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4 months ago, I decided to try out the Curly Girl Method. This is a haircare methodology for curly or wavy hair, developed by hairstylist Lorraine Massey. It claims to make curly hair healthy, defined and frizz-free. I have wavy, slightly curly hair and I have been following this method in an attempt to improve the health and appearance of my hair.
I say I have been following the method, but actually I have diverged from it a little bit. Many of the techniques and suggestions in the Curly Girl Method handbook have really benefitted my hair, but other parts of the method just didn’t work for me.
Curly Girl Method before and after photos
You are probably keen to see some before and after photos, so here you are. The first photo, where I have straight hair, was taken before I started following the Curly Girl Method. The second photo was after about a week. The third photo is after 4 months.
To be honest, it already looked a lot different after 1 week. But after 5 months, it has grown longer, softer and healthier.
In the rest of this post, I am going to list some of the key principles and advice from the Curly Girl Method. I will share whether or not I have followed that advice, and whether it worked for me!
1. Use sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner
One of the main pieces of advice from the Curly Girl Method is to use sulphate-free haircare products. This is because sulphates can strip away too much moisture from the hair and make it dry and unhealthy. I checked the hair products I was already using, and luckily, some of them were already sulphate-free. Others weren’t, but I decided to use them up anyway and then replace them with Curly Girl approved products.
When it was time for me to buy a new shampoo and conditioner, I did some research and went for the Giovanni brand. All the Giovanni products are sulphate-free as well as free from parabens, phthalates and other potentially harmful ingredients. They are also cruelty-free, and most of their products are vegan. I bought their ‘Ultra-Sleek’ shampoo and conditioner first, and now I am using their ‘Repairing’ line. I actually think my hair looked better using the ‘Ultra-Sleek’, so I plan to go back to that next.
The Curly Girl handbook states to just use a ‘cleanser’ rather than a shampoo, but I have been using a sulphate-free shampoo which is basically the same thing. There is a helpful site called Is It CG? where I checked out the Giovanni shampoos, and they are Curly Girl approved. I think that Giovanni is a good brand and my hair has been feeling soft and healthy since using it.
2. Use minimal shampoo and loads of conditioner
The suggestion is to use minimal shampoo or ‘cleanser’ and allow the friction of your fingers on your scalp to do most of the cleansing work. Then, use loads of conditioner, to get your hair really moisturised. I have been using a lot of conditioner as recommended, but I have also been using quite a generous amount of shampoo because my hair has turned out nicer when I do. I have still been getting through conditioner at twice the rate of shampoo, but that is normal for me anyway. The same thing happened when I tried out the Hairburst shampoo and conditioner last year.
3. Use gel
Gel is highly recommended in the Curly Girl Method. I had never used gel on my hair before, but I got some to try out. I bought the Giovanni brand which is the same as the shampoo and conditioner I have been using. The next time I washed my hair, I tried putting a small amount of gel in my hair while it was still damp. When it dried, my hair was all crusty and hard and I didn’t like it at all. Even when scrunched out, my hair still felt weighed down and dirty.
I tried using an even smaller amount of gel the next day and the results were a bit better. However, my hair still felt flat and heavy with the gel in, and I preferred the volume and texture of my hair when I didn’t use any gel. Therefore, I haven’t been using gel in my hair at all, despite it being a key part of the Curly Girl Method.
4. No hair brushing
A key principle of the Curly Girl Method is not to brush your hair! This prevents the hair from getting damaged and pulled out, and it also preserves the shape of your curls. Instead of brushing out tangles, they should be worked out gently in the shower when your hair is saturated with conditioner.
I have not brushed my hair since I started the Curly Girl Method in April. The only thing I have sometimes done is combed my fringe. At first, I was sceptical about not brushing my hair because I thought it would feel dirty and matted and look a mess if I didn’t brush it. But actually, it was fine. I soon got used to not brushing my hair, and now I don’t feel a need or desire to brush it. My hair forms into curly strands and doesn’t look too messy.
