It’s been a while since I revisited my post on starting the curly girl method UK style, so I thought it was time to fix that! It’s actually been about a year now since I first started my curly girl journey, which I can’t believe! It hasn’t all been plain sailing, although there has definitely been a huge improvement in my hair’s curl pattern since I started all this last August.
You might like to read about some curly girl method products for beginners that you can get in the UK too. Or, if you’re like me and just want to get down to the nuts and bolts of things, then keep reading.
I’m going to save the full update on how things are going with my hair one year on for another post. But for anyone thinking of starting their own curly hair journey, read on for my top tips to hit the ground running.
Starting the curly girl method – top tips
I know I keep referring to the ‘UK style’ of the curly girl method. But there’s a good reason. Although the curly girl method is becoming more recognised across the UK, it is still quite an American-based thing. When I first started it, I had a nightmare trying to find half of the products recommended in the online curly girl communities. Most of them were USA-based brands.
After some extensive research, I learned about the ingredients and what made a product safe for curly hair. So it became an absolute marathon every time I went to the supermarket, checking the backs of the bottles like some sort of obsessed health and safety inspector.
The UK haircare market isn’t quite as on the ball as the US when it comes to curly hair yet, but things are definitely improving! Finding the resources and information on how to start the curly girl method was difficult as a UK resident, but more on that later. Anyway, let’s get on with my top tips for starting the curly girl method, UK style.
Before we begin, it’s important to remember that although we’re looking at top tips to get started with the curly girl method quickly, it’s important to be patient when heading out on this road. I know, contradictory, but this really will not happen overnight. So, keep that in mind and adjust your expectations, and you’ll soon start seeing results before you know it.
Does the curly girl method spoil your hair? No, but get ready to feel uncomfortable
The first few weeks, you’re going to wonder what the hell you were even thinking. Making the transition from years of normal washing to co-washing, gels and ‘plopping’ (bear with me), is going to really confuse you. Not to mention it’ll make your hair feel truly disgusting.
I feel like no one really talks about this bit of starting the curly girl method enough, but it’s true. Perseverance is key during these first few weeks. After the initial phase of feeling like you rolled around in chip fat, you’ll start to see light at the end of the tunnel.
You don’t need to brush your hair in the curly girl method
You don’t really need your hairbrush anymore, at all. That’s possibly another tip that’s going to enhance your discomfort, but you might as well say goodbye to your traditional hairbrush. You won’t be needing it, and if you do have to do any brushing, it won’t be with the old hairbrush you’re used to.
Use spray bottles filled with water on refresh days
Grab yourself some of the cheap ones from your nearest bargain store. They’ll come in really useful when you need to spritz your curls on day 2, 3 or 4 after wash day. You can fill them with water, a water/gel mixture and use them to refresh your curls after you’ve slept on them. Much less fuss than tipping your head over the bath to wet your hair!
Your hair will only need one wash day a week
You’re going to start to get to grips with a whole new routine for your hair, the core of which is known as ‘wash day’. This, perhaps unsurprisingly, is when you’re going to actually do your washing. Or co-washing, as it’ll now become. Everything after that is a game of ‘how long can I leave this before having to do wash day again?’
When your hair is curling up again, turns out you can leave it a lot longer in between wash days – provided you’re taking care of it. Using spray bottles to refresh your hair in between wash days is one of the ways you can prolong your curls before having to re-cleanse them.
Use clips to create root volume with the curly girl method
Cheap and cheerful claw clips will do – they’ll save you a load of time when you’re trying to air-dry your roots. Air drying is your friend now. As much as possible, you’re trying to rehydrate your hair so that it’ll revert to its natural curl pattern. For that, you want to try and avoid heat styling and instead think natural, natural, natural.
How do you dry your hair in the curly girl method? With T-shirts and ‘plopping’
This is basically your new go-to method of drying your hair post-wash. You won’t be using a towel anymore, because the fibres on standard towels actually cause a tonne of frizz and stop your curls from forming in their natural pattern as it dries.
