After healthy, silky-smooth curls? You need our best Curly Girl Method products for curly and wavy hair, available from Boots, Superdrug, Cult Beauty and more
The Curly Girl Method is a specialised routine for caring for curls, originally shared by hairdresser Lorraine Massey. Designed to make curly hair more manageable, it is now the crux of a passionate community of “curly girls” who share best practises across every pocket of the internet that you can think of: Reddit, Facebook and TikTok to name a few. Though Lorraine translated this into a simple, easy-to-digest routine, these practises have been followed for many years by people across all cultures.
Curly hair is naturally more dry than other hair types. This method consists of making small changes that will help to retain moisture and lead to healthier looking curls with less frizz.
How to follow the Curly Girl Method:
- Ideally, don’t use shampoo, use a co-wash – this is a single step that cleanses the scalp and conditions the hair
- Only brush your hair in the shower while it is wet to prevent damage
- Avoid cotton when drying the hair. Use a specialised towel or T-shirt to dry the hair without drying it out completely (this includes a technique called “plopping” which involves scrunching your hair and then leaving it to dry, wrapped)
- Avoid oils when styling your hair
- Avoid using heat on the hair
- Experiment and find a combination of gel, mousse and/or creams to style your hair, and try plopping it and then let it air dry
For those who are happy to push the boundaries a little…
- Shampoo with something free of silicones, sulphates and alcohols (known as a low-poo)
- Use a diffuser on a gentle heat to help speed up drying time
- Some silicones will wash away, so you may wish to include water-soluble silicones in your routine
Helping to navigate a few misconceptions, we spoke to Umberto Giannini’s creative director Mark Caswell. “This method will not make straight hair curly and is not for everyone,”Verduidelik hy, “but for some, it gives an amazing, curl smoothing transformation almost instantly. It is more of a lifestyle choice as you have to change your whole routine – I’d recommend keeping a hair diary as you may find that day 2-3 hair will look the best. That way you can plan for special events.”
One thing to keep in mind is that curls are not all made the same and different hair textures behave differently. Many brands offer a variety of products designed to work across various curl patterns, for example offering different solutions for waves versus coils. Research and identify your curl type before you invest in your Curly Girl regime. When you think you’ve found it, you might also like to visit Curl Scan, an alphabetised website that tells you whether your hair product is Curly Girl approved.
After extensive trials, here were our favourite Curly Girl Method products, as well as some rule breakers we think you might be open to…
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The best Curly Girl Method products for 2021 is:
- Beste oor die algemeen – Bouclème curl cleanser: £8, Boucleme.co.uk
- Best co-wash – Umberto Giannini banana butter nourishing superfood co-wash: £5.50, Boots.com
- Best shampoo for frizzy hair – Living Proof curl shampoo: £ 15, Livingproof.co.uk
- Best shampoo post-workout – Dizziak hydration wash: £ 20, Dizziak.com
- Best quick-dry gentle towel – Aquis copper sure rapid dry hair wrap: £30, Lookfantastic.com
- Best fragrance – Ouai curl crème: £25, Theouai.co.uk
- Best conditioner – Aveda sap moss: £9, Aveda.co.uk
- Best curl booster – Cantu avocado hydrating curl activator: £7.99, Superdrug.com
- Best curl styling tool – Denman D3 original styler 7 row: £8.50, Denmanbrush.com
- Best instant hair tamer – Innersense quiet calm curl control: £24, Cultbeauty.co.uk
- Best Gel – Umberto Giannini curl jelly scrunching jelly: £4.83, Boots.com
- Best resource – Charlotte Mensah good hair, the essential guide to afro, textured and curly hair: £ 14,99, Waterstones.com
- Best mid-week curl refresh – Ouidad curl shaper bounce back re-activating mist: £ 12, Lookfantastic.com
- Best mousse – Vo5 smoothly does it curl defining mousse: £ 2,99, Superdrug.com
- Best for cheat days – Mark Hill pick’n’mix mermaid waver and handle: £34.98, Boots.com
- Best smoothing treatment – Olaplex no.6 bond smoother: £26, Spacenk.com
Bouclème curl cleanser
Offering varied curl solutions, Bouclème is a great place to start on your curl journey. We tried the 30 days to curl kit which comprised of a multi-step approach to washing and styling, but to narrow down one great front-runner, the curl cleanser is ideal. A light, zesty and refreshing cleanse, the uplifting citrus scent and soft lotion texture are ideal for anyone who wants to follow the no-shampoo rules but still feel like their scalp is truly clean. The brand also notably allows you to navigate the online shop by your curl type.
