What is the curly girl method? This post has all the answers, plus how to start the curly girl method to enhance natural curly hair and waves…
Since sharing my one-month transition with my readers on Instagram (see IG post below), I had so many questions on how to start the curly girl method!
While CGM has been around for a while, there are still so many people who don’t know about it – I was one of those people just a few short months ago!
I’m so happy with my transition so far, and am really excited to share with you guys my knowledge of the process to help you get started too!
What is the curly girl method?
I will lead off with telling you that I am not the founder, creator, or mastermind behind the Curly Girl Method – that would be Lorraine Massey.
She has a book on the process that you can purchase online, however, there is a plethora of information readily available, and I myself do not own the book.
In this post, I’ll be covering the ‘final wash’ process, styling and drying, as well as sleeping on curls so you can get through your first day.
A lot of information is missing from this post, however, because there are just too many options, alternatives, and resources available depending on your hair type and needs to even cover in this post.
To read my personal hair care routine for wavy 2B – 2C hair, read this post.
And be sure to read my post: Curly Girl Method For Wavy Hair (11 things you need to know).
Before you get started…
This post contains affiliate links, however, all opinions are my own, as always.
learn your hair type
Learning what kind of hair you have before getting started will not only help you develop a routine and choose products that will benefit your hair, it will also save your time and money having to experiment with different products.
The three big things you’ll need to learn about your hair are:
- the types of waves or curls you have
- your hair’s porosity (high, medium/normal, low)
- density (thin, thick, normal)
When it comes to applying the curly girl method for wavy hair, know that WAVES ARE NOT FAILED CURLS! And you can get more defined curls using some of the techniques the curlies use as well.
Find inspiration and resources
This really helped me in the beginning! Do a little research on your favorite social media platform and find a curly that has hair like you – look through different transformation pictures that inspire you and resemble your own hair.
What products do they recommend?
What products should you maybe steer clear of?
Here are some of the staples you’ll need to gather before you get started:
- Clarifying shampoo
- Deep conditioner
- Leave-in conditioner
- CGM-approved gels
- Wide-tooth comb
- old cotton t-shirt or microfiber towel
- soft scrunchies
- silk pillowcase
Follow these curly girl method steps for the best wash day…
1. final wash with clarifying shampoo
To start your CGM journey, you’ll need to clean your hair with a clarifying shampoo to rid of product buildup, dirt, oil, and silicones coating the hair strands.
You are encouraged to use a clarifying shampoo that contains sulfates but has no silicones for your final wash.
Here are some great drugstore examples of sulfate-containing, silicone-free shampoos that are all less than $5:
* I would have used Amazon links to make it easier for you guys, but these shampoos are WAY more expensive through Amazon, and I’m all about helping you guys save where you can!
After this final wash, you won’t be needing this clarifying shampoo too much, although I would keep it on hand in case your hair stops responding to styling products (product buildup is weighing the strands down and relaxing the curl or you find that you need a break from cowashing (more on that further down the post) because your scalp and hair have become too greasy to deal with!
2. Deep Condition
After clarifying, deep condition your hair while you are in the shower. This will help replenish some nutrients and moisture your hair is missing from the stripping clarifying final wash you just did which helps strip away all of the extra product buildup, existing silicones, and clean the strands so they can properly absorb and take in the good-for-your-hair products.
This is my favorite (however it does contain protein which may not be ideal for those who are protein-sensitive).
Allow the deep conditioner to do its thang for at least 5 minutes, focusing on the middle and ends of hair but also smoothing a bit towards the crown of your head.
Flip head upside down, out of the shower stream. Cup hands with water, and ‘squish to condish’. This means you are squishing your hair in a scrunching motion to push the conditioner into the hair shaft for better penetration.
Work out tangles while the deep conditioner is in your hair with a wide-tooth comb.
Rinse out deep conditioner completely.
In this step of the curly girl method for wavy hair, you’ll want to ensure all of the deep conditioner is rinsed out so it doesn’t weigh down your curly hair.
3. distribute leave-in conditioner
After rinsing out your deep conditioner and gently detangling, bend at the waist so your head is upside down and your hair is dangling in front of your face. Distribute some leave-in conditioner (this one is my favorite!), and ‘squish to condish’.
Your hair should feel slippery like seaweed.
Move hair under the shower stream for a few seconds, leaving some of the leave-in in your hair.
4. Get Out of the shower but don’t towel hair off
Once you’ve finished your shower and have finished with the first 3 steps above, grab a towel and get out of the shower. Your hair should be soaking wet – don’t dry it off or do anything to it!
5. Apply stylers with soaking wet hands to soaking wet hair
Assuming you’re wrapped up in a towel now and have all your lady bits covered ;), flip your head upside down and apply your stylers.
You’ll need to emulsify your stylers before applying (wet your hands, pump styler into hands, and rub water and styler together until blended). This helps for better styling, and is something I wish I read earlier in my hairstyling journey!