Instead, you’ll need to use a cotton t-shirt to dry your curls from now on. So dig out a few tops you’re not that bothered about anymore and set them aside to use on your wet hair.
Long-sleeved ones are great, but short ones work just as well. I use one for the initial squeeze and dry, and then another to ‘plop’ with. Plopping is basically where you tip your damp curls upside down onto a laid-out t-shirt (e.g. you ‘plop’ them in) and then wrap it up around your head and leave to dry.
Told you this was a pretty American thing. Nobody here in the UK would purposely use the term ‘plopping’ for this.
Is plopping bad for your hair?
No, just don’t over-plop. I cannot believe I just typed that sentence in a serious way.
Anyway, don’t leave your damp hair in the plopped-up t-shirt for too long, or your roots will become flat and your scalp won’t be too happy about the lack of air. Remember the clips I was just telling you about? You’re going to use them when you feel like your hair is about 40-50% dry, to make sure you get some volume at the base of your curls.
You can use your hairdryer in the curly girl method, but get a diffuser
Hairdryer diffusers seem so 90’s, but for anyone starting the curly girl method, they’re a gift from above. Invest in a half-decent one and you’ll see a difference soon enough. You want to use the diffuser on the lowest heat, the lowest speed and only to get your hair to about 75% dry. Remember what I said about avoiding heat styling as much as possible. Low heat settings work well to get your curls dried off and set.
Don’t fully dry it with the diffuser, or you might just end up with fluffy mush-curls. This would be because the heat has effectively melted your gel before it’s had time to properly set. More on this in a minute.
The curly girl method is about trial and error
You’re going to find a lot of conflicting advice about starting the curly girl method. Ultimately, I stick by these golden rules:
- Avoid silicones or sulphates
- I know my hair
- Most people think they’re experts so don’t get fooled into buying overly expensive products just because they say so
- Try it out first and then see how it feels
What I mean here, is that you’ll see some people swear by one particular product, or raving about another. That’s great, but remember that you know your own hair. Don’t feel compelled to splash a load of money on random products just because some internet strangers are saying it’s the only way to get your curls back.
Start simple. At the supermarkets. Start with the basic, bare minimum products and try things out. I say this because I spent a bloody fortune in the first few months of doing this, only to discover that half the stuff I’d bought really wasn’t suitable for my hair after all. Trial and error.
Take photos of your curly girl method journey
Take photographs of your hair as you get started with your curly hair journey and keep taking them as you go along. Take lots of them. There’ll be times when you feel like you don’t want to do it anymore and you just want to go back to old-school washing and conditioning. Those times are when you’ll need to dig out your progress photos and remind yourself of how far you’ve actually come.
Scrunchies and hair caps help to maintain your curls at night
All of your old hair bobbles are going to mess with your newfound curls in a major way. Get some soft, silky scrunchies to use during the day if you need to. Also, get a sleeping cap (which is basically a shower cap made out of satin that you wear in bed) which will protect your curls during the night.
They’re not especially gorgeous, but your hair will be. If you don’t like the idea of sleeping with a cap on, you can use the scrunchie or an invisible to ‘pineapple’ your hair at night. That basically just means putting it up on top of your head, a bit like a pineapple.
When washing and drying, detangle your curls from the bottom, not the top
I’d always been so used to brushing my hair from the top down that this was really hard for me to get used to! When you do start to see your hair curling again, there’ll come a point where you have to detangle. Make sure you start from the bottom of your hair and work up. This way, you’ll avoid making a giant knot in the bottom of your hair as you work downwards.
Categorise your curly girl conditioners
One will be to wash with (your co-wash), one will be to condition with, and one might be to deep condition with. Broaden your range and find out what works for you. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work too well with the curly girl method, in my experience. Alternatively, if you have fine hair, you might just need one co-wash and a gel – it all depends on your hair type.
The curly girl method uses a lot more gel than you think
Hair gel is your new best friend. It’s the thing that will help the curls set into their normal pattern, and if you do it right then you won’t end up with crispy noodles on your head. When you first start using the gel after a wash, you’ll probably only use a tiny blob of it. Nope. You need a lot.
