The Curly Girl Method… Gimmick or Game Changer?

The Curly Girl Method… Gimmick or Game Changer?

By Rebecca Johansen

Rebecca Johansen is a hairdresser with over 10 years industry experience.

Do you struggle to manage your curly/wavy hair?

Unruly curls prone to frizz?

Uneven curl pattern?

Do your curls or waves drop out really quickly?

Does product make your hair feel sticky and unpleasant?

Fed up of damaging your hair with heat appliances to control your hair?

Unsure of how to maintain your child’s curly hair?

I have been hairdressing since 2009 and have always battled with my frizzy, uneven curls. Years of heat abuse from straighteners and colouring had really taken its toll on my curls and I was so fed up of trying to grow my hair without it constantly breaking. Straightening would take over an hour for it then to boing back to frizz again within half an hour.

When Covid hit I decided to buy the Curly Girl handbook by Lorraine Massey. Skeptically, I thought it would be a gimmick but what better time to try something new- it wasn’t like anybody would see my hair if it looked terrible.

Amazingly my hair started to transform.

It’s never felt so smooth and healthy. My curls are even and defined, and I’ve never felt so confident to wear my hair naturally, so much so that I now couldn’t imagine straightening my hair. I’ve recommended the method to many of my curly clients and the results have been incredible.

So, what do you need?

  • A Curly Girl approved sulphate free shampoo and or cleansing conditioner for co-washing
  • A scalp brush for co-washing (not essential but highly recommend)
  • A Curly Girl approved leave in conditioner (this can be the same as co-wash product)
  • A Curly Girl approved styling product/products (gel/mousse/curl cream)
  • A microfibre towel or an old t shirt

How do you know what products are ‘curl friendly’?

Curly girl products need to be: sulphate free, silicone free, or drying alcohol free.

The easiest way to determine if a product is approved or not is to copy and paste the ingredients list into an ingredient checker online. Curlsbot or are my personal favourites.

The method:

Cleanse the hair as and when needed with either a sulphate-free shampoo or co-wash the hair using a cleansing conditioner with a scalp brush. Try not to over wash your hair. Over washing removes the natural oils from the hair and dries the curls out which cause frizz. Do not ruffle the hair up too much to try and avoid knotting.

Apply conditioner or hair mask and leave in for the desired time. Only ever brush curly hair when wet with conditioner in. Do not ever brush curly hair when dry. Ideally hair should only be detangled with fingers or gently with a wide toothed comb or detangling brush. It’s important not to over brush the curls.

Rinse the conditioner leaving a small amount in or rinse thoroughly and then apply a small amount of leave-in conditioner. This massively helps to control frizz.

Squeeze the conditioner into the hair by scrunching up towards the root removing extra moisture. This is often called “squish to condish”. If your hair is wavy rather than curly, use less or skip this step if it weighs your hair down too much.

Scrunching: never dry curls with a conventional towel, instead use a microfibre towel or an old t shirt. This will gently remove moisture without roughing up the hair cuticle causing frizz.

Styling: apply your chosen styling product. The official method recommends gel although there are lots of CG approved products available. I feel it’s personal preference. Don’t be alarmed if when the hair first dries it feels a bit crunchy. This is called a cast. Once dry if you scrunch the hair again upwards towards the scalp you can dissolve the cast leaving your curls soft, touchable and defined. This is often called “scrunch out the crunch”

My top tips

Finger coiling is an excellent way to create lots of definition and improve uneven curls. Take small sections when wet with styling product in and twist around your finger to create individual defined curls. Leave to air-dry or use a diffuser on a low heat setting.

Avoid using heat on your hair. Diffusing on a cooler setting is fine but try not to be tempted to use straighteners/heat appliances on your hair too often. Heat really dries out curly hair and the healthier you can get your curls with the method the better your results will be.

A silk/satin pillowcase, pineapple or bonnet can all be excellent for keeping curls protected overnight. In the morning I like to refresh my hair with a spray bottle of water mixed with a little bit of conditioner and I re-scrunch. This works really well for bringing curls back to life.

Get a Curly Cut: curly hair should be cut dry and in its natural state, not wet as hairdressers are traditionally taught. When cut dry, curl by curl, it’s easy to work with the natural curl pattern and see exactly how the hair is going to fall and where the curls are damaged. Cutting curly hair wet often leads to the hair being shorter than desired as the hair will naturally bounce up drastically as it dries. You may not necessarily need to find a ‘curly cut’ trained hairdresser, but I recommend finding a professional who understands curly hair and is happy to adapt their techniques to work with your natural hair.

Please don’t try the DIY unicorn cut – it will never ever turn out well on curly hair. I’ve had to fix so many attempts at this.

Lastly, keep in simple. It’s very easy to get carried away and want to try lots of different products all at the same time and keep changing them to experiment. If you want to try a new product, change one thing at a time and you will quickly learn what your hair likes. Hair doesn’t get damaged overnight so it won’t be miraculously transformed overnight either. The process does need some time and patience. Some people experience a transition phase, however, it does achieve some incredible results.

For me, I’d call it a game changer!

There’s lots of information on the www should you wish to begin embracing your natural curly hair with pride.

Before- natural curls with the frizz factor
After-smooth, defined, natural and frizz-free
After-smooth, defined, natural and frizz-free


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