I discovered The Curly Girl Method, or CGM, almost a decade ago one summer, desperately trying to find ways to tone down my frizzy, bushy hair.
At first, it was difficult to understand and implement, with few products in India that qualified the strict rules the method set out. (This has recently been its biggest criticism, that it’s very strict and time-consuming.)
But to my younger self, this revelation of a technique helped me know finally, what I need to do for my hair to make it soft, healthy, and ‘frizz-free,’ and have gorgeous hydrated curls, as I saw of the people who tried and loved the method. Enough guessing – this is what I must do.
What clarity, finally!
As with any ‘method’ that gets popular, it eventually gathers strong criticism and pushback – some of which I find valid and some not.
My biggest suggestion to you, dear reader, is to try it out if you’re struggling to find a hair care routine that gives you moisturised, healthy curls and waves.
Take what you like from this method- experiment lots and find your way of mixing and breaking the ‘rules’ to get results you like.
So, let’s get to it – what does CGM or the Curly Girl Method even mean?
CGM or CG or Curly Girl Method
Invented by Lorraine Massey (pictured above) & explained in her book ‘Curly Girl: The Handbook’, in CG Method or CGM, you do not use any hair products with:
- mineral oil
- waxes, and
- drying alcohols
It does seem like a long list, but more and more hair care brands agree they are all harmful in some capacity, especially for dry, frizzy hair types, which tend to be wavy or curly.
Some brands disagree, and I’ve addressed that below in the post, along with sharing why according to Lorraine Massey, sulphates and silicones are ‘baddies.’
In CGM, you clean your scalp & hair with either non-sulphate shampoos (also called Low Poo or Modified CG) or cleansing conditioners (called No Poo, Co-Washing & Pure CGM).
To hydrate, moisturise, comb and detangle, you use conditioners, leave-in conditioners, and stylers free of silicones, mineral oils and drying alcohol.
In the book, Lorraine also instructs to stop brushing curly hair and instead use only our fingers – another rule many (including me), don’t follow.
Let me first explain why sulphates and silicones are shunned in the Curly Girl method.
Sulphates are Villians?
What happens when you rub your hands with soap or scrub your scalp with a normal shampoo?
Lather. Foamy, creamy, frothy lather.
The is created by sulphates that also, unfortunately, STRIPS your hair of its natural oils, and make it dryer, frizzier & prone to breakage.
Despite being psychologically pleasing, it’s not easy to rinse out, and some of it remains in your hair.
Since curly hair is naturally dry, regularly using a sulphate shampoo is a bad idea. If all you’ve been doing to your hair is shampooing, you can understand why your hair doesn’t feel soft.
This is why when beginners ask me ‘What shampoo should I use’ and think that’s enough to moisturise their hair, I have to explain that a shampoo’s job is to clean, not nourish, despite what the labels claim.
So in CGM, Lorraine recommends cleaning your scalp without sulphates (called the No Poo method), where you don’t use any shampoo in your routine. Instead, you use a cleansing botanical conditioner (co-washing) and your fingertips to scrub out the dirt.
Since the method has spread across the world and developed variations, many people think using sulphate-free shampoos is ‘allowed’ in CGM , but if we’re being entirely literal, no, that’s not what Lorraine Massey wrote, at least initially.
I don’t think this distinction matters, unless I see another click-bait reel along the lines of ‘ I stopped following CGM,’ and on viewing the whole video and reading the caption, it shows the person doesn’t follow ‘Pure CGM’ yet follows 4/5 of the rules, etc. Sigh.
I dislike misinformation for the sake of views. And ‘cult-like’ adherence to ‘rules’ when new studies continuously prove and disprove things. Instead, as I always say, focus on how your hair personally feels. Take what you like and leave the rest.
Now, sulphates are found in most shampoos and can be harsh and extremely drying to our already parched hair.
This claim has recently come under question and fire from some brands and cosmetic scientists who argue that sulphates are necessary for a clean scalp and hair.
But even they say, in low concentration. Which I agree with from experience.
I use mostly sulphate-free shampoos in my routine, but I also apply medicated anti-dandruff shampoo once or twice a month for my chronic dandruff. I follow a modified CG Routine, as do many other girls.