I think that refraining from brushing my hair has been really good for my hair. Before, I was using a Tangle Teezer which I’ve heard can damage your hair, despite being very effective at getting out tangles. My hair is looking healthier these days, and I think that not brushing it has been one of the main contributing factors. It makes sense that not brushing would reduce damage, and also that less hair would be pulled out.
5. Wash hair less often
The Curly Girl Method suggests washing your hair less often. I always used to wash my hair every other morning. If I left it any longer than that, I would notice my hair getting greasy. When I started the Curly Girl Method, I tried washing my hair every 3 days. I actually found that my hair was not getting greasy, so after a while, I transitioned to only washing my hair every 4 days.
It’s actually working really well for me and my hair doesn’t get too greasy. I think this is partially due to the fact that I am not brushing my hair, so I am not spreading oil from my scalp down the strands of my hair. Also, when I do wash my hair, I have been massaging my scalp quite thoroughly with the sulphate-free shampoo so my hair is cleaner to start with.
I like washing my hair less often because it means I can usually have quicker showers. My hair washing takes slightly longer now that I am doing it with the Curly Girl Method techniques in mind, but this is made up for by only washing it once every 4 days, so overall I save time.
6. Towel dry hair
The Curly Girl Method suggests drying hair with a microfibre towel or cotton t-shirt. I have a microfibre towel so that is what I use. At first, I used the suggested method of ‘scrunching’ my hair to get it to go into curls. I read somewhere to do this for around 5 minutes which I did at first. I discovered that 5 minutes of scrunching is actually quite long! After a while, I got impatient with it and didn’t scrunch for as long. Since then, my curls have been looser, rather than the slightly tighter curls I was getting when I scrunched for 5 minutes, but I haven’t minded that.
7. Use hairdryer with a diffuser
The Curly Girl Method says not to use heat on your hair, which includes the use of hairdryers. However, it does say you can use a hairdryer with a diffuser attachment on. I had never actually used a diffuser before so I tried it out a few times.
I don’t think I would bother with it unless I need to dry my hair more quickly than air drying. It takes quite a while to get my hair dry with the diffuser, and I have to concentrate to get the right technique. It also made my hair a bit frizzy although it was slightly more voluminous. Overall, I don’t think it made my hair look much nicer so I think I will just let it air dry rather than use heat on it.
8. Make a lavender spray
There is a recipe for lavender spray in the Curly Girl handbook, which is basically lavender essential oil and water. This is supposed to refresh your hair in between washes and make it smell nice too. I made some lavender spray and I use it occasionally to refresh my hair. It seems to work because it dampens my hair and allows me to reshape it, giving it a bit more volume. It also smells nice but I haven’t noticed the scent staying on my hair.
I haven’t used the lavender spray very often, certainly not every day. If I remembered to use it more often, I would have a better idea of whether it makes a big difference and whether it’s really worth using. I suppose if nothing else, it’s like using plain water to dampen and reshape your hair, but with an added lavender scent.
9. Make a scalp exfoliator
As well as lavender spray, there is also a recipe for a homemade scalp exfoliator in the Curly Girl handbook. I intended to make this, but I haven’t yet. To be honest, I haven’t felt a need to exfoliate my scalp, which is probably a good thing!
10. Use hair clips to add volume to the roots
The method suggests adding clips to the roots of wet hair to give them lift and volume as they dry. I didn’t have any suitable clips, so I bought these off Amazon. They are strong, good quality clips, but I haven’t used them much, mainly because it is more time and effort. Also, I would have to leave the clips in my hair until it is dry, and it’s not a good look for going out!
On the few occasions when I did use my clips, they gave my roots more lift but it didn’t look very good. The roots were lifted but the angles were not right and my hair was flat beyond the roots. I think I need to work on my clipping technique, and then I might have more success.
