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The Curly Girl Method for Wavy and Curly Hair Beginners

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If you've been following me for a while then you know I follow the curly girl method. In this post, I explain the basics of the curly hair method for wavy and curly hair and give you a step-by-step guide to follow so you can start the curly girl method.

The curly girl method is a set of rules to follow, such as process, ingredients, and techniques, that will enhance your curls over time and improve the health of your hair. You ditch damaging products and habits like sulfates and brushes, for a healthy hair care regimen that includes lots of moisture and specific styling techniques.

I used to have mostly wavy hair, and over time following the curly girl method, it has become curlier so that it's mostly curly now with some wavy parts.

So the curly girl method works for wavy and curly hair. You can see the change in my hair in the photo below, and more of my curly girl method before and after in this post.

the curly girl method beginning of cg method compared to current image of Delilah's curls

What is the Curly Girl Method?

The curly girl method all started with Lorraine Massey's The Curly Girl Handbook. Definitely read the book before starting, or at the same time as starting at least. It gives great insight and will help you troubleshoot along the way.

The goal is to have healthy curls by treating them the right way. You avoid certain things that are considered damaging to curls and waves. And you embrace ingredients and techniques that make your curls healthier and more manageable.

Not only is this method a special way to care for wavy and curly hair to bring out its natural curl with less frizz, but it's also a lifestyle and mindset change.

It's a journey and takes lots of patience and perseverance to stick with it through the bad wash days and products that flop.

To follow the curly girl method, there are certain things you need to avoid and certain things you need to do. Let's go over them in more detail.

Dos and Don'ts

Avoid the following:

  • sulfates
  • non-water soluble silicones
  • drying alcohols
  • brushing
  • heat styling
  • regular towels
  • hair dye

What you can do:

  • use sulfate free shampoo or cowash
  • use silicone and alcohol free conditioners and styling products
  • use emollients like oils and butters
  • use moisturizing ingredients like aloe and flax seed
  • use humectants like glycerin and honey
  • finger detangle or use wide-tooth comb
  • style on wet hair
  • scrunch in styling products to enhance curl pattern
  • plop and/or diffuse to dry
  • protect your curls at night
  • deep condition often
curly girl method steps

You can use CurlsBot to look for curly girl method approved products. I also have a post affordable and clean curly girl method approved products and another on my favorite curly girl approved products for fine curly hair.

Curl Type

Some people place great importance on curl types to choose products. I honestly think porosity and density are more important, but I'll go over all the curl types here.

Type 2 Wavy Hair

Delilah with type 2 waves at the beginning of her curly girl start
  • 2A: has a slight wave, usually fine and thin, tousled look
  • 2B: straight at the roots with an s shape, frizz at the crown
  • 2C: more defined waves that start at the roots, more frizz

Type 3 Curls

Delilah's type 3 curls
  • 3A: big, loose curls and spirals, well defined s shape, the circumference of sidewalk chalk
  • 3B: tighter curls, the circumference of a sharpie, has more volume
  • 3C: tightly packed corkscrews, the circumference of a straw

Type 4 Coils

Women with type 4 coily hair
  • 4A: dense and springy coils, wiry or fine
  • 4B: more z like shape than curls or coils, strands range from fine to coarse
  • 4C: less definition and more shrinkage than 4B, very delicate

So those are all the curl types.

I have 2b, 2c, and 3a waves and curls. I used to be all 2b but it got curlier over time.

That is not always the case but it does often change throughout life, which is one reason I think curl type is not as important as people make it out to be.

what is the curly girl method

Hair Porosity

More important than curl type is porosity.

You should be choosing your products depending on how your hair behaves as this will tell you what it needs.

Porosity has to do with how your hair absorbs and retains moisture. If it easily absorbs water, it's likely high porosity. If it takes long to absorb water, it's likely low porosity.

I have a full guide on hair porosity which I recommend you read and find out what yours is.

Simple Curlies & Wavies facebook group

Hair Density

Another thing to consider is density, or how much hair you have.

If you have low-density hair as I do, you do not want to weigh your hair down. High density will have the opposite problem.