Basically, you need to coat your soaking wet hair in the stuff until it feels like seaweed, and then start using the t-shirt to squeeze dry some of the coils. The gel creates a cast over your curls and sets them in place while sealing in the moisture from the damp/conditioned hair underneath.
Once you’ve followed the drying process, you can then scrunch out the crunchiness that’s leftover by the gel, if you need to. This step is important and why it’s key not to use a too-high heat setting on your hairdryer when diffusing. If you melt the gel, you won’t get the cast, and then it all goes wrong really. Make sure you use plenty of gel in the first instance and seal in that moisture properly.
You’ll still get product build-up with the curly girl method
Particularly if you’re using gel, mousse and leave-in conditioners. There are detox shampoos that are curly girl method friendly that you can use once in a while to help shift any stubborn build-up. It’s okay to do a low-sulphate shampoo once a month or so to make sure you get rid of that build-up. There are low-poo (they really do call it that) options you can use for this. Johnson’s Top to Toe wash is a good basic staple for low sulphate shampooing as and when you need it.
Remember that the main aim here is to avoid sulphates altogether, but for some hair types, you need to do the occasional low-poo wash to get all the leftover product build-up out.
Curly girl method products will sometimes get discontinued
They will, and it’ll drive you up the wall. Usually, it’s the supermarket or budget ones that end up being shelved for good. However, as long as you stay on top of the alternatives, you will be ok. Try and keep an ear to the ground for new sulphate and silicone-free products and you’ll be fine.
Don’t get disheartened by what you see on social media
The curly girl community is a pretty welcoming and engaging place, but it can also be a bit hard to stomach. Especially if you’re not seeing the results you’re hoping for straightaway. Don’t get disheartened by what you see on social media though. It takes a lot of time and effort to see results.
My hair is a lot curlier and in a lot better condition than it ever used to be, but on at least 3 days out of 7, it looks like a nest of wild tatty twigs that I scrape up in a scrunchie. Nobody is perfect, and no one has perfect curls all of the time, Make sure you remember that!
Don’t underestimate how long it takes to get used to the curly girl method, but it’s worth it!
The curly girl method is exactly that, a method. It isn’t a quick fix, but it does yield results if you stick with it. Everything takes a lot longer than you’ll be used to. For a start, you’ve got all the co-washing, the deep conditioning, the finger-coiling (if you want to), the plopping, and the drying. It all takes time.
That said, if you persevere you will see results, and it will start to become part of your normal routine. The process will take longer than you expect to start with, but it’ll become second nature just as quickly.
Starting the curly girl method is a marathon, not a sprint
There’s a lot to think about when you’re getting started with the curly girl method. If you’ve got any questions then feel free to drop them into the comments.
Hopefully, my top tips for starting the curly girl method UK style will give you somewhere to begin! Don’t be afraid to just go for it though, and keep an eye out for my next update on all things curly hair.
If you’ve found this post helpful, please give it a share or a pin on Pinterest, and help spread the word for other UK curly girls out there!
The curly girl method is a hair-washing and styling technique developed by Lorraine Massey. It emphasises giving your hair back its natural curl patterns by cutting out the chemicals that dry out your hair and encouraging its natural style.
Yes and no. There are different aspects of the curly girl method to learn about, but once you’ve got the basics and learned about which products to use and which to avoid, it all becomes a lot easier.
There are lots of great curly girl method Instagrams you can look to as a starting point. You can also start by reading as much as you can about the basics of the method, and by getting yourself some simple products and accessories to get started.
Yes! You do still wash your hair, although probably not as often as you might have done before. You’ll do something called co-washing instead, which is basically where you wash with a cleansing conditioner instead of a shampoo.
No, not unless you make it expensive. A lot of curly girl method products are available to pick up in supermarkets or online. There are higher-end products for the curly girl method, but you don’t have to use them in order to get the same results. Your technique is equally as important as the products you use!