How to Have Beautiful Curls with the Curly Girl Method

I've been a follower of Lorraine Massey's Curly Girl Method for many years – since my teens! I remember when the book came out and I read it cover to cover. It has helped me to embrace my curls and have beautiful, healthy curls as well! Here are the basics of the method so you can get started today!

How to Have Beautiful Curls with the Curly Girl Method

How to Start the Curly Girl Method Today

The Curly Girl Method was started by Lorraine Massey in her book, “Curly Girl: The Handbook.” I do not follow it to the letter, and explain more about that in this post. But in general, her method taught me about the nature of curly hair and what it needs (hint…MOISTURE!). She taught me how to take care of my hair and I'm forever grateful!

  • Get a sulfate-free shampoo
  • Get a silicone-free conditioner
  • Get a silicone-free deep conditioner
  • Get a silicone-free leave in conditioner
  • Get a silicone-free hair gel
  • Get a diffuser for your hair dryer
  • Use an old-shirt to get excess water out of your hair (no more terry towels)
  • Sleep on a silk or satin pillow case or wear a bonnet to sleep (protect your curls from dryness and frizz while you sleep)

Product Recommendations:

Visit my Amazon store here to see all of the products I recommend. Everything from $8 a bottle to $32, there is something for every taste and budget!

The Results Speak for Themselves!

Here's my progress after just one year. It's amazing how beautiful curls and waves can be with the proper care. The hair industry has been butchering curls for far too long! Thankfully we can take back control in our own homes.

The Nitty Gritty

Now, if you're a person who likes to research and wants more details, I do recommend buying Lorraine Massey's book, “Curly Girl: The Handbook.” But basically, according to her book, here are the details of the method.

What Not to Do:

  • No sulfates in shampoos (Sodium Laureth sulfate or Sodium Lauryl Sulfates being the biggest ones)
  • No silicones in conditioners and styling products
  • No blow drying (namely, without a diffuser) and no curling irons or straightening irons (disrupts the curl pattern and really damages the hair)
  • No brushing the hair when it’s dry
  • No alcohol in the ingredients
  • No fragrance in the ingredients

According to the Curly Girl Method, she says to treat your hair like cashmere – wash with cold water and handle it delicately. This I totally agree with – no ripping combs or brushes through your hair – treat it gently.

Things I Don't Follow

There are a few things that Lorraine Massey recommends that I don't follow because they just haven't worked for me.

First, she says to stop using shampoo altogether and to wash with conditioner instead (called co-washing). I have to use a shampoo that contains some soap in it (a gentle one, not sulfates) or my hair gets product built up and my scalp gets really gross.

And several of my products do have artificial fragrances (wish they didn’t but it’s super common in the hair industry).

She also talks about not washing for 10 days…wowzahs! My hair and scalp get really gross if I go that long.

Just Say No to Sulfates

Sulfates are detergents and surfactants that are very effective cleaners. The problem is that they strip oils like sebum from our skin and hair. So then our skin goes to work overtime to produce more oil. This can lead to oily skin and very dry, damaged hair. Look out for products that contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate, or Sodium Lauryl Sulfates. Anything that ends in sulfate is not a good shampoo for curly hair!⠀

If you're worried that your hair might not get clean if you aren't using strong detergents like sulfates, then I'd like to introduce the concept that oil dissolves oil (I talk about this in my oil cleansing post for face washing). Many of the sulfate-free have gentle soaps in them that clean the hair very well, but do not strip the natural oils.

Sulfates to Avoid:

  • Alkylbenzene sulfonates
  • Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate
  • Ammonium Xylenesulfonate
  • Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Sodium cocoyl sarcosinate
  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate
  • Sodium myreth sulfate
  • Sodium Xylenesulfonate
  • TEA-dodecylbenzenesulfonate
  • Ethyl PEG-15 cocamine sulfate
  • Dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate

Here are gentle cleaners that are safe:

  • Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Coco betaine
  • Cocoamphoacetate
  • Cocoamphodipropionate
  • Disodium cocoamphodiacetate
  • Disodium cocoamphodipropionate
  • Lauroamphoacetate
  • Sodium cocoyl isethionate
  • behentrimonium methosulfate
  • disodium lautreth sulfosuccinate
  • babassuamidopropyl betaine

Just Say No to Silicones

Silicones are synthetic resins and are found in many hair products due to their ability to add shine and condition the hair. Sounds good, right?

Well, the problem is that they are not water soluble, so they produce build up on the hair and scalp that sulfate-free shampoos cannot remove.

There are many different names for them, but to keep it simple, anything ending in: “cone,” “conol,” “col,” or “xane,” should be avoided.

The only exceptions here are those ingredients with the abbreviations “PEG” or “PPG” in front of them. This abbreviation will alert you that they were made to be water-soluble, and won't produce the build-up other silicones are known to cause.

