Curly Girl Method Ingredients to Avoid: A Must-Read Guide

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In our quest for healthy, curly hair, we use ingredients that are “for curly hair” or “for all hair types.”

But in today’s world full of marketing strategies, it’s best to not always trust what the brand claims. Chances are, their “curl-friendly” label is just a part of propaganda to make people buy their products.

So how do we know which hair products to safely and effectively use for our delicate curls?

Our fool-proof method: read the ingredient list.

A cropped photo of a woman's hands holding a strands of her hair in the air on a yellow background

It’s important to know which curly girl method ingredients to avoid because some chemicals in hair products can cause dry, frizzy hair.

Moreover, other contents are so harsh that they can give us skin problems as well.

Read on to find out which ingredients to avoid in hair products for curly hair so you can keep your curls healthy, bouncy, and well-defined.

What Is the Curly Girl Method?

If you’ve been embracing your natural curls for a long time, you’ve probably heard of the Curly Girl Method or CG Method.

And if not, here’s a brief background info about it.

This method was invented by renowned hairdresser Lorraine Massey. It’s a healthy hair care regimen that came from her book “Curly Girl: The Handbook,” which discusses the best and worst practices when it comes to curly hair.

Since curly hair can be high maintenance, it’s essential that you know how to care for it properly. And part of caring for your spiral locks is knowing the curly girl ingredients to avoid when you buy hair products.

Curly Girl–Friendly Hair Products

When choosing hair care products, you need to consider your curl pattern, hair density, and hair porosity.

While we’re here to talk about the ingredients to avoid for curly hair, we also want to give you an idea about curly girl-approved products.

What should a curly hair regimen focus on?

We believe that the key to having beautiful curls is moisture.

So from pre-poo treatments to leave-in conditioners, what you need to look for are moisturizing ingredients.

Here are natural ingredients to look for:

  • Aloe vera
  • Argan oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Shea butter

These are the most common, powerful moisturizers that can help hydrate and nourish your thirsty, curly locks.

a beautiful black woman massaging her scalp and cleaning her hair strands with the best shampoo for curly hairs while smiling at the camera

6 Curly GirlMethod Ingredients to Avoid

Now that you know what your textured hair needs, it’s time to find out the worst ingredients for curly hair.

These are chemicals that can cause damage to your locks. They can strip the oil and moisture from your strands, leading to dry, frizzy hair.

In addition, other bad ingredients can cause so much buildup in your head that it would weigh down your curls and ruin your curl pattern.

Avoid Sulfates in Shampoo

The first ingredient on our list is sulfate. This chemical is a surfactant that is commonly used in cleansing products such as shampoo.

This is the ingredient responsible for removing product buildup, dirt, and oil.

The sulfates in your shampoo cause the lather that leaves your hair squeaky clean. While that may sound good, it’s actually not.

You see, sulfates not only get rid of the grime but also strip the hair of natural oils. When that happens, your hair will feel dry. Furthermore, the dryness can also cause scalp irritation.

That’s why sulfates are ingredients to avoid in shampoo for curly hair.

While many brands claim to be “sulfate-free,” some are not 100% true.

This only means that they have removed the harshest sulfates:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS)

However, other sulfates remain in the formula. You can look at the list for chemicals ending in “-ate”:

  • Sodium/ammonium laureth sulfate
  • Sodium alkylbenzene sulfonate
  • Sodium coco-sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate
  • Sodium myreth sulfate
  • Triethanolamine lauryl sulfate

Ditch your products if they have these in their formula and use a real sulfate-free shampoo instead.

Silicones Are Not CG Method–Approved

Silicones have a bad reputation because they coat the hair with a thin slippery film. And every time you use a product with silicone, the coating piles up until it becomes a troublesome buildup.

This buildup can cause your curls to lose their bounce and shape.

And when this happens, you’ll be needing a harsh chemical like sulfate to clean it up. That’s double the trouble!

So if you want to follow the curly girl method religiously, avoid silicones. These ingredients mostly end with “-cone” or “-xane.” They’ll be easy to spot on the list.

Just to be clear, silicones are not all bad. In fact, they can be beneficial for curls. They smoothen and seal the cuticles, and this is actually good for high-porosity hair.

Moreover, they give the hair a slip for better detangling and curl definition.

Now, if you can’t let go of all the good things silicone has to offer, moderation is key. Use a product with only one kind of silicone, and don’t apply it too often.

Another thing you can do is look for water-soluble silicones. The name is a giveaway. This means these silicones can dissolve in water so they’re easier to wash out and cause less buildup.

The following are examples of water-soluble silicones:

  • Behenoxy dimethicone
  • PEG
  • PPG
  • Stearoxy dimethicone

Alcohols to Avoid for Curly Hair

Alcohol is frequently used in hair care products, and it’s often seen as damaging to your locks because of its ability to draw out moisture.

But it may be helpful to know that not all alcohols are bad for your hair.

Long-Chain Alcohols

Long-chain or fatty alcohol is found in moisturizing shampoos and conditioners. Here are some examples of fatty alcohols:

  • Behenyl
  • Cetearyl
  • Cetyl
  • Lanolin
  • Lauryl
  • Myristyl
  • Stearyl

These alcohols are emollients, and their purpose is to moisturize the hair and keep it soft. They’re safe to use on curly hair.

