So you’ve read The Curly Girl Handbook, spent ages reading blog posts, and watching countless YouTube videos on the curly girl method. Now you’re ready to purchase some curly girl approved products and get started on your curly journey. But you don’t know where to start, and you get overwhelmed. I know I did!
The trick is to start off simple, and know when, and in what order, to use each product. So here’s how to build a curly girl hair routine, with some product suggestions, to simplify the whole process so it becomes less daunting, and more achievable. Lets get started!
1. Final Wash | Clarify
If you’re just starting the curly girl method, you need to do a final wash to get rid of product build up and those pesky silicones out of your hair. For this, you’ll need a silicone-free, sulfate shampoo. If you live in a hard water area, or swim in the pool or ocean regularly, hold onto your final wash shampoo, as you can also use it to clarify your hair once a month. Read this post for more information on clarifying your curls.
- Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo – make sure it contains Disodium EDTA
- Bumble & Bumble Sunday Shampoo
2. Pre-Poo | Detangle
This step is optional. It’s great for people who have really dry hair, or hair that gets easily tangled and knotted. I don’t suffer from any of those things, so I skip this step. But, if you do, you can apply an oil or deep conditioner to your hair a few hours before. Oils will prevent your scalp and hair from becoming too dry or stripped during the cleansing process. Deep conditioner will help de-tangle, just make sure it has good slip, so you don’t break and damage your hair whilst de-tangling.
- Tropic Isle Living Black Caster Oil or Red Pimento Oil – available from my Amazon Shop.
- Matrix Biolage Hydra Source Conditioner (GVP Conditioning Balm in the U.S.)
3. Cleanse | Clarify
Avoid traditional shampoos, and anything that contains sulfates, silicones, drying alcohols and parabens. There are three types of cleansers to use when following the curly girl method. Co-wash, low-poo and no-poo. Here’s where it can get confusing and overwhelming. A co-wash is using a conditioner to “wash” your hair.
However, for most people, if they use a regular conditioner to do this, their hair quickly becomes greasy, oily and weighed down. Instead, opt for a cleansing conditioner, or cleansing co-wash. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know what product I’m going to suggest. It’s the best co-wash on the market, and there’s nothing else that compares. Not even close!
Co-wash product suggestion:
So what’s the difference between a low-poo and a no-poo? A low-poo usually lathers up slightly and uses curly girl safe (but always check) commercial, cleansing ingredients. It’s typically more suited to low porosity, fine, wavy hair. A no-poo, like a co-wash, doesn’t lather up at all and contains natural ingredients, in their natural state. Co-washes and no-poos are typically more suited to dryer, curly to kinky-coily hair. Or sometimes high porosity hair types too.
Low-poo & no-poo product suggestions, all available in my Amazon Shop:
- Boulcème Curl Cleanser – no poo
- Jessicurl Hair Cleansing Cream – low poo , available on Naturalistic Products
- Bounce Curl Moisturising Shampoo – low poo – use code CURLYCAILIN10 for 10% discount on the Bounce Curl website, or available from Naturalistic Products
I’ve got a more detailed post on clarifying, which you can read here, and I highly recommend you do. But if you don’t live in a hard water area or swim in the pool or ocean. You don’t need to use a sulfate, chelating shampoo to clarify your hair. You can use more curly girl friendly and approved products to rid your hair of dirt, oil and product build up. This is especially important for low porosity curlies, as their hair tends to get more easily weighed down.
Clarifying shampoo product suggestions, all available in my Amazon Shop:
- Bounce Curl Clarifying Shampoo – my favourite! – use code CURLYCAILIN10 for 10% discount at checkout. Also available from Naturalistic Products
- Kinky Curly Come Clean – also available from Naturalistic Products
This is usually wear you find silicones, so it’s really important to check the ingredients when purchasing your conditioner, deep conditioner and leave-in conditioner. Please note: you do not need all three! So don’t feel you have to rush out and buy all of them. When choosing a conditioner, go for something that has high concentrations of plant-based ingredients, as well as emollients, humectants and moisturisers. Check out this post for a quick run down on each of those ingredients.
Conditioner product suggestions, all available in my Amazon Shop:
- Matrix Biolage Hydra Source Conditioner
- Jessicurl Too Shea Conditioner
- Hairfinity Balanced Moisture Conditioner
When I don’t rinse my conditioner completely out, I don’t need a leave-in. Other times, when I completely rinse my conditioner out, or if my hair is particularly dry, I’ll use a leave-in conditioner. If you have low porosity hair, or hair that gets weighed down easily, then stay away from heavy, creamy formulas. Here are some of my favourites:
Leave-in conditioner product suggestions, all available in my Amazon Shop:
- Giovanni Weightless Moisture Direct Leave In – the most lightweight and my favourite
- Flora & Curl Leave In – available on Naturalistic Products
- MopTop Leave In Conditioner
Deep conditioners are an essential step for any curly girl, or boy. These are what make the biggest difference and improvement to your hair. But again, this is where things can get a little tricky and overwhelming. Usually because some contain protein, and others don’t. But it really doesn’t need to be that complicated.
