The Curly Girl Method doesn’t have to be expensive! Here is my routine (as a wavy girl) and the products that I use – that won’t break the bank.
Curly Girl Method Wavy Hair
Both of my sisters-in-law have had great success following it, 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 book, joined some Facebook groups, and kind of got a little obsessed with learning everything I could.
I’ll admit, the first couple of attempts were not so great.
Forrest thought I was taking on a new style of dreadlocks.
Not exactly what I was going for.
In the end, I went back to the basics of what my microscopic hair analysis recommended, simplified my huge pile of hair products I had accumulated, and now I’m finding consistent results.
And fortunately, the products and routine are very easy on the wallet.
Sure, I could invest more money in higher-end products…but honestly, I’m not a high-end kind of girl. I like easy to find, drugstore products that aren’t going to take a huge chunk out of our monthly budget. And fortunately, I can get good results with these!
When you first start the Curly Girl method, it can be a little overwhelming – you can feel like you have to buy ALL the products – and when you start looking at some of the popular recommendations…you might start to wonder if you can afford it.
I’m here to tell you this – you can! There are plenty of inexpensive and simply easy to find products you can buy.
I don’t have it done to a perfect science yet – and I think a good haircut by someone who knows what they are doing will help my waves/curls be more defined. But I hope that this might be helpful to anyone just starting out.
Curly Girl Approved Products
This post is super long, and I realize you may not want to read it all, so here is a cliff-notes version of what I currently use. Most of these last me 1.5-2 months, and I can get most of them at Target or Sally’s Beauty Supply.
- Not Your Mother’s Naturals Shampoo and Conditioner
- Cantu Curl Activator (I stopped using this for a while, but recently I added it back into my routine, and I LOVE it. Be aware that not all Cantu products are Curly Girl approved, but this one is).
- Aussie Instant Freeze Gel
- GVP Gel (I use this with the Aussie when I don’t add protein to my routine – more on that at the end of this post)
- 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 Hair Wash (I use this every couple of weeks)
- Alligator Clips for Root Clipping
- 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.
Biggest lessons I’ve learned:
- Be patient and DON’T touch my hair.
- I don’t love blow drying – but it does help
- Less is more for my hair
- My day two hair is my favorite
- I do still need to shampoo
- Wavy is beautiful
- The best thing you can do is get a microscopic hair analysis done
To expound a little on these…
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, my hair 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 my hair, 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 your hair goes 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.
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 hair dryer 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.
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 my hair while diffusing it certainly helps with frizz. But it’s definitely not my favorite activity!
There is no way I can ever blow my hair 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.
Day Two Hair
Oddly enough, I like my hair 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.
Microscopic Hair Analysis
As I’ve already mentioned, getting a microscopic hair 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 is really no other way to know exactly what your hair needs (without a lot of experimentation and guesswork) than by getting 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 hair care analysis, so there is something for everyone.
How to Style Wavy Hair
I was my hair every 2-3 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 specifically narrowed this routine down because of the results of my microscopic hair analysis. 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 follow.
Thursday: Shampoo + Conditioner
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 my hair 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 hair 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 of my hair up 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 detangle my hair.
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 the hair up in 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 my hair feels quite slick.
Then I let my hair 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 conditioner out.
I have recently started doing a deep condition maybe once a week – I just mix a Tablespoon of olive oil and one Tablespoon of honey with my conditioner, and then I put it up in a deep conditioning heat cap for about 15 minutes.
If I am using just my cowash, I will use a small amount of my fingers and use it like I do shampoo, and then I go into the conditioner routine.
I’ve recently started using my Denman brush at this point. I got the seven row one, but I removed two of the rows. I gently brush down sections and flip the hair in at the end.
After I am done in the shower, I apply my gel or curl enhancing cream to my sopping wet hair.
I flip my hair over, and I put my Cantu curl activator (you can definitely just use gel at this point if you don’t want more than one product. Sometimes I do!). in my hands with a little bit of water, and then I scrunch it throughout my hair. 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.
When I get out of the shower, I will “plop” my hair, which is just a way to help it dry more quickly. 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, and then I will take my hair down.
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.
After my hair has totally dried, I scrunch my hair 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 my hair, 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 on your hair! I didn’t realize how damaging traditional pillowcases can be.
Most nights, I will pineapple my hair using a soft scrunchie (here is a good tutorial).
Curly Girl Approved Products I Use
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 cowashing.
I liked the coconut one, but I think my hair doesn’t like coconut, 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 cowashing, 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 of my hair 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 in my hair (through the stretch test).
My sister-in-law recommended adding some protein treatments to my hair. 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 carefully, because it’s easy to over protein your hair (and it’s hard to come back from). I just add a couple of drops to my conditioner.
My hair seems to really love protein.
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.
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
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