A Curly Girl Method Update : 3 Years+ On

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Consistently one of the things I get asked about most, and have searched for on my blog, is the Curly Girl Method, so I figured as I last did an update in September 2017 after 6 months, I should probably do another update!

So to say my hair has changed drastically is an understatement. I used to think I had curly hair. As these before photo will show you, what I thought was a good hair day, was mostly a bit of a wave, a lot of frizz and wishful thinking. Back then I shampooed and conditioned my hair with any old shampoo and conditioner, maybe chucked some mousse in my hair, diffused my hair upside down, and maybe put a bit of argan oil in the ends. As you can see, it was not in good condition due to the bleaching.

After that photo, I started the Curly Girl Method (popularised by Lorraine Massey, but most of the principles and ideas in this method are taken from things black women have been doing for hair care forever!). The basic principles are to avoid sulfates, silicones, drying alcohols, parabens, waxes, and shampoo entirely. You use conditioner to both wash and condition your hair, hence the term 'cowash', conditioner only washing. You don't use brushes or detangle your hair unless it's full of conditioner, and all your products should be 'CG safe'.

I cut a lot of dead ends off my hair taking it up to my shoulders 3 years ago, and then kept it around collar bone length for a long time while I bleached and coloured it, until the last year or so when I stopped colouring it and started growing it.

In the below photo is my shorter hair, you can see how drastically it changed, more defined ringlets, it looks thicker, much less frizz and damage, actual curls!

So how is my hair now and what is my routine? Well, I always thought my hair's terminal length was above bra strap length. Despite my best efforts my hair has never really grown any longer so I figured that was all it could do, oh well. Except... that's really not true. Despite regular trims (even through lockdown, I cut my own hair, I qualified as a hairdresser when I was younger but never worked in salons), my hair is now the longest it has ever been. I even cut 6 inches off it in April and my hair is now at my waist when wet. I always joked that I wanted to be like a mermaid and be able to use my hair to cover my boobs and well, I can now! Having not seen a lot of my family for months because of lockdown, when people have finally seen me they've been blown away by how much my hair has grown. My own Mum didn't recognise me when I was stood in my front garden the other week before I had my back to her and she hadn't realised my hair was so long now, win!

Here's some very filtered selfies of my hair now with no product or anything in, just left to do it's own thing. This leaves me with relaxed curls or strong waves, I like being able to have the option of this when I just CBA!

And here it is with products, but still left to dry naturally, the day after I've washed it and slept on it. Despite the length, it still forms spirally curls right through the length, there's very little frizz and it's so smooth and shiny looking. It helps that my hair now is almost entirely my natural colour bar the the odd end that is bleached from a very old ombre I had.

So my routine! Some people's routines are super complicated and involve a whole ton of products. I like to keep it as simple as I can because I'm washing my hair, why would I want to dedicate a ton of time to it?!

1) Smother my hair with Superdrug Fruity Cherry & Almond Conditioner, use my fingers to comb my hair from the ends working my way to up to detangle it first. Once detangled, give my scalp a good scrub with my fingers to cowash my hair making sure all my hair feels like it's covered in conditioner and my roots feel like they've been washed. Rinse out thoroughly. When my carpal tunnel was bad I used a scalp brush to do the scrubbing so if you have problems with your hands, give one a go!

2) Condition my hair like I normally would using the same conditioner, and rinse it all out. Make sure my parting is where I want it while I've got conditioner in my hair as if I don't make my parting, my hair really will part whenever the heck it feels like.

3) Squeeze out some of the excess water from the ends of my hair with my hands and wrap up in a microfibre towel while I get dried.

4) Put a tiny, and I do mean tiny, like, a blob that is 3mm at best, amount of Cantu Curl Activator Cream onto my hands, and rub them together to cover my hands. The tiny amount goes really far and you'll soon find your hairs covered. Fill my hair over to one side sort of upside down and scrunch in, repeat for the other side and the back, make sure I've gotten all my hair. That tiny amount of product really makes a lot of different.

5) Next is leave in conditioner. I use either the same Superdrug conditioner, or the XHC Conditioners, usually easy to find in Poundstretcher and Savers for a quid a bottle, perfect for anyone on a budget. My favourite scents are the tea tree which is lush, and the banana because it smells like those foam banana sweets you used to get in pick and mix as a kid. The strawberry one smells like calpol to me, and I don't like ginger so I haven't tried that one. The XHC conditioners contain protein, hair that is over moisturised as mine can be as I don't use heat or colour etc on it can start to drop, so adding some protein into your routine can perk it back up again. I put a good blob of conditioner onto my hands and rub them together, and again scrunch it up into my hair, working my hair round my whole head. Lots of scrunching!