Short-Chain Alcohols

What you should watch out for in ingredients is the short-chain or drying alcohol. They’re most commonly found in hair sprays and hair gels. The most common drying alcohols are the following:

  • Benzyl
  • Ethanol
  • Ethyl
  • Isopropyl
  • Isopropanol
  • Propanol

These alcohols are used as solvents to break down excess oil on your hair and scalp. They evaporate really quickly, allowing the styling products to dry faster and work better.

Unfortunately, they can also suck the moisture out of your strands, leaving them dehydrated.

Even though the effect is barely noticeable, the curly girl method believes that drying alcohol can still make your already dry curls even drier and more susceptible to damage.

Alcohols are easy to spot in the list of ingredients because they usually end with the word “alcohol.”

a woman with short high porosity hair with body wrapped in a white towel is touching her hair while smiling at her reflection in the mirror

Avoid Parabens in Hair Care

Parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics. They limit the number of bacteria and mold growing in the products.

While these chemicals have good intentions, they may have a bad effect on your scalp.

Studies show that skin may be sensitive to products containing parabens, which results in scalp irritation and dermatitis.

So what has this got to do with your curls?

For hair to be healthy and strong, it must come out of a healthy scalp. So if you’re having problems with your scalp, chances are your hair can’t grow well. You might even have a risk of hair shedding.

That said, the CG method tells us to buy products that have none of these:

  • Butylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben

Like alcohol, these ingredients won’t be hard to find as they have “paraben” on their names.

Watch Out for Formaldehyde

Similar to parabens, formaldehyde is used as a preservative.

It extends the shelf life of beauty products. It’s also the main ingredient in hair straightening chemicals.

Formaldehyde breaks the bonds of curly hair to change its curl pattern. It targets the protein inside the hair shaft, making the hair fragile and less elastic.

When this happens, even something as simple as tying your hair can cause the strands to easily break off.

Aside from hair health, the FDA also warns about formaldehyde exposure, especially when inhaled. When heated, formaldehyde is released into the air. This can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and lungs.

Moreover, this chemical is also a common cause of skin allergies.

If you see formaldehyde on your hair care product’s label, it’s time to get rid of it.

And if you don’t see it, look also for methylene glycol and glyoxylic acid. These chemicals break down into formaldehyde when exposed to high heat.

Mineral Oil Is Bad for Your Hair

Some manufacturers use mineral oil for its moisturizing effects, and they do so because it’s much cheaper than natural essential oils.

But this oil can do your hair more harm than good. That’s because it can cause buildup and can clog pores and hair follicles.

These can cause problems to your scalp and hair.

The most common mineral oils used in hair products are the following:

  • Paraffin oil
  • Paraffinum liquidum
  • Petrolatum
  • Petroleum jelly

Gels, creams, and hair masks containing these ingredients are curly girl products to avoid.

Check Online for Ingredients to Avoid in Curly Hair Products

If you got overwhelmed by all these CGM ingredients to avoid, or you simply don’t want to go through the effort of looking at the ingredients one by one, there’s an easier way to buy the right products.

There are websites that can help you identify if the substance or product is curly girl-approved or not.

Here are our favorite CGM scanners:

These sites will analyze each product for you to see if it contains curly girl method ingredients to avoid.

a young woman with healthy and shiny porosity hair is posing at the camera with her hand almost touching her cheek

Frequently Asked Questions

What Ruins Curly Hair?

Sulfates, drying alcohols, and formaldehyde are the worst ingredients to use on curly hair. These can dry out the curls. Excessive use of products with these chemicals can make your hair dry and frizzy.

But while it’s easy to blame the products you use, your hair habits also play a big role in ruining your curls.

The following hair grooming practices will eventually ruin your curls:

  • Excessive coloring
  • Heat styling
  • Not conditioning
  • Over-washing

Is Curly Girl Method Good for Your Hair?

Of course! Whatever your curl type, this method works wonders. CGM makes you better informed about caring for your curls.

You’ll know the right products to use and the curly girl method ingredients to avoid.

In addition, you’ll have an idea about the correct way to style your hair so you can achieve beautiful curl definition.

What Ingredient Activates Curls?

The best way to activate your curls is to moisturize. And the ingredient that can help you with that is glycerin. It’s a humectant that attracts moisture to the hair.

Glycerin is always present in curl-activating products that increase curl definition.

Ingredients You Should Avoid

If you want to avoid brittle hair that’s prone to frizz, or you’re afraid of losing your curls and waves, start a better hair routine by using products that are not bad for your curls.

Watch out for the ingredients that are in the list of curly girl method ingredients to avoid and steer clear of those products. This way, you can keep your hair texture at its best, and you can prevent hair loss from happening.

Want to Know More About Hair Care?

Here are other good reads for you:


  • Rachelle Velasco

    Rachelle, is a sought-after freelance hair and makeup artist, shines particularly in the world of hair color. From subtle ombres and balayages to vibrant hues and intricate root work, she crafts unique styles tailored to individual preferences. Beyond her artistic talents, Rachelle also holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, showcasing her diverse skill set and dedication to learning.

  • Jessica Hoelscher

    With thirteen years in cosmetology, Jessica Hoelscher is a seasoned stylist recognized for her modern techniques. A graduate of Paul Mitchell the School in St. Louis, her expertise has been showcased on Fox Two News and in People Magazine. Self-employed at Salon Lofts, her work has graced TV screens, styling for renowned events and Ole Miss cheerleaders.

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