Friday, July 6, 2012

The Curly Girl Method (for Wavy Hair!)

No blow dryer. No curling iron. Pretty cool, right?
I used to have cute hair every day. This was after washing, conditioning, product-ing, blow-drying, and flat-ironing it into submission several times a week. These were times in which I also wore stilettos and slept in on the weekends and drank my coffee uninterrupted.

Then I had children. Cute hair became an impossible dream. (So did the stilettos and the luxurious coffee drinking.)

As it turns out, without all those appliances, my hair is a giant frizz ball that's neither straight, wavy OR curly...just messy. And big. And a giant pain in the ass.

After four years of mom-hood (and a lot of bad hair days) and three decades of fighting against my hair's natural state, I decided to take control. I stumbled onto the Curly Girl Method by admiring a fellow blogger's photo on Instagram and started obsessively Googling "curly girl hair." Created by Lorraine Massey, this technique for dealing with naturally curly and wavy hair has a serious cult following. I decided to give it a try. Because there was quite a learning curve and I knew from my research that an adjustment period was often necessary, I held off on writing about it until I had real results to report.

I've experimented, made giant steps forward, made even more giant steps back, taken a bazillion self-portraits of the back of my head, been complimented by strangers, and once or twice had to take an emergency shower before I could leave the house. I've tried dozens of products, annoyed my long-suffering husband, and trolled through countless internet chat rooms devoted just to curly hair.

I've been waiting six weeks to write this post and I'm very excited to finally share the results of my latest beauty experiment with you. The fact that I've stuck with a hair "method" this long is a miracle in and of itself...but the results have been pretty awesome, too! So awesome, in fact, that people have been commenting on how nice my hair looks. Which never, ever happens.

At long last, I adapted Curly Girl Method for Wavy Hair!

The Basics

- No sulfates
- No silicones (basically any ingredient with "cone" at the end)
- Shampoo as infrequently as possible, using only non-sulfate shampoo
- Lots of conditioner
- No terry cloth towels (I switched to a microfiber hair towel, but J's T-shirts work just as well and he has a bazillion of them)

If you're tempted to try the Curly Girl method, I highly encourage you to:

a) Try a LOT of variations on the system until you find what works for you and your hair
b) Stick with it! You'll thank me at the end. I promise.

Below is what's working for me based on my specific hair type and the culmination of TONS of trial and error...

Before you start: 

1) Establish your hair type. I have wavy hair that takes a curl easily, but ONLY from the tops of my ears down. The hair on the very top of my head is straight. Which meant the traditional Curly Girl techniques of once-a-week shampoos and conditioner washing, as well as using conditioner and product on my scalp, turned out to be hide-hair-under-hat-worthy disasters.

2) Get a hair cut. Even if it's only a trim. I've got long hair, but freshening the layers and getting rid of dead ends went a long way toward perfecting my end result.

3) Experiment with products. My full list appears below; read online reviews and talk to your local beauty supply store to get suggestions. Everyone's hair has different needs, and finding products that are a good fit makes all the difference.

4) UPDATED: Wash your hair one last time with a sulfate shampoo to get rid of any residue and build up from your old routine. I used Neutrogena Shampoo Anti-Residue Formula because that's what I had in the house, but anything that won't add extra build-up should work fine.

The Routine

In the shower: Three days a week (or so) I scalp-wash only. First I get my whole head wet, then gently massage my scalp with my fingertips to loosen dirt and oil. Then, using a teaspoon or so of sulfate-free shampoo mixed with a lot of water, I wash just the top part of my scalp (along my part  and back towards the crown.) I rinse with hot water, then apply a fistful of conditioner to the ends of my hair (everything below my ears.) I leave the conditioner in while I wash my body and shave my legs, then comb it through and wash it out using first warm rinse, then a cool one (Curly Girl devotees swear by this. I'm not sure why but I'm doing it anyway...)

Out of the shower: I wrap my head turban-style in a microfiber towel or one of J's t-shirts. I try to rub as little as possible. The towel absorbs the water while I get dressed and do my makeup. Then I comb through once with a wide tooth comb, and apply product (again, only from my ears down.) I make sure the part is where I want it and do a little light scrunching, then leave it alone while it air dries.

On off days: If it's a no-shampoo day but I've worked out or have kid-related messes to scrub off, I shower and rinse my hair with water only, then apply conditioner and repeat steps as above. 

