curlyhair’s Ultimate Guide to the Curly Girl/Guy Method

curlyhair’s Ultimate Guide to the Curly Girl/Guy Method

Introduction

We created this document as a more flexible, beautiful, and usable alternative to Reddit’s wiki system. It works better on mobile, we can actually embed images, and we can link directly to different sections! We hope you enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.

Please don’t be intimidated by the length! If you’re just getting started, all you need is on a couple pages here. All this information was collected over several years of moderating the active and helpful /r/curlyhair community. Some of the info here has citations (as much as possible) but a lot of it is crowd-sourced information from the community members!

This guidebook is meant to be a reference, something you sit down to answer a specific question (“if I want to go swimming, do I need to do anything special to protect my hair?”) not something you sit down and read through all in one sitting.

It is also a work in progress, so if you see something you’d like to contribute please feel free to message the moderators!

Getting Started

What is the CG method?

The Curly Girl/Guy Method (aka CG or CGM) is a gentle, moisturizing hair care method to bring out the best in your curls or waves.

This is a detailed overview of each step of the CG method. Read through it to learn more about how to take care of curly or wavy hair.

If you just want a straightforward, quick, & cheap starter routine, check out the Beginner Routine!

 

Overview of the basics

Curly hair is almost always super dry by default, thanks to sulfates, the harsh detergents in shampoo. So we remove sulfates from the routine. The problem is that sulfates are used to wash away certain ingredients like silicones, so we remove those too. This leaves only ingredients that can be washed away with JUST water.

The CG method mostly focuses around removing both sulfates and silicones in an attempt to be gentler on already unruly hair!

We’ll go through this in more detail below, but here’s the gist:

  1. Wash (conditioner-only wash (cowash) or low poo (low lather/sulfate-free shampoo))

  2. Condition (use lots of conditioner, detangle)

  3. Apply products (scrunch in a palm full of gel, mousse, or cream)

  4. Dry (plop, then air dry or diffuse)

Make sure your products are CG-safe if you co-wash or use low poo! The fastest way to check ingredients is to google them, then paste them into one of these helpful apps: Curlsbot, IsItCG.

If you just want a straightforward, quick, & cheap starter routine, check out the Beginner Routine!

 

Before starting CG: Reset Wash

Before starting CG, you must wash all the old silicones and product build-up out of your hair with a shampoo that has sulfates but no silicones.

A great cheap option is V05 Clarifying Shampoo, available from any drugstore, Target, etc. (CVS, Walmart). This product works because it has sulfates and no silicones. (It is not CG approved, but that’s what we want for this first wash). Shampoo one time with this reset wash shampoo, and then set it aside for now.  (See this short list of suggested products for what to look for if you can’t find V05).

Yes: you will stop regularly using sulfate shampoo after this.

Just to be absolutely clear: You will use the reset wash shampoo very infrequently (once when starting CG, and again every few weeks or months if needed). Then you will use a different, gentler product to wash your hair. This reset wash shampoo is only used to strip the water-insoluble ingredients out of your hair and will leave it dry if used continually because it contains sulfates. Using it once every couple of weeks is ok to help with buildup, but do not use it as a regular shampoo.

  • Do not skip this step! This is the most common mistake we see starting out!

  • It might take more than one CG-approved wash and some trial & error to see a difference! Give it at least two weeks before posting a follow-up, unless you are desperate.

  • After the reset wash, you have now officially started CG!

Beginner Routine

Be prepared to throw everything you know about haircare out the window! The CG method really shakes things up. Even if it sounds crazy, give it a try!

Why try the beginner routine?

It’s a quick, ultra minimal, and super cheap way to get started with the CG method! (Total cost: $11.79, as of June 2018.)

This tried-and-true set of products and steps will help you build a foundation that you can modify as you get to know your hair. It will not work for everyone, but it is a great way to get started.

Try it for a month and then come back with more specific questions.

Steps

Infographic

(Click here for a larger, clearer version)

 

Text version

RESET WASH

This is the most important step! Do not skip this!

Shampoo your hair with the reset wash shampoo. This will remove all of your old products (and any silicones, wax, etc. that they contain). The first time you do this routine, skip step 1 (Co-wash), since you just washed your hair with shampoo. Every other time, start with co-washing.

Do not use this product every time you wash your hair (once every few weeks to months is okay). Your hair could be very dry and frizzy if you use it too much.

 

1. CO-WASH

CO-wash stands for “Conditioner-Only washing.” Yes, that means you will only use conditioner to wash your hair, the conditioner takes the place of shampoo!

Vigorously massage the conditioner into your scalp and hair, like you would shampoo. While you rinse, keep rubbing to remove oils and dirt. Be sure to rinse thoroughly.

Not everyone can co-wash, particularly wavies. If this doesn’t work for you, try a sulfate-free shampoo aka low-poo (see the alternative product suggestions below).

A Note about Cowashing: Lots of people get nervous about putting conditioner on their roots.

  1.  Don’t be! Most people adjust within a few weeks. Your scalp will stop overproducing oils if you stop stripping all the oils off with sulfates.

  2. You can always do a wash with the reset shampoo once every week if need be, especially during the transition period.

  3. You can also try a low-poo instead if you’re very concerned. Check out the very very short go-to list of products for low-poo options.

 

2. CONDITION AND DETANGLE

Use a ton of conditioner! You’ll want at least a handful for shoulder-length hair, more if it’s long or thick. (This is why we recommend inexpensive conditioners.)

Wait– I put in MORE conditioner? Didn’t I just co-wash, and isn’t that the same thing? Not quite! It is the same product, but used with different applications/techniques to give different effects. The main focus of co-washing is to get dirt and oils out of your hair, not to make it look nice. Cowashing focuses on the scalp and involves thorough scrubbing and rinsing. Conditioning focuses on the lengths of your hair, letting the conditioner soak in to moisturize and clump the curls. Also, if you want to leave any conditioner in (lots of curlies do!), you can’t do that if you only co-wash, since it’s critical to completely wash out the co-wash.

Detangle gently with fingers or a wide tooth comb. While your hair is slippery with conditioner in the shower, you can use a wide-toothed comb, a tangle teezer, or a “wet brush” to help remove tangles. Don’t brush or comb your hair when dry (it makes curly hair poofy):

OK to use (only while wet):

(Left to right: wide-toothed comb, “wet brush”, tangle teezer, classic denman brush)

Never OK to use:

(Left to right: boar bristle round brush, boar bristle denman brush)

 

A popular technique to apply conditioner is squish to condish. It’s a great option for starting out! But if it’s overwhelming, just put conditioner in your hair and scrunch it.

Rinsing: Rinse out most but not all of the conditioner. If you do squish to condish, there is no need to put your head under the water and rinse again — the method handles the conditioner+water balance for you. But please experiment! This may be an unsatisfying answer, but we cannot say exactly how much conditioner is right for you to leave in.

 

3. STYLE

Take a large amount (at least a lemon-sized handful) of gel and scrunch it into your hair thoroughly. If you have lots of hair, do this in sections.

Gels have changed, and we promise you won’t end up looking like your little brother spiking his hair in the early 2000’s. 🙂

  • Take a large amount of gel (a handful, approximately golf ball size) (yes, really)

  • Scrunch it into your dripping wet hair.

Note about mousse: Some people want to try mousse instead of gel. We recommend gel! It works really well for 98% of people. Please give it a try! If you do use mousse, follow the same techniques as with gel.

DRY

Scrunch your hair with a cotton t-shirt or microfiber towel. Plopping is also a great option to reduce drying time and help your curls stay together, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Let your hair air dry or diffuse.

 

SCRUNCH

Scrunch out the crunch of the gel when your hair is totally dry.

Before and after scrunching out the crunch:

(Double click to start the video, or view directly on youtube)

Products

    • Reset wash This is the most important step! Do not skip this!

  • This shampoo must have sulfates, but NO silicones.

  • Product suggestion: V05 clarifying shampoo, available from drugstores, Target, etc. (CVS, Walmart)

  • ONLY use this for the reset wash before starting CG, and occasionally (every few weeks to months) to help remove any buildup.

    • Co-wash and conditioner

    • Styling product (no sulfates, silicones, or drying alcohols)

Again: You only use the v05 shampoo once in order to get the bad stuff out of your hair. Once you have done this you can start the CG method. This sulfate-containing reset shampoo is only used to strip the bad stuff out of your hair and will leave it dry if used continually. Once every couple of weeks is ok to help with buildup but not as a regular shampoo. We know this gets repetitive, but it is a very common mistake!

Alternate product suggestions for the beginner routine

Can’t find the products above, or they’re not working for you? Try these other options. This is not an exhaustive list. There are many, many other products that will work besides what we have listed here.

These are all curl friendly following the CG method. We tried to span a wide range of price points, starting from just a few dollars per bottle (specifically marked as ultra cheap) to higher end brands.

No two curls are alike, so think of this list as a launching pad for your curly journey that will need to be edited along the way. If these products aren’t working for you, we have many many more options in our Holy Grail product list! The list can be a little overwhelming, so we recommend starting here.

International curlies, we sadly acknowledge that this list is USA-centric. See here for international products.

Reset shampoo

This is the shampoo that HAS sulfates but NO silicones you’ll use once before you start CG. Most will never use this again (unless you accidentally use a product that has silicones, or your hair is extra prone to build-up). Remember: only sulfates (and certain other detergents) will remove silicones, but sulfates are drying so it’s important to minimize how often you use them.

Can’t find any of these? Look for a shampoo that HAS sulfates but NO silicones. Google for the ingredients, and paste them into the ingredient checker. You should see something like this one, for Mane and Tail. See how it has a red box for sulfates, but nothing for silicones? That means this shampoo HAS sulfates but NO silicones, and will work great as a final rinse!

Co-wash

You’ll notice many of these are the same as the normal/leave-in suggestions. These are products that work for both scenarios!

