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Curly Girl Method

The Curly Girl Method refers to a bunch of techniques best-suited for taking care of wavy or curly hair. I started following it in May 2021 (see relevant post), hoping that it’d make my wavy hair less “poofy”, frizzy, unruly and prone to tangling. Despite some missteps, it actually has! My hair is still a lot wavier at the back of my head than at the sides, but no part of it is nearly as “poofy” as it used to be. The rest of this page describes my understanding of the method, particularly as it applies to wavy hair.

Products

Some might say the elementary part of the method is using appropriate products. You want to use exclusively things that are free of certain ingredients; these are silicones (which build up in your hair and cause grease), alcohols (which dry it out) and most of the time sulfates (which are overly stripping for frequent use, although once every few weeks is OK, and you need to use a sulfate-containing shampoo right at the start for a “reset” wash). There are websites like Is it CG? and Curlsbot which can tell you, from an ingredients list, whether a specific product is OK for this method.

Most of the product lists you’ll find online have been put together by Americans, which means they’re not necessarily that useful outside the US. The /r/curlyhair subreddit has a pretty extensive international product list, but I still had to build on that a bit because I found some of the products it listed for Australia were not available near me, while other products that were near me turned out to be CGM-friendly despute not being on the list. So, the products I have been using are as follows:

  • Reset shampoo: Tresemmé Professional Hair Shampoo Deep Cleaning
  • Low-poo: A-kin Mild & Gentle Fragrance Free Shampoo
  • Conditioner: Tresemmé Botanique Restore & Shine
  • Mousse: Schwarzkopf Extra Care Mousse Ultra Styling Extreme Hold

Everything except the low-poo was available at my local Woolworths supermarket. For the low-poo I had to go to the chemist like five doors down from the supermarket. Still, everything was available in my own neighbourhood, which was pretty important to me!

Techniques

The basics of the method come down to: when you wash your hair, you would normally use a “low-poo”, i.e. shampoo without sulfates, or a “co-wash” which is basically conditioner used as shampoo. Then you apply conditioner – like, a massive handful of it – ideally with a technique like “squish to condish”, where you hold your head upside-down and use your hands to “squish” water into your hair along with the conditioner. While the conditioner’s in, you detangle (with your fingers or a wide-toothed comb). Finally, once you’re out of the shower you style your hair, with gel or mousse or styling cream or whatever. You’d generally dry your hair after applying the styling product.

Coming from my previous (very unremarkable) way of managing my hair, there are a few changes to my routine that I’ve had to make.

No more hair-brushing!

The first was to stop ever brushing my hair with an actual brush. Instead I comb it in the shower, while it’s smothered in conditioner. You can also just use your fingers for this, raking them through your hair to work out the tangles.

I was really nervous about making this change, because in the past my hair would tangle horrifically if I skipped a single day of brushing, and in windy winter weather I’d have to brush it immediately every time I came inside. Turns out I probably just under-conditioned it all those years, because it is not tangling now even though I never brush it between washes at all, and combing it in the shower is always super easy.

The benefit to doing this is that I no longer struggle with unruly, frizzy, “poofy” hair. Hairbrushes actually draw your individual strands of hair out apart from one another, and if your hair is not straight, this is what leads to that dreaded “triangle hair”. My wavy hair looks a lot better in how it falls now, and it’s a lot less frustrating to deal with.

Drying techniques

There are a few different things I’m doing differently now:

  • I use a microfibre towel to dry my hair, not a conventional terrycloth one. Not only is it a lot more absorbent (so the hair dries faster as the towel sucks out more water), but it’s also supposed to reduce frizz – supposedly the terrycloth towels generate a lot of that.
  • I’ve started plopping my hair for 15–20 minutes after each wash. This is sort of like a curl-preserving alternative to that thing where you twist your hair up in a towel.
  • Once I’ve removed the plop, I try to “scrunch” remaining moisture out of my hair instead of, like, rubbing at it with the towel. In general, “scrunching” your hair seems to be the optimal strategy for nearly everything you could want to do to it, from what I’ve read.
  • It’s not humanly possible to dry my hair completely with a towel, so I either let it air-dry the rest of the way (takes many hours) or I use a diffuser on the end of a hair dryer (with the hair dryer set to “cold” and “low-speed”) to try to hasten the process.

Styling techniques

This is definitely the part I struggled the most with in the Curly Girl Method. My life got a lot easier once I realised two things:

  • Styling is not actually compulsory. This becomes obvious when you scroll down to the “caring for kids’ curls” section of the /r/curlyhair wiki, where it says Ignore styling tips. Kids don’t need to worry about plopping, or having perfectly defined curls. Just keep their hair healthy! If kids don’t need to style their hair, neither do you (or me). If I cannot be bothered fucking about with styling products, I can just not, and my hair will still look better than it did before I started the Curly Girl Method because I will not have “triangle hair”.
  • Just because they say “gel works really well for 98% of people!” does not mean you have to keep trying if it manifestly does not work for you. What I was finding with gel was that it would lock too much moisture in within the gel cast, so my hair would literally never dry, not even after 8+ hours including 2 hours of diffusing. Even if my hair felt dry to a cursory touch, with the surface of all the cast-encased curls being dry, and even if it had felt like that for hours, the inside of all those curls would still be wet. So then when I’d try to “scrunch out the crunch”, my not-fully-dry hair would just get disgustingly sticky and prone to tangling instead. When I switched to mousse, styling became sooooooo much less painful, on those occasions when I can be bothered. Also, moussed hair doesn’t look as shit while you’re still waiting for it to dry.

For me, styling my hair with mousse is a trade-off. It makes my hair look better on “wash day” (once it’s dried) compared to not styling it at all. On days 2 and 3, however, my hair tends to look poofier and frizzier if moussed than it would if I hadn’t styled it. I think this is where people praise gel, because the hold lasts longer, but clearly that doesn’t work with my super-fine hair that takes forever to dry. So I sort of just decide on spec whether I can be bothered styling it or not depending on what I have coming up over the next couple of days.

A couple of final notes

  • I got a couple of satin pillowcases, which are supposed to help reduce frizz because they have less friction against your head overnight. I also got a couple of satin sleep bonnets which are supposed to help in a similar way.
  • Shower caps help keep your hair from getting wet on days when it’s not a wash day for it. This is supposed to prevent unnecessary frizz, too.