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A Beginner’s Guide to the Curly Girl Method

By: Jessica Nicole CanaberalA Beginner’s Guide to the Curly Girl Method

I have always embraced my curls from the get-go, save for those times when my parents had my hair straightened in elementary school. For years, I have worn my curly hair down with a headband to keep my hair off my face. Despite the love that I have for my natural hair, I felt that something was amiss – I felt that my curls did not look and feel as great compared to the other curly-haired people I know. My hair is a perfect example of a frizzy and unruly mess that shampoo advertisements use before it becomes shiny, soft, and straight! 

To improve the state of my hair, I found out about the Curly Girl Method (CG or CGM) by hairstylist Lorraine Massey. She created this process after being frustrated with how shampoos left her hair dry and limp, which affected the quality of her curls. Her method can be found in ‘Curly Girl: The Handbook’, which she authored and has now become the bible of curly-haired people.

What is the Curly Girl Method?

In a nutshell, CGM is a hair care routine that exchanges damaging treatments in favor of a natural one. That means ditching the shampoo, heat styling, or hair coloring among other things. It may sound unusual to those who are accustomed to these tools, but there’s no need to fret since there are natural alternatives for them.

Instead of shampooing your hair, CGM promotes using conditioner as a cleanser. This is known as co-washing (conditioner washing). Curly Hair Lounge notes that conditioners help clean the hair by also adding emollients to it, meaning they make the hair soft and retain its moisture through the oils, kinds of butter, and humectants they contain.

Another thing to take note of in CGM is the ingredients list of a hair product, as it determines if the product is a CG-friendly or not. Here is a basic list of ingredients to avoid:

  • Sulfates (e.g. SLS and ammonium laureth sulfate) – This infamous component in foaming products dry out the surface they are used on, whether that’s your skin or your hair.
  • Silicones (specifically non-water soluble ones) – Although they are responsible for making our hair look shampoo commercial-ready, they can build up over time and not allow moisture in back to our locks.
  • Alcohol (especially the drying kind) – This helps accelerate the drying time of our hair as an ingredient in styling products. However, constant use makes it drier and frizzier.
  • Waxes – These are non-hydrous, meaning they cannot be rinsed out with water or even co-washing if they have built up on your hair.
  • Mineral oils – Even if they are moisturizing, petrolatum-based products can weigh down the curls.

There are other comprehensive lists of ingredients to skip available online in easy to copy formats.

Before you purchase your tools of the trade, take into consideration the following as well:

  • Hair porosity – Knowing if your hair absorbs too little or too much product will help in choosing which products are appropriate and economical. For example, those who have high porosity need hydrating formulas as their hair absorbs and loses moisture quickly.
  • Hair pattern – Curls come in different formats: wavy, curly, and kinky. There are products suitable for each kind but make sure the ingredients are good for the method.

When it comes to the technicality of CGM, it is composed of four major steps:

  1. Cleanse – This is where co-washing or your alternative to shampoo begins. A sulfate-free shampoo is alright to use if you can’t wean yourself off from regular shampoos just yet.
  2. Condition – This part will need a ton of conditioner as your whole hair needs to be covered with it entirely. You will need to detangle your curls with either your fingers or a wide-toothed comb before washing it out. However, don’t rinse it out completely and squeeze out the excess instead. You can do so by cupping your hands upwards or using a microfiber towel, shirt, or paper towel.
  3. Style – Aside from conditioner, what you use to style your hair is crucial to this method. Whether that’s a leave-in conditioner, a styling gel, a hair mousse or a combination of any, make sure that you squeeze them up while the hair is still wet.
  4. Dry – This is where you scrunch the curls out from the bottom after the hair is completely dry. Doing so will remove the crunchy look but still retain the hold and definition of the curls. It is suggested to massage natural oil (e.g. argan, jojoba, sunflower) on the hair for this step as it also adds shine to it.

Once you memorize this information, CGM will be a breeze and you can achieve cherub-looking curls. I plan to switch to this method soon so my hair looks great and at the same time, becomes healthier with better ingredients.

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