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How to Follow the Curly Girl Method for Curly Hair

Three Methods:Prepping Your Hair for the Curly Girl MethodStarting Your New Curly Girl RoutineMaintaining Healthy Curls

Do you suffer from curly hair that's dry, damaged, frizzy, or uncontrollable? Are you open to trying something new? The curly girl method (also referred to as "no-poo") is based on the book "Curly Girl" by Lorraine Massey. The nickname "no-poo" alludes to not using a sulfate shampoo, because sulfates tend to strip the hair of its natural oils. Once you take away the sulfates, your hair can retain its natural moisture.

This article contains basic guidelines for following the main rules of the curly girl method (no silicones, no sulfates/shampoo, no heat) as well as how to follow a good routine for curly hair to maximize your curls' potential. Like many beauty regimens, the results will vary from person to person, but this method just might work for you. So, say good-bye to the frizz and split ends and hello to soft, healthy curls!

Method 1
Prepping Your Hair for the Curly Girl Method

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    Clarify with a shampoo (for the last time) before beginning. This will cleanse your hair of any silicones – ingredients in some hair products that are not water soluble (see the Warnings section below). You do not have to buy a new shampoo for this step, just use something lying around the house. Sulfate containing and sulfate free shampoos will both work to remove most silicones.[1] But to be safe, it's best to use a sulfate containing shampoo for your last wash.
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    Throw out your shampoo! Most shampoos contain harsh, drying sulfates that are extremely damaging for curly hair (ammonium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, etc.). These common detergents found in shampoos make curly hair frizzy and uncooperative.[2] Conditioner can be used sufficiently to clean the hair in a much more gentle manner. If you cannot let go of shampoo, use a more gentle shampoo that contains mild cleansers (i.e. cocamidopropyl betaine or coco betaine).
    • "You'd never dream of washing a good sweater with detergent. Yet most shampoos contain harsh detergents (sodium lauryl sulfate or laureth sulfate) that one also finds in dish washing liquid. They're great for pots and pans because they cut grease so effectively. Your hair, on the other hand, needs to retain some natural oils, which protect your hair and scalp. Stripping them away deprives the hair of necessary moisture and amino acids and makes it look dry and dull." - Lorraine Massey
    • To the bottom is an image of a shampoo and a bottle of dish detergent. Above, the same sulfate is circled in their ingredients list.
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    Buy silicone free conditioners and styling products. You will probably want a conditioner for washing your scalp, a thick moisturizing conditioner to moisturize the length of your hair, and a conditioner to leave in during the day. You can use the same conditioner or different ones. You will also want any serums, gels, or mousses, but keep in mind these all need to be free of silicones. (You may also want a sulfate free shampoo if you spend a lot of time in chlorine.) For more information about getting the right ingredients check out the tips section or read How to Determine if a Hair Product is Curly Girl Approved.
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    Have your hair trimmed. This will get rid of any damage or split ends. If you don't want to visit a hair salon you can always trim your own, of course.

