What Is The Curly Girl Method? Your Ultimate CGM Guide

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Recently, there has been a lot of buzz around the “Curly Girl Method.” It has been a total game changer for the curly hair community.

beautiful curly-haired lady wearing a hat holding tulips in a lightblue background

There have been transformations both from people who wanted to revitalize their sad locks and from those who didn’t even know they had curly hair! 

After following this routine, their hair looked luscious, bouncy, and shiny. 

What is the Curly Girl Method?

It all started with Lorraine Massey’s book called “Curly Girl: The Handbook” where she introduced the Curly Girl Method. 

Basically, it’s a hair care routine that will help clarify your curls from all the build-up that’s keeping them from their maximum potential. 

This method also recommends cutting back on damaging habits like towel drying or heat styling. 

The goal is to bring back the bounce and shine that comes with having healthy hair. 

In its essence, the CGM steps just consist of cleansing, conditioning, and natural drying and styling. 

Following the do’s and don’ts is also key in seeing how much it will work for you.

The Curly Girl Method Rules


No to sulfates

Wondering why your hair is so crunchy? This could be the culprit. 

This ingredient dries your hair and is a definite no-no for CGM. You can opt for sulfate-free products to keep your hair from breakage.

No to silicones (and other ingredients in the “cone” category)

This ingredient is marketed to help with the “frizziness”; but over time, silicone builds up and would cause even more damage. 

Your hair may feel sleek now, but trust us, this is what’s making your hair dry.

No heat styling 

It may be tempting to use heat when styling your hair, but curly hair is sensitive to flat irons, blowers, and curling wands, more so than straight hair.

No to alcohol 

One of the main goals of CGM is to promote moisture, so using drying ingredients like alcohol would be counterproductive.

No to towel drying 

This will weigh down your hair and the towel’s texture will cause breakage. You can use microfiber towels or cotton shirts instead!

No dumping crazy amounts of hair products 

While it may be addicting to just slather hair products on, it will cause build-up and flatten your hair.

curly-redhaired woman with a surprised expression on her face holding hair products


Learn your curl type and porosity 

This will determine what kind and how many products you should apply to your curls.

The effectiveness of your routine will highly depend on how much you know your hair.

Use wide tooth combs 

You can use wide tooth combs or just a finger comb while washing your hair to help massage your scalp and detangle your locks.

Sulfate and silicone-free products 

Thankfully, you can still use your usual hair products, as long as they’re sulfate and silicone free!

Microfiber towels (or cotton shirts) 

Towel drying can cause your hair to break but you can opt for microfiber towels instead.

This may seem overwhelming at first, but following these rules can make or break your routine; so, it’s essential that you stick to them. 

Now that you know the basics, let’s dive into the Curly Girl Method steps. 

The Curly Girl Method Steps

Let’s break the Curly Girl Method into 4 main steps:

1. Cleansing

If you’re a CGM beginner, you would first need to do a “final wash”. 

This means that you need to use shampoo with sulfates to remove the build-up from all the silicones and oils that weigh your hair down to get that beautiful natural curl pattern.

Once you do this, make sure that you use sulfate and silicone-free products on your next wash day to avoid dryness and breakage. 

You can find some of our recommended drugstore shampoos for curly hair here.

You can also skip shampooing altogether and just “co-wash”. This is a milder way of rinsing off the gunk from your scalp without using a harsh cleanser. 

Since your hair is not used to this kind of routine, expect greasy hair, but this only means it’s working! We’ll talk more about the transition phase below.

While cleansing, use a wide tooth comb or your fingers (be careful not to use your nails) to massage your scalp for at least a minute before rinsing off.

woman applying hair products wearing beige-colored towel in bathroom

2. Condition

It’s old news that curly hair is much more prone to dryness and frizziness. That’s why applying conditioner is such an important step. 

Make sure that you slather enough product to saturate your curls with moisture. We recommend that you don’t apply it directly on your scalp to reduce the chance of having greasy locks. Instead, lather it on the middle and the ends of your hair.

You’ll know when you’ve put enough if it feels slippery or sleek. This is the perfect time to use your wide tooth comb or fingers to remove the tangles in your locks. 