Once a week: Full shampoo. Though to be honest, unless we've been to the beach or the pool, I've been doing this less and less. My results are just so much better when I scalp-wash only...

This may sound labor-intensive, but it's actually super easy and fast. It's shaved so much time off my morning routine, and getting ready for meetings or nights out has never been easier. I'm definitely a believer in the Curly Girl Method for my wavy glad I stuck with it.

The Products

Shampoo & Conditioner: I've got two current favorites; one pair is high end and the other is by my heroes at Trader Joe's. Both are sulfate and paraben free and I get great results. The Alterna shampoo is foamier (which is key if you're missing your sulfates, which are foaming agents.) The Trader Joe's has the added benefit of protecting me from the neverending lice issue that plagues E's preschool (shudder.)

Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo and Conditioner
I love this stuff. It smells great (very invigorating, so probably not the best choice for a relaxing nighttime shower) and leaves my hair light and soft. Note: I've included the Amazon link here for those poor souls without access to Trader Joe's, but it's $3.99 a bottle at TJs so buy it there if you can!
ALTERNA BAMBOO Smooth Anti-Frizz Shampoo and Conditioner
I use these less frequently but love the smooth results. This formula is richer so it's my go-to choice for full shampoo days and also when my hair needs a little extra TLC from sun, salt water, etc. For this one, definitely DO buy it on Amazon, it's almost ten dollars cheaper there than it is from beauty supply stores.

Styling Products: I need a little (OK, a lot) of help getting my waves to be wavy (I think they call this definition) and also with de-frizzing. Ditching silicones was hard for this reason, but I found some good products that do the job without weighing down my hair with all that silicone build-up:

Bouncy Creme
I've loved this stuff forever: it's cheap and it WORKS to give my hair soft, defined waves without looking goopy or frizzy. I was so excited when I read the ingredients and found out it was Curly Girl approved and silicone free! I usually add a drop or two of...
Beautiful Curls Shining Curl Oil
...which is great for smoothing fuzzy strays and helps combat dryness on the ends of my hair. J is making fun of me for using this product, which I found at Whole Foods, because it has neem oil as a major ingredient. Neem oil being the same thing he's using to de-bug our garden without using pesticides. Leading to several unfunny jokes about not washing my hair causing bug problems that require the use of organic pesticide.
Note: The Curly Girl method DOES NOT CAUSE BUG PROBLEMS. 
L'Oreal Paris Studio Line Out of Bed Texturizer
J likes this stuff so much he's starting using it instead of his usual Bumble & Bumble products. It's cheap, silicone-free and it works: great hold and definition, though it creates more of a beach-wave result (with a matte effect) than the Bouncy Creme does. I especially like this product on days when I work out or go to yoga, because it's great for using when I've skipped shampoo entirely (the extra oil in my hair balances out the matte texture.)
Moroccan Oil Curl Control Cream
This one comes with a disclaimer: it contains a small amount of light silicone (dimethicone) which is technically against the Curly Girl rules. I haven't found it to be problematic, though I do try to use it right before a full shampoo day to minimize buildup. It smells amazing and creates great, full waves. Plus it makes me feel better about having to give up my beloved Morrocan Hair Oil for this experiment, which turned out to be full of silicones. Sigh.

UPDATED: For when the ends get a little dry (usually on off days) I dab a little MOP Glisten High Shine Pomade on my fingers and rub them over the ends. Another product (my all-time miracle cream which I use for everything and could NOT live without) that works for this purpose is Egyptian Magic Cream. (I still owe you a post about how much I love this stuff! Soon...)

Last but not least, there's the Microfiber Hair Towel I've been using, which is by no means a necessity if your husband, like mine, hoards T-shirts dating back to the early 80s. Once I committed to the method, though, I treated myself to this waffle-weave hair towel and I love using it--it wraps into a neat, firm turban and holds my hair in place while I do the rest of my morning routine.

So...that's it. Hope this answers everyone's questions about my recent hair transformation. If you've got curly or wavy hair, I urge you to give the Curly Girl method a try. It's seriously life-changing once you figure out an adaptation that works for your hair.

Have you experimented with the Curly Girl method before? If so, please comment below and tell me what methods and products work for you...I'm always looking to try new things!

