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.
If you haven’t watched my Instagram stories on how I got started with the curly girl method, feel free to check them out before reading the rest of this post.
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. This one is going to be a quick start guide for anyone thinking of starting the curly girl method UK style.
“Why do you keep saying UK style?”
I know, it sounds arsey. 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 doing it, I had a nightmare trying to find half of the products recommended in the online curly girl communities. The reason being that a lot of them were USA brands.
After some extensive research, I learned about the ingredients and what made a product safe for curly hair. So it became a 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 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.
Starting The Curly Girl Method UK
Before we begin, it’s important to remember that although we’re talking about a quick start guide here, you must try and be patient when starting 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!
Get ready to feel uncomfortable
No, but seriously. 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 a bucket of chip fat, you’ll start to see light at the end of the tunnel, trust me.
You don’t need your hairbrush anymore. At all.
Another tip that’s going to enhance your discomfort, but you might as well chuck away your hairbrush. You won’t be needing it anymore.
Grab some spray bottles
Just 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.
Yep. You’re going to start to get to grips with a whole new routine for your hair, the core of which is now 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 shit 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.
Get some clips
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 – think natural, natural, natural.
Designate three or four t-shirts for ‘plopping’
Right, ‘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 shit-ton of frizz and stop your curls from forming in their natural pattern as it dries. You’ll be using a cotton t-shirt from now on. So dig out a few tops you’re not that arsed 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 like you would do a turban, and leave to dry.
Told you this was a pretty American thing, no bugger here in the UK would purposely use the term ‘plopping’ for this, am I right?
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 as a fart. 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.
Get a decent diffuser
Hairdryer diffusers seem so 90s, but for anyone starting the curly girl method, they’re a gift from above. Seriously, 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.
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.
Trial and error is real
You’re going to find a lot of conflicting advice about starting the curly girl method. Ultimately, I stick by these golden rules:
- No silicones or sulphates
- I know my hair
- Most people talk shit so don’t get fooled into buying overly expensive products
- Try it out and then see how it feels
What I mean here, is that you’ll see some people swearing 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.
Lots of them. There’ll be times where 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
All your old hair bobbles are going to fuck 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 sexy, but your hair will be.
Detangle from the bottom
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 conditioners
One will be to wash with (your co-wash), one will be to condition with, 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.
Use 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 its 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 to shit really. Make sure you use plenty of gel in the first instance and seal in that moisture properly.
You’ll still get build-up
Particularly if you’re using gel, mousse and leave-in conditioners. It’s ok 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.
Products will get discontinued
They will, and it’ll drive you mad. Usually, it’s the budget ones that end up being shelved. 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 social media
The curly girl community is actually 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.
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 shite 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’s going to take to get used to, 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, the drying. It all takes time.
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 or you can drop me a tweet if you like.
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!