*Latest product and method UPDATE at the bottom of this post!*
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve noticed something is a little different about me these days.
My hair. It’s my hair.
I get so many questions about it, and to be honest, I can’t offer you any absolute answers, because hair is like a fingerprint, completely unique to you. Not to mention, each comment would be eleven days long, and my kids don’t let me type anything on my phone that long unless I do it from a locked bathroom on a toilet.
I am currently 6 weeks into following the Curly Girl Method, and to say there is a lot to sift through on this is an understatement. Hence, this post. It is crazy to easy to get CGM overwhelmed, and say screw it, especially since it’s a crap shoot of good and horrific hair days as you work your way through it. Good… and horrific.
So here’s what I’m going to do; I am going to tell you what I specifically do, and I am going to give you a whole mess of resources that I found to be super helpful.
Am I including everything? No, the internet is vast and waiting for you.
Am I an expert? I am zero percent an expert on CGM, I am only sharing what changes I have made to my hair routine based on what I have learned so far, and if it sounds interesting- great- consider it your gateway drug.
Does this work for wavy hair? It sure has for me! In fact, my hair has gotten curlier each and every week, but it’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint. Everything I read says it can take up to a year for your hair to get into a good groove, and I don’t doubt that will be the case for me.
Slow down, this is, like, a lot. OMG Right? I’m gonna break this all up, and don’t worry, I’ll have a product round up at the bottom of this post.
First, a disclaimer: This process has helped me change how I deal with my hair. It was never about sticking rigidly to a formula or set of rules, it’s about getting to a better place, learning new methods, and allowing me to have the easy hair I love with minimal effort and damage. Because, at the end of the day, I’m inherently lazy and hate washing my hair.
What is CGM? The general concept is very no-poo (no shampoo) aligned, and has been a staple of the natural hair community forever, as well as promoted by Lorraine Massey and her book, Curly Girl: The Handbook. You wash with conditioner (co-wash), use products without sulfates, silicone, or other drying/damaging/coating ingredients, and stop using heat and terrycloth towels so that you bring out the natural wave or curl in your hair.
Think: Not using shampoo, moisturizing the fuck out of your hair, and reading lots of labels, but fun.
Before CGM, I would describe my hair was thick, coarse, wavy, greasy in some places, flaky in others, and hard to dry. Like, my hair legit mildews before it’s dry. I purchased salon, color-safe products (typically S Factor, Joico, and Redkin), washed my hair once or twice a week, and then dried it straight with a blow dryer, and used a wand to add some beachy mermaid waves. Coat in treseme hair spray. Repeat.
This was working okay for me until I tried bleaching my hair, leaving it an angry ball of static. In frustration, I began googling dry hair solutions, which is how I found myself suddenly looking at this…
Okay, that looks intense, I know. Let’s just say I tried lots of products, read hundreds of articles and posts, and lost hours upon hours to youtube. Consider everything in the picture above the journey to get where I am today.
Six weeks into CGM, I would describe my hair as low porosity with 2c and 3a curl. I co-wash once or twice a week using products from Deva Curl, Shae Moisture, As I Am, Uncle Funky and Kinky Curly Curling Custard, and then I wet plop and pixie diffuse my hair.
Whaaaat… the fuck, right?
Here’s what my product arsenal actually looks like these days…
Way less of a panic attack, right?
Products have been a trial and error sort of thing for me (lots of trial, lots more error), and I’ve had to break a whole lotta bad habits and bad ingredients from my hair routine. I’m going to put a really great product reference video below, watch it on your phone, screen shot the info, and learn tons from Bianca Renee, who I love.
Alright, we’re almost there, one more super important thing.
Knowing your curl type is cute, but ultimately unhelpful when it comes to product selection. Hair porosity is what you really need to know. What is hair porosity? It’s basically how well your hair absorbs and reacts to products, moisture, protein, etc.
Here is a really great video explaining hair porosity in simple terms, with really easy ways to test your hair and find out your porosity type. Watch it, test it, live it, and on we go.
Alright, so while high porosity hair is open to absorbing all manner of product, I have low porosity hair that is closed down and petty (like my soul), so not only does it take forever to dry, it also needs tons and tons of moisture to be at all productive. Like, so much moisture.