Lately, some companies have started making products that are marketed specifically as co-washes. (Yay, CG has gone mainstream!) These may have gentle cleansing ingredients, or maybe they are slipperier and easier to work with, or it could be just marketing hype. “Normal” conditioners will work just fine for co-washing. Cheaper is generally preferred so you can use a lot, but it highly depends on your budget.

 

Low poo

  • Shea Moisture (all their shampoos are CG)

  • SM African Black Soap Dandruff Control Shampoo (website)

  • SM Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo (website)

“Normal”/Leave-in conditioner

(You’ll notice many of these are the same as the co-wash suggestions. These are products that work for both scenarios!)

  • VO5 conditioners (the ones with scent names) (*ultra cheap @ $1/bottle, $0.09/oz) (website)

  • Suave Essentials and Naturally Derived conditioners (*ultra cheap @ $2/bottle, $0.07/oz, Naturally Derived are $4/bottle, $0.36/oz) (website, website)

  • TRESemme Botanique and Pro Pure conditioners (website, website)

  • Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner (*ultra cheap @ $4/bottle, $0.25/oz)

  • Shea Moisture (all their conditioners are CG)

  • SM Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner (website)

  • SM African Water Mint & Ginger Detox & Refresh Hair & Scalp Conditioner (website)

Styling products

Most curls will do well with a gel, so if you’re an absolute beginner, start there. We also have a few options for mousses and creams (best for very dry hair or hair that is not weighed down easily). If you’re just starting out, go with gel!

Gel

Mousse

Cream

Beginner routine FAQ

How frequently should I wash now?

Start with the same schedule you used before, adjusting as needed. So if you used to wash your hair 2x a week, keep doing that. If you washed every day, keep doing that. It takes time for your hair to adjust to a new routine. Give it at least two weeks before changing any products. You’ll get to know your hair, and your scalp will adjust to no longer having oils stripped away by sulfates or other cleansers.

I’ve always been really careful to avoid conditioner on my roots, this seems insane!

I know! Trust me: I was the same. I used to carefully apply a dime-size amount to the very ends of my long hair, and if I got any above that my scalp would instantly look greasy. I promise: for 99% of people, the problem is silicones, not conditioner! Switching to CG will likely cause this problem to go away. If you end up getting build-up or feel extra greasy or just need to reset, you can always do another rinse with the reset shampoo from above (but give it at least a month before you do that – your hair and scalp will need some time to adjust!).

My hair is very greasy! I’m worried about not using shampoo.

  1.  Don’t be! Most people adjust within a few weeks. Your scalp will stop overproducing oils if you stop stripping all the oils off with sulfates.

  2. You can always do a wash with the reset shampoo once a week if need be.

  3. You can also try a sulfate-free shampoo (aka low-poo) instead if you’re very concerned. Check out the very very short go-to list of products for low-poo options.

None of these products are available in my area, what do I do?

Check out the very very short list of alternate product suggestions for quick alternatives before going to our much longer (and sometimes overwhelming) holy grail product list. For a reset shampoo, you’re looking for a shampoo that HAS sulfates but DOES NOT have silicones. To check ingredients, paste them into here: curlsbot.com or isitcg.com. You should see a warning about harsh sulfates, which is what you want for this first wash!

Ok, I’ve been doing the Quickstart Routine for 2 weeks…now what?

Common next steps include: identify porosity (this is much more important than curl type for picking products), find a leave-in, try a few other styling products (gels, oils, creams, etc.), and find a deep conditioner. The rest of this wiki has tons of info for you!

 

Troubleshooting

Problem: I don’t know if I need a haircut

How do I tell if I need a haircut?

If you have very dense sections, your hair isn’t curling as well as it used to, or you have obviously dry and damaged ends you might need a haircut.

Problem: Too much grease/oil

Why is my hair greasy now?

  1. Did you do a final sulfate wash? If not, wash your hair with a reset shampoo or shampoo that contains a sulfate to remove all the non-water-soluble silicones.

  2. Your hair could be transitioning. Sulfates and harsh cleansers strip your scalp of oils. To recover, your scalp overproduces oil, and it takes time for your scalp to realize it doesn’t need to generate so much oil. Be patient and try to stretch out the time between washes. Give it 1 month at least.

  3. Your scalp may just produce too much oil for cowashing. You can try doing low-poo to cleanse more as needed.

Problem: Hair seems to be falling out

Why is my hair falling out so much?

It probably isn’t. The average human loses 120 hairs per day. If you have curly hair, those loose hairs won’t fall out unless you pull them out (i.e., by running your hands through, combing, brushing, etc). For most, that only happens in the shower (since brushing/combing/touching can disrupt curl patterns). If you only shower every 3 days, it would be normal to lose 350 hairs in the shower. It can feel like a lot, but it’s very rare for someone to actually be losing more than normal. If you are very concerned, talk to a doctor!

Terrible MS paint sketch of a “normal” amount of hair to lose for hair a little past the shoulders, washing every few days:

Problem: I want my hair to grow faster

Disclaimer: If you are very concerned about hair loss or slow growth, see a doctor. This can be a sign of serious health conditions so you want to rule that out before looking into other causes. A doctor can also test you for vitamin/mineral deficiencies and provide you with up-to-date nutrition information. Don’t substitute the information here (or from other sources like blogs and beauty magazines) for proper medical care.

The Bottom Line

Hair growth is not fully understood and there are no proven treatments to speed hair growth. If you are healthy and eat well, there’s not much more you can do. And if you are unhealthy or not eating well, then no amount of external treatments will make up for that. The Harvard Nutrition Source is a respected and research-based source for nutrition information.

Research into Treatments

The only proven treatments are to reverse hair loss (e.g. the FDA approved drug minoxidil), not to speed up the growth. There are studies on various methods for speeding hair growth, but they are all small sample sizes, not repeated, or are on animals or cells, which means they aren’t strong enough evidence to prove these methods are effective for humans. Many of these studies, as well as information on the stages of hair growth, can be found here. There are also anecdotally endorsed treatments, like scalp massages or castor oil. There’s likely no harm in these treatments or the external ones mentioned in the article above. So if you want to do a scalp massage with some peppermint oil feel free, just don’t be disappointed if nothing happens.

Supplements

A common misconception is that the FDA fully regulates supplements, so they are totally safe and the claims they make have been verified. In fact, the FDA “is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed,” so it’s up to the manufacturer to say they’re safe and to claim they work. In addition, the FDA doesn’t allow supplements “to be marketed for the purpose of treating, diagnosing, preventing, or curing diseases,” meaning that any claims made by a supplement brand haven’t been tested or backed up by the FDA (source). And just because they’re supplements doesn’t mean they have no side effects or can’t be overdosed on. Overdose of fat-soluble vitamins can be dangerous and overdose of biotin, a common supplement marketed for hair growth, can mess with insulin production (source, source). Biotin can also cause nausea and diarrhea and high doses can interfere with lab test results, leading to a warning from the FDA. You should always discuss supplements with your doctor to ensure they don’t interfere with your medications. And if you don’t have a deficiency, don’t waste your money on unproven supplements.

Problem: Limp curls by the end of the day (or by day 2)

Why do my curls get limp?

  • You may need products with more hold! Gel is the best product for that. Once the gel is completely dry, you “scrunch out the crunch” to remove the gel cast and get soft, bouncy curls again. No wet look!

  • Your hair might also be over-moisturized. Learn how to add protein to give them strength again!

Problem: Frizz

My hair is frizzy. What’s wrong?

Frizzy hair is usually dry hair. Make sure you’re getting enough moisture in: deep conditioning products can help, leave-in conditioners. Gel is typically considered the number one frizz fighter! See the section on scrunching out the crunch (SOTC) if you’re worried about it looking crispy or wet.

Problem: Some parts are curlier than others

One layer of my hair is curlier than the other, why is this?

  • Curl patterns can vary and lucky you, yours does. This is very common! Some use a curling wand on the few straight strands. (Note that this will damage your hair).

  • Make sure you’re getting enough product everywhere! Sometimes folks think the underside of their hair is straight, but when they are careful about adding leave-in conditioner and gel down there it becomes just as curly as the rest.

  • Try flipping your head upside down in the shower. The direct blast of water may be too much for your hair, so getting that on the underside can help the top of your hair look better.

  • You could have a damaged “canopy” (outermost layer of your hair). Possible solutions include a deep treatment on just the top layers and/or flipping your part.

  • Watch this video for more tips.

  • You can try pin curls or finger curling: where you use your fingers to curl a piece, and then pin it up or coat it in gel to get it to stay.

Top 10 FAQ (Most Frequently Asked Questions)

 

1. What is my curl type? 

Someone created a curl identification system to determine the “type” of one’s curl.

We recommend not worrying about what “type” you are because:

1)  It doesn’t help you decide what products or techniques to use

2)  Your hair will almost definitely change as you take better care of it.
See this example of one person’s hair. The left image is fluffy, maybe a bit of texture, curl type 1A if that, right? But the next picture is only a few months later, following CG techniques and using only CG-approved products. Suddenly 2b, 2c with one or two 3a and 2a sprinkled in!

3)  Most people have a mix of curl types on their head, or don’t neatly fit into a single category.

Porosity is far more important than curl type. This will affect your routine more than any other detail about your hair.

If you insist, we reluctantly share this naturallycurly link for finding your curl type.

All curl types from wavy to curly to kinky are welcome here!

2. How do I protect my hair overnight? 

Read this guide on sleeping with curls in the wiki.

3. How do I revive my curls in the morning? 

Read this guide on reviving curls in the wiki.

4. How often should I wash my hair?

Read this guide on cleansing.

Long story short: it’s up to you! Some wash every 4-5 days, some do every 2-3 days, some wash every day. (Note: “wash” can mean just water, co-wash, low-poo, or regular shampoo). If you’re using CG-approved shampoo or co-washing, you can wash everyday without damage.

