11 Things you need to know about the Curly Girl Method for wavy hair before you get started, and products you can use that cost less than $15 each!
I recently started implementing the CGM (Curly Girl Method), and I wanted to create a hair series here on my blog that encompasses my journey as well as my successes and failures that allow me to share what I’ve learned with my readers.
I shared a bit about my hair on my Instagram and received so many messages from people who…
- didn’t know what the heck CGM was
- didn’t realize I had wavy hair in the first place!
It’s true, I always wear my hair STRAIGHT, but I have always had a mix of wavy/curly hair.
I didn’t find out until much later, but my dad had long, reddish-brown, wavy hair in high school. So that’s where I get it from!
I’ve seen childhood pictures from when I was a youngin’ that show a crazy mop of hair that I’m guessing my mother tried to tame but couldn’t…it was awful looking ;).
My brother and sister both had straight, tamed hair.
Mine looked like I must have unbuckled myself from my car seat and stuck my head out of the car window on the way to the photography studio…I’m pretty sure I was the reason we didn’t send out pictures to the family that year!
I’d bet a hundred bucks the photographer was thinking “This poor little girl…”, ha!
As I got older, I learned how to blow dry my hair, although I wasn’t spared any of the wave or frizz, and my hair still took a century to dry.
Once I turned 13 or 14, my mom had a work friend with similar hair come by our house over the weekend to show me how to straighten my hair.
As she heated and straightened each section, she detailed how difficult it was for her to grow up with wavy hair – from feeling like she looked ugly, to being picked on by the kids at school.
It was all too familiar. I silently nodded my head along with her and looked down at the floor. She totally understood how it felt…I hated my hair, too.
I remember looking in the mirror when she was done and finally feeling confident about myself and my hair because I looked more like my mom and sister with their slick, straight hair.
I didn’t have to feel disappointed or bewildered by my frizzy, wavy hair anymore…
I could just straighten it into submission with some heat protectant spray and my magic heated wand!
That was also around the time my braces came off – it was a wonderful coming-of-age feeling for me. I didn’t feel like such an ugly duckling anymore.
I have straightened my hair all the way up to a few weeks ago, and I’m 29 years old. So that adds up to over 15 years of straightening my hair.
This post contains affiliate links, however, all opinions are my own.
Why I Decided To Try the curly girl method
The truth is that, thanks to the straightener and the obvious lack of information on styling curly hair in the last decade or two, I’ve always viewed my hair type as just ‘frizzy and messy’.
I always thought my wavy hair was something I needed to combat…instead of treat and style.
I came across a social media post that was advertising a product being able to tame frizzy hair into gorgeous curls. I wasn’t drawn to this product in particular, but it reminded me of the waves I had growing up.
Could I really get my waves back without all the frizz?
I dived into the World Wide Web, and discovered CGM – and an entire community of women just like me!
Women who have wavy or curly hair, but have no idea that their hair needs to be treated and styled differently – and that natural waves and curls can be achieved WITHOUT heat and still look beautiful.
You can ask any girl with curly hair, too – we don’t just roll out of bed with tamed, curly locks.
Almost every single curly girl styles their hair and takes special care of it. It wasn’t just something you were born with and either looked amazing or looked awful – it takes work and dedication.
And maybe a sacrifice or two coupled with diligent praying…
I’m trying the CGM to embrace my natural hair and curls, save myself time, and hopefully get more volume for my fine, thin hair.
I’ve only been on this curly girl journey for about two weeks, but I can tell you my hair has never been happier, and I’m so excited to share what I’ve learned so far (and will continue to learn) with you guys…
My CGM Progress So Far
I’m starting out with a wide range of 2A-2C curls. My hair is also fine, thin, and is low-porosity.
I have hopes to enhance my curl pattern and increase my hair volume, but I’m happy to accept healthier hair at the end of the day.
I’m already so happy with the progress my hair has made, along with how healthy it feels.