Method 2
Starting Your New Curly Girl Routine

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    Wash your scalp with conditioner (conditioner washing). Begin your routine by wetting your hair in the shower. Distribute conditioner on your entire scalp and massage your scalp with the tips of your fingers (not your fingernails). This rubbing action and the resulting friction will loosen dirt, product residue, and dandruff which can then be rinsed away. (Be sure to avoid silicone in your hair products, see the Warnings.) Thoroughly rinse your scalp afterwards, still massaging with your fingertips as you do so.[3] Depending on how dry your scalp is, you can conditioner wash, once a week, twice a week, or every day.
    • "The curly-haired can leave their hair hydrated with natural oils and clean their scalps quite well by rinsing only with hair conditioner once a week or less. Rubbing the scalp firmly with fingers is enough to loosen dirt." - Lorraine Massey
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    Distribute conditioner throughout all of your hair and untangle gently. Use your hands or a wide-toothed comb. Start by untangling bottom sections of your hair and then gradually move upwards. Let the conditioner sit in your hair for five minutes or so for extra moisture.
    • You also may want to part your hair at this point with a comb. It's recommended that you part your hair to the side to prevent "triangle-shaped" hair.
    • If it is difficult to untangle your hair this way, remember to use a large quantity of conditioner when wet or you may need to trim dead ends
    • Untangling hair while dry with any tool is not a good idea; separating the curls dry just causes more frizz and lots of damage.
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    Do the final rinse of your hair with cool or cold water. This will decrease frizz and add shine. Leave some conditioner in your hair, especially in dry sections like the ends. It's fine to run your fingers through your hair gently, but do not comb your hair after this point.
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    Apply products to your hair. Do this while your hair is soaking wet if you have curlier hair, but wait five minutes or so if you have medium to wavy curly hair. Put product in your hands and rub them together to emulsify. Then, smooth or rake the product into your hair by sections. A common method is to begin with a leave-in cream or conditioner to decrease frizz and then follow with a gel or mousse for hold and definition. (Using your normal conditioner as a leave-in is fine too. Some prefer curl creams or just conditioner for softer curls, however these products will not help the hair last as well for second day hair. Use whatever type and order of products you like (as long as they are silicone free). Next, finger shape the curls by scrunching them (cup your hair in the palms of your hands and scrunch in an upward motion) and/or twisting individual curls around a finger.
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    Gently scrunch your hair with a t-shirt, paper towels, or a micro-fiber towel to remove excess moisture. A generic terrycloth towel will make your hair frizzy. You may wish to finger shape your curls at this time instead. Next, wait five or so minutes so the hair can assume a permanent shape.
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    Decrease the drying time of your hair by plopping.[4] Spread an old t-shirt or micro-fiber towel onto a flat surface (such as the toilet with seat down). Bend over at the waist and position your hair in the middle of the cloth. With your head touching the cloth, drape the back section of cloth over your head. Twist the sides until they form "sausage rolls" and clip or tie them at the base of your neck. You can also use the sleeves of a long sleeve t-shirt to secure. After 15-30 minutes remove the cloth. If your hair is frizzy after plopping lightly graze the hair with gel.
    • Plopping works best for medium to long length curly hair. The curls usually become weirdly squished after plopping in shorter hair. See How to Plop Your Hair for more info as well.
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    Dry your hair. Air drying is the easiest and gentlest way to dry your hair. If you must blow dry your hair use a diffuser to avoid frizz. Only dry your hair partially (about 80 percent dry) and air-dry the rest of the way.[5]Do not touch your hair while it is drying or it will mess up and frizz. Both types of diffusers work well in terms of diffusing and decreasing frizz:
    • A bowl diffuser with fingers causes more volume and clumping (curls sticking together instead of going every which way), is bulky and heavier, and will probably only fit on the hairdryer it comes with. Place a section of hair in the bowl and press the bowl to your head. Then turn on the "warm" setting of your blow dryer. Press the cool shot if your head gets too hot.
    • A sock diffuser is lightweight, fits on any hair dryer, and is portable. Aim the diffuser at different parts of your hair while you scrunch your hair with your hands. Stop scrunching when your hair is about 50% dry.[6]

Method 3
Maintaining Healthy Curls

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    Find an experienced hairstylist. Not all hair dressers were created equal, so ask your stylist in advance if they are experienced in cutting curly hair and what products they are going to use on your hair. Unplanned haircuts can be disastrous for curly hair. If their products contains silicones, you may want to insist on bringing your own. If your hairstylist uses a razor to thin out your hair it will make your ends ratty and prone to split ends. Remember, it takes a skilled hairdresser to successfully cut layers or other haircuts in curly hair.
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    Have your hair trimmed every four to six months. A 1/2-inch or 1/4-inch trim is usually enough to get rid of split ends. Long, rounded layers are more suited to curly hair--short layers tend to stick up and look funny. Curly hair usually consists of a combination of textures, with the crown being the curliest part. For this reason it's hard to tell what dry curly hair looks like when wet – consider having your hair cut dry. Also, take into account that curly hair is much shorter when dry than wet. You may lose only two inches while wet, but that could be four or five while dry!
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    Give your hair time to adjust. It takes 2 to 6 weeks for your hair to adjust to the no shampoo and it may even look worse at first. Hair is a long-term project and it may take a couple weeks for it to regain its health after being stripped of moisture for years by shampoo.
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    Show off your glamorous, beautiful curls!