5. How do I style my curly hair, or how do I use gel? 

A lot of folks are scared of gel because in the 90s it was super flaky, and the style was to have super “crunchy” and wet-looking hair. Fear not! Those days are behind us. Modern gels don’t get flaky, and you’ll “scrunch out that crunch” to get soft, bouncy hair again so don’t be afraid to try!

6. What if I have dandruff/psoriasis/seborrheic dermatitis/need to use a medicated shampoo?

Read our guide on scalp conditions in the wiki.

7. What if I want to wear my hair straight sometimes?

If you’re going to use heat tools we recommend using a silicone-containing heat protectant to keep the heat damage to a minimum. Since you now have silicones in your hair, you’ll need to do another reset/transition wash with a shampoo that HAS sulfates and NO silicones to start CG over fresh!

Doing this once or twice every few months is probably fine, but more than that is not great for your hair. But it’s your hair! Do what you want 🙂

8. What do I do if I have short hair?

Adding some keywords for ctrl+F: pixie, male, guy

  • The product recommendations are the same! Hair is hair regardless of length.

  • Gel can be harder to use on very short hair (hair less than 1-2 inches). A very small amount may help with definition. Oils may also help.

  • Hair that’s shorter than 3-4 inches may not curl very much. That’s just due to the length – it won’t curl for a while. Give it time.

  • Plopping also doesn’t work for short hair (nothing to plop). Instead: gently pat your hair with a microfiber towel or tshirt.

  • Yes, you can use all the same techniques regardless of your gender. Everyone deserves nice hair!

9. What is the transition period like?

    • My hair gets greasy too fast!

  • If you just started CG: did you first do a reset/transition wash with a shampoo that HAS sulfates but NO silicones? It’s the most important step. If you don’t wash all the silicones away, your hair will get greasy, dull, feel weighed-down, and can even become straight. Remember this step! Double check if you’re not sure! Use the ingredient checkers to make sure you used a shampoo that HAS sulfates but NO silicones: curlsbot.com or isitcg.com

  • If you’re sure you did the reset/transition sulfate wash: Normal shampoo strips all the natural oils out of your hair, so your scalp starts overproducing to keep up. Once you stop removing oils, your scalp takes a while to realize it doesn’t need to produce so much. This transition time can last between 1 day to a month. If you need to remove more oils, you can try “low poo” for cleansing options that will get rid of more grease but are still CG-approved. The very very short list of go-to products is a good place to start. The massive Holy Grail Product List has tons of other product options (but it’s overwhelming, so if you’re new here we don’t recommend starting there!)

    • My hair feels dry, rough, is losing its curl, and is like straw!

  • This really sounds like protein overload! Basically you need to scale back on protein, and add a bunch more moisture to your hair to get your moisture/protein balance settled again. Read the section of the wiki all about protein to learn more.

    • My hair is suddenly straight!

  • This is not a normal part of the transition! Your hair might be over-moisturized. Check out the section of the wiki all about protein to learn more.

10. Where can I find cruelty-free/fragrance-free/protein-free products? 

NaturallyCurly has an excellent way to search for specific product types: https://shop.naturallycurly.com/shop-by-ingredient-type/. Here’s a user-created list of fragrance-free options.

Cruelty free products are marked in the HG list.

For other questions: Look through the rest of the Frequently Asked Questions, search the sub to see if anyone has asked before, comment in the weekly “No Question is Dumb Thread”, or make a new post!

Additional FAQ

How do I apply products? 

See our library of techniques here.

How do I dry my hair?

See our guide on drying here.

How do I get multi-day curls?

See our guide on multi-day curls here.

Do I need to do CGM to get good curly results?

Nope! Lots of people have healthy, happy hair using standard ingredients. We have seen LOTS of dramatic successes, though, and if you’re having problems, the first thing people will tell you is to switch to CG.

Can I do parts of the CGM?

The techniques can be used by anyone. If you cut out sulfates, you MUST also cut out silicones or you’ll never wash them off your hair since most of them are not water soluble.

My favorite product has silicones! What do I do?

You can keep using it! You will probably need to do a regular reset wash with a product that has sulfates or you’ll get build-up. Or you can find a new favorite that is CG-approved. Check out the Holy Grail list for recommendations.

How do I find a curly salon?

The naturallycurly site has a search function, as does DevaCurl. But most folks have the best luck with Yelp – just look for “curly approved” and call and ask for more details. If you want a Deva-trained curly hair specialist, be sure to explicitly ask if they’ll do the Deva dry cut. (Don’t just ask if they cut curly hair — virtually every stylist will say yes, even if they are not trained specifically to cut curly hair.)

What hairstyle would look best on me?

Check out /r/HairStyle or /r/HairStyleAdvice !

How do I revive my curls in the morning?

Read this advanced guide on reviving curls in the morning in the wiki.

But my hair isn’t super dry, should I still do CG?

Although you are one of the lucky few with well-nourished hair right from the start, a lot of the techniques used in CG can still help you with managing frizz and getting curls to clump. You can probably afford to be a little more relaxed about choosing products, and pick and choose what aspects of the method work for you.

How do I tell if my hair is dry?

Frizzy hair is dry hair. If it’s frizzy, poofy, undefined, you may have dry hair.

My hair isn’t curly, it’s frizzy and poofy. How do I deal with it?

You suuuuuuure? Many many many (many) people who think they have frizzy, poofy, messy, unruly hair actually have curly hair that’s in desperate need of moisture.

ELI5: How do I apply gel? How much do I use? When do I put it in?

Typical gel use-case for someone w/ shoulder-length, fine hair:

  • A handful of gel (approximately 1/3 of a cup).

  • Put into hair when it’s soaking dripping wet.

  • Plop w/ a tshirt to catch drips. You can also gently scrunch for the first 10 minutes.

  • Don’t touch hair until it’s dry.

  • When it’s completely dry, “scrunch out the crunch” to avoid the wet look and have soft, bouncy, defined curls.

Is the CG method safe for colored/dyed hair?

Yes! In fact, most color safe shampoos are also sulfate free. Going to CG should help your color last longer by using gentler products and washing less often.

What if I have dandruff? Will CG help me?

See the section on dandruff & scalp conditions!

Long story short, CGM may make your dandruff better or worse, depending on what is causing your dandruff.

  • If your dandruff is from dry scalp, CGM will probably help.

  • If your dandruff is from a scalp condition, CGM may exacerbate the condition.

I had curls as a kid, and now they’re gone. How do I get them back?

Long story short, this may not be possible. Hair texture changes over time due to genetics, hormones, age, and more. Puberty has an especially big impact on curls. Your hair might be very similar now or totally different from natural causes, not from any “bad” products. See this article in naturallycurly for more info on why/how this happens.

We are all about learning to love your hair as it is, rather than trying to change it “back” to some past level of curliness! You might find that by using some curly techniques, your hair will spring up a little bit, but maybe not. Start with the beginner routine and see what happens!

General Info and Techniques

Cleansing

How often should I wash my hair?

It’s up to you! Some wash every 4-5 days, some do every 2-3 days, some wash every day. (Note: “wash” can mean just water, co-wash, low-poo, or regular shampoo). If you’re using CG-approved shampoo or co-washing, you can wash everyday without damage.

The amount of conditioning you do also depends on your hair, lifestyle, schedule, preferences, etc. It’s probably easiest to start off by sticking to your usual washing schedule, but only condition/co-wash on those days instead of shampooing. You may find that you need to condition more or less, but it’s a good starting point.

If you workout a lot, you may want to rinse your hair after and co-wash on those days. A lot of folks wash/condition only once a week, and “refresh” between washes as needed. Many find that their hair benefits from getting conditioner every time it gets wet, or it will dry out too much.

There’s a LOT of trial and error here. 😉

(Thanks to /u/sea_of_clouds for the phrasing of much of this section!)

Types of cleansers

There are generally three classes of cleansers:

Creamy cleansers

These don’t foam up at all. Using conditioner to wash your hair (called “Conditioner Only washing, or “cowashing”), or using a product marketed as a “cowash” would fall here. (See here for more info on cowashing.)

Low Sudsing cleansers

These foam up a little bit, but don’t have harsh detergents in them like sulfates. Often CG approved, and much more gentle on your hair. Can be marketed as “no poo” or “low poo”.

Clarifying sulfate cleansers

These foam up a LOT, and are “normal shampoos” that most people are familiar with. Usually have harsh cleansers like sulfates that trip hair of natural oils and can be overly drying.

No cleanser

There’s also a fourth option: “going nopoo” can mean completely stopping all forms of hair products, and only using baking soda, apple cider vinegar, or just water to clean your hair. We do not recommend this. Baking soda is the wrong pH for your hair and scalp and skin, and can cause long-term problems. Apple cider vinegar can make a great rinse if you dilute it 50:50 with water and only use once a week.

The science behind avoiding sulfates

Understandably, a lot of the CG method comes across as woo woo or unscientific. And that’s partially true and deserved — many of these techniques have developed from anecdotal experience. While we may not necessarily know why “squish to condish” works so well (although Wendy from science-y hair blog has a good guess [1]) or how the gel cast forms, we do know (scientifically) that use of sulfates is tied to dry and damaged hair.

First, let’s address the myth floating around that we avoid sulfates because they are dangerous or cause cancer. This is not true; sulfates are not dangerous in the concentrations approved for use in cosmetics [2]. Sulfates can cause contact dermatitis in rare cases, especially for those with eczema, but this is not why we avoid them.