I want you to keep this in mind as I explain my process and share my product list with you, as most of my products will be dense and full of tons of moisture. Like, I spend a ridiculous amount of time wet, you guys. So, while these exact products might not be for you high porosity folks, at least you’ll be able to take away some techniques and information, and then apply it to whatever works for you.
How I Wash My Hair: A Love Story
Step 1a: The Final Wash
If this is your first time ever using this method, you need to do a “final wash” to get all the build up and crap off your hair. You only do this once, in theory. But honestly, anytime you feel like you have build up or go back to using a product with silicone or sulfates, you need to do another “final wash” to get your hair back to zero. Life is long, and I put crazy shit in my hair all the time, I foresee lots of “final washes” in my future, c’est la vie.
Product: Suave Daily ($2.99), you can get this at any drug store, Target, Walmart, literally everywhere.
Wet hair, and shampoo like your mama taught you. Easy peasy. Rinse out completely.
Step 1b: Co-Wash
Since I am now beyond the “final wash” stage and into my normal routine, I start my showers with a co-wash, as in, a conditioner wash. I no longer use shampoo, my hair doesn’t need it, doesn’t like it, and the second I ditched it, all of my flakes and dry scalp went away. Poof.
Product: DevaCurl No-Poo Original Zero Lather Conditioner ($24), I buy this from Ulta, and important fact, DevaCurl is only sold at salons, so what you see at non-salon locations (yes, even Target) could be expired or fake product. Also, this is way more than I ever wanted to spend on a shampoo, and you have so many cheap and amazing options. I accidentally grabbed a $10 travel sized bottle of this and fell in love. So here we are.
Wet hair, scrub into scalp (there won’t be a lather, takes a second to get used to that, I know), rinse completely out of your hair.
Step 2: Conditioner (This time with feeling)
Emeril had “Bam!,” and Ty Pennington had “Move that bus!” CGM has “squish to condish.” Basically, I flip my head over and scrunch handfuls of conditioner into my soaking wet hair, letting the water move the product around. Hard to picture? I made you a gif in the shower.
Product: I alternate every other shower with either Shea Moisture Deep Treatment Mask ($10.78) or Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie ($ 13.49), all easy to find online or in Target and Walmart.
Flip your head forward and squish this conditioner into every inch of your hair. I let it sit while I do other shower tasks, like shaving or reenacting the Jacob and Bella rain scene from New Moon, and then I flip my head over again and squish it out under the water, rinsing about 75% of the conditioner out of my hair. But because my hair is starved for moisture (and attention), I leave about 25% of the conditioner in my hair, so it still feels a little slick and slimy.
At this point, I’m done in the shower, and I shut the water off.
Step 3: Leave-In Conditioner & The Bowl Method
To get maximum moisture into my hair, I apply leave in conditioner via the bowl method.
This is a game-changing technique I picked up from @PowerDomi on Instagram, check out her tutorial by clicking here!
Product: As I Am Leave-In Conditioner ($8.49), easy to find at Target and online.
First, I squirt a very generous amount of leave-in conditioner into my hands. I used to think tons of product weighed my hair down and made it frizzy. Turns out it was the build-up of silicone and other crap making my hair miserable, so by all means, get handsy with the good stuff, guys.
And then, I flip my head over again, and “squish to condish” the leave-in into my hair, only this time, I do it over a plastic bowl, so that all the water and product that gets squeezed out of my hair, is caught in the bowl.
And then I dunk my hair into the bowl, reabsorbing all the product-filled water that has collected back into my hair, and “squish to condish” again, repeating this cycle until eventually, no more water or product gets squeezed out of my hair, because it’s all finally been absorbed.
I know, fucking brilliant.
Step 4: Curl Stimulator
I have found that curl activators and stimulators are a great way for me to fight frizz and get defined curls.
Product: Uncle Funky’s Daughter Magic Curl Stimulator ($15.99), again, I grabbed this right on the shelf at Target, and can find it easily online.
Unlike the previous conditioners, I only put about a third of a handful of this in my hair.
Flip your head upside down, and scrunch it on in.
Step 5: Wet Plop
Plopping is just that, gathering your hair into a tshirt and tying it up on top of your head to set and dry your curls. You see, terrycloth towels are the devil and cause frizz, so CGM canon states that the preferred alternative is using a tshirt or microfiber towel. Below is a really great video from Penny Tovar on how to plop your hair, check it out (and also subscribe because she is hilarious and one of my favorite beauty follows).