Disclosure: I have no affiliation with The Curly Girl Method or any of the products listed here. This beauty experiment was all my own, as are the opinions. The Amazon links, as always, are affiliate links. 


  1. OK, my hair? Totally wavy...and I spend toooo much time drying the hell out of it each morning and then curling it. Then repeating the next day.

    Are you seriously telling me this might work? Your hair looks amazing, by the way!

    1. Sherri, you have to try it! Really. It works. (and thank you!) Confession: I have really photogenic hair. It may or may not look that good in person ;)

    2. Fifty plus years of VERY thick, VERY wavy hair.

      Try shapooing and conditioning in the shower as usual, THEN comb through hair with a wide tooth comb with conditioner still in it. It is much easier and less damaging. Rinse and use tshirt or microfiber towel just to blot water. Turban method works well while you dress/makeup or whatever.

      Take down hair.
      use FINGERS ONLY to shape/hair band/side combs/ barette/ bobby pin out of eyes/or just shape around face.
      I use either Garnier strong curl gel or Redken curl definer. scrunch through hair.
      Air dry. Really. curls will coil and stay shiny.

      At 52 I have men and and women ask me if I use clip in hair peices to thicken it or get permantnts.

      Oh, and never brush it. You can actually just finger comb it dry the next day and spray with clear water to freshen it.

  2. I want to be jealous of your fab hair, and I am on some level, but I'm insanely jealous of the fact that you go to littles won't stand for it ;)

    1. With all the work on the proposal recently I haven't actually been in weeks...but for my sanity I've been trying to get there twice a week if it kills me :)

  3. The reason cold water rinsing works better is because cold constricts the hair (which opens up with heat) ad keeps moisture in.
    Dork moment over.

    1. Love that you know this and love you more for sharing. Thank you! xoxo

  4. I will read this entire post when I can get over your extraordinary, natural beauty which has totally distracted me... love, your geeky, proud aunt in TO.

  5. Neat-o! Glad you found something that feels right and makes you comfortable!

  6. I love this! I actually have pretty curly hair, but after a bad highlight job it's been so dry and not so curly, and I chopped it all off to get most of the color out. My hair girl also told me that your hair can continue to change up to 2 years after having a child, and my youngest is -- yup -- 2. She thinks I'm dreaming to think my curls will come back when the bad hair is gone, but I'm holding strong and going to try these tips!

    PS I love the Moroccan Oil curl cream. It smells amazing!

    1. My hair was much better behaved when I was pregnant with Baby N...I was SO hoping it would stay that way, but all the frizzy stuff came back when I was done breastfeeding. Sigh. Try works!

  7. Your hair does look fantastic. I'm slightly jealous. I completely stopped using traditional shampoo and went to some natural shampoos (I suppose they are similar to what you are using) but I gave up conditioner. I use only a tbsp of red cider vinegar and cup of water for my rinse. It makes my hair so less frizzy and pretty curly too. Either way, I'm too lazy to even be a product girl. Keep rocking Jenny!

    1. Wow, really? I'm intrigued. I don't think this method (being as conditioner-dependent as it is) would work but I want to know more! Does it dry out your hair? You know I love my products...;)

  8. Jenny! Your hair looks fabulous! And I'm so so very impressed with your dedication to this process!

    {Do I dare admit how lazy I am when it comes to this stuff? Ahem.}

    Lookin' good, girlfriend!


    1. Thank so much, my sweet friend...I'm actually pretty impressed with myself :) I never stick with stuff like this! But the low-maintenance approach means more sleep in the AMs, so... xoxo

  9. If this advice does something to help my hair with its multiple personality disorder, you will become a superhero in my eyes!!!!

  10. Nicole, I have multiple personality disorder hair, too! It's straight on top and I *think* it wants to be curly on the bottom. This makes it look a little less insane. Try it! And let me know what happens!

  11. I went to a Devachan (Curly Girl Method) Salon 2 weeks ago and have been trying to find the best method for my wavy hair. The wash/condition method seems to work, yet is taking some time to get used to. The styling method is good, though I'm having trouble with second day hair frizzies when I don't want to wet it. I've tried spritzing with water to reactivate product, but no go. What to do without silicones!? Suggestions?! Another note -- I do love Bouncy Cream too! I've been using it for years and am happy to know it's Curly Girl approved too. I will try your combo with Beautiful Curls Oil. I did buy a Devachan gel, which I'm still on the fence about. It may be a bit much for my waves. Next wash will be back to Bouncy Cream for styling. We'll see...

