Curly Girl Method - Before and After

Curly Girl Method Before and AfterCurly Girl The Handbook

Several weeks ago, I borrowed this book from the library - The Curly Girl Handbook by Lorraine Massey.  I was in desperate need of a haircut, was wearing a lot of ponytails, the weather was humid and atrocious, and I had read about this "Curly Girl Method" and figured I'd see what it was all about.

The handbook convinced me to give it a try - for at least 6 weeks.  I mean, look how pretty those curls are! I was wearing my hair curly most days anyhow with all the insane Alabama humidity, so why not try to make it look better when I did wear it that way?  Plus, it looked like the process would be pretty easy...just a little odd, since you have to quit using shampoo. 

Okay, let me explain...

The Curly Girl Method

Here are the basics of what I did:

  1. Get a haircut.  I needed a trim, badly.  It had been about a year since my last haircut.
  2. Quit using shampoo - cold turkey. Evidently sulfates are a big no-no for curly girls.
  3. Use a light conditioner - I used Suave Naturals Conditioner - just on my fingertips, and vigorously massage my scalp with it.  This is supposed to remove all the oils, dirt, hair product, dead skin, etc.
  4. Rinse hair thoroughly, starting to detangle with my fingers.
  5. Apply a deeper moisturizing conditioner - I used Giovanni Conditioner - from the bottom up covering the ends first and moving upward in a scrunching motion.  
  6. Comb through with a wide-toothed comb to remove tangles and loose hairs.  
  7. Scrunch again and let conditioner sit on your hair for a couple of minutes.
  8. Rinse hair gently, but not completely, leaving much of the conditioner in it.
  9. Squeeze hair dry in the shower as much as possible, still using that scrunching motion.
  10. Use a t-shirt to scrunch the curls dry, squeezing out more water. According to the book, terry cloth towels can cause a lot of breakage, but cotton doesn't.
  11. Apply gel (lots of gel) from the bottom up in a scrunching motion (curly girls REALLY like the scrunching) - I started off using Suave Naturals Gel, but later switched to LA Looks (about week 4) and liked it much better.
  12. Let hair finish air drying.
  13. About an hour later, I would turn my head upside down and shake my hair out, scrunching the curls to "release the gel cast" from the gel.

So that's the method I used...and here's what I thought of it and how it worked:

Week By Week Results

First...this is the hair I was aiming for.  Realistic? Maybe not (especially since she has about a foot of length on me and is some sort of model). But we all start with a wish, right?

Girl with Curly Hair


Before: These photos were taken just after my haircut and my last shampooing, with just some mousse scrunched in my hair.  I let it air dry.   As you can see, it's kind of wavy, a little bit frizzy, but not so awful, the curl is just a little uneven.

Curly Girl Method - Before


1 Week:  Not liking this.  My hair feels a little greasy, my scalp itches, and I haven't figured out how to squeeze the water out of it very well after I wash it.  Curlier? Yeah, I guess...but it feels kind of icky.  And I felt like I was getting some odd looks from people who see me often.  My guess is, since they didn't say they liked it, they thought my hair looked crazy. :)

Curly Girl Method - Week 1 Results


2 Weeks:  I (and my hair) are more used to the process now - not using shampoo and using lots of conditioner and lots gel. I can see that my hair looks a little bit bouncier and the curl is more even.  I'm having a hard time not running my hands through it though, and feel like it's ALWAYS tangled.  Since I used to straighten my hair about once or twice a week, I'm really missing that smooth feeling - at least once in a while. This week I did get a couple of compliments though on my curls, which helped me press on.

Curly Girl Method - Week 2 Results


3 Weeks: This week I started noticing a little bit of dandruff and what looked like product buildup at my roots  Nothing major, but I switched up my conditioning routine to apply less of the deeper moisturizing conditioner to the top of my head, and concentrated mostly on the middle and ends.  That way the roots just got cleansed and massaged, but not overly conditioned.  That appeared to help.

Curly Girl Method - Week 3 Results

This photo (below) was taken at about 3 weeks into my experiment.  Seeing the photo was the first time I thought - Wow! My curls actually look pretty!

Curly Girl Method


4 Weeks: I would REALLY like to shampoo my hair this week (about this time I probably should have tried a warm water and baking soda rinse to remove some product buildup), and I'm dying to just brush it and wear it straight for a few days.  But, I don't.  A six week experiment is a six week experiement.  So, instead, I start shopping for a different gel since it still gets pretty frizzy by the end of the day.

Curly Girl Method - Week 4 Results


5 Weeks: I switched to LA Looks hair gel this week, and although it makes my curls a little crispier, I think it makes them much more definined, less frizzy, and a little "lighter" looking.   I did a one-day trial with some Suave Mousse (and no gel) - and it was Frizz City!  Back to the gel I went...

Curly Girl Method - Week 5 Results


6 weeks: I spent most of this week dreaming of straightening my hair and being able to run my fingers through it without them getting stuck.  No joke. I actually had a dream about using my flat-iron.  That said, I DO like the way my hair looks when it's curly now and I think experimenting with this haircare method has helped me cultivate my curls a little better.

Curly Girl Method - Week 6 Results


Additional Notes: 

While doing this exeriment, I always liked the way my hair looked better when I showered in the morning and let it air dry, rather than when I let it air dry at night and then slept on it.  On those days I would use a spray bottle with water to wet my hair and re-scrunch it, which worked fairly well, but since I couldn't really comb or brush through it first, it always felt more tangled on those days.

