The Curly Girl Method doesn’t have to be expensive! Here is my inexpensive routine and the products that I use as a wavy lady.
In 2018, my life was forever changed when I discovered I had waves.
See, I got a microscopic hair analysis done – and I learned that I didn’t have the “blah” strands I thought. It didn’t look great in its natural state – and I felt like I always had to straighten or curl it.
When I got my report back that said that the sample I sent in were wavy – and I was given basic tips for getting started, I quickly became obsessed and started learning about the Curly Girl Method.
Both of my sisters-in-law have had great success following this method, so I decided that since I suddenly discovered I do have a natural curl to my hair…why not try it out?
I bought the Curly Girl Method book, joined some Facebook groups, and I learned as much as I could.
It was certainly a learning process
Forrest thought I was trying out dreadlocks.
In the end, I went back to the tips that my microscopic hair analysis recommended, I simplified my huge pile of beauty products I had accumulated to just a couple of products I found the best results with, and I was able to find a reliable CG method routine that I LOVE.
I know before and afters are pretty popular in this community, so I thought I would share mine. I had a really hard time finding a good before picture – because I either had straightened or curled my hair, or it was up in a pony tail. But I hope this can show the improvement I saw within just a few weeks:
Wavy Girl Method
I know that the official term is the “Curly Girl Method” – however, if there’s one thing I learned is that wavies need to treat their routine a little differently than our super curly-haired sisters.
It can feel a bit frustrating at times. I know I’ve had times where I thought, “why can’t I just have REAL curls!” – but I’ve come to discover how fun and beautiful wavy locks can be.
My hope with this post is to share affordable ways to follow the CGM for wavies that will be beneficial to anyone who might feel a little lost.
This is a very long post, so here is a Table of Contents so you can navigate to the sections that are of most interest to you!
Table of contents
- Types of Wavy Hair
- Curly Girl defintions
- “What to Avoid
- Comprehensive List of CG Approved Products for Wavies
- Curly Girl Budget Tips
- Curly Girl Drug Store PRoducts
- What I Use
- Easy Routine
- Mistakes Wavie Might Make
- Details on What I use
- Helpful Products
- Curly Girl Printable
- Microscopic Hair Analysis
- Join our Facebook Group
Types of Wavy Hair
The CG method defines curls in different types – Type 2, 3, and 4.
Within those categories, they are split into A, B, and C. Type 2 is for us wavies.
The truth is – many people have curls/waves from different types! Some women will find that their type changes as they progress through the transition process.
For the most part, wavy strands forms an “S” shape that gets more defined the “higher” in the type you get.
Type 2A – Fine and loose. Often described as “tousled”.
Type 2B – Often straighter at the roots and turns to more defined “S” waves the further from the root you get. This is what I am.
Type 2C – The definition tends to start at the roots and is often more defined than 2A and 2B. Many Type 2C wavies have other curl types.
Curly Girl Definitions
One of the most overwhelming parts of this world is the words and terms. While there are lots of different ones, here are the terms I think are the most important for wavies.
Porosity – How easily your hair is able to absorb and hold moisture and chemicals – there are varying levels of this, and they are often referred to as low porosity, medium porosity, and high porosity.
Clarify – This removes buildup. Many wavy girls find they have to do this semi-regularly.
Cowash Conditioner – This is also called a cleansing conditioner. They are used to cleanse in between clarifying or shampooing washes. They work to condition but they are also formulated to remove dirt and oil.
Pineapple – A method to preserve curls during exercise or sleep. You gather your hair at the crown and pile it on top of your head using a silk scrunchie (if you can find an illustration of this to include, that would be great)
Deep Condition – This is a thicker product that is designed to penetrate the hair shaft and nourish between and within cuticles. Generally, requires up to thirty minutes for treatment.
Density – How closely packed together your strands are on your scalp.
Final Wash The last wash before you start the Curly Girl Method. It involves using a clarifying shampoo that has no silicones but does have sulfates.
Low-Poo- This is a shampoo that contains no sulfates and silicones and is Curly Girl Approved.
What to Avoid
The CGM book goes into detail on a lot of what you should avoid in your shampoos, conditioners, and styling products.
These are generic categories – your bottle isn’t going to outright say these specific words.
- Mineral Oils
- Drying Alcohols
Comprehensive List of CG Approved Products for Wavies
I did a survey in my group about what product lines they like the most. Here are the names of some of the most popular lines for curlies.