  12. Thanks for the tips. This post gave me the push I needed to go curly again

  13. I gotta try this. You may be the only person in the world that appears to have the same hair as I do. Thanks!

  14. Hi! Your hair looks great! I have been doing Curly Girl for about 5 weeks now and I love it! I have been having a lot of trouble with tangles though. In between washing when you aren't supposed to comb my hair gets so tangled! Have you had any problems with this? How did you combat it if so?

  15. Hi! Your hair looks great! I have been doing Curly Girl for about 5 weeks now and I love it! I have been having a lot of trouble with tangles though. In between washing when you aren't supposed to comb my hair gets so tangled! Have you had any problems with this? How did you combat it if so?

  16. This is a great post! I love the Beautiful Curls oil and the shampoo, too. I need to try the Egyptian styling creme. Thanks for the nice words about my IG pic. Your hair looks amazing!

  17. My top layer of hair is straight (possibly from years of straightening?) and beneath is VERY wavy...will this work for me? SO sick of the morning routine!

  18. It is very encouraging to find one with wavy hair (besides super curly) who has achieved good results from the curly hair method.

    Thank You!

  19. OMG your hair sounds just like mine! I have to try this out! I'm praying that it works...I've tried everything!

  20. I now have 3 kids and am desperate to stop having nasty hair pulled back in a pony tail, but still keep it long to please my husband. It sounds like my hair is similar to yours in most ways, but my hair is oily. Any advice for that? By the next morning my hair is always so greasy. I know washing with water won't cut it and if I put a lot of product in, it always seems to migrate to my scalp making it more greasy. Any tips?

  21. Thank you for sharing your wonderful tips. I am starting to use the no shampoo methond and any advice is welcomed.

  22. You have beautiful hair.

    I'm dealing with much the same kind of hair as you are, and have found a nice medium "curly girl" method to bring out my waves but control tangles. I find the most important part to be never, ever to shampoo my ends except when they need clarifying and not use too heavy silicones.

  23. Thanks for your post - am hoping it works! Have been straightening for years and actually tried CG method (with plopping, etc) and actually got too much curl. Have been looking for products/methods to just get beautiful waves like yours!

    A couple questions:
    1) How thick is your hair? Mine takes FOREVER to air dry. Just wondering if yours takes a while or have any tips for speeding that up?

    2) You listed a few different styling products. Just curious which ones you use together, what order, when, etc? I'm a details person. Am excited to try them! Hoping to finally find the right ones - I feel like I could open up a beauty store with all the almost full styling products I have!


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  25. I am writing to say WOW. THANKS.

    My fine but not thin (mercifully) naturally-moderately wavy hair has slowly evolved over a number of years into a substance that- whether you had it blown dry smooth or tried to curl it- would end up in straightish clumps of frizz like you'd see hanging from a tree.

    No more diffusers and scrunching or it looked Halloween-witchy whereas before it looked full, curly and cute with a diffuser. I have tried cut after styling technique after shampoo ad nauseum and it would react the same. It was embarrassing and so depressing.

    After a month of following your recommendations, my hair is starting to feel soft and more like its old self.

    I so appreciate your "abridged" take on the CG method, especially good for those whose hair is similar to yours, and your product recommendations. I am now using the Trader Joe's products.

    I discovered my hair was so dry that i left the conditioner on my hair all day twice, and my hair absorbed it all. It was so dry and i didn't realize it.

    Do you have any recommendations for hair treatments to leave in for hours? I wasn't so sure that leaving the trader joe's conditioner in all day was a great idea but had no idea what else to do for my parched hair.

    Thanks again!!!!!

    1. i have a hard time commenting on blogs because of the identity thing, not being a blogger myself- sorry about all the deleted comments- (ugh! blog dummy) and i can't remove my deleted comments from here as a screw up various things- embarrassed, but i'll live it down.

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. Just started the CG method. Mine is much curlier, and the biggest difference I do is appying product while my hair is still super wet. I've already had a microfibre towel and satin pillowcase for years. I live in Florida, and people say I must really like my curly hair to work with it in this weather, but I do so much LESS work than my girls who wash, condition, flat iron and spray each day!