  • Different products work better for different types of curly hair. You will want to experiment and check out hair forums like for products that work for your hair type. Some high quality lines of products for curly hair are Jessicurl, Curl Junkie, Kinky Curly, and Devacurl (created in part by Lorraine Massey).
  • If your hair feels mushy, soft, and frizzy, you probably have overconditioned hair. While curly hair tends to be dry and need a lot of moisture, some products can overload hair, especially if it is fine or less dry. If your hair gets overconditioned, try clarifying with a sulfate free shampoo and using lighter conditioners and moisturizers on your hair. Make sure not to deep condition too often.
  • Check out your local health food or organic specialty store for natural hair products. A lot of the shampoos are sulfate free and products often don't contain silicones. Some good brands include Aubrey Organics, Desert Essences, Nature's Gate, TJ Nourish, Giovanni, Kinky Curly, and Jane Carter.
  • Try adding honey to your conditioner. Mix it about half and half with your conditioner, and then apply and use normally. You can leave some honey in your hair, but make sure it's not more than a drop or two – otherwise your hair will end up sticky and coated. A little honey cleanses the hair and adds moisture and shine.
  • If you think your water is "hard" or contains harmful chemicals such as chlorine or calcium carbonate you may want to invest in a showerhead filter. This is a simple way to avoid all the gunk that comes with hard water. This gunk often builds up on porous curly hair quickly and can only be removed by – you guessed it – SLS.
  • Try sleeping on a satin pillowcase to prevent breakage and frizz.
  • It can be hard to shower in the morning and style hair before work or school. Try showering the night before and then plopping (explained in step ten above) while you sleep. When you wake up your hair should be dry. Spray a little watered down gel, refreshing spray, or water on your curls, scrunch and you're good to go.
  • You can also opt for a heat-free straightening or curl-stretching method. Wash your hair the night before, wrap your hair around your head and secure it with bobby-pins and go to sleep. Result: damage-free, tangle-free hair!
  • Curly hair has different needs during different seasons. In the summer use more liquid-like products so as to not suffocate the hair. It's also helpful to leave less conditioner or leave-in cream in your hair to prevent frizzing and increase definition. It's sort of the opposite in winter. You should use heavier, creamier products and more conditioner or leave-in to combat dry, wintry air.
  • Be patient and experiment with hair products and changes to your routine. Your hair may never be perfectly frizz-free all the time, but it can get close. Visit the Sources and Citations for more suggestions and hints at helpful websites.
  • If you're having a bad time with your hair don't give up on your curls. Try cleansing with a non-sulfate shampoo to remove buildup, changing products, or how you use your current products. If you're still discouraged with your hair trying using gel to slick it back into a fancy up do, ponytail, or braid before you reach for the straightening iron. Adding cute accessories can also help.
  • Still lacking inspiration? You might consider reading the book. The full title is "Curly Girl - The Handbook A Celebration of Curls: How to cut them, care for them, love them, and set them free" and it was co-authored by Lorraine Massey with Deborah Chiel. It has hair care recipes, stories about curlies, and an explanation of curly hair care. The second edition includes a DVD as well.
  • Many curlies decide to be modified CG and toe outside of the guidelines (for example, using some silicones, straightening hair with a flat iron, clarifying with a sulfate free shampoo, etc.), because it works for them.
  • After swimming in chlorinated water use a non-sulfate shampoo such as Giovanni brand shampoos, Jessicurl Cleansing Cream, Shea Moisture Shampoos, Devacurl No-Poo, the Organix brand shampoos, or one of the home remedies in this article. These should only be used at most once a week, because they are still drying to the hair.
  • It's important to keep the amount of protein in your hair balanced. Don't use too many, but don't cut them completely out of your hair's diet. Your hair needs protein to recover from damage (which happens even if you are very gentle with your hair) and stay healthy. Instead of avoiding protein use it occasionally; a protein treatment followed by a moisturizing treatment is usually a good idea. If your hair feels brittle and frizzy, it's a sign you have too much protein in your hair's diet. Clarify with a sulfate free shampoo and cut out the products with lots of protein for awhile.
  • If you can't find a clarifying shampoo, then add 2 tablespoons of clear vinegar to a bottle of preferably clear shampoo and shake well. Use this only for your last 'poo!
  • Gels may leave your hair crunchy. When your hair is completely dry flip it over and gently scrunch your hair. This will leave you with soft, non-crunchy curls. Some people prefer the extra hold of a crunchy gel, as long as the texture can be scrunched out.
  • If you want to go two days in a row without washing your hair you can pineapple your hair the second night. Wear your hair in a high ponytail, secured with a scrunchie (cloth covered hair tie) wrapped one or two times around the hair. This will not stretch out the majority of the curls like a normal ponytail would.
  • You can use various clips and methods in your hair to increase top volume by lifting the roots. Take small sections of hair from either side of the part, criss-cross, and clip with a small claw clip. Or take some duckbill clips and clip hair as shown to the right. Also you can try washing, combing, scrunching, and/or drying your hair upside down.

  • A good moisturizing conditioner is essential. Some CG suggestions are Jessicurl Too Shea, Devacurl One Condition, Matrix Biolage Conditioning Balm, Kenra Moisturizing Conditioner, Tigi Bed Head Moisture Maniac, and Tressemme Naturals Nourishing Conditioner. You can use a cheaper, silicone-free conditioner, like Suave Naturals or Vo5, to scrub your scalp. Some good leave-in creams are L'Oreal Out of Bed Weightless Texturizer, Jessicurl Confident Curls Styling Solution, Boots Essentials Curling Cream, Joico Joiwhip Moose, and MOP-C Curl Defining Cream. Some good leave in conditioners include Giovanni Direct Leave In Conditioner, Kinky Curly Knot Today, and Curl Junkie Curl Assurance Leave-in Conditioner. Some good CG gels include the Herbal Essences gels, Eco Styler Gels, LA Looks gels, La Bella gels, Fantasia IC Hair Polisher Styling Gel, Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee, and Devacurl Angell or Arcangell, Curl Junkie Aloe Fix Gel, Kinky Curly Curling Custard, and Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper.
  • If you're dealing with puberty, only washing with conditioner may not be the best idea; make sure to clean oils off of your scalp with shampoo at least once or twice a week.
  • Never brush your hair in the shower.
  • Use a leave in conditioner.
  • Apply olive or almond oil at least thrice a week from an inch away from your roots to the ends. This helps de-frizz your hair.