Should I Never Use Sulphate Shampoos?
I will suggest that don’t give up on shampoos with sulphates forever. Once or twice a month, do ‘clarify.’
Whenever your curls or waves (wavy hair needs more frequent clarifying) feel limp, use a sulphate shampoo.
Post swimming in chlorinated water…
Using products with shea butter…
Needing a deep cleanse….The answer? Clarifying shampoo!
‘When in doubt, clarify!’ is popular and useful advice.
Clarifying will ensure a healthy scalp, remove buildup and pollutants & make your waves and curls bouncy again!
What about Silicones?
Silicones are like plastic. When they’re in hair products, they coat your hair, smooth down the cuticle and drastically reduce frizz and make your hair softer and more manageable.
BUT they also lead to build-up and, over time, make hair frizzier (!), and look limp and lifeless. You feel like you’ve ‘lost your curl.’
To remove this build-up, you need to use a shampoo with sulphates. But in CGM, that’s not allowed!
As a result, you need to stop using hair products with silicones and find silicone-free alternates instead.
Are All Silicones Bad?
There are some silicones that are partially or fully water soluble. Any silicone with PEG 8 & more are considered water soluble.
Mineral Oils, Waxes & Parabens
Mineral oil or Petrolatum weigh down your curls and are hard to remove without sulphates.
Waxes are some of the most natural ingredients that have been used to style curly and kinky hair for centuries. Unfortunately, they also are nonhydrous, which means they won’t get washed out by simply water or co-washing.
You will need to shampoo or clarify regularly to remove the build-up, and as a result, isn’t recommended if you are following a ‘pure CG routine.’
There is no ‘yes or no’ for parabens in CG but many people avoid them because they fear they can cause cancer. That is a personal call you need to take.
Do I Follow the CG Method
When I learned about this a couple of years ago in college, I couldn’t find many CG Friendly products.
I also couldn’t afford to buy expensive moisturising products so I simply followed the suggested technique with….
Sunsilk! Yes, the pink and yellow, super affordable tubes of shampoo and conditioner.
The conditioner was creamy and hydrating and I created a DIY Leave in conditioner to use as a styler. You can see the results above in the picture 🙂
It was only after I started earning that I could afford to shop online & experiment with products. Also, the blog exposed me to SO many curly hair products in India!
If sunsilk worked, why do I continue to use silicone-free products? Because in comparison, my curls are bouncier when not weighed down by silicone. Also, since I use sulphate sporadically, I’d rather not let it build up.
I’ve tried switching back but I do not enjoy my results and hence, stick to a silicone-free hair diet.
My hair is super bouncy, curly from the crown, and feel hydrated.
Should I follow Curly Girl Method?
I have many readers who prefer sulphates & silicones in their hair products and get good results, and some who don’t.
The point is to be educated, know the consequences of the ingredients & take a personal call on what suits you better after trying the method out.
Remember, what works for one curly girl might not work for another.
But if you do want to follow the CG Method, you need to avoid the below ingredients.
Ingredients to Avoid in CG Method
Not all silicones and ingredients with the word alcohol are bad. Watch out for the below ingredients, especially the ones in bold.
Sulphates to Avoid in CG Method
- Sodium Laureth, Myreth, or Lauryl Sulfate
- Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
- Ammonium Laureth or Lauryl Sulfate
- Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate
- Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate
- Ammonium or Sodium Xylenesulfonate
- Ethyl PEG-15 Cocamine Sulfate
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
- Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate
- Sodium Xylenesulfonate
Non-Water Soluble Silicones to Avoid in CG Method
- Behenoxy Dimethicone
- Bis-aminopropyl dimethicone
- Cetearyl Methicone
- Cetyl Dimethicone
- Phenyl trimethicone
- Stearyl Dimethicone
Drying Alcohols to Avoid in CG Method
- Isopropyl alcohol (also called IPA)
- Denatured alcohol
- Propyl alcohol
- SD alcohol 40
More Ingredients to Avoid in CG Method
- Waxes: Beeswax, Candelilla wax
- Mineral oil (paraffinum liquidum)
How to Start CG Method
Want step-by-step instructions on how to start CG Method, with affordable product recommendations? Checkout the posts below: