A Beginner’s Guide to the Curly Girl Method: And Why I Don’t Follow It 100%

At the beginning of my natural hair journey, I followed the Curly Girl (CG) method like it was my job. I purchased the handbook, watched videos on the topic, scoured the internet to find “Curly Girl friendly” products, and drove myself crazy in the process. Over time, I have gotten to know my hair and I now practice my own modified version of the CG method. In this article, we will go over some of the main components of the CG method, my personal experience, my overall stance on the method, and more.

What is the Curly Girl Method?

The Curly Girl Method is a set of rules and techniques aimed to help curly girls and guys take care of their natural hair. The Curly Girl Handbook, pictured below, was written by Lorraine Massey and houses the valuable information that naturals everywhere use to unlock the best version of their curls.

Click the link above or the image below to see the current price of the handbook on Amazon. 

Main CG Method Restrictions (According to the Curly Girl Handbook)

  • No Heat – We are encouraged to get rid of flat irons, blow dryers (unless they have a diffuser), hot combs, and any other heat styling tools.
  • No Shampoo– Massey encourages us to throw out all of our shampoos. These are deemed to be too harsh for curls, causing them to be dried out.
  • No Detangling tools – Brushes and combs are outlawed (even those that are supposed to be for curly hair). The reason for this rule, per the handbook, is that detangling tools cause breakage and frizz due to manual disruption of curls.
  • No sulfates – Sulfates are bad for curls. The worst sulfates, according to Lorraine Massey, are sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, and sodium laureth sulfate. Due to their drying nature, they should be avoided.
  • No alcohols – This recommendation is a bit looser, as Massey says that certain alcohols (like cetyl alcohol) are okay if present in a cleanser. However, if you find any alcohol in a gel, that gel shouldn’t be used.
  • No silicones – Silicones are not recommended in the CG method because they repel water, causing a lack of moisture. Massey also adds that silicones can weigh your hair down, masking your true curl pattern.
  • No parabens – The reason behind this restriction is that the safety of parabens (like methylparaben and propylparaben) is not definitively known. There has been talk that parabens could be linked to cancer.
  • No phthalates – Massey states that phthalates are being discontinued because of health concerns, so they should be avoided.

How to Conduct Your Wash Day the CG Way

The CG Method also covers how to properly wash and condition curly hair.

Sulfate-free cleansers (or conditioners) should be used in combination with friction from our fingers to loosen dirt and buildup from the scalp and hair. After cleansing the hair, we should condition our hair and then leave some or all of the conditioner in our hair. This is to ensure that the hair is thoroughly conditioned.

*There are many other rules mentioned in the CG handbook. If you’d like to read all of the CG guidelines, the book is available on Amazon.

My Personal Experience with the CG Method (No Modifications)

Healthy, Beautiful Curls

Healthy curls

The CG method produces some healthy, bouncy curls. I absolutely loved the way my hair looked and felt while using this method.

My hair was rarely dry, my curls were defined, and my wash n’ go looked gorgeous just about every time.

Self-Fulfillment

I felt a genuine sense of fulfillment which I attribute partly to the Curly Girl Method. I was proud of myself for accepting my natural hair and for seeking out the best hair care information available at that time.

The Stress

Prior to hearing about the Curly Girl method, I was excited about the freedom that going natural would bring. But after hearing all the hype about this method and reading the book for myself, I had real anxiety over the health of my hair.

In my mind, I was always going over the long list of dos and don’ts of the CG method, which eventually put a damper on my attitude about going natural.

Time Commitment

I don’t know about anyone else, but it took me a lot of time to find products that fit the lengthy CG guidelines.

After quite a bit of time, I had curated a decent lineup of CG friendly products, but looking back on it, finding these products did require loads of time.

Cost

Around the time that I was practicing the CG method, products for curly hair were not as affordable as they are now. On top of that, Lorraine Massey endorsed DevaCurl, a hair product brand that is known to be expensive.

I felt like I wanted to give my hair the best, so I splurged on several products that were too expensive for my modest budget.

Who is the CG Method For?

The CG method was created for all curly girls and guys, but let’s look at this a bit deeper.

The CG Method (without modifications) may work for you if: 

  • You are just starting your natural hair journey.
  • You want to discover the best version of your curls.
  • You have time to read about the method.
  • You have the patience to examine your products and throw them out/replace them as necessary.
  • You don’t mind spending money to replace several hair products.

The CG Method (without modifications) may NOT work for you if: 

  • You are super busy or on an especially tight budget.
  • You prefer not to be strict about the ingredients in your products.
  • You are already happy with your current natural hair routine.
  • You feel like you need to have 100% control over your hair care.

Put the CG Method in Its Place

The Curly Girl Handbook is a phenomenal resource for us naturals, but it can feel restrictive and arbitrary.

So instead of using it as a rule book, I learned to use the CG Method as a guide, tweaking certain rules and techniques to fit my lifestyle.

I still follow several of the main rules of the CG Method. I won’t use products that contain parabens or phthalates. I also don’t use heat on my hair in any capacity.

While I do follow some of the rules, I don’t leave conditioner in my hair and I sometimes use shampoo to get rid of buildup.

Certain things that are outlawed in this method are OK in moderation. 

If your hair has product buildup stacked high, you just might benefit from a sulfate shampoo. When your hair is matted and you don’t have time for finger detangling, get a comb!

Adapting the CG Method to fit my lifestyle made it work for me, and my natural hair is still healthy and thriving.

Final Thoughts

My advice to those who are looking for information on taking care of curly hair is to read about the CG Method. Try some or all of Massey’s rules and recommendations and see how your hair reacts. After some time, you’ll know what works for you and your hair, and then you can modify techniques and rules accordingly.

I hope that this article was helpful to you!

If you have any thoughts, comments, or questions, leave them in the comment section below or use the Contact Us page to reach me directly.

Happy Journey!

Bibliography:

Massey, Lorraine, and Michele Bender. Curly Girl: The Handbook. Workman Pub. Co., 2010.

2 Responses

  1. Madi says:

    Ahhhh. This brings memories:) I have been a curly girl for 40 years, left my hair to it own curly self for as long as I can remeber. I learn about the CG thing about 4 years ago and switched to sulfate-free shampoos ( I could not bring myself to not shampooing my hair). I have really thick heavy hair that I had a love-hate relationship for many many years. When I turned 40 I wanted an extreme change, and went and got my hair straightened. I have done it 4 times since then but lately I am missing my natural curly hair, so I cut my hair to above my shoulders and am waiting for it to go all curly again:)

    • Andrea Reyes says:

      Nice to hear from curly hair veterans! Thank you for sharing your natural hair experience. It’s so important to make any technique or set of rules work for you.

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