I also don’t miss the 1.5-hour blow-dry and straighten process I went through every 2-3 days before implementing this hair care method.
*And yes, I decided to trim a few inches from my hair! I might want to trim a little more later on, but I’m liking the look so far with less length given my fine/thin hair. Here’s a great video tutorial on a DIY curly cut if you want to try one for yourself. I only followed half of this tutorial since I’m not confident in executing layers.
I feel so much more confident about my hair now than I did growing up. Now that I know how to style it (for the most part), treat it, and care for it, I don’t have to rely on damaging it with heat or bad-for-you products that ‘tame’ my hair.
The real taming lies in my hair care routine.
My hair is on its way to becoming healthy, moisturized, and able to do its thang.
so…What is CGM?
CGM stands for The Curly Girl Method (coined and developed by Lorraine Massey) and is a way to care and style for wavy and curly hair without damaging it so your natural curl pattern is revealed and enhanced.
The Curly Girl Method is essentially a lifestyle change.
Your washing, drying, styling methods (and even the way you sleep with curly hair) completely change.
P.S. There’s an entire book written by Lorraine Massey that you can buy if you’re completely new to the method and process, but with all the free resources available online, I wouldn’t say it’s a must-have…
How not to style wavy hair
There are just a few things you need to ditch in order to fully adapt to this method of hair care, but it’s easier than it sounds…
Say goodbye to sulfates
Sulfates are known to strip the natural oils from your hair, which is detrimental to curl preservation. Curls need moisture, so stripping that away from them is damaging to your waves and curls.
No more heat-styling tools or treatments
Toss (or at least stash them in a drawer far, far, away) your straighteners, curling irons, and other heat tools and hair treatments. These tools are only hurting your curls and causing further damage.
Silicones are a no-no
Silicones, used as heat protectants and to give your hair a faux-glow that tricks you into believing your hair is healthy, coat the hair shaft and prevent the products you plan on introducing (that will help moisturize and really condition the hair) from penetrating the hair shaft and doing their thing.
Here’s an interesting article about silicones if you want to know more.
dry hair with a microfiber towel or an old cotton tee
Along with being more kind to your locks and ditching the damaging products and tools, you’ll need to dry your hair differently as well.
Because terrycloth sucks out excess moisture from your hair (which induces frizz and does NOT make curly or wavy hair happy by any means), you’ll need to gently dry hair with either a microfiber towel or an old t-shirt.
Can i still use my hairdryer?
Yes, but differently.
Styling with HEAT is largely frowned upon by the CGM community because of the damage it does to your hair and the fact that it tends to straighten out instead of enhancing curls/waves, although you can certainly use your hairdryer with a diffuser attachment on LOW/COOL.
Here is a popular diffuser that many curlies rave about that’s just under $20.
Can I still use shampoo?
There are plenty of shampoos on the market today that do not contain sulfates or silicones that are perfectly safe to use on curly hair, although hardcore CG followers do not use shampoo at all.
Learning About Your Hair
determining your curl pattern
Here’s a great reference from Glamour below that shows you examples of each curl type so you can decipher which category you fall into.
Your hair may have several different types of curl as well, not just one.
My hair, for example, is a mixture of 2B and 2C waves.
Try looking at the chart and determining your type of wavy curly hair!
figuring out your hair’s porosity
Porosity refers to how well your hair is able to absorb and hold moisture. It is affected by the flexible outer hair layer called the cuticle, which determines how easily moisture and oils pass in and out of your hair. Source
There are three different types of hair porosity (LOW, MEDIUM, & HIGH), and knowing yours is extremely important.
Your hair’s porosity largely impacts the types of products your hair needs and how it handles styling techniques. It plays a big role in hair care!
Easy ways to determine your hair’s porosity:
- The Float Test: Take a couple of strands of hair from your comb or brush and drop them into a bowl of water. Let them sit for 2-4 minutes. If your hair floats, you have low porosity. If it sinks, you have high porosity.
