What is the Curly Girl Method?

When it comes to styling and caring for curly hair, it seems like there are as many techniques out there as there are types of curls! One of the most talked-about is the Curly Girl Method, which has its own set of rules on how you should–and shouldn’t–care for your curls and what products to use when washing, drying, and styling. Are you curious about the Curly Girl Method? We’ll get into all of the details so you can figure out if this technique is the right fit for you, including:

What is the Curly Girl Method?

Hairstylist Lorraine Massey created the Curly Girl Method. In 1999, she published the book Curly Girl, Thee Handbook, which detailed her strategy for cleansing, caring for, and styling her curls, and the Curly Girl Method was born.

The Curly Girl Method involves three steps–cleansing, conditioning, and styling–with hair care products that enhance the health and integrity of curly hair. When practicing the Curly Girl Method, Massey advocates using hair care products without sulfates and silicones, which can potentially dry out your curls and cause build-up over time. She also suggests finger-combing your curls rather than using brushes or combs. Last but not least, because high-heat tools such as curling irons, straightening irons, and blow dryers can damage the hair cuticle, Massey recommends avoiding heat tools to style curly hair, advocating instead for air-drying or diffusing on a low-heat setting. Here’s a breakdown of the three basic steps in the Curly Girl Method:

Step 1: Cleanse

Start by cleansing your hair with a silicone-free, sulfate-free shampoo. How often you shampoo your hair is up to you–some experimentation may be needed–but Massey recommends every two to three days. “While some people do better with less frequent hair washing, sometimes that can lead to build-up and problems with scaling or a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, which is a dandruff-like issue,” says board-certified dermatologist and LovelySkin CEO Dr. Joel Schlessinger. “For this reason, in general, I’m a fan of daily hair washing, or a frequency of one or two weeks for my patients who are people of color.”

Step 2: Condition

Next, condition your hair with a sulfate-free, silicone-free conditioner. Conditioning is an important step to help infuse your curls with moisture, according to Massey. She also notes that tighter curl patternsandr drier hair types will likely need more conditioner, so you may need to experiment with the amount that you’re using on your hair.

Step 3: Style

When it comes to styling hair according to the Curly Girl Method, Massey recommends you avoid using traditional terry cloth towels, brushes, and combs. Instead, she suggests gently blotting the moisture out of your curls with a 100% cotton T-shirt or a bamboo towel and using your fingers to separate and arrange curls as needed gently.

After toweling, the key styling step is applying a water-soluble hair gel that is also sulfate-free and silicone-free. Once you’ve gently scrunched your choice of gel into your hair, Massey recommends letting it air dry (diffusing with a hair dryer on a low setting is also okay) until the gel hardens into what she calls a “curl cast.” When it’s 100% dry, she suggests “scrunching out” the curl cast by tipping your head upside down and using your hands to scrunch your hair up toward your scalp softly.

Curly Girl Method-approved shampoos

In order to jive with the Curly Girl Method, the shampoo you use should be free of sulfates and silicones. Here are three Curly Girl Method-approved shampoos that will help gently cleanse your hair.

Ouidad VitalCurl+ Clear & Gentle Shampoo

This shampoo formulated especially for curls contains vitamins E and B5 to help boost shine and nourish your strands, while sunflower seed and olive oils help infuse curls with moisture without weighing down. This formula also contains Ouidad’s unique Omega 3-6-9 Complex, which helps to target dry areas and improve your hair’s natural lipid barrier, resulting in smoother, softer-looking curls.

Leonor Greyl Bain Restructuring: A La Banane Volumizing Shampoo for Curly Hair

This sulfate-free, silicone-free shampoo gently cleanses while providing volumizing benefits for curly hair that’s prone to falling flat. Hibiscus extract helps boost volume and shine, while vitamin B-rich banana extract helps nourish and hydrate. This formula also contains linden flower extract, which has a high concentration of antioxidants to help support healthy hair. If choosing vegan hair care products is important to you, you’ll be happy to hear that this hair care line is made without the use of animal-derived products.

PHYTO Specific Rich Hydrating Shampoo

Curly hair looks and feels its best when it’s hydrated, and this shampoo helps replenish and lock in much-needed moisture as it cleanses. In addition to hydrating glycerin, it also contains white clover honey and marshmallow root extract to help hair look and feel soft, shiny, and more manageable.

Curly Girl Method-approved conditioners

To stay in line with the Curly Girl Method, the conditioner you use should be free of sulfates and silicones as well. Here are three Curly Girl Method-approved conditioners that will help infuse your curls with moisture, leaving them looking soft and smooth.

Ouidad VitalCurl+ Balancing Rinse Conditioner

This hair conditioner helps repair and nourish stretched-out curls with a lineup of moisturizing emollient ingredients, including oils derived from olives, sunflower seeds, chia seeds,s and Japanese camellia. It also contains Ouidad’s botanically based Omega 3-6-9 Complex, which helps restore elasticity and keep frizz at bay.

Leonor Greyl Creme De Soin A L’Amarante Detangling and Color-Protecting Conditioner

Is your curly hair also color-treated? This conditioner protects against color fade while also being Curly Girl Method-compliant. A blend of protein-packed oils (jojoba, amaranth, and Karanja) helps detangle hair, guard against frizz,z and lock in moisture. This conditioner is also packaged in an airless tube that protects its organic ingredients from degrading.

L’ANZA TRUE Clean Conditioner

Formulated to help improve dryness as well as reduce frizz and tangles, this Curly Girl Method-approved conditioner contains hydrating glycerin, algae extract, apple fruit extract,t, and nourishing squalane. As an eco-friendly bonus, the bottle is made with recycled material and is also recyclable as well.

Curly Girl Method-approved hair gels

For the last step of the Curly Girl Method, styling with the right gel is key. You’ll want to choose a hair gel that is free of both silicones and sulfates and also has enough hold to help preserve your natural curl pattern until it fully dries. Here are a few of our favorites.

Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel

This gel for curly and wavy hair helps provide a soft hold and shiny finish. It contains sericin, a silk-derived protein that helps protect your hairstyle from humidity, and a subtle floral scent that will linger throughout the day.

Surface Curls Oil Gel

This unique gel is infused with a blend of oils to help reduce frizz and add shine to curly hair. Surface’s signature babassu oil combines with cocoa butter, soy protein, and moringa seed oil for a soft finish and light hold.

Verb Curl Foaming Gel

If heavy gels easily weigh down your curls, this lightweight gel-to-foam formula could be an ideal option for you. It provides definition and shape to your curls while adding shine with a blend of grapefruit peel, sunflower seed, and jojoba oils.

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