The anecdotal feeling of dryness after using a shampoo with SLS can be backed up by studies measuring characteristics of hair before and after application. We describe hair as feeling “dry” or “strawlike,” especially over time. One study (Sandhu and Robbins) measured damage by quantifying protein loss after bleaching, perming, and exposing the hair to surfactants [3]. The section of the study related to surfactants demonstrated that hair treated with SLS and ALS produced statistically significant protein loss compared to water. If the cuticle is damaged (for example, by coloring, permanent straightening treatments, or heat), this protein loss effect is even more dramatic. Bellare et al. measured damage via the uplift of the cuticle on a scanning electron microscope [4]. This study compared control hairs (untreated) with hairs treated with SLS and their own lab-made shampoos with and without conditioning agents. SLS had significantly more uplift compared to the control group.

It is worth noting that there is no scientific evidence that sulfate-free shampoos are less damaging than their sulfate counterparts [5]. This does not mean that they are “better” or “worse” than SLS, just that there is not enough information.

There are also a good handful of science-minded bloggers. Wendy of science-y hair blog has some fantastic articles, including one with some fun microscope pictures of hair treated under varying conditions [6]. Erica Douglas is a cosmetic chemist with a BS in Chemical Engineering, who writes some articles at naturallycurly and runs her own website/blog [7]. See [8] for a naturallycurly article she wrote on surfactants.

[1] Not peer-reviewed, but Wendy is a science-minded blogger  http://science-yhairblog.blogspot.com/2018/08/conditioning-technique-squish-to.html

[2] http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/706110/SODIUM_LAURYL_SULFATE/

[3] Hair damage caused by sulfates, measured by protein loss: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.569.6710&rep=rep1&type=pdf

[4] Hair damage caused by sulfates, measured by uplift of the cuticle on a SEM https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1467-2494.2001.00056.x

[5] Counterpoint about sulfate-free shampoos: there is no scientific evidence that sulfate-free shampoos are less damaging than their sulfate counterparts. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/getting-past-the-hype-dermatologist-untangles-common-hair-care-misconceptions

[6] Not peer-reviewed, but Wendy is a science-minded blogger  http://science-yhairblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/shampoos-harsh-mild-and-otherwise.html

[7] Erica Douglas, a cosmetic chemist with a Chemical Engineering degree http://www.sisterscientist.com/

[8] Naturallycurly article about surfactants, written by Erica Douglas: https://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/home/the-truth-about-sulfates-according-to-science

Co-washing 

(Major thanks to /u/HolyChickenWing for providing much of the text for this section!)

Co-wash vs Leave-in vs Rinse-out vs….. Conditioners that are advertised as ‘cowash conditioners’ (AsIAm, African Pride, etc) are usually a bit thinner in consistency than a rinse out conditioner. Something that’s advertised as a cowash usually has specific ingredients that are tailored to cleanse the scalp and remove debris/buildup.

HOWEVER: many conditioners that are marketed as normal/”rinse out” conditioners actually work very well for co-washing. Those who co-wash often use massive handfuls of products to get slip and really cleanse and moisturize their hair, so it’s good to start with something very inexpensive.

Rinse out conditioners usually aren’t tailored for cleansing the scalp or removing build up. A rinse out conditioner’s main purpose is to add moisture to the hair, so it is usually a much thicker formula of ingredients and consistency. Rinse out conditioners are usually praised the most if they have a great “slip” to allow for easier detangling. When you use a rinse out conditioner, you aren’t massively scrubbing the scalp to remove debris either. You are just applying the conditioner to the hair, detangling and rinsing after a few minutes. That differs greatly from the co washing process.

  • You’ll have to find what works for you through trial and error.

  • If you have very fine hair, consider avoiding products with shea butter as they can weigh hair down.

  • It’s easy, cheap, and often very effective to start using only one conditioner to co-wash, and leave a bit of that in your hair for extra moisture.

  • If you need more moisture, and your co-wash conditioner isn’t working well, then it might be time to look for a dedicated leave-in.

Technique

  • To cowash, emulsify a little conditioner in your hands (moosh your hands together and rub them back and forth so conditioner gets all over your hands).

  • Insert your fingers into the hair, starting at your forehead, and begin to scrub your scalp with your fingertips (no nails!).

  • Move your fingers backwards over the scalp, gently rubbing and scrubbing. You might need more conditioner, so pour out a little more, emulsify again, and this time

  • insert your fingers into the hair starting at your temples. Repeat the gentle scrubbing, moving your hands up and back towards your crown.

  • Now repeat again, this time starting at your neck, and moving up the scalp.

  • By the time you’re done, your entire scalp should have gotten scrubbed.

  • Now is the time to rinse – but don’t just dunk your head. While rinsing, continue to rub and scrub your scalp to get all the conditioner and dirt and oils off your scalp and out of your hair.

Conditioning

This is the most important part (moisture, moisture, moisture!). Your conditioner must be able to be washed out by co-washing or a low poo or it will build up and cause limp, frizzy curls. To do this, we make sure all the ingredients can be washed out with just water, avoiding silicones, waxes, and other non-water-soluble ingredients.

To apply your CG-friendly conditioner, we heartily recommend squish to condish (S2C), described below. This helps form gorgeous, healthy curl clumps.

Just to be clear, conditioning is a separate step after co-washing. Cowashing is about scrubbing your scalp to remove oil and dirt. Conditioning is about adding conditioner to the length of your hair to moisturize it!

Detangling using conditioner

Detangle your hair by applying gobs of conditioner to your wet hair. Work through knots starting at the ends, and use either your fingers or a wide tooth comb. Do not use stiff bristled brushes! Using a brush like that will disrupt your curl pattern and create the dreaded frizz halo. A wide-toothed comb is ok, as is a tangle teezer, or a “wet brush”, but only use them while your hair is wet, preferably before styling.

OK to use (only while wet):

(Left to right: wide-toothed comb, “wet brush”, tangle teezer, classic denman brush)

Never OK to use:

(Left to right: round brush, boar bristle denman brush)

Squish to Condish (S2C)

S2C uses just water and conditioner to hydrate your curls and help them form into curl clumps. The basic idea is to get LOTS of water into your hair, aided by conditioner. Conditioner helps hydrate hair, but the real goal is to get water into your hair. You scoop handfuls of water into your hair and squish/squeeze/squelch it with your hands until it makes a ‘squelching’ sound like a rubber duck. If it isn’t making the rubber duck noise, you need more conditioner. If you add in a gel into your routine, that will be the very next step- smooth it over your hair and then scrunch it in for a nice, even coating. To remove excess moisture and product from your hair so it dries reasonably, scrunch it with a microfiber towel or a tshirt and don’t touch it as it air dries!

Major thanks to /u/HolyChickenWing for helping to expand this writeup!

Styling

Types of styling products

Styling products will help keep your curls clumped together and frizz-free. If you’re not sure what to do, try a gel first.

Gel
  • If you’re not sure what to do, try a gel first. (Yes, really!)

  • Has the most hold

  • Best for curl definition and keeping frizz at bay

  • Modern gels won’t make you look like a 12 year old boy in the mid-2000’s! We promise! (See the next bullet point) Don’t be afraid to try!

  • Once the gel is completely dry, you “scrunch out the crunch” to remove the gel cast and get soft, bouncy curls again. No wet look!

Mousse
  • Lightweight for easily weighed down wavy hair

  • Works better in wavy hair than other types

Cream
  • Can be light or heavy

  • Best for especially dry hair or hair that is not weighed down easily

Techniques

Experiment with how much water your hair has before adding products. Many curlies apply products when their hair is sopping wet. Others need to scrunch some water out first.

The basic, straightforward way to apply products: Dispense a palm full of product into your hand. Cup your curls in your hand and scrunch upwards toward your head, trying to distribute the product evenly without breaking up your curls.

Helpful hint: if your hair is frizzy when you leave the shower, it won’t get any better after it dries! After it’s dry, scrunch your hair to remove any crunchiness.

Praying Hands

In this technique, you apply product to your hands and rub them together to distribute. Then place your hands on either side of a section of hair (near the root) and gently bring your palms together. Keeping your hands together in this “praying” gesture, move them down the hair shaft to the ends. This smooths the product along the hair, encouraging clumping and reducing frizz. This technique can elongate the curls for some, especially if the hands are clamped together tightly. If you have curls that are easily straightened out, be careful with how much pressure you apply.

Rake & Shake

Ouidad (one of the major curly hair companies) has a method called the Rake and Shake Method. Here is a video of the method.

Super Soaker

Add all of your products to your hair by scrunching or raking the product through with your fingers. Then cup your hands and fill them with water. Scrunch the water directly into your product filled hair. Do this all the way around and you’re done!

Finger coiling

Finger coiling helps define each curl individually. Apply your product by running your fingers through your hair. Take a small, curl-sized piece of hair and smooth it out. Tighter curls should generally take smaller chunks, and looser curls can take larger chunks. Twirl the curl around your finger, keeping it long, and once it is twisted, keep twirling so that it wraps itself around your finger, getting closer to your scalp. Drop the curl and repeat with a new section.

Leave-in, Oil, Cream (LOC)

Kinky and coily hair does well with the LOC method. The acronym refers to the order in which you apply products — leave-in conditioner first, then oil, then cream. Here is an article all about this method. A variation of the LOC method is the LCO method where cream is added before the oil is. This variation seals the cuticle with oil after moisturizing with cream versus sealing before moisturizing. Give both methods a try and see which one you like best!

Here is a great post about oils and how to choose one that works for you!

Scrunch Out the Crunch (SOTC)

Sometimes when using a high-hold gel, a crunchy layer forms, also known as a gel cast. This is a good thing as it helps keep your curls from frizzing while drying, but we need to get rid of the crunch to avoid looking like ramen noodles (unless that’s your thing). This is where SOTC comes in.

Here are some resources for learning SOTC:

Before and after SOTC:

The gel in the left picture dried hard and “crunchy.” That’s okay! Great actually! This hardened gel is the “gel cast,” and it helps keep your curls together and frizz-free.