- The Slip’n’Slide Test: Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers up the shaft (toward the scalp). If you feel little bumps along the way, this means that your cuticle is lifted and that you have high porosity. If your fingers slip smoothly, then you have low porosity hair. Source
fine, medium, coarse hair
You probably already know your hair type, especially if you are on the fine or thick/coarse end of the spectrum, but here’s an easy strand test to help you determine this:
Take a strand of hair between your fingers (no need to pluck it from your head). Rub your fingers together over the strand. If you feel nothing, your hair type is fine, if you feel the hair, your hair type is medium, and if you feel a thick strand, your hair type is coarse (thick).
Your hair type also impacts what types f products work well with your hair and is important to know.
I have fine wavy hair.
Tools you need to get started with the curly hair method
- Sulfate and silicone-free shampoo and conditioner
- Leave-in conditioner (this one is my absolute favorite!)
- Stylers (mousse, gel, curl cream, etc)
- Microfiber Towel OR old cotton t-shirts
- A trusty hairdryer and diffuser attachment
- Root Clips
To check to see which products are CG-friendly, you can visit Is It CG?, which allows you to enter product ingredients and alerts you if a product is or is not.
11 Things I’ve Learned Sinch starting the curly girl method
Not everything works for everyone
This was the biggest lesson I’ve picked up so far on my journey.
Someone could have the exact same hair type, porosity, curl pattern, and even the same horoscope that you have (I’m kidding about the horoscope – that’s totally not a thing!), and use products A, B, and C with amazing results…but when you use them, your hair falls flat and looks frizzy and messy!
There are a ton of wavy hair products out there now that help wavies tame their manes and establish gorgeous curl patterns, and what works for someone else might not work for you. And that’s okay! It’s a process of trial and error.
And trust me, there are a hundred different ways to wash, dry, condition, rinse, apply stylers, style, dry, and sleep on curly hair.
Your hair may hate products A, B, and C while someone else’s hair LOVES them.
For instance, plopping takes the curl out of my hair, but it works for tons of other people!
Most people take a full year to see the results they want – but this involves a year of trying out different styling products, styling methods, and giving their hair enough time to retrain itself.
Ingredients are crucial for hair balance
Before starting this hair care method for my wavy hair, I didn’t realize an ingredient could go by so many different names! AND, your hair may not need or like certain ingredients that are in your hair products.
You should also pay attention to ingredients like protein, glycerin, and certain oils depending on your hair’s needs.
Here’s a great example of hair balance versus a protein overload by one of my favorite hair Instagrammers…
CGM takes time to see real results
Gorgeous curls with the CGM definitely won’t happen overnight (unless you are the exception to the rule, which I’ve seen in a few forums and on social media), and most curlies report that they don’t see those gorgeous results we’re all chasing for at least 9-14 months after starting their curly journey.
Know that you will need to have patience and perseverance to get the waves and curls you never knew you had, especially if you’re in the same boat as me where you’ve been damaging and un-training your curls for years and years.
Frizz comes with the curls
As every curly or wavy will tell you, there needs to be some level of acceptance when it comes to your frizz.
It comes with the territory of having curls.
You don’t have to look like a huge frizz ball just because you have curly hair, but know that it never completely goes away, and actually helps add to your hair volume.
Wavy hair won’t necessarily become curly
I feel like the expectation most people have starting the curly girl method is that if they follow a certain number of steps, they will get curly hair no matter what.
Before you get into CGM, know that with wavy hair, it may just become wavier (or not!), and curls are not guaranteed.
I’ve seen some transformations where women who have very similar hair to mine (2A-2C waves) end up with crazy curly ringlets they never knew they had – it’s incredible!
But I’ve also seen women completely throw in the towel after a few months of seeing no more kink to their waves/curls.
It all depends on your hair, your lifestyle, and your circumstances.
You’ll only wash your hair maybe 1-2x a week
With the Curly Girl Method, you are encouraged to wash your hair less frequently, maybe 1-2 times per week.