My scalp shows very easily so I sacrifice definition on top and avoid any product, even conditioner near my scalp. I want it to be fluffier there to hide my scalp.

Along with my hair being high porosity, it's very important for me to choose very lightweight products so I can have volume and definition.

Basics Steps to the Curly Girl Method

1. Cleanse with sulfate free shampoo or co-wash.

2. Condition with silicone free conditioner and use a leave-in conditioner.

3. Apply silicone free styling products to soaking wet hair and scrunch up to encourage curl formation.

4. Use a microfiber hair towel or cotton t-shirt to squish the water out of your hair.

5. Don't touch your hair and let it dry into a hard cast.

6. Scrunch out the cast for soft defined curls.

How to follow the Curly Girl Method

1. Cleanse

Depending on what your hair and scalp needs, you can wash with a co-wash, low-poo, or clarifying shampoo that is free of sulfates and non-water soluble silicones.

When you first start, you will need to do what is called a final wash. This is the last wash you will do with sulfates to remove all the buildup and silicones in the hair to start fresh.

2. Condition

Again, depending on how much moisture your hair needs is the type of conditioner you will use. If your hair is really dry you'll need a thicker, heavier conditioner than others.

There is also leave-in conditioner, which most will need. Leave-in provides the lasting moisture in waves and curls to prevent frizzing and encourage the curl.

Deep conditioning is very important as well. You'll need to deep condition on a regular basis, and more often if your hair is damaged from coloring and heat styling.

This post helps curly girl method beginners choose the right products.

I also have a post on affordable and clean curly girl method approved products and another on my favorite curly girl approved products for thin curly hair.

curly girl method products EVOLVh brand line

3. Style

This is the trickiest part. There are so many styling methods and products.

  • Apply styling products to wet hair before drying. There are different ways to apply like scrunching it in, raking it in, smoothing it over, etc. Try different methods.
  • You can use curl creams, custards, mousse, and/or gel. Make sure to not touch your hair at all while it is drying. You want it to dry hard and crunchy, then you can scrunch out the crunchy hard cast to get soft curls. Read affordable and clean curly girl method approved products and curly girl approved products for thin curly hair to see my top picks for curly girl approved products.

4. Dry

5. Maintain

  • Try out a silk pillowcase or hair buff to help your style last longer and prevent tangles and frizz.
  • Refresh the next day with a little water and product to reactivate your style.
  • Keep a schedule to ensure a balanced routine. Clarify and deep condition regularly!

If you want help with embracing your naturally wavy or curly hair, you can join my FREE email course and download my FREE pdf guide, THE QUICK START GUIDE TO MASTERING YOUR CURLS, full of everything you need to know to get started and bring out your beautiful waves and curls.

I recommend you find a blogger with similar hair to yours, not the hair you want but the hair you actually have, and try out their methods and products to see what works for your hair. It will take lots of experimenting so be patient.

The Curly Girl Method for Wavy Hair

When applying the CG Method for wavy hair you just need to make a few tweaks.

  1. You will need to use a low-poo and clarifying shampoo more often than curly types. Some wavies don't ever co-wash (myself included).
  2. Deep condition less often.
  3. Use more water during the styling process to get good clumps.
  4. Use lighter products and sometimes even less product. Check out my post on products for fine curly and wavy hair.
  5. Use a diffuser to help with volume and for tighter curl pattern.
  6. Understand that your hair may never be curly and might stay wavy and learn to embrace how beautiful your waves are.

You can follow some amazing wavy haired ladies who follow the curly girl method like Real Life + Curly Girl, GoodGravyItsWavy, and TheJoyfulWavy for more tips and tricks.

You might also be interested in my affordable monthly membership which houses all my online curly hair courses, Fabulous Curls Academy. This program will guide you through creating a simple routine that gives you fabulous results. Learn what your hair type is, which products and ingredients will work for you, and how to style according to your hair type by creating a simple routine that works. No more confusion about products or methods or battling frizz and time. Click here for more info.

Delilah Orpi shows budget nontoxic products to try when using curly girl method

Curly Girl Method Tips

I want to offer some advice:

Keep it simple and focus on what matters. Don't let yourself be overwhelmed.     