  • Most people will compliment you on your lovely curls. However, some people will never appreciate your curly hair. Don't let this affect you. No matter how hard you have tried to fight it with straightening irons and hairspray, you have curly hair. Enjoy it!
  • Never comb or brush dry curly hair. Not only does it make your hair look like a poof ball, it also damages it quite a bit. Don't even run your fingers through your hair if it is any more than wavy. Instead careful pull a knot or clump of curls apart. (Of course if you prefer the afro style, go right ahead.)
  • If you normally straighten your curly hair and switch to the CG method it may seem like you are losing a lot of hair when untangling in the shower. Don't panic! It is normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day. If you are wearing your hair straight or straighten your hair it will fall out naturally and you probably won't even notice. If you wear your hair curly the hair comes out when you untangle; this is why it feels like you are losing more hair.
  • Diseases, medicines, diet changes, and high levels of stress can cause you to lose more hair than is normal.[7] So, if you do notice thinning in your hair or scalp consult with a doctor as soon as possible.
  • Many products available in drugstores or salons contain silicones. For example, all the products in this picture below, except Suave Naturals, have silicones in them. These ingredients can typically (but not always) be recognized by their names which often end in -cone, -conol, or -xane. If at all possible avoid silicone and waxes in your hair products. (This also includes mineral oil and castor oil.) Short term, silicones will make hair look sleeker and less frizzy, but in the long run it will coat the hair shaft of porous curly hair and seal out moisture, causing the hair to become straw like, less defined, and frizzy. Hence, silicones are quick fixes for frizz, but over time, they are truly damaging your hair. Shampoos get rid of silicones, but at the expense of completely stripping your hair of all of its natural oils! The solution to these problems is to eliminate both shampoo and silicones (in your conditioners and styling products). An exception to this rule: if a silicone has "PEG" in front of it, it is water-soluble and will not cause product build up. See Determine if a Hair Product is Curly Girl Approved for more details on identifying curly girl approved products .

    • Silicone compounds that are not soluble in water and build up on the hair: Cetearyl methicone, Cetyl Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Dimethiconol, Stearyl Dimethicone, Amodimethicone (and) Trideceth-12 (and) Cetrimonium Chloride, and Trimethylsilylamodimethicone. Note: Trideceth-12 and Cetrimonium Chloride are only considered a silicone when both are combined with Amodimethicone.
    • Silicone compounds that are slightly soluble in water and will build up on most types of curly hair: Amodimethicone, Behenoxy Dimethicone, and Stearoxy Dimethicone.
    • Silicone compounds that are soluble in water and safe to use (they are not listed with PEG in front of them): Dimethicone Copolyol, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane, and Lauryl methicone copolyol. [8]
  • If you are going to use a shampoo occasionally, check to make sure it does not contain any sulfates listed here. Instead, look for the mild cleansers in the ingredient list if you need to use shampoo occasionally for cleansing or after swimming in chlorinated water. (In contrast, salt water from the ocean is actually beneficial for curls as sea salt is a natural curl enhancer.)
    • Some common sulfates are Alkylbenzene sulfonate, Ammonium laureth or lauryl sulfate, Ammonium or Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Sodium cocoyl sarcosinate, Sodium laureth, myreth, or lauryl sulfate, Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, TEA-dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Ethyl PEG-15 cocamine sulfate, and Dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate.
    • Some mild cleansers, less drying and included in modified CG, are Cocamidopropyl betaine, Coco betaine, Cocoamphoacetate, Cocoamphodipropionate, Disodium cocoamphodiacetate or cocoamphodipropionate, Lauroamphoacetate, and Sodium cocoyl isethionate. [9]

Things You'll Need

  • Curly or wavy hair
  • Wide-toothed comb
  • Old t-shirt, microfiber towel, linen, or paper towels
  • Products (generally used in the order listed):
    • Non-sulfate shampoo
    • Co-wash conditioner
    • Rinse out conditioner
    • Leave-in conditioner
    • Curl cream
    • Gel
  • Optional items:
    • Blow dryer and diffuser attachment
    • The book "Curly Girl" by Lorraine Massey
    • Duckbill or mini jaw clips for root clipping
    • Wide headbands, bobby pins, hair ties, etc.

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