That might seem difficult at first, and your hair might be on the greasy side for a couple of weeks while it adjusts.
With traditional shampoos and conditioners, your scalp is being frequently stripped of its natural oils and compensates for this loss by generating tons of oils to replenish the oils that have been stripped in the washing process.
If you do not have the time to wade through the greasy hair waters (maybe you have a job that requires a more ‘professional’ appearance), mix your sulfate-containing shampoo with your new sulfate and silicone-free conditioner 50/50.
Gradually decrease the amount of shampoo you add each time you shower to allow your scalp oils to adjust in time.
Don’t compare yourself to another curly or wavy
When I first started my curly journey, I felt inspired by seeing other women with curly hair doing the CGM. I wanted what they had!
I was obsessed with trying to find someone else’s end results that started out with the same hair type, curl, and texture that I have.
But the more time I spent on forums, the more I discovered women who were disappointed or felt let down.
They wanted those gorgeous, voluminous curls that they see on Instagram, but that isn’t the way it is in real life…
In fact, the curly girls on IG use a ring light when they take their pictures, more often than not, and heavily edit their pictures.
Some of them even take their photos using Portrait mode on their iPhone, which virtually eliminates the crazy frizzies that accompany their curly hair.
And while someone on social media may have started out in the same spot you are, with similar hair, and is sporting gorgeous locks – the results may not be the same for you.
Be open to embracing your individual journey.
Your hair may never actually get beyond a 2B curl, but it will become stronger, healthier, and shinier without the use of products containing ingredients that further damage your hair.
Your hair might look worse for wear at first
Not what you wanted to hear, I know.
But, it’s true for most curlies.
Particularly without silicones, your hair will panic for a few weeks while it adapts to a world without smoothing silicones to help tame it and give it a smooth, silky shine.
Hello, frizz… 🙁
But it gets better!
Your hair has to be retrained and conditioned with healthy, good-for-it products without all the terrible ingredients it’s used to.
You’ll need to learn things about your hair
There’s hair porosity, curl pattern, hair thickness, texture, etc. This will help you determine which hair products and stylers are best for your hair. See above for some simple strand tests to help determine your hair type and porosity.
Curly hair takes work
Women don’t just wake up with gorgeous curly hair – it takes work!
And just because you wake up without curls doesn’t mean your hair isn’t curly.
This was a revelation for me having wavy hair because I never realized that women who have curly hair actually have to style it!
Just like you apply stylers and then straighten your hair, women with curly hair apply stylers and style their hair with their hands or a diffuser.
Start Taking Selfies To Document Your Journey
I am not a fan of selfies. I don’t care for taking them of myself, and much prefer to take candid photos or photos with/of other people.
They just feel a little too self-indulgent if you know what i mean.
BUT, what I’ve seen and learned with this process is how much I enjoy looking at other people’s hair transformations. I love seeing people’s one-year ‘curlaversary’ collages, and seeing the differences between other people’s hair when they first started, 3 months in, 6 months in, and 12 months in.
They give me hope, they inspire me!
I think it’s wonderful to document your hair journey so you can see how much your hair has changed.
Each person’s CGM journey is unique and different, as well, so it helps to encourage and inspire yourself with your own journey with pictures!
TIP: Create an album in your phone labeled ‘CGM’ or ‘CURLS’ and keep your curly hair pictures in that so they’re all in one place and easy to find! When it’s time to share or create your own curly collage, your pics are all in one place. You can also just scroll on through and see the strides you’ve made!
Instagram Accounts To Follow
Here are a few of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow for some serious hair education and inspiration…
My Current Wash Day And Refresh Routine
If you have similar hair to mine, I wrote a blog post on my routine.
I have tons of information in there like how I wash, dry, style, and sleep on my hair!
Have you tried the curly girl method? Share your experience and hair type in the comments below!
*Post originally published Sept. 2019, updated October 2020.