Everything You Need to Know About the Curly Girl Method

The Curly Girl Method can take your curls from frizzy to fantastic—here are the dos and don’ts of this beloved hair care system.

illustration of woman with curly hair
Photo: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

If you have waves that can't be tamed, frizz that can't be managed, and hair that just seems to go in whichever direction it wants, you may be in need of a little hair care rescue. Don't worry: The Curly Girl Method is here to save the day. Yes, this method can help tame follicle madness for thick-stranded folks. Here's everything you need to know about the beloved Curly Girl Method and how it could change your beauty routine forever.

What Is the Curly Girl Method?

The Curly Girl Method is the brainchild of Loraine Massey, who literally wrote the book on it with Curly Girl: The Handbook. This method of hair care is meant to help women and men find their hair's true texture and maximize natural waves and curls. Basically, it teaches you what your hair needs to fall into its natural curl pattern.

Who Is the Method for?

First of all, know this: The community around the Curly Girl Method is strong. There are numerous Facebook groups and blogs about the technique; a quick search of Pinterest will yield thousands of results. As these groups prove, the Curly Girl Method is made for those who want to truly dedicate some energy to changing their hair habits.

The system is based on the idea of setting curly hair free. It's good for anyone with a history of damaging their hair with heat tools, shampoos, and specific hair care ingredients. In most cases, flat or very loose curls and waves can become fuller and more defined.

How to Start the Curly Girl Method

Pick up the book or join a Facebook group to find out how people maintain their system. The method is a kind of lifestyle, complete with lingo to learn (terms such as "hair porosity" and "curl type"). Once you've made the commitment, it's all about learning the dos and don'ts of the system.

Curly Girl Method don'ts:

  • Don't use shampoo (at all).
  • Don't use heat styling tools (bye-bye, curling iron).
  • Don't use combs and brushes (let your hair be free).
  • Don't use any products containing sulfates (they are the baddest of bad boys for this system).
  • Don't use non-water soluble formulas (they will be too heavy).
  • Don't use anything containing silicones, alcohol, or fragrance (oh the damage they can cause!).

Still, it's not all about restriction with the Curly Girl Method. You can (and should) wean your hair off of your normal shampoo pattern. For wavy hair, it's OK to wash once a week with a shampoo–pick up a sulfate-free one–but condition your hair both before and after. For curly hair, it's best to just cleanse once a week with conditioner or a co-wash. And for coily hair, cleanse as little as possible.

Curly Girl Method dos:

  • Find conditioners and co-washes with gentle cleansing ingredients such as decyl polyglucose (it helps clean without stripping).
  • Use products with rich emollients like shea butter and proteins like wheat (this helps to restore your hair follicles).
  • Select styling gel with ingredients like PVP (these will help bring a little bounce to your curls and tame frizz).

How Long Does It Take to See Results?

This is a tough one to answer because it depends on your individual strands. Just look around on Instagram, and you'll see plenty of progress photos from users who are already on the system. Many social media users are realistic about their transformations, often sharing how it can take months to see results. Give yourself at least three months on the system to really see how it works for you. Take progress photos along the way so you can share your journey and see how far your hair has come.

Curly Girl-approved Products

Investing in this method requires investing in a few products. But the Curly Girl Method doesn't have to be expensive. Try swapping your shampoo for products like Say Yes to Cucumbers Color Protect Shampoo. Next, switch over to a conditioner such as Not Your Mothers Naturals Tahitian Gardenia Flower and Mango Butter Curl Defining Conditioner or Suave Essentials Tropical Coconut, which contain only Curly Girl-approved ingredients. And don't forget that much-needed gel: Test out Aussie Instant Freeze Sculpting Gel and see how it works.

Remember, the Curly Girl Method isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. You may need to switch up your routine to make it work for you. Then come back and thank us for your stunning locks in a few months.

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