Plopping is a time-honored curly girl tradition, and I am hesitant to speak against it, it’s just that… it gives me so much frizz.
Hear this, it works amazing for the majority of curlies, I just can’t seem to make it work for my hair yet (could be lots of reasons, like I need a hair cut, my hair moisture isn’t evened out yet, I have the wrong kind of wave and curl, mercury is in retrograde, the list goes on), so in the words of my wise friend Pam Desmond, “good for you, not for me.”
Instead, I find wet plopping to be way more frizz-friendly, and it couldn’t be easier. Instead of tossing my hair into a tshirt, I toss it into a plastic shower cap.
I plop before I gel. It’s just a preference thing. I don’t like my hair to sit in a weird potion with heavy gel in it, so I let the curl stimulator do it’s thing in a plop for a while.
Once my hair is in the cap, I can finally dry the hell off and focus on getting ready for the day without sopping wet hair all over me, because as you may have noted, I still have not dried my hair with anything yet!
Step 6: Gel
Gonna be honest, haven’t bought hair gel or mousse since the 90’s, and yet here I am, scrunching gel into my hair like I’m about to write a love letter to Cody from Step by Step.
Product: Kinky Curly Curling Custard ($16.89).
I really love this gel. It gives me the best defined curl, least amount of frizz, and a great gel cast. What’s a cast? A gel cast is the hard shell around the curl that is made as the gel dries. But unlike the 80’s, when we rocked the gel cast as a finished look, you’re going to actually go on to scrunch the cast out when your hair is completely dry. But for now, you want the cast.
Tip: This gel gets sticky, wet your hands before grabbing handfuls of it and scrunching it into your hair. Honestly, this tip is helpful with all sticky liquids.
Step 7: Diffuse
Because I’m all manner of extra these days, I take the act of diffusing to the next level with the pixie diffuse method.
Basically, in another effort to fight the frizz and get really awesome curl, before I turn on the hairdryer, I gather sections of hair up in the diffuser, scrunch it up to my head, THEN I turn it on high heat for a minute or so, and then turn it off BEFORE I pull it away from my head.
Short bursts of high heat in a very set location, as to not blow my hair all around causing fly-aways. I’m not a scientist, but it works.
Step 8: Scrunch Out the Cast
And here we are, the very first time I actually touch a piece of cloth to my head. When your hair is completely dry, it’s time to scrunch out the cast.
To do this, I use a cotton tshirt, flip my hair over for volume, and just begin scrunching my hair until all the hard curls are now soft and voluminous.
To review, gel cast= white snake concert, scrunch out the cast = soft movable curls.
How I Sleep: A Rock Opera
I am not sure why someone was keeping the whole satin pillowcase secret from me, but man, here’s something I wish I knew sooner.
The secret to keeping great hair while I sleep is to pineapple my hair in a loose messy bun on top of my head, and to sleep on a satin pillowcase. Silk and satin pillows are way kinda to both your hair, and your face. I grabbed one for $5 from Target.
Regular rubberbands are going to mess with your curls and leave horrible bends, scrunchies are good, but for even better hair, I highly recommend grabbing some spiral hair ties. They keep my curls intact, and even add some pony tail volume.
Next Day Hair: In Summation
I am a lucky duck, in that pineappling my hair gives it tons of volume, and I can typically just take it down and go about my day. I like to think that it’s because I sleep like a delicate vampire in a coffin each night, barely moving, but based on the drool skid marks dried across my face, I know that’s not true.
So on the days I do need to refresh my curls a bit, I simply section my hair, dampen it with water from a spray bottle, and reapply leave-in conditioner and gel.
Click here for a really great CGM refresh tutorial!
Yikes, this post really got away from me.
I know it looks like a lot, I mean what did I write out, 8 steps? But the truth is, it’s all really quick work, and once I do it, it means days and days of really low maintenance hair, humidity be damned.
So the weeks have flown by, and so have the products I’ve purchased and broken up with.
My biggest issue continues to be frizz, and since it persists post-haircut, deep treatment, and virgin sacrifice, I’ve decided to rectify within myself that it has nothing to do with my hair, it’s Ohio.
It’s a wet heat.
So my mission pivoted to environmental frizz control, and to do that, I’m avoiding products with glycerin as best I can, because glycerin- while shiny and lovely and great in lubes- literally pulls every ounce of moisture around it and puts it into my hair. This has led me to having to table most of the products listed above until the weather breaks (omg soon).
But folks, I think I have found myself a working system.
Let me break it down for you, because I know I appreciate someone really spelling it out for me.
Step 1: I co-wash my hair with Trader Joe Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner and my Heeta Shampoo Brush
To be clear, I do not use shampoo. I use conditioner as shampoo. I put it on my hair, and then massage it into my scalp with the shampoo brush, which I am obsessed with. Breaking up with shampoo has been amazing for my scalp, but mentally I miss the lather and “shampoo clean” feeling. The tea tree helps me feel fresh and sparkly, and the rubber brush (which does not make my hair knot at all by some manner of witchcraft), also helps give me the totally clean feeling.
Step 2: I lightly rake Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment through my hair, put on a shower cap to keep it the hell out of my way, and then go about my other shower business for at least five minutes. Ten if I have to shave everything that day. Then I take off the cap, squish to condish a tiny bit more Jessicurl into my hair for a minute or so, and then rinse about 85% of it out, shut off the water, squeeze dripping water out of my hair with my hands, and get out of the shower.
Step 3: I flip my soaking wet hair over, and scrunch in at least two palm fulls of Jessicurl Rockin’ Ringlets, and then I put my wet hair into a shower cap and wet plop for at least 10 minutes. I really love this stuff, it’s light, smells amazing, and really helps my curls maintain in the heat. In the winter, I will move toward a leave-in conditioner and a cream, but for right now, I need light.
Step 4: After plopping, I scrunch out some more moisture with a tshirt, and then flip my hair over and scrunch in 2-3 giant handfuls of Herbal Essences Totally Twisted Curl Boosting Mousse. Some people can’t do mousse, my hair absolutely loves it. I get all the hold and none of the stickiness or frizz.
If I can, I opt to air dry. I get almost no frizz that route, but if I have to, I’ll pixie diffuse my hair on cool. I only wash my hair once a week, so I basically make a day of this, and then enjoy all the benefits for the rest of the week.
Note: See that Shea Moisture Hydrate = Repair Protein Power Treatment up there? I use it once a month in place of the Jessicurl Deep Conditioning to give my hair some much needed protein. Like for real, it makes my hair so happy, but I can only do it once a month, or my hair turns into a pumpkin…or wet cotton candy, whatever.
All of these products have been added to the Amazon shop linked below, so check it out and read reviews, I learn so much that way, but I was also able to grab all of this from Target, except for the shampoo brush, Trader Joe’s Conditioner and Rockin’ Ringlets.
Frizz free(ish) curls for dayyyyysssss.
PRODUCTS! I gathered all of the products I mention in this post in my Amazon shop so you can check them out for yourself, click here! I also mention great places to snag this stuff in real time throughout this post, but sometimes it’s fun to pour over reviews and similar products. Or maybe, you just don’t want to put pants on and leave the house, I feel you. Note that these are affiliate links.
Facebook Stalking: Facebook groups have been a great resource for CGM knowledge, and their aesthetics can vary from militant to breezy in adherence to CGM guidelines, so definitely read the group rules before joining and posting. I am a lurker and information devourer in the following groups: The Curly Crew, Curly Girl Method Support Group, Curly Girl for Wavies, Curly Girl Method Uncensored, Curly Girls Conditioner Washing Group for Women, Curly Girl Support Group International.
Instagram Stalking: I am a stage 5 Instagram clinger, especially when it comes to these curly girls: @powerdomi, @thecurlninja, @coffeecurlygirl, @honestlizhere, @mzbiancarenee, @hif3licia, @mymanecurls, @goodgravyitswavy, @curlicue_lu. Also, follow #curlygirlmethod and you’ll get endless before and after pics, tips, tricks, videos, and super useful information.
Youtube Stalking: Most of the time I am just like, show me what to do with this mop on my head and be done with it! If you are like me, then I recommend subscribing to Curly Susie, Biance Renee, Curly Penny, Jannelle O’Shaughnessy, and Swavy Curly Courtney to start.
Suggestions? I’d love them! Tips? Need ’em! Questions? Let’s hear them!