Curly Girl Method 101 – Part 1: What is the Curly Girl Method, Anyway?

Now, we’re not saying your curly hair makes you special. Your curly hair says that all on its own. But, with great power comes great responsibility, and natural curls tend to need a heroic level of care.

But fear not, that’s where the Curly Girl Method comes in! It might sound like it’s just for the girls, but no matter who you are or what age group you fall in (that includes our teenage curly fans), the Curly Girl Method is a great way to achieve lasting, healthy, and natural curls, and it’s less complicated than you think!

Continue reading below for a crash course in curly! Discover whether the Curly Girl Method will work for your hair, what you’ll need to get started, and what to avoid.

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The Origins of the Curly Girl Method

Curly Girl the Handbook by Lorrain Massey Book Cover

The Curly Girl Method is a comprehensive guide emphasising curl-friendly products and techniques for optimal hair health and gloriously defined curls. Consider it a treasure map from high-profile hairstylist and curl connoisseur Lorraine Massey. Her book, Curly Girl: The Handbook, introduced this method to achieve hair excellence by steering clear of the wrong hair products and effectively using the right ones.


Specifics may differ—countless variations on Massey’s guide exist today—but the Curly Girl Method typically coils around the notion that your hair care routine has the largest impact on the quality of your curls. As resident Wuli mentor and Sydney Curl Salon owner, Ms Tommy Boon always says, "The cleaner the curl, the better the swirl." Here are the basics:

  1. Reset washing – An occasional wash with a sulphate-filled shampoo to get rid of the silicone and wax build-up from your hair
  2. Cleansing – A minute-long wash and scalp massage with a sulphate-free or co-wash shampoo, followed by a thorough rinse
  3. Conditioning – A liberal application of conditioner and gentle detangling
  4. Styling – Raking and scrunching a light, natural hair styling product into damp hair from the root to the ends
  5. Drying – Carefully letting your hair dry by air or with curl-safe tools like a diffuser
  6. Repeat – Following the same formula every time you wet your hair.

It might sound and look like a lot, but if you read between the lines, your wash-day routine typically involves just three steps, while your full reset days (typically once a week or fortnight) is a four-step process.

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Getting started with the Curly Girl Method

Your first steps into the hallowed halls of the Curly Girl Method can be daunting. After all, how could a curl-friendly hair-care routine be so disruptive?

If you feel intimidated, remember that the Curly Girl Method isn’t all or nothing. You can scale it back, adjust, or even take a break from this routine. It’s only effective if it works for you.

There’s already an entire book about the Curly Girl Method and online forums like Facebook groups and Reddit communities that can provide valuable insights from people with similar hair types or lifestyles.

Getting started is easy, but you’ll want to lay some groundwork first. Namely, getting the right products into your bathroom, getting the wrong products out of it, and determining whether the Curly Girl Method is the right approach for your hair.

Curly Girl Method Julia Schroeder Before After
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Will the Curly Girl Method work on my hair?

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The Curly Girl Method is ideally suited for people who have or want Type 3 curls. Type 3 curls include:

  • Loose curl or a soft wave
  • Tighter curl or spiral
  • Corkscrew, kinky, or zigzag

Of course, that’s not to say that the Curly Girl Method can’t deliver swoon-worthy results for dense-curled Type 4 or more wavy Type 2 hair, but those with Type 3 curls tend to have the most success. The truth is, as long as you’re not going for straight hair, CGM is worth a try. The results can be life-changing and help you get to know your hair!

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What products do you need for the Curly Girl Method?

One of the Curly Girl Method’s hallmarks is pairing a heavy or sulphate-filled “reset” shampoo and a lightweight or sulphate-free shampoo or co-wash. You’ll need both for deep cleansing, hydrating, and priming your hair to hold its shape.

You’ll also need a quality conditioner.

But wait, there’s more! Styling is THE most important step in the Curly Girl Method, and applying a high-quality sea salt spray, mouse, or curl cream can make a world of difference in holding the curl and achieving that epic swirl. Experimentation is the magic word here. A bit of trial and error with various curly hair products can help you find a product that delivers stunning results, but be patient; the Curly Girl Method is a journey—not a destination—and it may be anywhere from a few days or weeks or sometimes months before your hair develops the memory to hold your intended curl.

Before and After the Curly Girl Method

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What to avoid when doing the Curly Girl Method

The Curly Girl Method is as much about what you don’t do to your hair as what you do. You’ll want to say bye-bye to the harsh ingredients and practices that cause stiffness and fraying so you can focus your curly girl energy on hydrating and gentle cleansing to cultivate those luscious loops. 

HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO AVOID as you lean into the Curly Girl Method:

  • Alcohols – Not all alcohols are villains, but single-chain versions (ethanol, propanol, propyl, isopropyl, etc.) can wreak havoc on your hair’s cuticles. You’ll find them lurking in aerosol sprays like hairspray and dry shampoo. Long-chain alcohols such as lauryl, cetyl, cetearyl, stearyl and behenyl are known to be safe for curls and hair in general.
  • Heat (straightening) tools – Farewell, curling irons and flat irons! These harsh tools do not a lush curl make! That said, an occasional low-heat diffuser can do wonders.
  • Shampoo – Traditional shampoos are a big no-no, but don’t fret; you can embrace the sulphate-free wonders. We'll dive into this in Part 2 of Curly Girl Method 101!
  • Silicones – Silicones may give your hair shine and polish, but that lux is fool’s gold. Silicone coats the hair, blocking it from receiving nutrients from active ingredients, and can accumulate, leading to lifeless, greasy hair.
  • Sulphates – While sulphates are good for resetting hair after product build-up, having it as your everyday shampoo, conditioner, or styling product robs your hair of coveted moisture. Remember, dehydrated hair is not the path to a beautiful curl.
  • Towel drying – Certain towels, such as a microfibre version (which actually contains tiny bits of plastic), can cause such a tussle that your hair is left tangled and frizzy. You’ll need to take a gentler approach to drying your curls, such as using a lightweight towel made of natural fibres like cotton or bamboo.
  • Heavy waxes & mineral oils – Not only do these substances stick to your hair, weighing it down and suppressing your curls, but you’ll need heavy-duty sulphates to remove them—the dreaded double-whammy. Lucky for you, Wuli Grooming’s hero Curl Cream contains zero mineral oils and just a light touch of vegan wax to hold the curl longer.

Next up: How to do the Curly Girl Method!

Thanks for reading the first part of our Curly Girl Method 101 series. In Part 2, we’ll explore how to do the Curly Girl Method in detail so you can take it away! Also, feel free to explore the Wuli Grooming Journal for more hair care tips and tricks.