Confucius

I see women get so overwhelmed and frustrated with this method. The whole point of going to your natural hair is simplicity. Back to basics. No more being a slave to the flat iron.

This process takes a long time. You have likely been mistreating your hair for many years so you have to be realistic about how long it will take to bring back your waves and curls.

Yes, in the beginning, you will need to experiment with products and methods, and that will take time. But you don't need to spend hours on your hair for this to work. You don't need to apply 8 different products for this to work.

You don't need to try everything you see others doing!

Stick to the basics. Get a good cleanser, conditioner, and styler and go from there. If you still have a lot of frizz, then troubleshoot with more or less product, different ingredients, and different styling techniques. I have a post all about frizz which can help as well.

The most crucial part of success with this method is to master the application process, not the actual products. Once you figure out how to best apply the products to your hair, you can have success with almost any product line.

But know that frizz is a part of having curly hair. It will never completely go away. So embrace what you have and work with it.

Whether it's wavy or curly, voluminous, or flat, just enhance it. You can't change what you have and force it to be something else.

Overall, don't let others overwhelm you!

FAQs About The Curly Girl Method

How long does it take for the curly girl method to work?

Results really vary for everyone and depend on so many variables like how damaged your hair is and how long you've been working against your natural texture. Most people will see some progress within a few weeks or months. Give yourself about three months on the curly girl method to see how it works for. Don't forget to track your journey so you can really see the progress.

Does the curly girl method work for everyone?

No, it doesn't. The curly girl method is a way to bring back the health of your hair so that your natural curl is enhanced. Therefore, it will work on any textured hair, wavy or curly. But that doesn't mean it will take your 2A waves to 3A curls. Everyone's curl pattern is different and your hair may always be 2A, but with the curly girl method, it will be healthier, more defined, and easier to manage.

Can you brush your hair with curly girl method?

Technically no you can't brush your hair. But many people following the curly girl method do brush with a detangling brush like the Denman or Wet Brush. This is only done during the conditioning and styling steps, when your hair is wet and full of products that make detangling easier and cause less damage to your hair.

How do you sleep with curly hair?

Many with curly hair will put their hair up into a curly girl pineapple style and use a silk pillowcase or hair buff to prevent tangles and frizz. Check out this post all about sleeping with curly hair.

How often do you wash your hair with curly girl method?

According to the Curly Girl Handbook, Massey says you should only wash your hair about once a week. But many will wash more often, and as long as you're using curly girl approved cleansers which are very mild, you can wash as often as you need to.

Can you use shampoo with the curly girl method?

Yes, you can. Although the original Curly Girl Handbook talks about cowashing, this was back when sulfate free shampoo wasn't easy to find. Now you can find many sulfate free shampoos, which are considered low poo and are curly girl approved.

Delilah with hand in hair pushing 3a curls forward curly girl method

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media, as it helps me grow my audience and spread the word about the curly girl movement! And remember to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and Instagram for more curly hair tips and product recommendations. Thanks!

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Want to remember this? Save A Basic Guide to the Curly Girl Method to your favorite Pinterest board!

curly girl method guide for beginners
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Facebook group simple curlies and wavies

Curl Coaching

I now also offer Curl & Clean Beauty Coaching sessions virtually! You can book a 15-minute, 30-minute, or 45-minute session with me to help you solve your curly hair or clean beauty struggles. Click here to learn more.

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12 Comments

  1. Hi Delilah!

    Thanks so much for creating great content on the CGM! I am thinking about starting the method myself, but I’m really particular about ingredients in products… even some of the ‘clean’ ones you’ve listed I won’t use based on their higher reading on the Environmental Working Group’s (www.ewg.org) analysis. That said, are you familiar with Carina Organics? I’m currently using their shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, and hair spray. I’d love to know your thoughts on those products and if they are CGM approved. From what I can tell, they are but I may need to add in a product with protein in it. I also use a homemade hair curling cream from a local, MN-based company (www.modernroots.org), which I believe contains silk aminos and could get me the protein I may need. Thanks so much for your help, I really appreciate it!