How to use gel and SOTC
  • After you’ve cleansed and conditioned, while still in the shower with hair dripping wet, get a large amount of gel on your hand. No, more gel. No really – more gel. For thin, fine, shoulder-length hair one user needs a generous, lemon-sized handful of LA Looks or another strong hold gel. Scrunch it into your hair, focusing on the ends. Keep scrunching – working some gel up near your scalp. If you need more volume, really get some gel up there to give your hair support while it’s drying.

  • Gently squeeze with an old tshirt, or plop if that works for you.

  • Once the gel is completely dry, scrunch your hair in your hands (click for a video) to break the cast of gel (the crunchy hardened gel is called the ‘gel cast’). You may need to “rub” your hair while it’s scrunched in your fist. You also may need to rub your fingers against your roots to break the cast nearer to your head. Don’t be afraid to get aggressive with the scrunching, your curls won’t separate or stretch unless you run something (like a brush or your fingers) through them. Your hair should now be in soft, shiny curls!. No wet look!

Suggested adjustments:

  • Try drying your hair a bit before applying gel (often works well for low porosity folks).

  • Play around with the amount of gel.

  • Start paying attention to humidity levels, dew point, and humectants.

  • Try a different gel! Not all gels work with all hair.

  • Gel shouldn’t flake: if it’s flaking, it probably doesn’t agree with your leave-in. Change one or the other.

Major thanks to /u/queeninthenorthsansa for providing such a great picture! Check out her thread of gel advice here.

Shingling

Shingling is a method of applying products that elongates the curl and distributes product to every single strand of hair. It works well with stronger curl patterns.

Divide your hair into 5-6 sections around your head. Distribute your product through each section, working the product from the roots to your ends and making sure to smooth and elongate the curl to remove any frizz. You can apply the product by finger-combing, using a wide-tooth comb, or using a brush. (This is one of the only times it’s okay to use a brush.) As usual, don’t touch your hair during the drying process.

Common modifications to CG

I still want to use silicones, what do I change?

If you want to use silicones, you MUST use a shampoo with sulfates either every wash or once in a while. If you do not do this, you will get buildup and frizz.

I have to use a medicated shampoo, is that okay?

Yes! Your medicated shampoo automatically overrules CG. If you find that it is drying your scalp or hair, try a weekly deep moisture treatment or a richer daily conditioner to counteract the dryness. See the section on dandruff & scalp conditions here.

My hair is especially damaged, is there anything special I need to do?

Check out our tips for damaged hair here!

Curl type (and why it doesn’t matter)

What’s MY curl type?

Someone created a curl identification system to determine the “type” of one’s curl.

We recommend not worrying about what “type” you are because:

  1. It doesn’t help you decide what products or techniques to use,

  2. Your hair will almost definitely change as you take better care of it. Example:

    The left image is fluffy, maybe a bit of texture, curl type 1A if that, right? But the right picture is only a few months later, following CG techniques and using only CG-approved products. Suddenly 2b, 2c with one or two 3a and 2a sprinkled in!

  3. Most people have a mix of curl types on their head, or don’t neatly fit into a single category.

Porosity is far more important than curl type. This will affect your routine more than any other detail about your hair.

  • NOTE: NaturallyCurly incorrectly says Low Porosity hair should avoid protein. From our experience, we’ve seen TONS of evidence that protein-sensitivity and porosity are unrelated. There are tons of folks with low porosity hair that have great success with protein, and high porosity hair that is protein sensitive.

If you insist, we reluctantly share this naturallycurly link for finding your curl type.

All curl types from wavy to curly to kinky are welcome here! Most of the tips, techniques, and products were created by and for women with kinky hair.

Coloring/dyeing

  • Bleaching and dyeing WILL damage your hair. No way around it. It’s still fun though!!

  • Bleached and/or dyed hair is usually more porous. This may change what your hair prefers in terms of techniques and products.

  • Add protein treatments before AND after color-treating hair to give it strength.

  • Lots of extra deep conditioning is important too.

  • For tips on HOW to bleach your hair at home, check out this detailed post.

Drying

Curly hair is often thick and dense, and drying it can be a long process! Typical drying times can vary from 45 minutes to more than 12 hours. This section is your guide to plopping, air drying, and diffusing.

You can either air dry or use a diffuser to dry your hair. Do not touch it until it’s dry! The less you touch it, the less it will frizz.

When you step out of the shower, gently scrunch your hair so that it is no longer dripping, using a t-shirt or microfiber towel. (Never ever rub it dry with a regular terry towel!)

YES: Microfiber towel (left),           NO: Terry towel (right)

Plopping

Plopping works amazingly for some and poorly for others. It’s definitely worth a try! When you plop, you are wrapping your hair up in a specific way to draw some water from your hair before you air dry or diffuse. Most people plop for 15-20 minutes.

Here are some great guides on plopping:

To plop or not to plop?

Plopping has some great benefits. It can:

  • Set curls

  • Help you avoid touching by keeping it out of your face

  • Prevent gravity from stretching out your curls

  • Avoid the effects of humidity (sometimes)

However, if it doesn’t work for you, you’re not alone. Sometimes hair just doesn’t like to plop and that’s okay! It is especially hit-or-miss for short hair.

How to plop

You can use any of these, in order of typical preference:

  • large t-shirt, preferably with long sleeves

  • microfiber towel

  • plain kitchen-type towel with no terry (so, no fluffy towel)

  • any other towel

Plopping instructions

These instructions are tricky without pictures, so don’t worry if you don’t get it right away. It’s not too difficult to do, just hard to explain. See the links above for more help including pictures and videos.

  1. Start with freshly washed hair.

  2. Lay your towel* down on the floor in front of you.

    • * we use towel to refer to your plopping device of choice — t-shirt, microfiber towel, or other towel

    • T-shirt: face the shirt away from you on the ground, so the arms are furthest from your head.

    • Microfiber or other towel: lay the towel so the longest edge is closest to your head.

  3. Dangle your wet hair over the middle of the towel.

  4. Grab the ends of the towel and press your head down on the towel.

  5. Twist the ends of the towel as you begin to stand up. Keep twisting until the curls are trapped inside and you have two side rolls of the towel.

  6. Clip, tie, or tuck the ends of your plop into the towel at the base of your neck, or wrap the arms around your head.

Reverse Plopping

Thanks to /u/toothlesspolecat for this technique and these excellent pictures!

  1. The reverse plop starts from a standing position, with your wet hair just hanging normally down your back. Lay the hem of a large long sleeve t-shirt across your shoulders, with the neck and sleeves hanging below. Take the corners of the hem (points A and B) and wrap them tightly to the top of your forehead, tucking one corner under the other at point C so that it’s secure.

  2. Halfway down the body of the shirt (point D), fold it upwards so that it envelopes your hair and the neckband is hanging out somewhere at the back of your head. Fold it up and forwards again, so that point D is sitting near C at your forehead. Your sleeves are just dangling at this point.

  3. Pull the sleeves forward and tie them in a square not kind of on top of the D point, to hold everything in place. Tuck the tails into the folds at the sides. Depending on the length of your sleeves and how secure your wrap is so far, you may find it easier to first cross the sleeves behind your head before bringing them forward to knot them. It just adds a little more tension to keep it intact.

Try to keep the folding loose, but the knotting tight.

Air drying

How to air dry

After washing your hair, either plop your hair or gently scrunch it dry with a t-shirt or non-terry towel. Rearrange your part as needed, and fix any funky curls. If you want more volume at the roots, try clipping your roots while air drying! If you have bangs, now the time to arrange them how you like them. They will tend to stay however they dried.

Leave your hair alone until it’s dry — touching will create frizz!

If you would like to air dry your hair overnight, flip your hair so that it rests at the top of your pillow. A satin or silk pillowcase can be helpful. We do NOT recommend sleeping in a plop, since having wet fabric against your scalp all night can cause long-term issues like fungus.

Diffusing

How to diffuse your curls

As with anything else in the curly world, there is no single correct way to diffuse your hair. Here is the basic method described by the Curly Girl book:

Flip your head upside down or tilt it to the side. Using medium to low temperature and low speed, cup a section of your curls in the bowl of the diffuser. Scrunch the diffuser towards your scalp and let it sit on that section for 10-30 seconds before moving to a new section. Continue working around your scalp, returning to your first section after making it all the way around. Keep diffusing until you reach your desired dryness.

Extra tips:
  • Use temperature wisely! Yes, hot air will speed things along; however, it can cause heat damage and frizz from uneven drying. Likewise in the other extreme, using only cold air can be slower and even cause frizz from needing to diffuse for so long. An optional blast of hot air at the start can help to set curls, followed by cool or warm air for the rest of the process.

  • Some people like to diffuse for 5-10 minutes before air drying the rest of the way to give it a little head start. Give it a try and see if it works for you!

  • Discussion thread about diffusing techniques

  • Also check out this guide on diffusing from naturallycurly

How do I find a good diffuser and/or blow-dryer?

  • The diffusers that say “universal sizing” are never universally sized.

  • When looking for a blow dryer and diffuser it’s very important to be 100% certain the diffuser will fit on the blow dryer. You can spend some time looking into the fit, asking around and measuring the diameter of the barrel but the best ways to be absolutely certain is to purchase them as a set, or you can buy the diffuser first and take it to a store where they have display models. If you ask nicely they will usually let you try the diffuser on the floor models so you can feel how fast and hot the air is coming through the diffuser.

  • Make sure the blow dryer has a cool setting, and you may also want a cool shot button. Depending on how much time you have/your hair/how strictly cg you decide to go, you may choose to use low heat and temper it to make it a bit cooler using the cool shot button.

  • Look for a blow dryer that has a click button and not a slide if you think you may blow dry upside down (most of us seem to). It’s more trouble to fiddle with the slidey kind when you can’t see, and if you want to try different diffuser methods like pixie drying you’ll be turning it on and off upside down and blind (jeez that sounds scary).

  • You will also want to look at the weight and volume of the blow dryer as depending on your hair you may be using it for a long while.