Let it sit for a while, then flip your head. Scrunch your hair from ends to roots and after a few moments, you’ll already see waves forming. This process is what we call “Squish to Condish,” in the curly hair community.

Once you’re done, wash most of the conditioner off but not all the way. This helps prepare your hair for the styling products you’ll apply.

You can also opt for a leave-in conditioner for the same effect. It will also help retain moisture and reduce frizziness throughout the day.

Read here for more details on how to deep condition curly hair.

3. Styling

While your hair is still wet, start applying a CGM-approved gel or cream on your hair. You can also opt for essential oils. We have a list of our most recommended essential oils here.

Again, scrunch up your hair from ends to roots to encourage defined curls. 

You can also try the “Praying Hands” technique. Get a preferred amount of styling product onto your palms, then scrunch your hair in between. This will help spread the product more evenly.

4. Plopping

Once you’re finished styling, dry your hair with a microfiber towel or a big cotton shirt. Lay it down on a flat surface, flip your head, and carefully put your wet hair in the center. 

Wrap the shirt all over your head to make sure that everything is covered. Tie the ends to make sure everything is secured. 

Leave this on your head for at least 20 minutes. The shirt will absorb the wetness in your hair without weighing down your curls. If you really need to dry your hair quickly, you can use a diffuser on low heat.

If you have flat roots, you can test if root-clipping will work on you. Once you’ve styled and plopped, grab a section of your roots away and slide the clip in, away from your face. Repeat this step till you’re able to clip them all.

 Let them sit while you air-dry your hair and voila! Goodbye flat roots.

Step-By-Step Curly Girl Method For Beginners Video

Are you a visual learner? Here’s a step-by-step curly girl video you can follow.

Curly Girl Method FAQs

How often should You wash your hair?

There are many factors on how much you should wash your hair such as your lifestyle and how much moisture your hair needs.

If you want to refresh your curls in between your wash days, you can fill up a spray bottle with water mixed with a leave-in conditioner to hydrate your hair.

Apply your styling products while your hair is wet to restore your curls.

When will you see the results?

Some people see immediate results once they’ve successfully restored moisture. You’ll find that your hair is less frizzy, less crunchy, and overall healthy looking. 

You’ll see your hard work pay off in 6 weeks when you find your hair looking revitalized.

How do you maintain your curls in between washes?

Consider getting silk pillowcases. Cotton will make your hair frizzy from the friction. You can also put your hair in a loose bun while sleeping to protect your curls.

What to expect during the transition phase?

Everyone experiences a different effect during the transition phase. Since you suddenly introduced a new routine to your hair, it will take some time for it to adapt. 

Some people report having oilier or greasier hair after following curly girl techniques, but this may be due to using sulfates on your final wash. 

The scalp is producing sebum in response to the drying effect of your shampoo.

If you’re experiencing the opposite effect of CGM, and now have greasy hair, this won’t last forever. 

The frizz just means that your hair doesn’t have enough moisture. 

You just need to figure out how many products you need to apply to hydrate your locks without adding weight. 

curly-haired smiling woman wearing pink shirt in a yellow background

Maintaining the Curly Girl Method

Everyone knows the struggle of maintaining curly hair and following CGM may be overwhelming at first, but trust me, it’s worth it! 

Just remember that you can modify the steps and the products to what works for you. 

Don’t feel pressured to buy all the products that people recommend. 

Some products will work for other people but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will work on you. 

So don’t worry and have patience when it comes to trial and error. You’ll find what works for you in time.

pink infographic with illustrations of a blonde woman depicting the steps in the curly girl method

Have you tried CGM? Share the results in the comments!

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  • Stephanie Martin

    Stephanie Martin blends her beauty industry background with expertise in communications to lead in the fashion and beauty world. As a fashion and beauty editor, she is known for engaging and informative articles. Her lifelong passion for fashion, makeup, and hair shines through her work, earning her widespread respect among readers and clients. Stephanie's style, a mix of classic and contemporary, makes her a dynamic and influential figure in the industry, inspiring others with her knowledgeable and approachable insights.

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  • 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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