Umberto Giannini banana butter nourishing superfood co-wash
Truly smelling good enough to eat, this rich, buttery co-wash is the way to go if you want to care for your curls in as little steps as possible. Doing exactly as it says on the tin, this rich formula will act as a single step to cleanse the scalp and hydrate your hair. When brushing hair in the shower this allows for the comb to glide through effortlessly. If you like sweet smelling products and want a more deeply hydrating cleanse this is outrageously good.
Living Proof curl shampoo
Beste: Shampoo for frizzy hair
Let’s talk shampoo. Technically speaking, to really go the whole way with your Curly Girl Method, you would opt out of using one. Instead, you may wish to use a co-wash, which is a conditioner that also cleanses the hair and scalp. When creating this collection, the team at Living Proof conducted 650 curl trials and found that lots of people felt a little uneasy about skipping the shampoo. With this in mind, the team created this thick, dense shampoo which cleanses the hair and scalp without compromising on curl hydration. This is an ideal choice if you want help to sculpt your curls as it floods the hair with moisture.
Dizziak hydration wash
Beste: Post-workout shampoo
If this co-washing concept feels alien to you, or you don’t like the thought of a thick, dense shampoo, Dizziak’s hydration wash will be your game changer. Founder Loretta has created this wash which somehow manages to keep silicones and sulphates at bay, and yet feels as light, fresh and cleansing as a regular shampoo. This is an ideal way to thoroughly cleanse the hair post-workout and won’t leave any heaviness or residue. We originally tried this back in 2020 when Bryony Gordon recommended it on a podcast and it’s been a repeat purchase ever since.
Aquis copper sure rapid dry hair wrap
Beste: Quick-dry gentle towel
Traditional towels can further dry the cuticle of an already fragile hair, and thus a plopping technique is often adapted when drying curls. Plopping is the art of gently wrapping your curls in a T-shirt or towel alternative to let them dry, and this towel from Aquis allows you to do this easily. In terms of drying time it safely dries your hair quickly, and the helpful button clasp keeps your hair in place when wrapped on your head. Feel free to continue with any household chores safe in the knowledge that your hair is secure.
Ouai curl crème
“It smells like a rose and a gardenia walked into a bar and smoked a cigarette” is the description given to this cream by Diana Pratasiewicz, director of education content at Ouai. A densely rich cream, this is ideal for instantly smoothing frizz. The brand researched curly hair extensively when creating this line, which offers fragranced and fragrance free options. It found that most people who care for curls use several products to achieve their desired finish, and thus the option to eliminate fragrance may appeal if one were to layer multiple scents. Founded by Jen Atkin, celebrity hairdresser to the likes of the Kardashian family, this is a sophisticated way to add style and scent to your hair.
Aveda sap moss weightless hydration conditioner
Though many of the Aveda ranges are suitable when caring for curls, sap moss is an especially effective option as it drenches the hair with moisture without weighing it down. If you wish to follow the tried and tested method of only brushing your hair in the shower, when wet, this conditioner will allow for your comb to gently glide through the hair with no pulling whatsoever. Take a look at Nuala Morey on Instagram, an Aveda hairdresser specialising in curls, for more insight.
Cantu avocado hydrating curl activator
Beste: Curl booster
When delving into Facebook groups and Instagram videos about the Curly Girl Method, there are few brands as universally recommended as Cantu. Offering a wide-range of hydrating remedies, one that stood out to enhance the definition of curls was the curl activator. Upon initially making the change to follow this method, there is a period of trial and error in which you may need to switch up techniques in order to nurture your smoothest curls. This hydrating step will allow you to hit the ground running and help even the softest wave to evolve into a well formed curl.
Denman D3 original styler 7 row
Beste: Curl styling tool
Created by John Denman in the 1930s, this instantly recognisable hair brush brand offers an impressive selection of brushes designed to work well with various curl types. The D3 brush is ideal for styling and sculpting curls, also helpful if you wish to evenly distribute product. When scouring online communities dedicated to sharing curly hair tips, this brush was mentioned time and time again. The hashtag #Denmanbrush has more than 127m views on TikTok, with lots of videos on using this with curly hair. The trick is to take small sections of hair, brushing upwards and outwards, and allow the wide-teeth of this brush to smooth and sculpt your curls.