When it comes to styling, there are many different methods, and you may do well with one while a friend or Instagram curly you’re following does well with another. Leave yourself some room to experiment with different stylers. Almost all curlies love their gels, though, so be sure to stock up on some CGM-friendly gels to get yourself started.
Always apply to WET hair with WET hands using product that has been EMULSIFIED.
6. Plop or Microplop
After applying your stylers, you can either plop or microplop.
Here’s a great tutorial on plopping! You’ll just need an old t-shirt (not a towel). This allows your curls to really soak in the product and be protected while you get dressed, make coffee, etc, and allows excess moisture from all that wet-happy styling to be absorbed.
Alternatively, you can microplop, which means lightly and gently scrunching excess water from your curly hair with an old t-shirt or microfiber towel.
7. Air dry or diffuse
Now the fun part…drying your hair!
The Curly Girl Method frowns upon heat styling but turns a blind eye on diffusing with a hairdryer. With the diffuser attachment fixed on your hairdryer, you can speed up the drying process while encouraging your curl pattern.
Heat settings should always be kept on COOL, and airflow should be aimed towards the LOW end of the spectrum to keep frizz somewhat under control.
OR, you can allow your hair to air dry.
Whatever you do, remember to refrain from touching or handling your hair during the drying process as this encourages frizz.
As your hair dries, a gel cast will form on your curls, making them feel hard and crunchy. This is a good thing! Leave your curls in their ‘cast’ until completely dry.
8. scrunch out the crunch
Now that your hair is completely dry, it’s time to SOTC (scrunch out the crunch)!
Tilt your head side to side and upside down, gently scrunching your hair to free it from its gel cast. Soft, defined curls and waves should emerge (if that’s what the Good Lord gave ya!).
You can also fluff hair with a wide-tooth comb or scalp massager for lift and volume at the roots, but avoid fluffing on top of the crown as that will generate crown frizz.
following the curly girl method after the final wash
Washing and styling your hair the first time is just the start of the Curly Girl Method. From now on, you’ll have to teach yourself to look at ingredients in your hair care products and be open to trying new styling techniques.
Most curlies complete wash day and then refresh (or restyle) their curls each morning if they need to until a few days have gone by before washing their hair again.
See this post for my wash day and refresh routine, as well as the products I use and love.
Instead of washing with shampoos, some wavies and curlies following the CGM will cowash, or cleanse their scalp and crown with a cleansing conditioner. Here’s the one I use on wash days, and it fairly popular in the CGM community.
Another way to washing your hair, low-poo is a way to cleanse your hair without the sulfates, silicones or other negative ingredients that tend to impact curls.
Pre-poo refers to treating the hair with a conditioner, treatment, or oil before washing.
I do this in my routine with my deep conditioner!
Back to the point I made earlier, your hair sometimes stops responding to stylers and cowashing because it has too much product buildup and needs a good cleaning. At this point, it’s okay to break out the clarifying shampoo again and remove that excess buildup.
After washing your hair, you can treat it with a treatment if needed, or move directly into applying a leave-in.
sleeping on curls
With the CGM, there are several ways to sleep on your curls to help protect them and not have them…
- go flat
- wake up with frizz you can see from outer space
Grab a soft scrunchy, gently group hair together on top of your crown, and fasten in a loose bun.
Wrap a buff around your hairline, extend it up towards the sky.
Like a soft shower cap, wrap hair up into a hair bonnet to protect curls at night.
Sleep on a silk pillowcase
Regular pillowcases suck the moisture from our skin and hair, and curls thrive on moisture and balance. To avoid a frizzy head in the morning, sleep on a silk pillowcase, especially if you don’t intend to keep your hair up in a bonnet, buff, or bun.
That’s it for the basics of applying the curly girl method for wavy hair, I hope this post has helped you and given you the confidence to start your own curly girl journey (with waves!). Be sure to check out the other posts I’ve written for wavy hair:
Curly Girl Method Hair Routine 2 – 2C
The Curly Girl Method For Wavy Hair (11 Things You Need To Know
Tuesday 3rd of May 2022
Can you please post the links to your deep conditioner and leave-in conditioner? Thank you!
Sunday 29th of November 2020
Hi I think you have a typo... “I am “now” the founder, creator, or mastermind behind the Curly Girl Method – that would be Lorraine Massey.”
Monday 30th of November 2020
Hi Jana, you are correct - thank you for pointing that out! I've updated the post to reflect the correct wording.
Friday 17th of April 2020
Do you do this method everyday?
A Stranger Place
Wednesday 15th of April 2020
This is probably the most helpful post on CGM I’ve seen so far! I have fine, easily-weighed down wavy hair so finding products that are moisturizing but not too heavy is a struggle. Definitely trying some of your recommendations!
Thursday 6th of February 2020
What drug store deep conditioner and leave in conditioner do you use? I didnt see the link or name.