The most popular way amongst curlies to care for your curls is the ‘Curly Girl’ (CG) method. This is a method of curl care that was devised by Lorraine Massey in her popular book ‘Curly Girl The Handbook’ which I’d definitely recommend reading.
Lorraine is somewhat of a curl guru and along with writing this great handbook she is also the owner of the ‘DevaCurl’ product range as well as the ‘Devachan’ salon in New York (A salon dedicated to curly hair, I want to go!). I’ve been a convert ever since reading her book about 5 years ago and have never looked back – the amount of curlies who also follow her method is a testament to how well it works!
There are 3 basics rules to following this method:
- NO SULPHATES!
- NO SILICONES
Sulphates are the chemicals commonly found in shampoos and they are what make that lovely bubbly lather. The problem is that sulphates are harsh – the same sulphates in shampoo are used in your typical dish washing liquids! Sulphates are especially harsh on curly hair which is typically drier and more delicate than straight hair. Sulphates strip hair of the natural oils which curly hair inparticularly needs to retain and they also make dry-prone curly hair even drier resulting in frizz.
Sulphates are listed in the ingredients of products. Typical sulphates include: sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate.
‘Co-Washing’ is an alternative way of washing your hair once you have cut out sulphate shampoos. The ‘co’ stands for conditioner so ‘co-washing’ refers to washing your hair with conditioner. This might sound strange but you can adequately wash hair this way provided you massage your scalp to dislodge dirt/build up and you don’t use products with silicones in them which I’ll explain in a moment. A good conditioner to use is a light/thin silicone free conditioner. When you use conditioner to wash your hair not only do you protect your hair from the harsh effects of sulphates but you also detangle it at the same time meaning less time for your hair routine and less hair breakages, huzza!
If you find that you can’t let go of shampoo completely, or that your hair is experiencing build up you can use gentle non sulphate shampoo’s also known as ‘low-poos’.
Silicones are typically found in most conditioners and styling products. They coat the hair to make it shiny and smooth but by doing so they also seal out the moisture that curly hair craves. It’s a bit of a quick fix for frizz – in the short term they make hair smooth but ultimately they don’t solve anything and actually make it drier. Because silicones literally coat the hair they build up so that they can only be removed by using harsh sulphates which further dries the hair. By cutting out silicones and sulphates you break this drying out cycle. When you go CG you’ll find that your hair will be shiny and smooth naturally without the need for silicones or sulphates!
Silicones are listed in the ingredients. They typically end with ‘conol’ ‘cone’ or ‘xane’. Popular ones include Dimethicone, Dimethionol, and Cetearyl Methicone. Other ingredients similar to silicones which a lot of curlies also avoid are waxes and polyquatariums as they also coat hair and are hard to remove. These can be identified in the ingredients simply by the word ‘wax’ and for polyquats ‘polyquatarium’ followed by a number.
However, as with any good rule there is an exception! Some silicones are water soluble which means they can be easily removed by co-washing . These silicones are always listed with a PEG prefix followed by a number.
After co-washing you condition your hair as normal using a more moisturising/richer silicone free conditioner and style with silicone free products. A lot of curlies find that it does take time (and trial and error with products) for their hair to adjust to the change in routine. I imagine this is because your hair needs to regain the moisture that’s been lost from shampooing/silicone use and that doesn’t happen overnight. The good news is that in time you should find that your hair is healthier, stronger, frizz free and that your hair will become easier to manage. However, everyone is different and people’s hair react differently so if you feel this method isn’t for you, or you don’t like the results then stick to what you know/love. At the end of the day if you’re happy with your curls that’s all that matters.
* If you decide to try the curly girl method it’s advised that you do one last sulphate shampoo to get rid of any remaining silicone build up in your hair.
You can learn more about the ‘curly girl’ method in the forum.