How to Do the (Clean) Curly Girl Method
Written by: Megan O’Neill
Published on: August 16, 2022
Photo courtesy of Rachel Rebibo/The Licensing Project
Caring for curly hair (from waves to coils) once meant a daunting array of heat tools and innumerable products laden with harmful, harsh ingredients like formaldehyde, ammonia, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and more, but the 2002 book Curly Girl: The Handbook helped change all that. Written by salon owner and hairstylist Lorraine Massey, it introduced a more holistic, minimalist approach—the Curly Girl Method—encouraging those with curly hair to celebrate “the world’s most graceful beauty accessory, the natural curl.” Various iterations of the method have since evolved, as people have tweaked and experimented to find what works best for them. The best news: The method is entirely (and delightfully) doable using clean products.
CLEANSE (BUT SKIP MOST OF THE SHAMPOO)
The Curly Girl Method often starts with a reset cleanse to get rid of buildup before ditching shampoo altogether (for the most part). This invigorating, mineral-rich scrub is made with big chunks of pink Himalayan salt that sweep away buildup (and give your scalp a fantastic in-shower massage), plus cold-pressed moringa and unfiltered rose hip oils for shine, softness, and bounce.
Deep-cleanse and moisturizegoop Beauty G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo goop, $55/$38 with subscriptionSHOP NOW
CONDITION AND DETANGLE WHILE YOUR HAIR’S STILL WET
Curly hair tends to be drier than straight hair, which is why extra moisture is essential. Use a luscious, deeply hydrating conditioner in the shower and try not to rinse it completely out. Because curly hair is often delicate and prone to breakage, gently detangle it while it’s still wet and soaked in conditioner. Detangle with your fingertips or a wide-tooth comb in the shower, or use a leave-in after the shower. Note that most versions of the method discourage combing or brushing dry curls; wet is the time to comb or brush.
In the ShowerRahua Hydration Conditioner goop, $38SHOP NOW
Post-showerCrown Affair The Leave-In Conditioner goop, $48SHOP NOW
CombCrown Affair The Comb No. 002 goop, $38SHOP NOW
Detangling BrushManta Pulse Healthy Hair Brush Therapy goop, $69.95SHOP NOW
AIR-DRY IF YOU CAN
Use a microfiber towel or an old T-shirt to gently wrap wet curls; the agitating motion most of us have been taught to use increases frizz, so wrap and gently squeeze water from your hair instead. Air-drying incurs the least damage and frizz, but a hair-dryer with a diffuser attachment helps mitigate heat damage.
Hair wrapAquis Copper Sure Rapid Dry Hair Wrap goop, $21SHOP NOW
Hair towelCrown Affair The Towel goop, $45SHOP NOW
Dryer with diffuserGa.Ma. Italy Professional IQ Perfetto Hair Dryer goop, $399SHOP NOW
STYLE WITH TEXTURE
Since the Curly Girl Method is all about embracing your natural curl, major blowouts and straighteners are obviously unnecessary. Smooth frizz, define curl, and enhance texture with clean creams made with ingredients like shea butter, botanical extracts, and honey.
Define curlInnersense Quiet Calm Curl Control goop, $26SHOP NOW
Enhance texture with
light holdInnersense Inner Peace Whipped Creme Texturizer goop, $22SHOP NOW
Shine-boosting oilKreyol Essence Haitian Black Castor Oil Light goop, $50SHOP NOW
Frizz-obliterating creamGrown Alchemist Smoothing Hair Treatment goop, $49SHOP NOW
PRETREAT FOR EXTRA SHINE
Before you wash your hair, massage this ultrahydrating serum (Gwyneth describes it as a “miracle”) from the midlengths of your hair to the ends and leave it in for 20 minutes. Vitamin C, omega-rich sea buckthorn oil, and moisturizing plumeria monoi oil help prevent frizz, hydrate, and leave hair gloriously shiny and healthy-looking, with noticeably improved texture.
MASK AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK
If you love the results a face mask can deliver for your skin, definitely consider doing a regular hair mask. Massage a mask into wet hair and leave it in for 15 to 20 minutes; to amp up results even further, apply heat (you can use the sun, a diffuser, a sauna, a steam shower, or simply a warm towel as your heat source).
Moisturize with hyaluronic
acid and shea butterDr. Barbara Sturm Repair Hair Mask goop, $65SHOP NOW
plant-based oilsAugustinus Bader The Leave-In Hair Treatment goop, $50SHOP NOW
Hydrate with tsubaki-seed
oil and yuzu extractCrown Affair The Renewal Mask goop, $58SHOP NOW
Nourish with rahua
and sunflower-seed oilsRahua Omega 9 Hair Mask goop, $44SHOP NOW