(Thanks to /u/HoloSprinkles for this great writeup!)

Tips for Volume

  • Dry upside down with a diffuser (on low/medium heat, low speed).

  • Clip your roots, either with flat metal clips or lift with a claw/butterfly clip, and let air dry. (Thanks to /u/toothlesspolecat for the excellent picture!).

  • “Fluff” and scrunch your hair once it’s dry.

  • Add mousse near your scalp to give more volume.

  • Use a pick to “fluff” your hair up (yes, this can even work on looser curl types).

Haircuts

How do I find a curly salon?

The naturallycurly site has a search function, as does DevaCurl. But most folks have the best luck with Yelp – just look for “curly approved” and call and ask for more details. If you want a Deva-trained curly hair specialist, be sure to explicitly ask if they’ll do the Deva dry cut.

If you want to cut your hair yourself, here is a video some users have found helpful.

What hairstyle would look best on me?

Check out /r/HairStyle or /r/HairStyleAdvice ! You can also look on Pinterest 🙂

Is it possible to achieve <insert style here> style naturally for my hair?

It depends! This is a difficult question to answer. Why? Achieving a particular style naturally highly depends on your curl type. If you ask this question in r/curlyhair, we’ll need (at minimum) a photo of your hair AND an example of your “goal hair.” The tricky part is if you haven’t started CG yet, your hair is probably not at its curliest point and it’s impossible to tell what your natural curl looks like. And in a lot of cases, the goal hair photo is highly styled (using heat, lots of products, etc.), meaning their look also isn’t natural and possibly not realistic to expect at all.

Now, we typically don’t recommend finding your curl type, but this is probably the one situation where it is actually helpful.* Searching on google by hair type is much more helpful than just “curly hair styles.” Try to find a photo that is not of an actor or model.

Long story short, if you have a different curl type from your “goal hair,” it may not be possible to achieve that style without heat. And it may not even be possible to tell what your hair type is (yet). For example, let’s say Joe Jonas stops by r/curlyhair and asks if he can get Jon Snow-like hair naturally. Joe has wavy, roughly 2b/c hair and Jon Snow has somewhere around 3a/b hair (depending on who you ask and on the picture). Joe can’t get a hairstyle that looks like Jon’s without a curling iron (and a lot of work), and vice versa. But that’s okay! There are lots of great styles for both hair types. We highly recommend learning to love and care for your hair as it currently is.

(*The exception to this is if your hair is damaged and not yet back to it’s true curl type. Sometimes people find their hair gets wavier or curlier (usually curlier) after some TLC.)

Multi-day curls

What is second day hair? (or third, or fourth…)

Second day hair is hair that is not washed, but worn naturally a “second day” in a row. (You can still shower (!), but don’t wash your hair. A shower cap can be helpful!)


Sleeping with curls

If you’re after multi-day curls and are the kind of person to move around a lot while sleeping, you might be wondering how to manage your precious locks. Here are some options to keep them nice overnight. Note that these techniques tend to work best with hard hold gels, but play around and see what works for you! (We’re assuming your hair is already dry.)

  • Sleep in a “pineapple”: See naturallycurly’s guide. A scrunchie or ribbon elastic hair tie works best to avoid breakage and the dreaded crease.

  • Plop in a silk or satin scarf: Wrap your curls in a silk or satin scarf and secure.

  • Wear a silk or satin bonnet: Gently place your curls in the bonnet, either pineappled or loose.

  • Use a silk or satin pillowcase: Replace your pillowcase with one that is slipperier to avoid frizz.

  • Loosely braid your hair: If you have medium or long hair, you can loosely braid it. A scrunchie or ribbon elastic hair tie works best to avoid breakage and the dreaded crease.

Here’s a video with various techniques.

Morning tips for multi-day curls

These tips can work totally differently for everyone, depending on lots of factors like how much oil your scalp produces, hair porosity, how humid it is where you live, etc. You might have to try these out on days where you can throw it up into The Bun (or a braid) if it doesn’t work out. Note that these techniques tend to work best with hard hold gels, but play around and see what works for you!

Check out this thread for more tips!

Happy experimenting!

Option 1: Re-do

  1. Completely re-wet your hair.

  2. Add more conditioner in, maybe squish2condish a bit.

  3. Add more gel in.

Option 2: Spray bottle

  1. Fill a spray bottle with water and a squirt of your normal conditioner OR just water.

  2. Lightly dampen your curls to reactivate the products that are already in your hair.

  3. Scrunch your curls and smooth the frizz back into its curl tendril.

Option 3: Wet hands

  1. Wet your hands with watered down conditioner OR just water OR gel OR watered down gel.

  2. Smooth any frizz back into its original curl tendril.

Option 4: Scrunch with water

Only use this if you have enough time to let it dry. Great for short curls, curls with lots of shrinkage, or just the bangs.

  1. Cup your hands and fill them with water.

  2. Scrunch the water into your ends to reactivate the products that are already in your hair (feel free to add more product as needed – you’ll have to experiment with what works for you!).

  3. Repeat for all of your curls.

  4. Air dry or diffuse your hair. You can also try plopping if that works for you!

Option 5: Curl-by-curl

  1. Find a limp or frizzy curl and section it out from the rest of your hair.

  2. Moisten your fingers and take a drop of your styler.

  3. Smooth the product along the curl, taking care of any frizzies as you go.

  4. Twirl the curl with your finger, and either let the curl drop or pin it to your scalp with a bobby pin.

  5. Scrunch your curls and you’re ready to go!

You can do this for as few or as many curls as you like!

Option 6: Embrace the frizz

Simply shake out your curls and scrunch while flipped upside down! You can also tousle your roots, but don’t run your fingers through the curls or they will be broken up (unless you like that look of course!).

Porosity

Thanks to /u/honeywithbiscuits for this great writeup!

What is porosity?

Porosity is your hair’s ability to both absorb and retain moisture. Your hair has an outermost layer (called the “cuticle”). Your porosity is determined by how well your hair cuticle “opens up” in water and how well it “closes” once dry.

Why should I care about porosity?

Porosity plays a big part in how well your curls stay and become hydrated. Without properly moisturized curls, your hair will be more prone to frizz and have difficulty retaining its curl.

Low-porosity hair needs different things than high porosity hair. Understanding your porosity is crucial for picking the right products and techniques for your hair!

Levels of porosity

There are three levels of porosity: low, medium (or normal), and high. Typically, those with very high or very low porosity have problems.

Low porosity hair has difficulty opening up the cuticle to receive moisture from water and conditioning agents. However, because the hair shaft so readily closes, low porosity hair has no issues retaining moisture once it gets it.

High porosity hair has the opposite problem. Because the hair shaft is more open, it has more difficulty closing when drying so any moisture that makes it in also escapes very easily.

If you have damaged hair, either by bleach, heat usage, or coloring treatments, you likely have high porosity hair. Some people have high porosity hair naturally. See below for how to identify!

Medium would be considered “normal” and easy to work with. If you have no issues adding moisture or retaining it, good for you! You most likely have medium porous hair or may have unintentionally picked up habits more suitable for your hair type because you found that it worked.

Identifying porosity

You can take a quiz to determine your hair’s porosity! (Thanks /u/sudosussudio!)

A quick Google search will lead you to the two most common techniques: the infamous “float test” and the less known “strand test”. Both are difficult to do right, so give inaccurate results. Oils, silicones, and hair density can affect how hair floats in water and your hair doesn’t necessarily have to be free of bumps in order to be considered “low” porosity. See this excellent post from the excellent hair science-y blog for more info.

Characteristics

Low Porosity

  • Takes more than 2 seconds for hair to get wet even directly under the water.

  • Water beads on hair instead of wetting it.

  • Products accumulate more easily (because they are not getting absorbed).

  • Drying time for hair can be hours to days.

  • More resistant to chemical treatment such as relaxers or permanent hair dye.

High Porosity

  • Gets wet immediately with any water.

  • Hair seems to soak up products.

  • Dries quickly after being washed.

  • Easily accepts dye or bleach. (May also easily lose it).

  • Can have a dull and dry feel

  • Tangles easily

  • Tends to be frizzy

Porosity-specific recommendations

Once you know your hair porosity, you can adjust your hair routine accordingly. Some parts of your hair may be more porous than others due to genetics or treatment of hair, so you can try different techniques in different areas.

Low porosity recommendations

    • Use heat to open up hair for conditioning agents.

  • Wash your hair with warm to hot water to open the cuticle.

  • Use a specialized heating cap like the ones from Thermal Hair Care or Hair Therapy.

  • Place your hair in a plastic cap and use a heated towel over your head (place in clothes dryer to heat) with conditioner in to help it absorb.

  • See this guide on how to read an ingredient list and lightweight/heavy ingredients to look for/avoid.

  • Use lighter oils to seal your hair like jojoba, argan and grapeseed oil.

  • Avoid heavier oils and butters that will just weigh down the hair and build up on the shaft, leaving a greasy look.

    • Regularly clarify or shampoo to rid of build up.

  • Many brands have gentle “build-up busters” that aren’t as harsh as regular shampoo. Try these once a month at the start, using more or less frequently as needed.

  • Try an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse (1 tablespoon ACV to 2 cups of water).

High porosity recommendations

    • Use heavy oils and butters to moisturize and seal.

  • Look for conditioners that have shea butter or heavier oils like castor, olive or coconut oil.

  • If you have fine hair that gets easily weighed down, try a weekly deep conditioner instead.

    • Use a deep conditioner.

  • Conditioners marketed as deep conditioners have moisturizing, reparative ingredients that can help heal your hair as well as moisture it.

 

YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)

Obviously, your hair is unique! The above are just recommendations based on what we’ve seen work. Post questions if you have them!

Do what works for you: there are no curly hair police 🙂 If you have low porosity hair that thrives off of protein treatments or high porosity hair that does fine with grapeseed oil for sealing, by all means continue.

