Curly Girl is a combination of techniques to follow when looking after curly hair. Have you ever wanted to have soft healthy hair and maybe even embrace your natural curl pattern or waves? Then this is the guide for you, the Curly Girl Method Quick Start Guide with where to start and tips for beginners.
I started out on my curly girl journey 4 years ago, before I had dry hair that was breaking and frizzy. After researching curly girl, wash techniques, drying techniques and approved products I haven’t looked back. These are the secrets to the Curly Girl method a process and method of nuturing and protecting your hair to achieve its best potential.
Looking after your curls and learning how to style them can in turn enhance your hairs natural curl. If you have curly or wavy hair or even if you think you have curly hair you can try these curl styling tips to boost your curls and remove your frizz. Here we will discover everything you need to know about styling and treating curly hair for great results.
It can be mind boggling to start with so here is my beginners guide and Curly Girl Method Quick Start Guide in the UK from a professional hair dresser and curly girl herself.
Learn How to do the Curly Girl Method by trying this Curly Girl Method Quick Start Guide in the UK
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What is the curly girl method?
The Curly girl method is a technique and structuring ideas on how to get your hair in the best condition possible and then learn how to maintain and manage your curls. The Curly girl method started out with Lorraine Masseys book The Curly Girl handbook a guide to Curly hair. Lorraine having had curly hair her whole life wanted to embrace her curls and teach others how to as well. Read on for advise on top tips for starting your curl journey right now. The whole idea behind the curly girl method is to remove harsh products and other elements that damage your hair. Your hair in good condition with a mixture of protein and moisture will curl better.
I have always looked after my hair and clarified my hair often to remove the silicones but the improvement in condition since I have started the CG method has been amazing. In just a few weeks I have achieved bouncy curls. Curls that last days and my hair feels in the best condition it ever has.
See my Curly girl method my before and after pictures here
What is the curly girl method ? Curly Girl Method Quick Start Guide in the UK
You can start to follow the Curly girl method by doing these things;
- cutting out all harsh chemicals such as Sulphates and drying alcohols.
- Stopping the use of products that contain Silicones and waxes. These coat your hair, weigh it down and prevent moisture from entering your hair.
- Washing your hair by means of co-washing which means wash with only conditioner, or use a Lo-poo ( sulphate and silicone free shampoo )
- No heat, or styling that will dry or damage your hair
- Avoid brushes
- Have curls cut dry by a curl by curl cut
Steps and methods to promoting curls and easy UK products to find
Curls need moisture to retain their curl. The better condition your hair is the better your hair will curl. The way to keep your curls bouncy is to get your hair in to the best condition you can and then lock the moisture in to your hair by various methods.
Read these 10 steps to the curly girl method here!
Here we will look at these steps to the curly girl method;
- Final Washing
- Deep conditioning masks
- Co washing
- Building a wash routine
- Clarifying you hair and removing build up
- Clumping curls together
- Plopping Hair before drying
- Choosing styling products
- Styling techniques
- Drying and diffusing your hair
- Creating a cast
- Learn about transition time when doing the curly girl method
What is the final wash?
Do one last wash with a final wash shampoo such as baby shampoo. You need a silicone free shampoo but a shampoo that contains a sulphate to cleanse any silicone left on the hair. Once you have done your final wash you will start with a routine of Co washing ( washing with conditioner) and Lo poo ( sulphate and silicone free shampoo) washing instead.
The final wash is not stated in the Curly Girl Handbook If your want to religiously follow Lorraine Masseys book you can leave this out. In my opinion it will ensure hair is completely on a clean slate by removing any access built on the surface just like a clarifying shampoo would do. For instance if you have build up you will need to try and remove this before. For more advanced information on build up removal read my post on Clarifying here.
Johnson’s new packaged baby shampoo now is CG friendly and is considered a LO-poo Shampoo now.
Take a look at my 25 curly girl hair hacks here!
Deep Condition and repairing hair
After your final wash you should restore your hair with a silicone free deep conditioner. This should be done once a week on damp hair. Wrap your hair in a plastic bag or cap and then cover by a towel to keep in the warmth. leave for 10 to 30 minutes or even an hour before rinsing. After this you can apply a normal silicone free conditioner as well and comb through to remove to detangle.
Build a routine with your hair by Co washing with conditioner, Lo poo and Clarifying.
Your Curly Girl routine will be made up of a mixture of washing with conditioner ( co washing ) using a Lo poo shampoo ( chemical free ) and an occasional clarifying shampoo.