Silicones to Avoid:

  • Cetearyl Methicone
  • Cetus Dimethicone
  • Dimethicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Stearyl Dimethicone

These Silicones are Better, but still can cause buildup:

  • Amodimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone/Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Trimethylsilylamodimethicone

Here are some water-soluble silicones:

…but they do cause buildup over time (just slower).

  • Behenoxy Dimethicone
  • Stearoxy Dimethicone

See my curly hair page for all of my curl posts and a list of some of my favorite products! Make sure also to follow me on Instagram @mymerrymessycurls to get daily tips and tricks to have shiny, healthy curls!

Shhh…I don't Follow the Curly Girl Method Perfectly

I'm a rebel at heart and I don't follow other people's rules simple to follow them. I follow them if they resonate with me and feel right to me – I use my intuition, experience and research.

So, I love love love that Lorraine Massey came on the scene and gave curly girls everywhere HOPE that we could embrace our curls and not have to straighten them just to have pretty hair. The Curly Girl Method and her ideas were groundbreaking and have paved the way for curly-friendly hair products and hairstylists.

But not all of my products are fragrance-free, and I do use heat to dry my hair sometimes because my hair can take 6 hours to dry. Nope, just nope! So I just dry on low heat for 15 minutes and my hair dries completely in an hour or so. Compromise.

It's all about doing what works for you and your lifestyle. It's not as if the Curly Girl police are gonna show up on your doorstep and haul you off to frizz jail! Use your intuition, do it how you wanna do it and use this advice for education and to get you started!

Ready to Dive a Little Deeper?

I have several in-depth articles if you're ready for more information and to learn about curly hair and what it needs…IF you're ready. If you're already feeling overwhelmed, then go back up to the beginning of this post and start with “How to Start the Curly Girl Method Today” section.

If you're ready for more, here's a list of blog posts you can start reading to gain more insight!

See my curly hair hub here with ALL of my posts!



  1. How often should I use an ACV clarifying rinse? Weekly? My hair is 3b, low porosity, very dull looking, color treated and use heating tools over the years. I currently use Mixed chicks shampoo & sulfate free conditioner (1x wkly). THen use the mixed chicks leave in conditioner and style with mixed chicks curl enhancer. That’s all. But there may be a lot of buildup in my hair, and is a rice water rinse necessary? Thank you!
    Btw, I live in Bahrain (Middle East) so we don’t have access to too many products.

    1. Hi Summer! Wow, Bahrain! That is amazing! I would do a clarifying rinse as needed. It sounds like your hair might also benefit from a protein treatment and and OlaPlex treatment – I have more about both of those things in this post: How to Heal Damaged Hair. Once your hair is stronger, you might not have this dullness issue. But the ACV rinse is a very gentle clarifier, so it’s okay to use it often. But see how your hair does. We all have such different textures, climates, products, water and diets so it’ll be an experiment for you! Wish you all the best!

  2. Hello Sara, you have a beautiful her. I am trying to do my best to select the correct products.
    I have a question, how often is a good time to wash your hair? it is safe to use Dry Shampoo, which kind? also, what do you do if you feel that you are loosing your hair?

    1. Hi Connie! I have added my product recommendations to this post, but they are also here in my Amazon storefront – And yes, some dry shampoos are safe to use – look out for silicones and alcohols in those. If you feel like you’re losing your hair, check out my recipe for a hair and scalp serum that’s designed to help with hair growth –

  3. My waves are fighting me and turning into curls. Maybe they were curls all along and I just didn’t use the right products and methods. I am planning on doing my own version of curly girl. I like the looks of NYM products. I think I have low-porosity hair. Do you or anyone you know use henna/indigo? I can’t tell if henna dried my hair out or if it was some other product I used that dried it out. I’ve read that henna can bind to hair like protein. I want to keep dying my hair and love the Henna Guys henna but am considering using a “natural” dye but I know that can be hard on hair too. Any idea? Thank you! I am already learning a lot here.

    1. Hi Rochelle! I love that your waves are turning into curls! That means your hair is getting healthier, and that’s a good thing! The NYM products are pretty and do work great for curly hair – that’d be a great place to start. I did use henna for a while and loved it except that it didn’t cover my grey hairs well at all. Here’s my post on henna. Another good more natural hair dye brand is Herbatint.

  4. Have you ever tried Monat and how do you feel about them? I am wanting to start the curly girl method and want to make sure I get great products.

    1. Hi Victoria! No I haven’t tried Monat. But I’ve heard that they contain ingredients that mess with hormones and that’s how they help with hair growth. Many have said in the Facebook groups I’m in that they have even made their hair fall out. I do have a list of products to start off with here in the post :).

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