Curly Girl Method - Before and After

NOTE: Over the years, I've learned that many of the products I have listed here are NOT curly girl friendly. My most recent routine has cut all those sulfates and silicones out and DEFINITELY gets me better results -- which you can see down at the very bottom of this post.  And I'm still learning and figuring out what works best for my hair.

Thank you for those who have commented and shared their experiences to help me along the journey! Here's how I began and where I've ended up -- 

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: 


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 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).

Update #4

February 2018

Current Routine: 

  • Wash scalp with Shea Moisture Curl & Shine shampoo.
  • Rinse.
  • Add Shea Moisture Curl & Shine Conditioner to the bottom 1/3 of my hair (it's a thicker conditioner and is good for the ends of my hair).
  • On top of that, add Suave Essentials Coconut Conditioner to the middle of my hair and spread through all of it, raking out tangles with my fingers.
  • Rinse hair and squeeze out as much excess water as I can with my hands.
  • Gently squeeze out extra water with a t-shirt.
  • Shake hair to create individual curls and rake in Maui Moisture Leave In Curl Milk.
  • Then slide Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie over all my hair, starting in the middle, working down, then back up with leftover product. 
  • Scrunch all the product in.  It'll squish!
  • With head upside down, scrunch with a t-shirt until most of the drippy moisture  is soaked up. 
  • Air dry!
  • About 2 hours later, flip my head over, scrunch and shake the curls out.

I sleep with my hair in a high bun on top of my head, which if I'm lucky, I can take down in the morning and shake out and it looks okay, although I often end up with it in a low ponytail because there's so much of it and it gets tangled so easily.  I have not figured out how to successfully "refresh" after a shampoo day (particularly if I work out and it gets sweaty), so I usually just re-wash it each time I shower.  Some days, I'll skip the shampoo step and go straight to a co-wash, but it never looks as good.  But spraying my hair wet and adding product from dry *never* goes well.  Still figuring that part out...

Update #5

September 2018

After 9 years of long hair, I decided it was time for something new.  With shorter hair, I had to change my process just a little bit, as "plopping" and sleeping in a bun were no longer as easy.  Also, since I cut it looking for more volume, I've started trying to use some lighter weight products to keep from weighing my hair down (which the Shea Moisture Curl Enhancer tends to do).  It's not perfect, and is a little frizzier sometimes, but I like the volume I embrace the fuzz. 

Current Routine: 

  • Wash scalp with Shea Moisture Curl & Shine shampoo. (about 1-2 times a week)
  • Rinse.
  • Add Shea Moisture Curl & Shine Conditioner to the bottom ends and middle of my hair in a scrunching motion with my head upside down in the shower.
  • Rinse hair (upside down) by scrunching it underneath the running water.  Then continue to scrunch to squeeze out as much excess water as I can with my hands.
  • Gently scrunch out extra water with a t-shirt.
  • Shake hair to create individual curls and use a praying hands and scrunching technique with the Shea Moisture Curl Milk Leave In Conditioner.
  • Spray 3-4 sprays of Shea Moisture Reconstructive Finishing Elixer oil over all of my hair.  Something about the order of a leave in conditioner, then oil, then your "gel" or hold agent locks the moisture into your hair.  Or so I've read -- and I like the way it's worked for me.
  • Then (with head still upside down) scrunch in Shea Moisture Frizz Free Curl Mousse over all my hair, using 2-3 pumps per scrunch in sections, starting on one side and working my way around my head, making sure to get the front and back well.
  • With head upside down, scrunch with a t-shirt until most of the drippy moisture  is soaked up. 
  • For extra volume, I'll add 3-4 metal clips to the roots of the top section of my hair, so it doesn't lay flat on my head.  I leave them in for about 10-20 minutes while I get dressed and do my makeup.
  • About an hour or so later, I flip my head over, scrunch and shake the curls out.
  • Often later in the day, to fluff it all up a little, I'll use a dry shampoo on the roots and even flip my head over and give it a good spray of Garnier Fructis Anti-Humidity Hair Spray for some extra hold and volume.

  • Also, since I can't put my hair in a bun anymore, I've gotten a satin pillowcase, that seems to reduce the amount of frizz in the morning after sleeping on it.  Often I can wear it as-is (though a little frizzy) when I wake up after just fluffing it a little bit.  
  • Tip: If all the curls aren't perfect, I use a curling iron to fix the top layer of curls.  There's no shame in it! ;) 

321 comments so far:

Crystal R said:

Oh my gosh - you have to try Mixed Chicks. It is by far the coolest product I have ever used on my hair. It smells tropical and it's considered a leave in conditioner. After you get out of the shower, you put it through all of your hair and scrunch (of course) :) Then you can either let it dry or blow dry it. It gets crispy right before it's dry and then as soon as it's dry, it's SO soft. You can run your fingers through it and mess with it and it doesn't get frizzy. Only one salon carries it by my house so I order it on amazon. You can get it from their website as well - (.com is a porn site lol) Good luck!!!

Anonymous said:

I switched to the " WEN " non-shampoo several years ago and I'm a straight haired girl , however now I have curls... ..I was surprised. I have been wondering if I just used a concitioner if it would work...and I now will try it.....We all need to save monies these days and "WEN" is expensive....I will try your way...THANKS>>>>

Lauren said:

Wow, you are a far more braver gal than I. After I had my baby I realized spending 40 mins. straightening my hair was for the birds. So I wore it curly. And it was gnarly. I asked my hairstylist what to do and she sold me some Morrocan Oil frizz cream and showed me how to use a diffuser (apparently you don't smash it into your head! Who knew?) and it helped tremendously. Less frizz, more curl. I'm definitely not brave enough to quit shampoo. Yikes. Your hair does look fabulous however! Stopping by from Tip Junkie.