Be aware that some of these have a lot of products – and occasionally, they won’t be CGM approved. Make sure to double-check the ingredients! Curlsbot.com is a great resource for doing that to make sure they don’t contain any of the items listed above.
- As I Am (these typically have coconut – not everyone can handle coconut)
- Not Your Mother’s Naturals
- Aussie’s Instant Freeze Gel
- Kinky Curly
- Hairitage – this is a new line that was just released – click here to find out which products are approved and my thoughts. Very $$ friendly.
- Shea Moisture
- LUS Wavy Line
- Uncle Funky’s Daughter
- Flax Seed Gel (you can buy this, or you can make it yourself)
- The Mane Choice
- Trader Joe’s Green Tea – Clarifying Shampoo
DevaCurl has a wavy line – but if I’m being honest, it’s not my favorite. I felt like it made my strands somewhat oilier and stringy. Some people do like it, though, so it might be. something to consider.
Curly Girl on a Budget
Several of the products above are available at drug stores. I definitely recommend going with products you can buy locally, because they are generally less expensive, and, well – you can find them easier!
Here are a few other tips for making this more affordable:
- When you are first trying out products, in order to make it a little cheaper, I recommend buying products from Sally Beauty. They have a great return policy and often have awesome sales going on. They also have a great return policy!
- Buy one product at a time. It can be very tempting to buy ALL. THE. THINGS. But you don’t need to. Just start with a CG friendly shampoo, conditioner, and gel, and go from there.
- Start with drug store products. It will make your life easier if you don’t start with the most expensive products.
- Join a buy/sell group on Facebook. There are Facebook groups where you can buy and sell your products to others.
- Comparison shop on Amazon. Sometimes products here are jacked up in price. Other times, they aren’t and are cheaper (especially with subscribe and save). So make sure to check and see if Amazon is the cheapest option.
- Shop Target! They often have wonderful deals on hair care products and have a huge selection. I have seen some stores are now even carrying travel-size for some Curly Girl method approved products. Most of their deals are online and are often eligible for 2-day shipping OR drive up.
- Look into the Sally GVP brand. It is inexpensive and offers less expensive versions of popular products.
Curly Girl Approved Drug Store Products
Not all of these products aren’t necessarily favorites of wavies, but they are inexpensive and available locally for most people. They might be worth trying out:
- Not Your Mother’s Naturals (already mentioned this – I have found it at Target and Walmart).
- Aussie Instant Freeze
- LA Looks (in blue) – A lot of people love this, but I didn’t find it worked super well. I think it might be due to the dew point where I live (Colorado).
- Herbal Essence Totally Twisted
- Herbal Essences Set Me Up Gel
- Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel
- Suave Naturals Conditioners
- Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle
- As I Am
- Vo5 Herbal Escapes Conditioners (this is SO cheap!)
- Yes To
- Shea Moisture
- L’Oreal EverCreme Cleansing Conditioner
What I Use
Now that I’ve shared popular choices amongst others, I thought I would share what I use on a regular basis.
- Not Your Mother’s Naturals Shampoo and Conditioner
- Aussie Instant Freeze Gel
- I was using Shea Moisture Restorative Conditioner and As I Am Coconut Cowash, however, in an attempt to simplify how many products I have, I am primarily just using NYMN. However, these are both good products.
- GVP Neutral Protein Filler (make sure you don’t use this without knowing that your hair needs more protein)
- Elulence Clarifying Wash (I use this every couple of weeks)
- Deep Conditioning Heat Cap – I do think that deep conditioning is important. You don’t need a fancy conditioner for this though (more on this below). The one I got barely fits on my head, but it was way cheaper than others, so it works.
At the end of this post, I’ve listed some other products that are helpful, but above are just the things that I find necessary.
Easy Wavy Hair Routine
I wash every three days – if I try and go much longer, I do start to get frizziness, and it just doesn’t hold as well. Some people can go longer, but I’m finding that I really can’t, especially since I exercise every day.
Remember, this routine works for me – but it may not work for you. I have simplified this routine to work for my hair. Be aware that this is my routine on a perfect day – I have plenty of not perfect days. But I do my best to follow this!
This is the general schedule I recommend starting with- I did a survey in my group, and this was based on averages for all the wavies in there:
Day 1: Co-Wash
Day 3 or 4: Lo Poo
Clarify: Every two weeks
Deep Condition: Once a month or as needed
Sometimes I will just do Wednesday and Saturday, but I usually find it starts to look a bit odd on the last days when I use this routine. I just kind of play it by ear.
Wash Day Routine:
I generally try and wash in the morning after I go to the gym.
