How to Follow the Curly Girl Method
Portrait of two young women with long curly black and blond hair, smiling and laughing.

What is the Curly Girl Method? 

The Curly Girl Method, from Lorraine Massey’s book “Curly Girl: The Handbook,” is a hair care method that trades in damaging habits (like shampooing and heat styling) for a healthy curly hair regimen using just conditioner and gel. While this set of recommendations has been shown to have incredible results for many curlies in our community, you should always feel free to modify them to suit your hair!

The dos and don’ts of the Curly Girl Method

The first step to starting the Curly Girl Method is knowing what NOT to do. There are many common, everyday hair care practices that many of us have been using all of our lives that are actually damaging to curly hair. Here are 7 things to avoid when following the CG Method.

Don’t use

Do I have to give up shampoo cold turkey?

No! You can wean yourself off by cutting down on shampoo over time, or using a sulfate-free shampoo, aka “low-poo.” Many curlies with fine hair or looser curl patterns find that giving up shampoo leaves their hair feeling greasy when they first experiment with this method, but many find that over time their hair and scalp balances out. It is all about finding a routine that works for your specific hair type and your lifestyle.

Do use
  • Gentle cleansing ingredients – cocamidopropyl betaine & decyl polyglucose
  • Emollients – Shea butter, olive & vegetable oils
  • Proteins – wheat, wheat germ or soy
  • Humectants – panthenol, vegetable glycerine, sorbitol
  • Moisturizers – amino acids & aloe vera
  • Styling gel ingredients – PVP and PVP/VA
How to Follow the Curly Girl Method

How to wash and style

Lorraine Massey recommends the following routine for cleansing, conditioning and styling. Because this will vary depending on your hair type, she has unique tips for wavy, curly and coily hair.


Gently scrub and stimulate the entire scalp with fingertips (no nails!”> and conditioner.

The friction will lift residue, sweat & oil to be rinsed out.

How often should you cleanse?

Wavy  – You may use regular shampoo, but only once a week. Always condition before & after using shampoo.

Curly  – Cowash with water and conditioner once a week or every 10 days.

Coily  – In between cowash days, wet your hair and go straight to Step 2.


Smooth conditioner over hair in sections, until all hair has been coated with conditioner. Let the water distribute the product evenly.

Wavy – Rinse your hair for just a few seconds, if a little bit of conditioner is left on the hair that’s ok.

Curly – You can either rinse or leave the conditioner in at this point, depending on how much moisture you need.

Coily – If you have time when conditioning, wrap your hair and apply heat for 15 minutes for a moisture boost. Rinse completely to avoid a visible film. 

Step 3 DRY & STYLE

Bend forward & blot dry by cupping curls in a towel – never wring or disturb your curls. Then air-dry. If you’re in a hurry, use a diffuser.

Scrunch gel from ends toward the scalp, starting at the nape and working up, scrunch the top layer last. Clip the roots for lift.

Wavy – Encourage your curls to form with extra scrunching or by doing pin curls.

Curly – When hair is completely dry, bend forward and fluff from underneath to create lift. Don’t touch the top layer to avoid frizz.

Coily – While Lorraine recommends a wash & go, you can style your hair however you like. Just try to avoid heat.   

CG-friendly products

With the CG Method you only need two products: conditioner & gel. If you want to use shampoo, Massey recommends only using a gentle, sulfate-free cleanser.

There are many products that are CG-friendly, you are by no means limited to this quick list, but if you are new to shopping this way then this list is a great place to start. We’ve divided them up by curly, coily and wavy but curl pattern is not the only determining factor when it comes to product. Other characteristics of your hair like porosity, density and width will play a big role so feel free to experiment with products from any of these lists. We have Editors from wavy to coily on the NaturallyCurly team who use all of these products with success.


Wavy, Type 2

Curly, Type 3

Coily, Type 4


Wavy, Type 2

Curly, Type 3

Coily, Type 4


Wavy, Type 2

Curly, Type 3

Coily, Type 4

Looking for more products? Check out The 51 Best Curly Girl Method-Approved Products I’ve Tried

This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated as previously listed products have been reformulated and are no longer CG-friendly.

No comments yet.