DaNtia said:

Hey there!

Just wanted to let you know that you've been featured today!

Thanks for linking to the party. Hope to see you at the next Delightfully Inspiring Thursday Party.


Anonymous said:

I am a curly girl student as well. I found a salon in Salt Lake City that specializes in curly hair. That's where I learned how to properly care for my curly locks. I prefer to use Deva Curl/deva Care products . They are the products used in Massey's salons and by stylists trained by her. I use the Deva Care conditioner, then add product while my hair is still wet (unless I'm in a humid climate then I take the water out of my hair first) by scrunching it upside down. Then I use an old t-shirt to scrunch the water out of my hair. I also use clips to lift my hair at the root to give more volume on the top. For my curls, I dry my hair with my diffuser to get more curl than air drying. I typically let it finish drying by air drying though. Once dry, I turn my head upside down again and then scrunch the curls to release the hold from the gel. Try Arc Angel gel for a stronger hold on your curls or Angel for a lighter hold. You can check out their products at for futher information on their product line. You can also search for curly stylists from their website, which is how I found my girl. The way they will cut your hair (and color it) is completely different than other stylists. Each curl is cut dry and each curl is colored individually - just like shown in the book. Good luck!

marda said:

yay....Thank you so much you ...I'll try it.......

Jessy said:

Hey, found you through HOH link party, I have a little more curly hair than you but the same pattern. I tried the no poo too but I think after awhile it made my hair look worse and weighed down, so I switched to Loreal Sulfate free shampoo and conditioner. I shampoo every couple of days and it works great for me. I have tried pretty much every drugstore curl cream, gel and mousse and many salon products too. What works best for me is the Aveda Curly hair styling products, although they are more expensive. I havent tried any devacurl products though. I think your hair looks great and hope you go curly more often!

Margo said:

This is so interesting! I think your curls are gorgeous. My hair has some natural wave, but now I'm wondering if I try this if it will be more curls than wave. Not sure I have your discipline though! :)

Jana said:

I thought I just had waves too until I got my hair cut by a gal that specializes in curly hair. She showed me how to take care of my hair and now it's so curly...I never knew it was this curly. And the great thing doesn't get frizzy when the air has moisture in it. I use deva products.

Jenn said:

I became a follower of the curly girl method about 7 years ago. I do wash my hair every great once in a while, about every 6 weeks. It has helped enormously with frizz and the dry scalp. I have also added a serum (CHI)before scrunching the gel in. But I think your curls look great, super shiny too!

Brooke said:

You have amazing self control! I think your hair looks amazing!

Shannon said:

Ugh I HATE not being able to run my hands through my hair when I let it do it's curly thing. While your results look good, I don't think I could go without shampooing my hair, especially since I have bangs. I have tried a way to curl your hair without heat using an elastic headband this week and so far I love it. My hair dries weird if I wash it at night but by using the headband I get nice, more uniform curls and an extra 10 minutes in the morning.

Renee said:

My daughter has curly hair and I bought that WEN for a while and it is basically the same thing. All conditioner, who would've thought? Thanks, I can't wait to tell her about this since the WEN got to expensive to continue buying. PS I love your curls, they look amazing.

Kate said:

WOW! I think your hair is beautiful! I have hair very, very much like yours. I opt for curly most days because it is easier. It starts with a wash, style, air dry in the morning. Then ponytails for the next day (or two). I love my flat iron and will put in the time to straighten it when I have the time. I have not tried to stop shampooing...I might try this method. In my mind my hair looks like your week 6, but in reality, it probably is about week 1 : ) I really appreciate your weekly pictures and the comments about the process. It is tough to have curly hair because it has to be cut just right, styled just right- perfect product, perfect amount, etc. Thanks for the experiment!!

mariahcharles said:

 beautiful locks :)

Amber said:

I agree! About loving the curls but yearning for the straight. I will have to look at that book. Right now I NEED to have straight. I recently tried the Organix Brazilian Keratin treatment. Yes it has made my hair way easier to straighten. People with straight hair must think I'm nuts, but I love the feel of the brush on my scalp. Something you just can't do when it's curly ;) I seem to go through phases... curly---straight--curly... I have yet to figure out how to cure my dry scalp though, that baking soda rinse looks interesting. Thanks for posting about this! Very insightful!

Jordan said:

My sister sent me this link. I'm glad that CG worked out so beautifully for your hair!

I had wavy hair and tried CG for about 10 months. At first, I got good results--nicer waves, but I hated feeling like I never got my hair clean. And then when my hair barely held a wave for months on end, I gave up. I just couldn't spend an hour to three hours working on my hair to end up looking worse than my old 20 minute wash-and-wear routine. I'm still sad about it.

If you want to be "partial" CG, I'd recommend finding a silicone- and sulfate-free shampoo/"loo 'poo"/"no 'poo." (Do not use the Wal-Mart/Clean U? version. It could be the root of all my problems and it smells AWFUL.) Clean AND curly. Woot.

Oh, I also liked the forums on Great for product recommendations and swaps and stuff, though I never got up the courage to actually *say* anything...

Marissa said:

I have naturally super curly hair and I swear by LA looks gel. It works better than anything else I have tried, even the expensive salon stuff. I actually put a little suave mousse on first and then the gel and I have found that to be the best combo. I also spray with a little hair spray and scrunch some more after the gel and that seems to help the curls stay defined all day.

I love your experiment and I think I will try it! It seems to really have made a difference for you, your curls are beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

devinsmom said:

I am with Tisha,  I also have stick straight hair and would LOVE curly or even wavy hair.  4 years ago I was even desperate enough to perm my hair and it was a disaster.  So back to stick hair!  :(
Your hair came out beautiful!!!  Keep it up.
Kelly Freemyer

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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