Having curly hair can be a blessing or a burden. When cared for, it looks fun, dynamic and can be beautifully styled in many ways. However, the slightest neglect will make it unruly and frizzy. Like many things in life, you just have to take the good with the bad. Caring for curly hair means going the extra mile to understand what’s best for it. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of studies that attempt to make sense of its inner workings: its physics, its biology, and why it happens in the first place. With all this fascination about curly hair, it comes as no surprise that there’s a book about caring for it.
Lorraine Massey’s Curly Girl: The Handbook was published in 2011 and many variations of the method she shared have been born since. As a result, the Curly Girl Method as we know it today has become complicated and overwhelming especially for beginners — but it doesn’t have to be. Ahead, we break down and explain the steps to help make you care for your curly hair easier.
First, what is the Curly Girl Method (CGM)?
To put it simply, the Curly Girl Method is an unconventional haircare process designed to enhance and define the curl pattern of natural, non-chemically straightened hair. “Frizz is a curl waiting to happen,” said Lorraine Massey, so it’s really about bringing out your curls. It calls for the use of hair products with no sulfates, drying alcohols (not to be confused with fatty alcohols like stearyl alcohol) and silicones because these supposedly contribute to the formation of frizz.
The Curly Girl Method also stays away from the use of heat for styling, opting instead for creams and gels. Many who have tried it have claimed that it’s effective in “bringing out their curls”.
Step 1: Know your hair type
Generally, hair is categorised to only two types: straight and curly. But there are actually about six hair types, according to the Andre Walker Hair Typing System. Knowing which one is yours can help you get specific product recommendations and techniques from gals who have the same type; it’s like knowing your tribe. One surprising discovery you may find is you might not even have curly hair — just wavy and this type has slightly different needs from curly or coily hair (for example, it’s more prone to losing its pattern).
Next, you need to determine your hair porosity or how easily moisture can come in and out of your strands. This will help you pick the right products. For instance, if you have high porosity, your hair can easily absorb moisture, but in the same respect, it can also lose it more easily. So what you need to do is inject moisture and find a way to lock it in.
Step 2: Review your current hair products
ICYMI above, the Curly Girl Method requires you to get rid of anything with sulfates, drying alcohol and silicones. This is where things get a little overwhelming because you have to check out the ingredients of your current hair products. If that seems too much work for you, don’t lose heart because there are ways to make it easier.
One way to check if it is “CGM-approved” is to simply google the ingredients of a product and run it through websites such as Is It CG, which — you guessed it — answers if the product is for curly hair. Easy peasy! What’s also great about this is you can explore on your own and not be limited to product recommendations.
Another product switch you have to make is to trade your terry towel for a microfibre or a cotton shirt for drying your hair because either is gentler on hair and won’t over-absorb moisture.
Step 3: All about the wash
Don’t get rid of that sulfate-filled clarifying shampoo just yet! Before anything else, wash your hair with it to get rid of any product build-up especially if you use conditioners with silicones. From time to time, when you feel like there’s product build-up again, you can always “reset” with this wash.
For your regular washes, use a hydrating sulfate-free shampoo and concentrate on cleaning your scalp instead of your strands. Frequency of shampooing depends from person to person and it’s best to consult with your hairstylist to figure out what’s best for your hair.
Co-wash is using clarifying conditioners to cleanse hair. It’s best for those with extremely dry hair. It’s supposed to clean your hair while still retaining moisture.
Step 4: Condition, condition, condition
This is arguably one of the most indulgent Curly Girl Method steps because you have to be generous in applying conditioner to your hair, making sure to coat each strand. It’s during this step that you should finger-brush your hair to get rid of any tangles. And then, begin scrunching your hair. Let the conditioner sit on your hair while you wash your body then rinse it.
You might also want to do deep conditioning about once a week, to add extra moisture to your hair. But here’s the thing: there’s something called “moisture-protein balance” where you have to make sure that your hair is not overloading on either. So you have to switch your deep conditioner (protein-rich vs. moisture-rich) from time to time.
Next, there’s also the leave-in conditioners. While many skip this part, it can still be a helpful step for anyone with “moisture-thirsty hair” to keep frizz at bay.
Step 5: Gel, scrunch, diffuse
Now we move on to styling. Here’s something that will shock you: curly hair shouldn’t be brushed. Vlogger Isabella Demarko demonstrated what happens when wavy/curly hair is brushed in a video — to save you a click, here’s the gist: it loses definition and turns into a frizzy mess. So, detangle your hair during conditioning and take advantage of the slippier texture.
When styling, give your curls a few finger brushes then put gel. Yes, gel. No, the right kind won’t make your hair stiff. It will just hold your curls. Apply it while hair is wet and scrunch it up just like how you did during the conditioning step. Then, you can finger brush it to take away the “crunch”. Finally, if you have time, you can use a low-temperature diffuser to lock in the curls. For this, you can buy one universal diffuser attachment to attach to your blowdryer.
Step 6: Join CGM Groups
Since they’re flexible and personalisable, Curly Girl Method steps can still be confusing no matter how you simplify them. To navigate this journey, it’s good to have people to give advice and encourage you. Online communities also help with local product recommendations. A couple of groups you can join are the Curly Girls Philippines Facebook group and the Curly Hair Reddit community.
And that’s a wrap for the Curly Girl Method steps. Would you try them?
(Cover photo from: Laura Chouette via Unsplash)