  28. I LOVE THIS! My hair is always straight, limp, and boring… I wish I would’ve seen this first because I think I tried 1,000 things before I finally found something that worked for me. I’m still going to try this though! If you’re interested in trying out what worked for me you can get the instructions here and tell me what you think! xoxo, WearToStandOut

  29. Very impressed with your hair Jenny, it looks gorgeous!

    I am just wondering about two products you're using - wax and pomade. How do you apply them and what's the difference between them?

  30. Wow! I got tired of reading so much detail, but I realize that for a hair as messy as mine, something like this is what is required. I believe my hair is a little bit different than yours. Mine is relatively straight all the way down, but only on the top. I have TONS of hair, and my hair under is not nice wavy, it is freezy wavy. It has been like that for years.
    I used to straighten it out with a brazilian technique, but now I am breastfeeding so I havent been able to do so for more than a year. A disaster!!! And I realized I want my original hair back, and preefer to figure out what to do with it insteady of applying heavy chemicals.
    My question for you is, how do you cut your hair? Is there something secret about it, or is it more about styling? You mention layers... how much layers is it ok?
    Thanks for your insights!!!
    PS. Anonymous because I am lazy to open an account

  31. Just like you, I have long curly hair that tends to dry-out and frizz. I used the Shielo Restoration OIl (applied to wet hair) helps retain the natural curl while adding deep shine and hydration. I have used Shielo's Oil daily for 6 weeks...and my hair looks so healthy!

  32. The curly girl works particularly for me being a black girl. My hair now has the most amazing definition. I share my experience on www.blackcurlygirlmethod.comThanks for your post. Very helpful indeed.

  33. For me the curly girl method has been amazing being a black girl.

    I have shared my experience on

  34. Hi!
    Im new to curly girl and my hair is also wavy. You blog is a lifesaver for me because you've tried some of the same things I did,like gels and mousses and come to the same conclusions. They did curl my waves but my hair done was way too heavy and " producty". I ordered bouncy and am going to give that a go! Right now I am just scrunching in some leave in and my hair is very soft with a few waves and much less frizzy than the gel. Its also nice to read that you occasionally straighten your hair. I love hot rollers and I'm sure I'll go back to them in the fall when the humidity drops. Thanks for the great info!

  35. One quick much bouncy do you use?

  36. i have oily< can Wash my hair one last time with a sulfate shampoo to get rid of any residue and build up from my old routine.

  37. The alterna bamboo antifrizz conditioner has dimethicone in it. Is it still a good choice in that case?

  38. it looks gorgeous! Thanks for sharing nice pics :)

  39. Thank you so much for sharing! Your waves look stunning! Can you do a specific reviews on curly oil only, please?

  40. Thanks for sharing your tips! Can you recommend some bouncy cream brands?

  41. I have very similar hair to you and have a hair washing routine that is much the same. My trick for getting really nice curls is flipping my hair over in the shower (last step) and washing out the conditioner by running my fingers through my hair. I then scrunch and squeeze the water out as best I can while keeping the curls in shape. I then I apply do a quick dab with my towel before applying the product. I diffuse my hair without combing it and the ringlets/curls will be in great shape. I then apply some oil to the tips and lastly use my hands to shake the curls apart starting at my scalp. It works like a charm! Also a "reverse triangle" haircut is the best shape for waves/curls. :)

  42. For those who were wondering, the cool water rinse seals the hair follicle, leaving the hair silky, shiny, and more frizz resistant.

  43. Hi!
    I'm a 2C-3A curl type. I only got acquainted with the curly girl method back in December. Doing it has given me lovely curl definition, zero frizz and almost zero breakage. I've modified the method a little though to suit my convenience. I'm very much keeping silicones since I need them for detangling and I love the soft smooth feel they impart to my curls. There are only 2 silicone-free conditioners I know of out here in India that have good slip. I shampoo just once a month. Every other day I finger detangle my hair with conditioner, squish to condish, scrunch in my leave-ins and let my hair air dry on its own sweet time. I truly believe curly hair care is mostly about using hydrating products and ❤️SCRUNCHING❤️.

  44. Hi, this is a very nice blog. Your method for wavy curly hair is very interesting blog. I really like it and appreciate also. keep sharing more post like this. Thank you so much for sharing this post.

    deep curly hair