I start out by completely wetting my hair with handfuls of water. I try to avoid putting my hair into the stream of water.
If I am using shampoo, I will use just a small amount, and I will try and massage my scalp really well.
Then I will lather the shampoo throughout the rest of my scalp before completely washing it out. I will sometimes try and wash it out with hands full of water, but because I have so much hair that tends to hold on to shampoo and conditioner, I usually will scrunch handfuls and put it into the stream of water.
After I’ve finished shampooing, I will start with my conditioner.
I flip my hair over in front of me, and I will go about half way down my hair and start to put conditioner on my hair from that point down using prayer hands.
I do this with just a little bit of conditioner, and then I use my fingers to help detangle.
Once it’s detangled, I will add more handfuls of water to my hair, and then I will drench my hair in conditioner.
I use prayer hands, but then I squish small fistfuls from the bottoms to the roots in order to get all my hair nice and conditioned (this technique is called “squish to condish“). I go until everything feels nice and slick.
Then I let it condition for about 3-5 minutes.
At this point, I will wash all the conditioner out.
Some people can get away with leaving some in, but I really can’t. I generally will squish the hair into a fistful and put it under the stream of water to ensure I get all of the conditioners out.
After I am done in the shower, I typically air dry for a bit.
I flip my hair over, and I put gel in my hands with a little bit of water, and then I scrunch it throughout I don’t use prayer hands first. I will start one side of my head and scrunch it in around my head, then I will get more cream and start from the other side.
Sometimes I will plop to help with the drying process, but it does encourage some frizz. Here is a great tutorial on how to do plop your hair using a cotton t-shirt.
I actually recently got this Scrunch it towel, which was designed specifically for plopping…and I LOVE it. I feel it works a lot better than a towel, and I feel like my waves don’t get deflated as much.
I usually will plop for about 30-40 minutes when I do it.
If I am going to diffuse that day, I will do that at this point using warm heat on low.
Once it’s about 50% dry, I use a method some people have recommended where I get my gel in my hands with some water, and then I scrunch the gel in throughout. I’ve found this to get me some beautiful waves – more than anything else.
When I am almost completely dried, I scrunch the gel out. Some people recommend using a water-based lube or to scrunch it out while using your diffuser on a low setting to prevent frizziness, but I usually just use my hands.
On the days that I don’t wash, I typically will wake up in the morning, spray my hair until it’s damp (not soaking), and then I will apply one of my homemade curl refreshers using pray hands, scrunching, and then I let it dry. You can buy one, but because I’m cheap, homemade was easier!
I recently bought this spray bottle for my water that has more of a misting spray, which I’ve heard works best.
I have both a gel and conditioner based curl refresher. I find that the conditioner based on seems to give more volume and better waves/curls, but I find it hard to “scrunch the crunch” out afterward. Both of the refreshers I use were made with the instructions from this website.
It typically takes about an hour to air dry or about 10 minutes to dry with my diffuser, so it doesn’t take long at all to look nice.
Sleep can really do a number waves! I didn’t realize how damaging traditional pillowcases can be.
Most nights, I will pineapple using a soft scrunchie (here is a good tutorial).
Mistakes Wavies Might Make
I run a Facebook group specifically for wavy women, and I
- Touching your hair too often
- Not being
- Not blow drying correctly
- Using too much product
- Using too heavy of product
- Not embracing day 2 or 3 curls
- Getting rid of shampoo entirely
- Not embracing the wave
One thing I’ve found with the CGM – especially for being type 2B – is that there are no commandments that you HAVE to follow. It’s important to find what works for you!
Here is a little bit of expounding on what I’ve learned and the mistakes I’ve made.
Although my routine is simplified, it does require patience. My hair can take a long time to dry – which means I have to refrain from touching my hair…a lot. It’s really hard!
When I can do a really good job of not touching my hair, it looks SO much better! When I start to play with it, or if I tell myself it’s dry when I know it really isn’t, and I scrunch it too early, I end up being disappointed with how it looks.
My favorite thing to do is wash, condition, and gel, and then go outside or go and run errands. I tend to get distracted from it being wet, and it usually dries faster – especially if I’m outside!
Also, when you start following the Curly Girl method, there’s definitely a transition period that you have to go through as you get used to it. So if your hair doesn’t look AMAZING the second you start it – don’t worry! It should get better.
I found a lot of inconsistency in the beginning, but now I find predictible results (even when I don’t follow the method perfectly). Here are a few random pictures from back when I first started to show this!
