I Tried the Curly Girl Method and It Totally Transformed My Hair
For years, every time I sat in a salon chair and the stylist asked me to explain my hair texture, I'd tell them, "My hair doesn't have a defined texture — it's mostly straight in the front, but curly in the back and underneath." Having these opposite textures was frustrating; it meant I was always using a flat iron to straighten the back or a curling iron to curl the front to make the two halves match. And years of heat damage was catching up to me, making my hair dry and brittle.
So when the pandemic hit and I was no longer seeing people daily, I decided to experiment and see if I could successfully air dry my fickle hair. That's when I discovered the Curly Girl Method — and it totally changed how I wash and style my hair. This tried-and-true technique made me realize I actually have a full head of curls, and now, I've barely touched a hot tool in months.
How I've spent 26 years of my life not understanding my own hair texture is still a shock to me — but I doubt I'm alone here. I learned that I have really fine hair, and the texture is somewhere between a wave and a curl. Once I learned how to work with my natural texture, my routine got so much easier while my hair got so much healthier. Here's the step-by-step guide of how I used techniques inspired by the Curly Girl Method to transform my hair:
Step 1. Wash with a Sulfate-Free Shampoo
I'd never put much thought into my shampoo choices before; I'd usually just grab anything that claimed it could add volume to my fine, flat hair. But with the Curly Girl Method, sulfate-free is the only way to go. Most shampoos that give you that really luxe lather are filled with detergents called sulfates, which make you feel like you're getting a better clean thanks to the suds. But just like when you wash the dishes with detergent and your hands feel dry and tight after, the detergents in these shampoos can actually dehydrate your hair. So ditching those stripping sulfates and cleansing with a gentler shampoo or a cleansing conditioner will help your hair stay hydrated, which is key for healthy, defined curls. I personally love the Drunk Elephant Cocomino Glossing Shampoo (Buy It, $25, sephora.com) because it smells incredible and it makes my hair feel clean and soft without drying it out. (Related: Tia Mowry Revealed Exactly How She Keeps Her Curls "Shiny, Strong, and Healthy")
Step 2. Condition Your Hair Really Well
I used to think that conditioner would only weigh my fine hair down, so I always used lightweight formulas and skipped heavier masks that promised to add moisture. But when I realized that dehydration was part of the reason my curls were not defined and looked so limp, I started using hydrating masks and deep conditioners — and suddenly, the word 'conditioner' wasn't so scary anymore. I go back and forth between using the Drunk Elephant Cocomino Marula Cream Conditioner (Buy It, $25, sephora.com) and the Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Moist (Buy It, $3, target.com). The Drunk Elephant conditioner is more lightweight, so I use that when my hair is feeling good and hydrated. But the Aussie mask is a lifesaver when my hair is feeling dull and dry. I leave it on while I wash the rest of my body and it revives my sad strands.
Step 3. Handle Hair with Care
One of the biggest lessons I learned when researching the Curly Girl Method was that I shouldn't comb or brush my hair out after getting out of the shower. This was tugging on my hair, ruining my curl pattern, and causing damage. Instead, the method recommends combing bigger knots with your fingers. (More here: Should You Every Really Brush Your Hair?) Since my hair gets especially tangly while I'm shampooing, I tend to comb my hair out during the conditioning step to get it really smooth. I use the Wet Brush Shower Flex Hair Brush (Buy It, $8, amazon.com) when my hair is saturated with conditioner to give it as much slip as possible. I love this brush because the bristles are super flexible, so they move through my knots without getting stuck and pulling on my hair. Then, once I'm out of the shower, I only comb through my hair with my fingers if there are any leftover knots. Otherwise, I try not to touch it at all.
After I rinse my hair, I squeeze the excess water out and then grab my microfiber hair towel. I've found that my strands have gotten caught in the rough texture of standard bath towels before, so I now prefer softer fabrics. I always use the Aquis Lisse Luxe Hair Turban (Buy It, $30, sephora.com) and bring it with me on every trip.
Step 4. Apply Products the Right Way
Since I don't want to disrupt my curl pattern by dragging a comb through my damp hair, I try not to rake products through with my fingers either. Instead, I scrunch them into my hair by squeezing sections of hair and lifting them up to my roots. By doing this, I'm actually encouraging the curls to form while adding products that will hydrate my hair and help it hold its style. I start with a mousse to give me extra volume — my favorite is Virtue Create Moisture-Defining Whip (Buy It, $36, sephora.com) because it adds moisture and body. I massage that in at the roots before scrunching the Virtue Create 6-In-1 Styler (Buy It, $32, sephora.com) styling cream into my curls. If I'm in a rush and I want more of a beachy wave texture, I narrow my routine down to just one product: the Kristin Ess Sea Salt Air Dry Mousse (Buy It, $14, target.com) because it gives my hair those fresh-off-the-beach waves thanks to the sea salt and super light, mousse texture. (Related: The Best Curl Creams for Every Curl Type)
Step 5. Dry Carefully
Once these products are applied, I try not to touch my hair at all in order to let the curls dry in place. I find that the more I touch it, the frizzier and less defined the texture gets. If I don't have time to air dry my hair, I'll use a hairdryer with a diffuser on the low setting to speed up the process. But since I've been working from home, that thankfully hasn't been a problem, and my hair is even healthier now that I've barely been using hot tools. (Related: How to Embrace Humidity This Summer, No Matter Your Hair Type)
In fact, the entire Curly Girl Method has left my hair healthier and better-looking than it's been since I was a kid. I can finally air dry my hair and love the way it looks because I understand how I should treat my texture. It not only makes my routine so much faster, but I also love the freedom of knowing I can simply wash my hair and go on with my day without depending on a hot tool to help me feel my best.