    1. Hi Danielle! Thanks 🙂 I have heard of this brand but haven’t tried them yet. I just had a quick look and it looks like they are CGM approved. That curl cream does have protein so you should be good with that.

      1. You’re awesome, thanks so much for your reply and insight! I’m sure I’ll be back here often with more questions. 🙂 I know you have so many wonderful resources, including your guides, but would you also recommend reading the CGM book by the founder? Thanks again!

        1. Hi Danielle! I always think it’s a good idea to get information straight from the source but I don’t think it’s necessary if you have consumed most of my content. I recommend you check it out from the library or snag it when it’s free on Kindle.

          1. Thanks so much, I’ll do that! Thank you again for all of your content and your speedy replies — it’s SO appreciated! 🙂

            Day 3 of CGM today… lots of frizz, but I also worked out yesterday , and I sweat easily. Hoping to only wash 2-3 days per week. Any really clean brands you’d recommend starting out with? I’m staring to run low on what I currently have used (that I told you about above) I was looking at Inahsi, RAW Curls, The Innate Life, and Innersense per your recommendations and them being pretty dang clean. I am in need of a deep conditioner, leave-in, and then a styling cream, custard, and / or gel.

            I’m currently using Carina Organics Citrus Shampoo and Conditioner… wondering if citrus essential oils could be too drying to my hair, contributing to frizz. Any experience with that? I still have A LOT to go through, but will switch it up if you think that’s a no-go.

            Thanks again!

          2. Hi Danielle. Have you checked if glycerin is in the tops 5 ingredients of your styling products? That can cause frizz in certain conditions. If they have glycerin I would try a product without it in the top 5 ingredients and see if it makes a difference. I don’t think the essential oils would be causing frizz. As far as new products, any of those would be great. I LOVE MopTop and it seems to be really popular. It does have glycerin as the second ingredient of their custard but my hair loves glycerin. Raw Curls and Innersense have a bit of a learning curve to them but they are great.

  2. I have curly hair (Caucasian 2C/3A), not that thick because it’s layered short. I would like to start the cgm because my hair is way less curly than it used to be. I currently wash my hair everyday with shampoo and conditioner. How often should I be cleansing my hair with shampoo and how often should I be washing it with conditioner? I read somewhere else that I should shampoo once every 10 days and I should condition one a week. Do I just wash with water on the other days or do I avoid getting my hair wet all together on non-wash days? Also, for the t-shirt plopping. Do I just use the t-shirt to scrunch it dry and that’s it or do I wrap my hair up in the t-shirt too?

    1. Hi Emily. People seem to have all these rules about how often to wash but if you’re using gentle products it doesn’t matter if you wash every day or once every week. I would not worry about this at all. Wash with a low poo shampoo as often as you’d like. If you want to can alternate with a cowash on some wash days instead of low poo. Cowash is much more moisturizing and a lot less cleansing. To plop you can do either of the methods you mentioned. I prefer to just scrunch but my hair dries quickly.

  3. Hello! I feel like I have 2A hair. I didn’t see a lot of content on this hair type specifically and which products would be best. I have wavy hair that’s also fine and thin and curls up well with a diffuser, but I’ve been wearing it straight for so long and coloring it that it’s very damaged and the ends are frizzy. I also have a shoulder length bob hairstyle so I feel like when I wear it curly the ends just look all frizzed up from the damage. Any tips on the type of products I should use for 2A hair and how to combat damaged ends while transitioning to wearing it curly? Thanks!

  4. I am returning to the Curly Girl Method after nine years of wearing my wavy hair in a pixie cut; Covid prompted me to grow my hair and since I am now about 40% gray, I am excited to see how it will look. I first read Lorraine Massey’s book in 2003, so you can imagine how much has changed and how overwhelmed I am coming back to it! This is a great post, but before I run off to check out all the links, I wanted to suggest that you define some of the jargon here so it can truly be a beginner’s guide. For example, co-wash, buff and plop. Co-wash is in Massey’s original book but “buff” and “plop” are new to us old timers, and of course to true newbies as well.

    Thanks for the great content; looking forward to following!

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