However, if you are experiencing issues with frizz, retaining moisture, or curl definition, porosity is important info to have as you start!

Products & Ingredients

Product recommendations

USA

/r/curlyhair’s Product Recommendation List

Includes notes for vegan/cruelty-free products.

International (non-USA)

/r/curlyhair’s International (non-USA) Product Recommendation List

We are always looking to represent more countries! See the first page in this list for instructions on how to submit products.

 

If you’re on a budget, /r/haircareexchange is a great place to buy products to try out or sell products that didn’t work for you! Donating to your local women’s shelter is a fantastic option for unused products as well.

Product/ingredient checker apps

Is It CG?

Copy and paste an ingredient list here to see if your product is CG approved.

Curlsbot

Copy and paste an ingredient list here to see if your product is CG approved.

 
This site also has a porosity quiz, product recs by porosity, and some other info.
 

Ingredient spotlight

This is currently a mix of ingredients & ingredient categories — they should probably be separated somehow.

Baking soda (avoid)

Should I put baking soda on my hair or scalp?

No. Baking soda has a pH of around 9, making it very alkaline. For reference, the pH of the scalp is around 5.5. At first, this may not make a big difference, but over time, the pH difference can do more and more damage. Baking soda on the hair can cause dryness, breakage and skin irritation because of the high pH as well as the gritty texture. You’re much better off using a low sulfate shampoo.

(thanks to /u/happyhippoking for this section!)

Should I use humectants?

Humectants are very dependent on the weather. They can be great for keeping the hair hydrated, as long as it’s not too dry or humid outside. To quickly check if the weather is good for humectants, use the frizz forecast. If you want the details on dew points and humectants, read this article. In some cases you’ll actually want to use an anti-humectant.

Are moisturizing and hydrating products the same thing?

A lot of brands use these terms interchangeably, but they do have different meanings. This article explains the difference. It’s important to hydrate AND moisturize your hair.

Oils

Oils are capable of moisturizing, defining, shining, and sealing hair. Note that moisturizing is not the same as hydrating; only water can hydrate the hair. Moisturization is about the lipid barrier of skin/hair and refers to trapping water in your hair with oils as well as delivering nutrients under the cuticle.

  • Moisturizing oil refers to those oils that can penetrate the hair shaft. These would include olive, coconut* (see coconut caveat below), shea, avocado, grapeseed, and argan oils.

  • Sealing oils refer to oils that sit directly on the hair/do not penetrate it. Hemp, flax, and grapeseed oil are examples of this.

If you’re wondering why grapeseed/argan are on both lists, these two oils are supposedly capable of both sealing and moisturizing hair.

Oils and porosity

Oils are best suited for high porosity hair, but that doesn’t mean normal/low porosity hair can’t benefit from them. All hair needs at least a little oil. You just have to be careful with how much and what type(s) you put on.

  • High porosity hair can generally tolerate a little bit more oil and may need both moisturizing and sealing oils. Generally though, sealing is the more important process for this porosity. Since the cuticle is raised, it needs to be sealed so water doesn’t escape the hair.

  • Normal porosity hair will likely be able to get away with just using moisturizing oils/barely sealing. You really don’t need a lot when the cuticle is more closed.

  • *Low porosity hair * could get by without adding additional oils. That being said, some people’s hair might like it. For this porosity, either extremely light application or time-extensive application (deep conditioning with oil) might work decently.

Oil and texture

  • Fine hair can be weighed down by heavy oils or a large application. The coarser the hair is, the more it will tolerate heavy oils.

  • Similarly, loose curl patterns can be weighed down by heavy oils. The tighter your curl pattern, the more likely it is your hair may benefit from heavy oils (rather than light).

Obviously, all of this really depends on the head of hair but those are the general rules.

A light application can be anywhere from a few drops to a couple of peas depending on the hair so be sure to start off with a little; it’ll go a long way. You can always add more later.

How to apply oil

For pre-poo treatments or deep conditioning, oil is best applied to dry hair (as oil and water don’t mix). For deep conditioning, you’re basically doing the same thing as with conditioner. To really get it in there, you can also use heat to open up the hair cuticle. Just make sure to shampoo the oil out before applying conditioner or trying to hydrate the hair. Again, oil and water don’t mix. 🙂

For my high porosity brothers and sisters, it may be beneficial to apply directly after showering when hair is on the wet side of damp. YMMV.

/u/SilverGirlSails suggested this to get excess oil out of your hair:

Put conditioner over the oil, leave for a little while (however long you like), rinse out, then shampoo. The conditioner first gets the oil out better than the shampoo only, sucks up the excess or something, and you can even CO wash oil out, though it might only work out on very dry hair.

Another neat thing to try is adding an equal amount of coconut oil* (see coconut caveat below) to your shampoo; this helps the oil penetrate deeply, giving you the benefits from the inside out. It should leave you with soft, shiny and non greasy hair, though you should take a break if it does start looking more oily than usual, and just cleanse with normal shampoo for a couple of washes.

List of oils

There is an (s) beside sealants and an (m) before moisturizers.

Light oils

  • Jojoba (s) (this is actually closest to natural sebum but it is super waxy and not penetrative)

  • Grapeseed (m)(s)

  • Argan (m)(s)

  • Sweet Almond (m)

  • Sunflower (m)

Medium oils

  • Avocado (m)

Heavy oils

  • Olive (m)(s)

  • Flax (s)

  • Hemp (s)

  • Jamaican Black Castor Oil (m)(s)

  • Coconut* (see coconut caveat below) (m)

Caveat with coconut oil

NOTE: Some people’s hair LOVES coconut, and some HATES it. Coconut is a weird oil and can cause some people’s hair to freak out. The symptoms look really similar to protein overload: strawlike, wiry, “dry” feeling yet can also be greasy, can feel brittle or stiff. If this happens to you, use naturallycurly’s ability to search for protein-free products and just avoid any with coconut in them.

Sources

(Major thanks to /u/czvni for creating this great writeup! See the original post here

Protein

What’s the deal with protein?

All hair needs some protein. If you’re not sure if your hair needs protein or not, just try a protein treatment. It’s not a huge deal to go overboard on protein. Even hair that has way too much (left) recovers completely after a day of normal conditioning. “Protein helps keep hair hydrated (it slows water loss!), it can help reduce breakage in dehydrated hair by increasing hydration. Hair is less likely to break when it is flexible and hair is most flexible when it is well hydrated” (from Science-y Hair Blog).

Hair that needs protein

Hair that has too much protein

Read this for protein 101. You can also try the ‘wet stretch test’.

Look for these words to spot proteins in an ingredient list: Hydrolyzed ______ protein, amino acids, peptides. These are all proteins. Cocodimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed (protein source – wheat, keratin, etc.) and Lauryldimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed (protein source) are proteins which have been modified to be better hair conditioners and bond to hair better, add more softness. Yeast extract is a protein. Hydrolyzed oats, or Hydrolyzed seeds may also contain protein.

Product recs

  • DIY: rice water, or gelatin (google for the recipes).

  • Neutral protein filler from Sally’s is really affordable. It’s a liquid. You can mix it with your conditioner or apply it directly to the hair. 1.2oz for 3$.

  • SheaMoisture JBCO Mask is an affordable option that has some protein but not too much. It’s more of a weekly deep conditioner to maintain the protein in the hair. 12oz for 10$.

  • DevaCurl Seaweed Repair Mask is a higher end option. It’s very moisturizing despite being a protein treatment. A little goes a long way even though it’s 8oz. 8oz for 36$.Note: See this thread before purchasing DevaCurl. Possible issues causing hair loss and scalp irritation.

  • Curl Junkie Repair Me! Is my absolute favorite protein treatment. It’s so moisturizing despite being a strong protein treatment. It has a lot of slip and a 12oz bottle lasts a really long time. 12oz for 30$.

  • Hask Keratin Mask is a medium protein treatment that helps to bring back strength and bounce to curls. It’s safe to use as a weekly treatment. It’s moisturizing on its own without following up with another conditioner. 6oz for 5.99.

  • Food products are not a protein treatment. Food molecules are too big to penetrate the hair shaft (except for some exceptions such as coconut oil). You cannot apply egg/mayonnaise/etc to your hair and expect to get any benefits.

How about keratin?

  • Keratin treatments can really damage your hair, plus they contain carcinogenic ingredients and have been banned in many countries because of this. Instead, we recommend that you try to embrace your hair the way it is and focus on reducing frizz without altering your curl pattern. It’s easier, quicker, and safer than straightening techniques like keratin treatments. Keratin straightening treatments have a bunch of other relaxer type chemicals in them and include high heat straightening, so they’re very different from just having a little protein in a conditioner.

  • Keratin ingredients are similar to protein, and can help strengthen hair. Keratin is a very strong protein so for some it can be too much and can loosen the curls a bit (though not permanently). But in most conditioners it’s pretty low in the ingredients so it’ll be fine. If the conditioner is advertised as strengthening, it should be ok (but watch out for silicones). If it’s advertised as smoothing/straightening, it might have a higher dose of keratin.

 

Common Concerns

Hard water

Hard water affects curls by leaving a waxy buildup. Dealing with it is a balance between getting these minerals out and not drying your hair out in the process.

Instead of a reset shampoo (or in addition to it), use a chelating shampoo such as ION hard water shampoo from Sally’s. This is a harsh shampoo, but it will remove the hard water residue effectively. A deep conditioner is very useful after this.

Avoid shampoo bars with hard water (even mildly hard water). The soap in shampoo bars binds to the minerals and contributes even more to the waxy feeling.

Frizz

My hair is frizzy. What’s wrong?

    • Moisture – Frizzy hair is usually dry hair. Make sure you’re getting enough moisture in. Look into the following products:

Kids’ curls

The curly basics still apply! Add lots of moisture, gently detangle, and do not use drying sulfates or waterproof silicones.