6) Last step is the product. I like the Eco Gel range and usually opt for the Black Castor & Flax Seed Eco Gel. Again, another blob, rub hands together, more scrunching into my hair. Lots of scrunching. Scrunch scrunch scrunch. I find the more I encourage my hair the better it is.

I then usually leave it to dry naturally, and once it is dry, I scrunch out the crunch (SOTC) with my bare, dry hands to get rid of the crunchy look the gel leaves. Sometimes I don't bother with any product and just scrunch in a bit of conditioner for a more relaxed curl.

About once a month I do what we call an 'AVC Rinse' to clarify my hair and get rid of any potential product build up. I take a plastic cup in the shower with me, and put a small amount of apple cider vinegar in it, fill the rest of the cup with water, and carefully pour over my hair making sure I've covered all my scalp and hair. Yes, it does smell strongly of conditioner when I do this, but once I've rinsed it out it really doesn't! The vinegar smell doesn't linger I promise.

At night I sleep in a 'pineapple', I flip my head upside down and form a very loose ponytail on top of my head and use an invisibobble to keep it in place. I also have a satin pillowcase as it doesn't create frizz. In the morning I will usually use some of the XHC Conditioner and scrunch it into my hair to refresh it a little, if I've thrashed about in my sleep or it's looking particularly flat, I'll also use some of the Eco Gel and scrunch that in too, both on totally dry hair, and when that has 'dried' or is crunchy looking, scrunch out again with my bare dry hands. Scrunching is key to my routine!

If my hair has any frizz or fly aways I want to tame, I use lube, yes, that lube! It needs to be a water based lube for the ingredients to be suitable, but a small amount of lube can really help smooth out curls. You can also use it on your hands when you SOTC. I've used the Tesco own brand gentle and unflavoured lube and tend to find it helps when I'm pushing day 3 or 4 hair when I tend to have a bit more frizz.

So, my words of warning. Technically, I break a lot of the super strict Curly Girl Method rules with my routine. They don't like lots of scrunching (you shouldn't touch your hair! you'll make frizz!), and very recently they decided that the Superdry conditioner I use isn't CG friendly. All because it has a teeny amount of one ingredient that Lorraine Massey has added to her banned list that a lot of other people are arguing is water soluble and not damaging. So I've opted to keep using it because clearly it's working for my hair, as well as being vegan and cruelty free. I try wherever possible to use cruelty free products, but getting information about some brands and companies is nearly impossible.

Some of the Facebook groups can be REALLY intimidating to a newbie, everything looks really really complicated and the rules seem to constantly change. Me and my Mum both do our own versions of the method but don't follow it 100% because what works for one person's hair, might not work for someone else's. My Mum's hair loves a lo-poo (a gentle type of shampoo), whereas mine loves to be totally shampoo free. Even all my scalp eczema has totally cleared up! I know a lot of people seem blunt in their answers to questions and I'm so sorry, and I am happy to do my best to help you here!

The method is also very focused on Caucasian hair in these groups, despite all the concepts coming from black women. You'll see people with wavy hair tell people with Afro hair that they shouldn't use oil for example, or shout about no combs ever, and I don't like that. What works for 4C Afro hair is going to be totally different to what works for my 3A Caucasian hair, and the focus on Caucasian hair makes me really uncomfortable. It feels like a lot of the Curly Girl language and ideas has been co-opted from the Natural Hair movement with none of the credit and a sudden focus on Caucasian hair. So while yes it works, this method is problematic and I wish more people were more thoughtful in their words and use of hair terms. I am forever seeing white women say their hair 'dreads up' when they are describing matting, and are using dreadlocks as a negative descriptor, or saying their hair is an unruly Afro when it's not gone to their tastes and it's really frustrating. In the UK in particular, hairdressers are often trained with no thought at all for Afro hair, and I can say this because the hairdressing school I attended had NO courses for Afro hair, and when I asked about getting one, none of their tutors were qualified in any Afro hair cutting or care either!

So ultimately, what works for one person's hair, doesn't work for all hair. I 100% think that this method has helped me recover my hair and allowed it to grow, but I don't think being perfectly CG 24/7 is necessary, or productive to insist on. If you want to straighten your hair for a night out a couple of times a year, it is going to cause some damage, but it's not going to destroy all your hard work in one fell swoop now that your products and conditioners aren't damaging your hair.

Hair should be fun, and the method shouldn't be a super serious almost cult like rule book with one woman being heralded as the rule creator. So while I do describe myself as doing the CG method, it's a loose thing, and it's just not that serious!

Much love,


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  2. This has been so helpful. Thank you for your helpful tips. Xx

  3. Very interesting - (I'm a hair obsessive & I've been bleaching, colouring & generally messing about with it for 40yrs!)- You look great on all the pics, but I have to say I do love the pink hair! :)