I still have a lot to learn, and there are lots of great recipes that I'd like to try - such as a lavender mist spray to revitalize your curl, or a brown sugar scrub to exfoliate your scalp, and a baking soda rinse to remove product buildup.  Maybe I'll try those sometime soon.  Here are some great recipes if you want to try them - Curly Concoctions.

VERDICT: Is it possible to be a partial curly girl?  I'm going to continue working on finding a formula that works for me.  Right now, I'm thinking it will include an occasional sulfate-free shampoo and occasional flat-ironing too -- even if the true curly girls think that's from the Devil!  However , I do have a renewed love for LA Looks hair gel - which is a major throwback to my junior high perm days. :)

But tomorrow - I'm straightening my hair and I can't WAIT to run my fingers through it again!

Curly Girl Products:
 

Update: Here are links to some curly girl products that have been mentioned and recommended in the comments below from fellow curly girls: 

Update:

This post has gotten WAY more attention than I ever would have imagined, so I think it deserves an update. :) After this experiment, I tried a few of the suggestions people have mentioned here.  Some things I liked:

  • I loved how a white distilled vinegar rinse & water solution made my scalp feel and how well it removed all the buildup from the conditioner and gel. 
     
  • In the same fashion, a sulfate free shampoo works really well too.  I've recently started washing with Nature's Gate - Tea Tree Calming Shampoo.  That seems to help with removing the product buildup and significanly reducing dandruff and itchiness I had started to notice when I began this experiment.
     
  • One commenter recommended the Ouidad.com web site for great curly girl products and tutorials.  I checked it out and tried the "rake & shake" method they recommend as a way of detangling and applying gel while it's wet, and then "setting" the curls with a shaking method.  I tried that today and I've been SO pleased with the results of that very easy-to-do technique!  Here's a look at my hair today after trying it out for the first time (click images for larger pictures):

    Curly Girl Method Update - Rake and Shake Technique Curly Girl Method Update - Rake and Shake Technique Curly Girl Method Update - Rake and Shake Technique

    Rake & Shake Method -
    Section your wet hair (I did the bottom section, then middle section & finally the top section) and secure it with a clip.  

    Then put a dollop of gel in your hands and apply it to your hair in 2-3 inch sections using a raking motion to detangle the hair. 

    Rake to the ends of each section and then gently shake the hair.  This lets it set into it's own natural curl pattern.  Continue throughout the rest of your hair by section.

    When finished, scrunch the curls gently with your towel (or cotton t-shirt) to enhance the curl and remove excess moisture.  You can then diffuse dry or air dry.  It left my hair with un-frizzy ringlet curls all day long!  

Update #2:

Summer 2014

Being a curly girl is a constant trial-and-error process for me.  Here's what I'm liking currently:

Long Naturally Curly Brunette Ombre Hair

  1. L'Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Color Care System Moisture Shampoo - I use shampoo about every 3rd shower.  Otherwise, I just co-wash with my conditioner.
  2. Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Shine Conditioner - Love this thick creamy conditioner!  It coats very well.
  3. Scrunch hair dry with a towel.
  4. John Frieda Frizz-Ease Extra Strength 6 Effects Serum - I use about 2 pumps of this serum and rake it through all of my hair, paying closer attention to the ends.
  5. Curly Sexy Hair Curling Creme Unisex by Sexy Hair - I use about a half-dollar size amount, and spread it all over my hair to coat it all.  I love that this is a creme, not a mousse or a gel. It keeps my curls soft and touchable all day without getting frizzy.
  6. Scrunch curls and let air dry without touching it.  When it's mostly dry, I will turn my head over and shake my hair to loosen up the cast. 

Update #3:

Fall 2015

Curly Girl Update - Bayalage Curls

The current routine:

  1. L'Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Color Care System Moisture Shampoo - I use shampoo about every 3rd shower.  Otherwise, I just co-wash with my conditioner.
  2. Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Shine Conditioner - Love this thick creamy conditioner!  It coats very well.
  3. Scrunch hair dry with a towel.
  4. Use a wide-tooth comb to untangle hair.
  5. Add Infusium 23 Leave in Conditioner and finger-comb through.
  6. John Frieda Frizz-Ease Extra Strength 6 Effects Serum - I use about 3-4 pumps of this serum in the palm of my hand, then I add a pump of TiGi Curlesque Curls Rock Amplifier creme and mix the two together before hand-combing it through my damp hair.
  7. I "plop" my hair by wrapping it up in an old long-sleeved t-shirt.  This really does make a difference in the end result, giving me much more defined curls -- especially since my hair is so long.  It looks silly, but I only do it for about 10 minutes while I'm getting dressed and putting on makeup. 
  8. Scrunch curls and let air dry without touching it.  When it's mostly dry, I will turn my head over and shake my hair to loosen up the cast.   OR - I'll use a diffuser to dry it 90% of the way (which gives it a little extra volume).

 

302 comments so far:

Tisha @ Delectable Home said:

As someone with stick-straight hair, I envy your curls and think that the experiment yielded beautiful results!

karen of little red house designs said:

I have been a Lorraine Massey curly girl for 7 years now!! I think your curls have transformed beautifully! I have tried all KINDS of different products but in the end the Deva Curl products are consistently the best out there. I understand the 'run my hands through' it urge .... you do get used to it! Even my daughter is a curly girl now at 11 years old. Loved your post!

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