  • Ignore styling tips. Kids don’t need to worry about plopping, or having perfectly defined curls. Just keep their hair healthy!

  • Try the beginner routine, but without the styling step.

  • DO NOT BRUSH. Brushing curly hair is painful, damaging, and disrupts the curl pattern. See the section below for tips on detangling. A brush specially designed for wet detangling (e.g. tangle teezer, wet brush) is ok but dry brushing never is.

  • There are curly hair brands that make products specifically for kids: Shea Moisture, Cantu, Mielle Organics, and some others. However, they are not guaranteed to be any better or worse for kids’ hair. If you are a curly parent doing CG yourself, using your products for the kids will be fine. Additionally, CG shampoos are much gentler and don’t have SLS, which makes them very similar to tear free shampoos.

  • Don’t worry too much about specific products! Focus on detangling & moisture.

  • Curly hair can be a little wilder than straight hair: that’s ok! Embrace a little frizz.

  • Sleeping on a silky pillowcase can help avoid tangles in the morning.

  • Protective styles like braiding are your friend!

  • Start with a reset wash (to remove leftover ingredients from old products). We recommend the shampoo from the beginner routine (VO5) because it’s cheap ($1-2) and ubiquitous. Then use a CG shampoo & conditioner.

Detangling kids’ hair

  1. Soak hair in lots of conditioner. Scrunch in enough water to make it saturated (aim for a “seaweed”/mermaid hair feeling).

    • Use a conditioner that is very slippery, or use a detangling product.

  2. Wait a minute or two to let the conditioner soak in.

  3. Use your fingers, a wide-toothed comb, or a special detangling brush. Start at the bottom and slowly work your way towards the roots.

    • The comb should glide through with no effort. If you have to pull, your conditioner isn’t slippery enough, or you haven’t waited long enough for it to soak into the hair (it should feel slimy). Hair is weakest when it’s wet. If you pull hair while it’s wet, it is likely to break and be damaged.

Example kids’ routine

This is a super simple routine using just 2 products. We’ve only suggested them as options; any CG shampoo/conditioner will work just fine!

    1. Detangle

  1. Suggestions: Suave Essentials ($2-3) or Not Your Mother’s Naturals Curl Defining Cream Detangler ($9)

    1. Rinse the detangling conditioner

    2. Wash & Condition

  1. Suggestion: Shea Moisture Kids 2-in-1 Drama-free Shampoo & Conditioner ($7)

  1. Rinse the 2-in-1conditioner

 

Scalp conditions (dandruff, dermatitis, etc.)

  1. Keep your scalp healthy: that’s the foundation of healthy hair. Following the tips below will keep your scalp healthy!

  2. Know the source of your scalp condition. If you have dandruff, figuring out WHY you have it will help you treat it.

    • For example, a dry scalp can cause flakes, so co-washing would be a great potential remedy. However, seborrheic dermatitis (SD) can also cause flakes, and under-washing can make the condition much, much worse due to sebum buildup, with consequences including potential hair loss. These are not the only causes of dandruff. If you are not sure, see a doctor or dermatologist to clear things up!

    • Some people find when they switch away from shampoo their “dandruff” goes away. This likely means it wasn’t dandruff, but was actually an allergy or overly dry skin from harsh cleansers. For example, avoiding silicones solves the itching problem for many folks.

  3. If you need to use a medicated shampoo, you can try “pre-poo” which is where you soak your hair in conditioner before using a harsher cleanser on your scalp. It helps to protect your hair while still treating your scalp.

  4. There are CG medicated shampoos! Here’s an incomplete list:

  5. Use a scalp brush to really scrub your scalp and clear away any build-up.

  6. Add extra deep-conditioning to your weekly routine to help replenish moisture from any medicated shampoos you can’t stop using.

  7. Try a diluted tea-tree oil treatment to take advantage of its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.

  8. Don’t plop for too long: the extra moisture on your scalp can make things even worse. 10 minutes is a good ballpark. Certainly not longer than 30 minutes.

  9. Consider visiting a dermatologist. They can suggest a solution, or may identify another problem.

Swimming

Your main concerns are getting the chlorine out and fighting dryness.

DOs

  • Get your hair wet before you get in the pool, so it absorbs regular water rather than chlorinated water.

  • Use a swim cap – this will help protect your hair a little bit.

  • Deep condition once a week, possibly with oils like argan oil, jojoba, or your favorite hair oil.

  • Occasionally wash with a shampoo that removes pool chemicals. Malibu Swimmers Wellness Hair Shampoo is popular with swimmers. Paul Mitchell shampoo 3 is also used frequently. Note that these shampoos have sulfates, so it is not CG approved, and you should use it infrequently.

DONTs

  • Don’t apply conditioner or oil to your hair before going in: it will mess up the pool chemistry and cause a headache for those who maintain it, without much benefit to you. (And it will cause your swim-cap to pop off your head).

You can also try a DIY recipe for Vitamin C (since the acid should neutralize the chlorine):

Take vitamin C powder, also called ascorbic acid, and mix about a tablespoon or so with water in a medium-sized spray bottle. After swimming, spray the mixture all over hair and skin, rub it around, rinse it off, then use regular products for my shower.

To read more about the science behind what happens when your hair is exposed to chlorine, check out this excellent post from the Science-y Hair Blog.

Transitioning from damaged hair

Possibly the most difficult part of embracing one’s curls is the transition from relaxed / chemically straightened to natural hair. Below are some steps and tips towards beautiful, healthy hair.

Although this guide is directed towards chemically damaged hair (i.e. from relaxers), most of the advice is also true for recovering from heavily bleached hair and heat damaged hair.

Huge thanks to /u/jollibhe for writing this guide! 🙂

Quit the chemicals & heat

The first big step is to stop using relaxers and any chemical straighteners altogether.
Re-straightening your hair with chemicals can very quickly undo your progress to natural hair.

Refrain from using hot tools such as curling / flat irons, and blow dryers on high heat High heat is generally not good for hair, especially when it has been damaged by chemical straighteners.

Occasionally, you may find the need to apply heat to your hair, e.g., bridezilla demands you as a bridesmaid wear your hair straight. On the assumption that your friendship with bridezilla is more important than your hair, use heat protectants to minimize damage. Most heat protectants have silicones. You’ll need a sulfate shampoo to wash them off. While this is a violation of the tenets of the CG Method, it is still preferred to straightening without heat protectants.

Quick tips

  • Use protein treatments and/or deep conditioners every week or two.

  • Chemical straightening dries and damages hair. Regular treatments help the hair recover.

  • Be gentle with your hair.

  • Try the CG beginner routine.

  • Finger comb or use a wide-tooth comb to detangle — never a brush!

  • Hair brushes and regular combs can put stress on brittle hair and cause breakage, setting you back even further.

  • Get a trim/haircut.

The big chop

“Big chop” — The term “big chop” comes from Black women’s natural hair movement. It’s the act of chopping off your chemically treated or damaged hair so you can let your hair begin to grow naturally. Black/mixed women are often pressured into pressing, flat ironing, hot combing and of course, getting addicted to the “creamy crack” aka chemical hair relaxer. You can either wait for your hair to grow out while wearing a protective style or just chop it all off. Hence, big chop. It’s not just a hair cut. It can be really emotional and stressful because black women are often portrayed as more masculine, ugly, etc than other women (google “misogynoir” to learn more). A black woman embracing her natural hair is NOT just about looking good and feeling confident. In addition to embracing self-love and body positivity, it’s a fundamentally radical act that implicitly (and often explicitly) rejects Euro-centric beauty norms and centuries of targeted harm (the original post has a LOT of citations for this). Sometimes, people use “big chop” thinking it’s another “/r/curlyhair” term. The wording of some posts makes it sound like it’s just the cutting of a substantial length of hair, which is different. It really goes very much beyond that. Like I (a white lady) wouldn’t say “I had my Quinceañera” just because I turned 15: a Quinceañera is a very specific, special party with traditions and meanings that go into it above and beyond simply reaching a certain age. To read more about the history, check out this post. Suggested replacement term: consider the term “reset cut”!

 

Coping with the transition

Transitioning to natural hair involves a phase when your roots are healthy and curly while the ends are straight.

For folks who can’t do a reset haircut or a big chop, heatless styling methods can give your roots and ends a similar curl pattern, and protective hairstyles can help keep your hair manageable while waiting for it to grow out.

Some examples of heatless styling methods and protective hairstyles:

  • braid outs

  • twist outs

  • bantu knots

  • curling using flexi rods

Curly Nikki is a great resource for transitioning and styling.

Time is your best friend

Be patient. Hair takes time to grow. But it does grow 🙂

Wearing hair up for work

If you have to wear your hair up for work (e.g. food service, lab work, military, etc.), try these tips:

  • Consider a protective style like braids

  • If possible, switch your method for putting your hair up daily, to avoid breakage in consistent places (e.g. braids vs pony, two braids instead of one, height of your bun/pony)

  • Keep your hair strong with protein & moisture treatments & masks

  • Try to wear your hair in looser styles or completely down when not at work

Working out

If you go to the gym regularly, or exercise, these tips may help you! Ultimately you’ll need to do a LOT of trial and error to figure out what works for you.

  • You can wash daily with CG-approved products. They will not dry your hair out! Cowash in particular is totally fine to do daily.

  • You can just rinse with water and scrub your scalp.

  • Try adding extra conditioner to your ends or any areas prone to dryness.

  • Curl creams instead of gel may work for some because they provide more moisture.

  • Braid your hair, use headbands, or put your hair up in a pineapple, bun, or wrap and just leave it up during your workout.

  • Use dry shampoo. There are very few CG dry shampoos (see here for some options). Even so, the main “bad” ingredient is alcohol, some of which evaporates in the air when you spray it, and may still be less drying than a typical sulfate wash.

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