11. Invest in hair cutting scissors
I trim my own hair anyway, and the handbook has a whole section on how to cut your own hair. It emphasises the importance of using proper haircutting scissors because they are much sharper and prevent split ends. So I bought these proper haircutting scissors as I was just using normal scissors before.
I have trimmed my hair a couple of times since April. These scissors cut my hair a lot more easily and I wish I had invested in them sooner.
12. Use soft, silky pillowcases
The Curly Girl Method recommends using silky pillowcases because they are gentler on your hair when you toss and turn at night. I already had a pillowcase that is a silky material (not real silk) so I have been using that one. When it needs washing, I alternate it with a normal cotton pillowcase.
I bought this sleep cap, which is silky on the inside, to protect my hair at night when I am not using a silky pillowcase. The problem is, it is quite loose so by the morning it had usually come off. This meant it wasn’t very effective at protecting my hair. It also made my head quite hot, which although not ideal in the summer, would actually be quite nice in the winter. I just have to find a way to make it stay on my head!
I think the best solution is definitely to use silky pillowcases, rather than a sleep cap. At some point, I will buy another pillowcase so that I can alternate it with my current one.
13. Put hair in a unicorn hairstyle at night
Another night-time suggestion is to put your hair into a ‘unicorn’ hairstyle, i.e. a very high ponytail. This protects it from getting ruffled on the pillow. I did this for a while, and it did seem to preserve the shape of my curls overnight. However, it wasn’t the most comfortable hairstyle. Lately, I have just been leaving my hair loose at night.
14. No hair straighteners
I used to straighten my hair regularly, especially my fringe. For the first month or so of following the Curly Girl Method, I put my straighteners away and didn’t use them at all. I soon got used to my hair being curly, although my fringe looked messy.
After a while, I did begin to occasionally straighten just my fringe. This was when I had video calls and social meets and I wanted my hair to look neater. As my fringe grows out faster than the rest of my hair, I think it’s okay to use heat on it occasionally. There is less potential to cause damage because it will grow out and be cut more often.
I don’t plan to use hair straighteners on the rest of my hair because I want to keep it as healthy as possible, and I think it looks fine to have curly hair with a straight fringe.
Am I going to keep my fringe (bangs)?
Originally I had planned to grow my fringe, and perhaps have a longer, curly fringe or completely grow it out. As my fringe grew, it looked okay sometimes but when it got long it just looked really messy. I didn’t really like how I looked without a fringe, and a long, curly fringe wasn’t really working, at least not consistently.
Therefore, I decided that the best option for me is to keep cutting my fringe and straighten it occasionally. Because I have been washing my hair less frequently, I will also only need to straighten my fringe once every few days because it will last until the next wash (depending on the weather).
Did the Curly Girl Method help my hair grow faster?
I hoped that the Curly Girl Method would help me to grow my hair faster and longer. I think it has helped with this as my hair has grown, but it’s hard to tell whether it would have grown that much anyway. Now that I let my hair go curly rather than straightening it, it looks comparatively shorter so it’s hard to tell how much it has grown.
I think my hair does look slightly thicker. It makes sense that less hair will be falling out because I am brushing and washing it less frequently, so it would grow thicker and longer. I’d be so curious to straighten my hair and see how long it is, but I will resist doing that because the heat would not be good for my hair!
Will I be carrying on with the Curly Girl Method?
As you can see, I have not exactly been following the method very closely anyway! So I cannot really say that I am carrying on with it. However, I have used several of the Curly Girl Method principles and they are working well for me, so I will definitely be continuing with those.
Would I recommend the Curly Girl Method?
I would recommend reading the Curly Girl Handbook, trying out the techniques and advice in there, and finding what works for you. Not everything I tried worked for me, therefore I don’t think the Curly Girl Method is a ‘one size fits all’ method. Even if you don’t follow the method exactly, there is a lot of good hair-care advice in the book and it could definitely help you to improve the health of your hair like it has helped mine.
Have you got curly hair? Have you ever tried the Curly Girl Method, or would you consider it? What are your best hair-care tips? Let me know in the comments below!