If you’re transitioning to natural hair there is a high chance you heard about the Curly Girl (CG) Method to care for your hair. What sets this approach apart from others is the fact that it can be applied to anyone who has curly hair, it is not just for African hair, in fact, its creator, Lorraine Massey is Caucasian. Frustrated with how conventional hair shampoos left her hair she set herself to create a hair routine that catered for her curly hair and went on to publish Curly Girl: The Handbook. Lorraine’s book success is explained by her understanding of the concerns and needs of many curly girls who follow her method religiously and swear by it.
THE PREMISE BEHIND THE METHOD
The main claim in this method is that conventional hair shampoos are full of harsh surfactants that strip all the sebum and moisture from curly hair. They leave our hair dry, brittle, frizzy and unmanageable. To avoid this all shampoos must be avoided and instead a conditioner should be introduced to cleanse the hair. This is what we know as co-washing or conditioner washing, which also makes this approach a no-poo method for hair care.
Similar to detergents, surfactants work on wet hair to help release dirt and grease. Unfortunately, strong surfactants are so effective in what they do that they also strip the natural oil in our hair (sebum) leaving our hair unprotected from external damage and from quick moisture release. For straight hair, this is not a big deal since sebum can travel along the hair shaft quite easily. However, for us curly girls this is bad news because sebum can only protect the hair closest to the roots. The coils and kinks in natural or transitioning hair prevent sebum from travelling from roots to ends. (Also read The Truth About Surfactants For Curly Hair And Why You Need Not Just Mild Ones)
Co-washing not only saves our curls from this stripping ritual but it can also be an effective cleanser (Read Co-Washing Does It Really Clean Your Hair?). They contain ingredients that have cleansing properties but they also provide emollients to soften the hair like oils and butters, humectants to keep moisture in like glycerine, panthenol or honey and some have proteins to help strengthen the hair like soy, wheat or silk protein.
However, this highly praised method in the natural hair community doesn’t come without its rules, and if you want it to work for you, you’re gonna have to follow them. There is, however, a modified version of the CG Method where you’ll be able to “bend the rules”.
These leather foaming agents are great cleaners but they also create great havoc on our natural hair, so they must be avoided at all costs. The good thing about sulphates or sulfates is that you can easily identify them as they will normally end in “sulphate/sulfate” or “sulfonate”. Common sulphates you’ll be able to spot on shampoos are:
Sodium Laureth Sulphate or Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
Ammonium Laureth or Lauryl Sulphate
Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate
But, if you can’t give up the foam or adapt to the no-poo you can always follow the modified version which uses milder sulphates (low-poo). You can still delight yourself in the foam and know that these sulphates are more gentle on the hair. Here are a few you can look for:
Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate
Many of the hair care products available in the market have silicones in them. They coat the hair to help close the cuticle layers giving it that smooth, frizz-free and shiny appearance, to prevent moisture release and to protect it from heat tools. Sadly, they also create build up on the hair strand preventing moisture from getting in. In essence, they suffocate our hair by not allowing any moisture to get in.
The only way to remove silicones is by using a shampoo, and because this is not allowed in the Curly Girl Method all the products you use must not contain silicones. A small clue to finding them is that they end in “one”, “conol” or “xane”. Here is a small list of silicones you will find in your conditioners, deep conditioners and hair stylers:
There are, however, a few silicones that create build up but seem to be washed out with a simple co-wash such as Cyclomethicone, Behenoxy Dimethicone, Stearoxy Dimethicone and Bisaminopropyl Dimethicone. Others are completely water soluble and won’t create build up, so they’ll be OK for you to use. Subscribe to our list and get access to a Free Resource Library where you gain access to a Silicone Index of soluble, insoluble and Curly Girl approved silicones.
Hydrolysed Wheat Protein Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane
Lauryl Methicone Copolyol
Avoid Drying Alcohols
Some alcohols in hair products can be drying to the hair, and because curly hair needs as much moisture as it can get they are to be avoided.
SD Alcohol 40
Instead, look for moisturising alcohols such as Behenyl Alcohol, Lauryl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol or Isostearyl Alcohol to name just a few.
THE HAIR REGIMEN
The regimen itself is simple, to accompany her Handbook for Curly Girls Lorraine Massey developed the DevaCurl hair care line that will make it easy for you to follow this method. It will save you the time and stress at trying to read labels on the back of hair products and figuring out which ones are allowed or not.
I have already explained to you the benefits for curly hair of using a no-poo cleanser, but as Lorraine Massey says there are also ecological benefits as well. The absence of sulphates means that when you use your cleanser there will be no lather, which means less water will be needed to remove it, therefore, less impact on the environment. Start by wetting your hair and apply your cleanser giving your scalp a good massage to release dirt and grease. Rinse off with water. The frequency of hair cleansing depends on your needs for many CG supporters is varies from 1 to 3 times a week.
Apply the conditioner, as usual, making sure to cover all hair strands. Preferably, finger detangle your hair or use a wide tooth comb. Once you are finished, rinse your hair but leave half of the conditioner on. Squeeze the excess product with your hand in an upward movement, this will help activate the curls. You can also do this with a microfiber towel, a t-shirt or a paper towel.
This is when you will set your curls with a leave-in, moisturiser and/or a generous amount of gel and scrunch it in, in an upwards movement to not disturb the curls. If you feel your hair is flat you can place a few duck clips on the roots to lift the hair. Let it dry almost entirely, scrunch out the crunch and fluff from underneath.
Products – Angell Lightweight Curl Defining Gel, Arc Angell Firm Hold Defining Gel, Set It Free Moisturising Spray, Mist-er Right Curl Revitalizer, Set Me Up! Versatile Moisturising Styler and B’Leave-in Curl Booster & Volumiser.
At the surface, the Curly Girl Method might seem simple, but in reality, it can be overwhelming. Knowing the names of all the sulphates and silicones, not to mention drying alcohols, can be quite daunting. However, I believe that with time you can get familiar with most of them. Start by identifying the ingredients to avoid in your products, replace them if needed and go from there. Make yourself a cheat sheet and carry it with you when you go shopping for hair products.
When you’re a curly girl, getting familiar with product ingredients is important. I don’t have all the names in my mind but I do have a cheat list, and that makes it simpler. Of course, this is not everybody’s cup of tea yet, if you are willing to try you should clarify your hair first to remove all product build up and trim your hair to start with a clean sheet. Weekly deep conditioning is advised along with regular dry hair trimming.
In this article, I named just a few ingredients to help you get started. If you want more in-depth information about ingredients go to naturallycurly.com and do a term search or visit the Environmental Working Group. Remember that science and this industry are growing and evolving and new ingredients are always coming up but don’t feel defeated, once you find your staple products the rest will be easier.
Have you considered the Curly Girl Method? Do you follow it? What do you like about it?