Innersense quiet calm curl control
Beste: Instant hair tamer
Another brand with various effective solutions, you could experiment with many of the Innersense products and reap healthy curls. The curl cream stands out as an instant remedy to frizz or dryness. For those moments where you haven’t got time to completely restyle, this will take dry, frizzy curls and form them into perfectly sculpted curls without looking greasy or flat. If you dislike styling products or feel that they weigh your hair down, this will be the exception to the rule for you. Ethically sourced, cruelty free, vegetarian and made with 100 per cent recyclable packaging, there is a lot to like about Innersense.
Umberto Giannini curl jelly scrunching jelly
With one sold every two seconds, this cult favourite was the most recommended Curly Girl remedy when put to an Instagram poll. Designed to tame frizz and sculpt curls and waves, the idea is that you apply this jelly and then “scrunch out the crunch”. Not only is this vegan and cruelty free, but the silicone free formula adds hold and definition to curls without any crispy or dry residue.
‘Good Hair: The Essential Guide to Afro, Textured and Curly Hair’ by Charlotte Mensah, published by Penguin
Though there are endless fantastic resources about the Curly Girl Method online, the black and white approach to this technique may feel at times a little overwhelming. To navigate the waters of curly hair with flexibility, Charlotte Mensah’s book offers all kinds of curl-help without any strict policing.
Ouidad curl shaper bounce back re-activating mist
Beste: Mid-week curl refresh
The great news about the Curly Girl Method is that less is more and you’ll find yourself able to leave longer between hair washes. Dit gesê, mid-week curls in need of a refresh will benefit from a leave-in conditioner. This mist from Ouidad is incredibly fine. Wavy curls will only need a spritz or two to tame frizz and redefine waves, while thicker coils will be able to layer this and quench even the thirstiest of curls.
Vo5 smoothly does it curl defining mousse
Though not strictly Curly Girl Method approved as it contains silicones, there is no denying the soft and sculpted curls that this Vo5 mousse managed to garner. For those unfamiliar with a two-step approach to mousse, this may sound like quite a drying, crunchy step. But when applying this to damp hair, scrunching into place, and then following up a little while later with a “scrunch out the crunch” motion, this eliminates frizz and controls your curls. Curly Girl Method approved mousse can start to become a little more expensive, but this high street find is just as effective.
Mark Hill pick’n’mix mermaid waver and handle
Beste: For cheat days
Make no mistake about it, heat is not an accepted part of the Curly Girl Method. Egter, if you did want to make a tweak here and there, this is the best way to do it. The Mark Hill pick-n-mix hair styler is not only a handy tool because you can swap and change your heads based on what you wish to achieve, but it outperforms competitors that cost significantly more in price. No expensive mistakes to be made here. Buy your handle (£ 17,99, Boots.com), and then choose which heads best suit your hair type. The mermaid waver is one of our favourites for loose curls.
Olaplex no.6 bond smoother
Beste: Smoothing treatment
This indie hair brand has attracted a truly cult following of devotees, and after six months of weekly use, we’re converted. Technically speaking, you have two Curly Girl Method approved Olaplex options. Treatment number 0 (£26, Spacenk.com) is applied to dry hair before washing, and what speaks volumes about this is that you notice where you didn’t put it when you see how shiny it makes your curls. Treatment number 3 (£26, Spacenk.com) is a pre-shampoo treatment designed to repair broken bonds in the hair. Egter, the non-Curly Girl Method-approved number 6 is a leave-in cream that will make your hair more shiny and manageable after every wash. This step is the one that will, in turn, allow you to use less heat on your hair. If you’re going to break the Curly Girl Method rules, make the number 6 your exception.
Die uitspraak: Curly Girl Method products
Your choice of shampoo and/or co-wash is the first step in ensuring tamer curls. We enjoyed the wide variety of shampoo textures during our testing, but the Bouclème curl cleanser stands out for being hydrating, cleansing and also refreshing.
Styling of curls will be largely dependent upon shopping for your curl type, but the Umberto Giannini curl jelly is versatile in that you can use as little as a pea sized amount or layer several doses until you achieve your ideal level of curl sculpting.
When making the curly transition, in particular if you’ve previously used a lot of heat to style your hair, training those curls to follow their natural pattern again may take time. Die Denman brush allows you to take curls into your own hands, frame the face and hairline in a way that feels comfortable, and offers an element of control to curls that have a mind of their own. Be patient, delve into the world of online tutorials for this brush, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you learn to wield the power of it.
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