One of the things about the Curly Girl method is that it’s really against using heat on your hair. However, you can use a blow dryer with a diffuser on low.
I got a new hairdryer on Amazon a month or so ago – it actually wasn’t very expensive (just around $15), and it had great reviews. And I do like it.
But honestly, I hate diffusing! It takes forever, and I get so bored. I’ve tried laying down. I’ve tried standing up. I’ve tried doing intervals. I just don’t like it. And I end up touching my hair a lot more than I should…which results in frizziness.
However, I have found that diffusing laying down is a total game-changer. Just lay down, throw your headphones in, and go to town listening to music or an audiobook.
I do believe it gives me better volume – and if I can diffuse without touching my hair, it definitely gives me the best look. If I don’t touch it while diffusing it certainly helps with frizz. But it’s definitely not my favorite activity!
There is no way I can ever blow dry from being completely wet to completely dry all in one run. When I do diffuse, it’s typically after I’ve already let it air dry for a while, and it just has another 10-15 minutes left to go.
Less is more
As I mentioned earlier, as I started learning more about Curly Girl ideas, and as I spent more time in a couple of Facebook groups, I started thinking I needed lots of product.
Regular conditioner. Leave-in conditioner. Curl enhancer. Gel.
I thought that these would definitely make my hair look even better! And in the end…I found that they just weighed my hair down, which made my hair look weird.
Okay, weird is putting it nicely. My hair looked greasy, limp, and just not very good. And it felt gross.
I was feeling a little frustrated, and as I thought back to the days where I really loved my hair…it was just when I used gel on my wet hair.
So that’s what I’ve gone back to, and it’s been much better. For some people (in fact, many people), lots of hair product can really help enhance the look, volume, and quality of their curls. But for me, it just made things worse.
Oddly enough, I like my stlye the best on day two! I have a little routine I do to enhance my hair after I wake up, but I find the volume is better, and it just looks nicer.
I think it also helps that I’m able to enjoy my hair for more of the day. Often, my hair isn’t “ready” until just hours before I’m ready to go to bed after I wash it, so I only get to enjoy it looking good for an hour or two. And, because it often takes so long to dry, I often mess it up during the drying process, so it doesn’t look amazing.
I really do love my day two hair. I actually think day three looks nice, too, though it tends to be more frizzy. I’ll share what I do on non-washing days about what I do.
One part of the Curly Girl method that I’ve started to modify on is being anti-shampoo. My hair is definitely wavier, and as I started to do some research, I discovered that many wavy girls need to shampoo every wash or two (this post from Naturally Curly has been super helpful).
I wash every 2-3 washes, just depending on what I think I need. I use a Curly Girl approved shampoo – Not Your Mother’s Natural brand (I like the pink bottles) – and I use just a small amount.
I also do a “clarifying wash” every two weeks or so, because build-up is very common with wavy girls. There are some different ones you can buy – I know a lot of people rave about Trader Joe’s Tree Tea Oil Shampoo. But I bought this one on Amazon, and I like it a lot so far – I do feel a difference when I use the clarifying wash.
I have 2a to 2b hair. Sometimes this can be frustrating because it is straighter/flatter closer to my roots.
Sometimes I look at people with more curly hair (2c-3b usually), and I wish I could have those beautiful curls throughout my hair with amazing volume.
But I’ve really come to love my soft waves. It took me a while to accept that I didn’t have to have ringlet curls to have beautiful hair.
A few times I’ve wanted to just straighten my hair, but the waves are worth taking care of and enhancing!
So if you are a wavy girl reading this and wishing your hair was curlier – just know that wavy (even subtle waves) are beautiful, too.
Protein is often a topic of discussion in the groups I’m in. Too much protein and your hair will get straw-like and hard to manage…too little? It can be hard for your hair to keep much shape.
Here is a little guide to figuring out if your hair might need more protein.
Do I Need Protein?
- Perform a stretch test
- Take a few strands of hair that have fallen out that are wet.
- Gently stretch them.
- If they break right away – you may have too much protein!
- If they stretch and then go back to normal size – your hair has just the right amount
- If they stretch and don’t go back to normal – you may need more protein!
Below I discuss a little bit more about protein.
How long does it take for the Curly Girl Method to work? Most people go through a transition process – it can overlook worse before it gets better. I think most people see the most progress after about six weeks – but you will probably see some changes pretty quickly.
Can I make my wavy hair curly? As some women go through the CGM, they will find their wavy hair gets more definition and starts to. form curls and ringlets. There’s no guarantee that this will happen – but it can!