Just like we all need protein in a healthy diet, we need it for our hair too. You can use your regular conditioner as a deep conditioner if you combine it with some oils, or a thermal heat cap. I hand-make and sell Curly Cailín Heat Caps, available in my Etsy Shop. I ship worldwide, you can see the latest fabric combinations and purchase them here.
Deep conditioner product suggestions, all available in my Amazon Shop:
- Matrix Biolage Hydra Source Conditioner (don’t get the mask, it’s not CG friendly)
- Hairfinity Strengthening Amino Mask – contains protein
- Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment – protein free
Top Tip: use a Curly Cailín Thermal Heat Cap to help open up the cuticle so your deep conditioner can really penetrate the hair and give maximum benefits.
Once you’ve cleansed and conditioned your hair, it’s time for the styling products. When layering products, I always start from lightest to heaviest products. For low porosity curls that get easily weighed down, mousses and foams are great curl enhancers. I nearly always use a mousse! Other options are milks, lotions and creams. None of which work particularly well on my hair, but that’s not to say it won’t work on yours.
Product suggestions, available in my Amazon Shop:
- Pantene Defined Curls No. 5 Mousse – hands down my absolute favourite product to enhance my curls.
- Jessicurl Rockin Ringlets
- Jessicurl Confident Coils
- Innersense I Create Lift Volumising Foam
- DIY Flaxseed Gel
- EcoSlay Orange Marmalade
6. Define & Hold
The final step in a good curly hair routine is something to seal everything in, define your curls and hold them in place. For this you can use a gel, jelly or custard. I often use a custard and a gel, if I want great clumps and hold. But again, this is where some people get confused because of a tricky ingredient called glycerin. This is a humectant usually high up on the ingredients lists of many gels, but it can cause frizz in humid environments. See this post for more about glycerin and humectants.
Product suggestions, available in my Amazon Shop:
- Bouclème Curl Defining Gel – soft hold, contains glycerin
- Bouclème’s NEW Super Hold Styler – strong hold, contains glycerin
- Jessicurl Spiralicious Gel – medium hold, glycerin-free
- Aussie Instant Freeze Gel – medium hold, glycerin-free
- Giovanni LA Natural Gel – strong hold, glycerin-free
- MopTop Curly Hair Custard – contains glycerin
- Kinky Curly Curling Custard – glycerin-free, available from Naturalistic Products
Putting it all together
I’ve tried to list the product categories in the order that you will use them, to make it as easy as possible to understand and buy products. However, you don’t need to buy something from every category in order to build a good routine that works for you. Here are some of my favourite wash and style routines below, which you may find helpful and can adopt and adapt for your own routine.
Option 1, also great for beginners:
- As I Am Coconut Co-Wash
- Matrix Biolage Hydra Source Conditioner (don’t fully rinse out)
- Pantene Defined Curls Mousse
- Aussie Instant Freeze or Giovanni LA Natural Gel
- Bouclème Curl Cleanser, Conditioner, Curl Cream (optional) and Curl Defining Gel (read my full review here)
- Jessicurl Hair Cleansing Cream, Too Shea Conditioner, Rockin Ringlets, Confident Coils and Spiralicious Gel – you don’t need to use all of those styling products.
Protein/moisture balance routine:
- Bouclème Curl Cleanser
- Hairfinity Balanced Moisture Conditioner
- Giovanni Weightless Moisture Direct Leave In
- *Optional: for extra definition, apply mousse before the custard
- MopTop Curly Hair Custard
- *Optional: for extra hold, apply gel after custard
Top Tip: like most things, it’s all about balance. For best results and to avoid protein overload, always pair a product that has protein, with a product that doesn’t.
- Bounce Curl Clarifying/Moisturising Shampoo, Conditioner (don’t fully rinse out) and Light Creme Gel. Please note, like DevaCurl and Innersense products, Bounce Curl contains a lot of protein.
Once you’ve got your products, you’ll want to nail your techniques. There are many different ways, combinations and methods to apply products. You can read this post for curly girl techniques to enhance curl definition and reduce frizz.
Do you use any of the products mentioned in this post? Please share your curly routine in the comments below so we can all learn from each other and different combinations that work.
Hair porosity is really important when it comes to buying products that will work for your hair and avoid wasting money. If you don’t know what hair porosity you have, read this post to find out the different ways you can test for it, and the characteristics for each type.
Thank you so much for taking time to read this post. I hope you found it helpful. Please subscribe if you haven’t already, you can follow me on Instagram, or like my Facebook page. Did you know I started a YouTube channel? I would be ever so grateful if you subscribed! You can watch my first video here, on how to finger coil curly hair. See you in my next post. Gabriella xoxo
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