When you are in the shower wash your hair with conditioner as you would a shampoo. Massaging the conditioner in to your hair and scalp to remove residue. Do this a few times to get rid of any dirt particles and cleanse your hair. This is the time to comb through your curls while they are wet and slippery and coated in conditioner.
You may not want to co wash everytime as this does not suit everyone. Too much conditioner can also weigh the hair down and certain ingredients can still build up. Instead use a Lo poo shampoo in-between and be guided by how your hair feels.
lo poo is a shampoo or “low poo” means a sulfate-free shampoo that still contains cleansing ingredients (called “surfactents”). This is not strictly CG either but over time I have made some changes to my curly girl routine that have worked!
Do I wash, lo poo or co wash each time when doing the curly girl method?
How do you know when to lo poo, co wash or even just refresh? If your hair is;
- Thick and greasy weighed down? clarify it
- Needs regular routine was Co wash with conditioner.
- Not feeling fresh try a general wash with Lo poo.
- Needs moisture feels dry? Deep condition
How to clarify your hair and remove buildup
Clarifying your hair with a non silicone shampoo in-between washes can help make your hair feel light again. If you may find that your hair starts to feel heavy with conditioner or in fact dry you must clarify it. I am using a chelating shampoo which removes hard water build up and build up from natural oils. If you want a curly girl approved Clarifying shampoo you need one with these ingredients;
- sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate or
- sodium lauroyl sarcosinate
Products with these ingredients are not a lo-poo shampoo but more of a gentle cleanser. These are not a sulphate and are used to help get rid of impurities and build up. Do this maybe every 3 to 4 weeks or when your feels it needs it. Noughty do a detox shampoo which does just this.
I am using one from the US right now Kinky Curly Come clean chelating shampoo or you could try this one from savers such as the KHC banana shampoo.
For clarifying if you wish you can use a shampoo with no silicone but one that still has sodium laurel sulphate, this is not strict curly girl and bear in mind it can dry your hair. This can however work for many wavy hair people making it feel light again. Remember to do a deep condition after though!
You could also Try Cantu Cleansing shampoo which is a great shampoo and available in the UK. Or the Noughty claryifing shampoo Detox Dynamo
For the full Lo down on Co -washing see this post here!
Do I use Conditioner and or leave in conditioner when doing the curly girl method?
After washing your hair you need to leave some moisture in your hair by using a leave in conditioner. This is a very important step and the best way to make your curls spring in to life. Alternatively at this step you could opt for a curl cream. For lighter thinner hair choose products that are not heavy these normally contain ingredients such as shea butters.
Gently squeeze out access water but not too much, you want your hair to be wet to lock the moisture in. With your head upside down, apply a generous amount of a suitable leave in conditioner so that you can see it and gently brush through. Again brushing is not to be done in the strict main curly girl method. Use fingers to detangle or a comb instead.
How to Brush hair to clump curls together
The idea of brushing through when really wet is to get all of your hair to stick together and then slowly separate in to larger clumps. Many curly girls now use this method. This achieves a larger curl rather than lots of separate stringy curls. You need to use a brush with close together bristles such as a Wet brush or a Denman brush.
Once you have done this with your head still up side down gently scrunch the leave-in conditioner in. You will notice your curls start to clump together again. Then plop in a towel for 10 minutes.
See some of my recommended leave in conditioners here.
What is plopping you hair?
Plopping is a method used to promote a natural curl pattern and remove some dampness.
Using a micro fibre towel or a t-shirt, postition your hair wet upside down and gently wrap. Let your curls sit in the towel gently and wrap the towel around before putting your head upright again. Let this sit on top of your head for about 5 minutes before drying. Do not use a harsh fluffy towel that will disturb your curl or cause frizz.
Plopping your hair for 5 to 10 minutes in generally enough. Plopping for 30 minutes is ok but apply gel after plopping on this occasion. Alternatively Plopping may not work for you so you can also gently scrunch out access water with an old t-shirt or microfibre towel.
How to plop curls with a T shirt
When doing the curly girl method you can plop your hair with a T-shirt. Fold the t-shirt down to make it a bit shorter and lower your head in to the shirt. Wrap the straight end around your head then bring up the sleeves to tie it up. You can see how to plop with a t-shirt in this video below.
What styling products do I need for the curly girl method?
You can start with either a mousse or a gel to keep it simple. There are lots of products you can use such as;
- Curl Cream
- Curl custard
Each product will be different and work in different ways. A gel, custard, hairspray or a mousse will create hold. Curl creams act like conditioners and smoothers.
There are two ways of adding styling products to your hair before you plop your hair or after. I would not advise leaving your hair wrapped up for too long if putting product on first. Try both ways to see which way works best for you.
After plopping remove your hair from the towel and get ready to add styling product still with you head upside down. You can use Mousse, gel, or curling custard to add definition to your hair. There are even cg hair sprays on the market now which are curly girl friendly. You can even make your own curly girl hairspray too!
Apply the gel with either your head upside down or upright to arrange where your parting is first. I have found applying my gel upright leaves the top section and parting with a better curl formation, again this is trial and error and everyone will be different.
Styling techniques for the curly girl method
Squish to condish
Squish to condish is using the scrunching method of squeezing in conditioner and promoting a curl.
Use these techniques when styling your hair and doing the curly girl method. Remove the towel and gently swipe gel or curling custard over your hair using praying hands. Praying hands means keeping your palms flat and gently going over the surface of the hair to distribute product. Scrunch this in and get ready to diffuse. You can layer different gels or use one or two products together.
You need to apply a generous amount of gel or mousse you want your hair to be sticky and wet.
Drying your hair and how to diffuse.
One of the best ways to dry your curls is to let them dry naturally, this is healthy and non drying. This is however not practical for everyone and for some with hair that is not as curly it may not work as well.
Try both leaving your hair to dry and diffusing and see what works for you. For wavy girls diffusing can help create a bigger curl with more volume.
Diffusing works better for me also, I use a diffuser to dry my hair promoting its natural wave and lift it from the root. Thick wavy hair can need some support whilst drying and diffusing on a low speed and low heat can help.
Keep the diffuser close to your head and do not touch the hair. Let your hair sit in the diffuser cup and slowly dry. This can be a long process and my hair and can take up to an hour to dry. In fact I am typing this while I am in the drying process. It is worth taking the time to slowly dry as my hair can stay perfectly curled for days.
For extra root lift you can clip up your roots with small metal hair clips while it dries.
You can dry your curly hair until at least 80% dry then leave it to air dry.
How to create a cast when doing the CGM method
Crunchy is good! After your hair is 100% dry it should appear crunchy. This means you have held your curl and locked in some moisture. This is called a cast and I have found this is the most important component of creating a frizz free curl.
When your hair is 100% dry you can scrunch out this crunch with your hands by gently squeezing the hair and scrunching out the crunch. You can also use a t-shirt to scrunch with to stop any fries. Gently take your hands through the roots of your hair and shake to soften the look. You will be left with soft curls or waves.
If you feel your hair never gets a cast there may be reason for it. Read my post on How to get a curl cast to find out the reasons why you can’t get a gel cast.
If you are not keen on a cast ( crunchy hair ) alternatively you could try a cream such as the Noughty Wave Hello taming cream.
Trial and error with maintaining your routine and transitioning.
Everybody’s hair is different and it will be trial an error a lot of the time. Wavy hair with get greasier quicker and may find product heavy. Very curly hair will need more moisture to tame it. If you hair has a low porosity (shiny, greasy, smooth ) with closed cuticles it may need less conditioner. Therefore high porosity hair ( coloured, damaged or dry) may need more conditioner to absorb into the cuticle.
It can take a long time for your hair to adjust and transition. Your hair overtime has become used to silicone and sulphates drying the hair. So in turn your scalp had been producing more sebum to make up for this. Now you are not drying your hair out with harsh products your scalp will need time to adjust. Hence why you may find your hair slightly greasy when you first start. Combat this by using a lo-poo shampoo more than a co-wash conditioner whilst it transitions.
Take a look at my hair now and how it has changed you can also read about some of the curly girl rules I have since changed here too
Trying a rice water rinse
Curly hair needs protein and moisture to maintain a good structure. Rice water is known to strengthen hair from within flatten the cubicle and and promote hair growth. With regular rice water treatments you can enhance the condition of your hair. Check out my post on how to do a rice water rinse when you have curly or wavy hair.
Take a look at the most frequently asked questions here and some tips on porosity here.
Where to buy products curly girl method products in the UK?
Check out my ultimate curly girl product guide for UK drugstores and supermarkets!
Where can I buy curly girl products in the UK? As part of my Curly Girl Method Quick Start Guide in the UK I have listed in above photos products that can be found in UK supermarket and drugstores like Boots and Superdrug. There are also some websites and new brands that are cropping up in the UK. I am always excited to try new products as I go along. Take a look at these products and websites for more help.
Here is some of my favourite products that I purchase from Amazon, always check as prices can fluctuate. You can sometimes buy some of these in Superdrug or Boots
For more Curly girl approved leave in conditioners see here.
More Curly Girl reading
How to follow the wavy girl method
Bentonite Clay wash Do’s and dont’s
Easy guide to the Rice water rinse
Curly girl product reviews for further reading
Naturalistic products stock a wide range of Curly girl approved methods not available in the UK.
Curly Girl method products in Savers
Noughty range of curly girl products which are 97% natural.
Cantu Review here these products are all available in the UK.
Only Curls a London based company whose mission is to ditch the chemicals and help people have healthy hair and embrace their curls.
Naturalistic products stock a wide range of Curly girl approved methods not available in the UK.
Kiyo Beauty are another website which are in the Uk ( funny enough just down the road to me ) they ship in the Uk. Many of the harder to find products can also be found on Look Fantastic.
An easy way to check your curl product ingredients!
Always check your ingredients are chemical free first! you can check by popping your ingredients in to this handy tool on the Curlsbot website.
Take a look at what my friend Sarahs favourite Curly girl products are in the UK here.
Your hair will love you even if you are curly or not!
I hope this curly Girl Method Quick Start Guide in the UK has helped you. Stick with it and take pictures as your hair will change over time and improve.
Please note these may not be all strictly the original curly girl methods (i.e. i use a hairdryer) but they work for my thick wavy hair. Remember the CGM Method is trial an error and what works for some people does not work for all. Experiment with different applications, products and ideas.
All reviews and opinions are my own. This page does contain some Amazon affiliate links. These are at no extra cost to yourself unless of course you can find them cheaper elsewhere.
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Wednesday 13th of January 2021
after reading loooads of stuff and watching loooads of videos this is like the best all-in-one-place guide I have found! I love how important things are highlighted and the link opens up in a new page , so that the main page is not overloaded with information. bumped into the blog when looking for clear instructions for the rice water rinse which I will be doing shortly for the first time ever! and I am thrilled to have found a curly pal who has got a straight fringe! I feel so weird at times! LOL how do you style that?
Thursday 14th of January 2021
Thank you I hope you find all you need!
Saturday 26th of September 2020
No matter how many places I post this question, I have never had any answer to the following question; why when I use hair gel on my just below the shoulder length curly hair do I end up sticky all over my neck, back of my neck and chest? It doesn't matter how much product I use or cut down on it's the same every time I wash my hair and I try to be careful not to get my hair near my body, It's driving me mad. I used As I Am Curling Jelly this time and although it's not as bad I am still sticky!! Is it me or is this a common problem? If others don't get this, what do you do to avoid it?
Monday 28th of September 2020
I always apply gel with my head hung over to one side or upside down so it doesn't stick to me ? perhaps this is why?
Wednesday 12th of August 2020
Hi! I’ve loved the blog and used it over the last few months on my wavy/curly hair. Initially I had amazing results, but in the last few weeks it’s been really dry and frizzy! I had been using the Shea leave in conditioner (which is now out of stock everywhere!), but switched to another of your recommendations. I’m only ‘washing’ once a week and this is because of the frizz not grease! Any tips? I’ve a feeling I need to up the conditioner, but should I be washing more often to do so?! TIA xxx
Wednesday 26th of August 2020
Hi, Oh no Its out of stock! I love that conditioner! Your hair does transition over a few months and it look like your hair likes the heavier rich conditioners.These types of conditioners are cantu, Asiam and shea. Are you using another Shea one? It could be that your hair lacks a bit of protein or moisture. It can make it feel crunchy and dry for either. I try to do a healthy balance of both protein and hydrating conditioner. For when it feels dry I try to use an Aloe Vera conditioner such as garnier hair food which hydrates more.
Thursday 24th of October 2019
Thank you so much for that post, such a clarity. I've started the CGM about 2 months ago and been overwhelmed by the sea of information out there... will definitely try the rice water rinse as my hair has started to misbehave a bit and not wanting to curl as much as before. Also, can you recommend any curly hairdressers? 😊
Thursday 24th of October 2019
What a great post! Thank you for clarity of it. I've started CGM about 2 months ago and felt overwhelmed with the amount of information out there! I will definitely try the rice water rinse as my hair has started to misbehave a bit and not wanting to curl as much. 😁
Saturday 26th of October 2019
Yes definitely try it and don’t be frightened to use the odd shampoo to clarify x