Should I get a hair cut? A lot of people refer to this as “the big chop”. Sometimes it can be helpful to get a cut – especially if you go to a curly specialist. A DevaCut is pretty popular – here is my experience with that!
Curly Girl Products for Wavy hair I Love
Below are products that I personally use that are Curly Girl approved products. I have linked to them on Amazon, but please be aware that many of these are quite a bit less expensive if you buy them at Target, Walmart, etc.
I have two different conditioners that I have used for co washing.
I liked the coconut one, but it doesn’t seem to work super well, so on cowashing days, I primarily use the Shea Moisture Restorative Conditioner.
For shampoo days, I like to use the pink bottle of conditioner from Not Your Mother’s Naturals. I was recently traveling and just brought this with my shampoo, so I used it for co-washing, and I actually really liked it. So I may not get a new bottle of my Shea Moisture.
What I like about NYMN is that it’s not very heavy, and I feel like it’s so much easier to rinse out than the other options.
I have also gotten the Suave Essentials Tropical Coconut Conditioner – which is probably the cheapest option. It works pretty well, but I find it to feel a little thin. Still, it’s a very affordable product.
For my hair gel, I use Aussie Instant Freeze Sculpting Gel. I’ve tried other ones – such as Herbal Essences Totally Twisted Curl Scrunching Gel, LA Sports, as well as a GVP gel from Sally’s Beauty Supply (which is a good option if your hair needs more protein)…but I just really like the Aussie gel the most. It’s very affordable as well.
I have been sometimes combining the GVP gel with the Aussie for good results.
I’ve heard amazing things about flax seed gels, and I definitely want to try one soon.
I actually bought all the ingredients a while ago, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
One bottle of the Aussie Instant Freeze Sculpting gel will probably last me about a month or two.
I already mentioned these above, but I use Not Your Mother’s Shampoo Naturals every 2-3 washes, and I use this one for clarifying washes. Be aware that there are TWO lines of Not Your Mother’s – the Naturals line (solid color bottles) is the only CGM approved.
And those are the main products I use! The conditioners are both under $10 (the Suave one is like $2.50 or so!), and the hair gel is just a couple of dollars as well.
Since following the Curly Girl Method for a while now, it’s become super moisturized.
Because of this, I’ve actually realized I needed more protein (through the stretch test).
My sister-in-law recommended adding some protein treatments in to my routine. There are a lot out there (the simplest one is just using egg whites and a shower cap), but I’ve found the BEST luck with the GVP Neutral Protein Filler from Sally’s Beauty.
This is just a couple of dollars, and I will add it to my conditioner once a week. I have had A LOT of success with this, but you have to be really careful because it’s easy to over protein (and it’s hard to come back from). I just add a couple of drops to my conditioner.
On the days that I don’t use the protein filler, I will add a little bit of the GVP Liquid Sculpting gel to my Aussie gel.
Helpful Products for The Curly Girl Method
Some of these I have mentioned above, but they are things that I’ve found to be helpful:
- Blow dryer with Diffuser
- Soft scrunchies
- Invisibobble (this is LIFE changing. Doesn’t leave weir indents in my hair, and, best of all, it doesn’t give me a headache like most hair ties do).
- Silk Bonnet
- Silk Pillow Case
- Deep Conditioning Heat Cap
- Denman Brush
- Curly Girl Method Book
Curly Girl Printable
This is a LOT of information – I know! So I put together a handy printable chart that has all the information you need to know to get started, including:
- DIY recipes for hair products
- Routine tips
- Recommended products
and more! It is just $2.99, and you can purchase it below:
Microscopic Hair Analysis
As I’ve already mentioned, getting a microscopic analysis is crucial! Without it – I wouldn’t have even realized I had wavy/curly hair that was worth making look good!
Not only that, but it really gave me the framework for finding a routine that worked best for my hair.
The report I was given from My Mane Bio was 13 pages long – and it was all about my hair!
The porosity, the elasticity, and the overall health – as well as recommendations for specific products to try, what routines I should try out, and different things to consider.
I’ve known other people who have gotten this, and they were shocked to realize they didn’t have the type of hair they thought. I had always been told I had fine hair, but it turns out, it was actually coarse!
If you want to know the best way to take care of your hair, I can’t emphasize enough how much you should consider a microscopic hair analysis. There are a few companies that do this, but I would definitely recommend My Mane Bio the most!
They offer a Foundational hair analysis and a total care analysis, so there is something for everyone.
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.