oil & Almond Cream Dry Hair Treatment Mask

This is not a step to include every single time, just use your own judgement as to whether you feel your hair needs extra conditioning treatment. I am doing it once a week right now (washing my hair once in between) but that may change depending on how my hair feels.

Slather on the conditioner, twisting your hair into the natural curl pattern for your hair and leave it in for a good 15-20 minutes. If you can put on a shower-cap that will help warm it up and get it working nicely. Rinse it out thoroughly.

Use a leave-in conditioner (for curlies rather than wavies)

The curlier your hair, the thirstier it is. So as someone who has waves rather than curls (we are known as wavies), I skip this step. But if you are a curly girl then simply run the conditioner through your hair and leave on.

How to style your hair

The magic happens with the styling process. It isn’t just a case of wash and go, you need to add in various styling products (again they need to be CG approved) to help the curls to develop.

Before you do this, you want to remove some of the moisture from your wet hair– not too much but just enough that your hair isn’t dripping. I use a microfibre towel* or old t-shirt to gently press some of the moisture out without causing any frizz.

Apply curl-activating custard

Get yourself a good blob of custard and run your hands down either side of your hair. This is known as ‘prayer hands’. So rather than running your fingers through, you are almost acting like a flower press to your hair – pressing the custard down the hair.

Now, scrunch upwards. Place your hand at the bottom of your hair strand in a cup and push upwards. Do this all around your hair.

Apply a curl gel

The purpose of the gel is to keep your hair in the curls formed by the custard while it dries.

You don’t need too much, just rub it between your hands and re-scrunch your hair to cover all of the strands.

As the hair dries, the gel hardens to form a cast. You must try not to touch your hair to disturb the cast or else it won’t be able to support the curl.

Silicone Blow Dryer Diffuser*

You can either air dry or you can use a diffuser – I use this one* that is universal for most hairdryers if I am in a rush, otherwise I dry naturally. You can use it on a cool or medium setting but not on the highest heat – remember heat dries out hair and curls need to stay hydrated.

The final result

curly girl hair
8 weeks into my CG journey.

Once you are sure the hair is dry within the cast, flip your hair over and give the roots a bit of a shimmy. Then gently scrunch the hair once again to break the cast – revealing soft curly hair within!

Caring for your curls

Your hair needs caring for between washes and this comes in the form of bonnets, buffs and curly hair ties.

Some curly girls will wear a bonnet* to bed to protect their hair while they sleep. I tried and personally I found my hair squashed the next day. I have since discovered buffs* and now I wake up with my hair looking as good as the day before.

You will also want to invest in spiral hair ties* as they don’t press into your hair as tightly as a normal hair bobble.

As time goes on, you will learn how to read your hair and you will create a hair care routine that works for you.

I filmed a video of the process to show you exactly what I do…

I hope this was useful – do comment below or message me if you have any questions!

*Affiliate link, which means I get a small amount of commission when you shop via my link.

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Friday 31st of July 2020

hi love your post, just wanted to ask how often you use the garnier conditioner and the banana conditioner. since the garnier contains a lot of protein how often would u say to use the garnier and often to use the banana one? so my hair isn't weighed down too much xx


Tuesday 30th of June 2020

Hi Katie, I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m in love! I’m going to try and embrace my natural waves instead of making them (and damaging my hair) with curling tongs! How do you wear the buff at night?


Monday 13th of July 2020

Ah thank you Chrissie! I literally pull it up so my hair is inside and then grab two sides and knot it (preventing it from coming down over my hair again if you see what I mean). x

Linda Knowles

Tuesday 21st of January 2020

Hi Katie I love the idea of my hair being at its best and I have use the curly girl method x1 last time I wAshed my long highlighted blonde wavy hair. The separated look of he hair looks messy on my hair. Does anyone know if you can do this method without your hair going too curly and big ?? I like my waves when I have gently run my fingers through them and don’t know if this method will be beneficial the way I like my hair. Thanks and thank you for you video and product suggestions. Linda


Saturday 7th of September 2019

Hi, great post, just watched the you tube video, can you tell me what conditioners i need to buy apart from the start that are cg friendly, the icloud pictures wont load for me, im about to start embracing my waves lol thanks D xx


Sunday 8th of September 2019

Hi! So I use the ultimate blends almond crush range - the conditioner and hair mask. I have also found the banana conditioner you can find in Poundland brilliant! xxx

Polly Rahman

Monday 2nd of September 2019

What about the reset wash? I thought that was the most important step for a beginner?


Monday 2nd of September 2019

I didn’t think it was a necessity. But yes you can use something like Johnson’s baby shampoo to do a final wash I think. I never did one and mine has been fine x