Last May 2020, I started doing the curly girl method (CGM). I am sharing my six-month hair journey here, along with helpful links to resources, shops, and products, in hopes of helping another curly girl in the Philippines. 🙂
My Hair Profile
I have a combination of type 3A and 3B curls that is low porosity, high density (thick), a little coarse, and a lot frizzy. I had my hair rebonded for six years from December 2013 to August 2019. (This information is important because, besides my hair type, what my hair has been through so far decides what product works for me or not, making my experiences unique.)
I had no choice but to grow out my curls this year because of community quarantine. Everyone who has gone through the rebond-to-natural-hair transition knows that it’ll look a bit funny, with curly roots and straight mids and ends. Since we’d all be at home for a while, I decided it was now or never.
In this post, I’ll be talking all about how I started to learn CGM, my transition hair (which I am still currently under), the techniques I’m using, and some of the products I’ve tried in the last six months.
Discovering the Curly Girl Method
Sometime in April this year, one of the group chats I was in randomly discussed curly hair care and threw the term “curly girl method” like it was common knowledge. I did a quick Google search and was surprised. Apparently, it was somewhat common knowledge and I had been living under a rock in the past decade or so!
A few more clicks and I found out about the Curly Girl Method, a guide to curly hair care popularized by hairstylist and author Lorraine Massey in 2010.
When I found a local support group online, I was ecstatic. I owed a lot of the motivation for staying on my journey to the Curly Girls Philippines Facebook group. I saw progress pics, hair product recommendations, step-by-step demos, and more. I recommend you join too—they have an extensive how-to of CGM and supportive admins to boot. (Note: It can take around a month to get accepted because there is probably a number of people wanting to join, so be patient.)
I’m not going to lie, the curly girl method is intimidating and overwhelming in the beginning. There are so many rules, no-nos, and terms I was unfamiliar with. I had to change up all of my current hair care products and make space (and time) for new wash day routines. To make sure I don’t back out, I slowly bought everything I needed to start and sustain the routine—including accessories like a diffuser attachment, satin nightcap, silk scrunchies, and more.
Below is a list of tools I grabbed from different online stores (Salamat Shopee, LOL) over the past few months. While you don’t need all of these to start, this was my technique in keeping myself committed. Please don’t pressure yourself to add everything to your cart! That said, I will be linking the stores I bought from. You have been warned. 😛
- Denman Styling Brush from Trendsetter
- Xtava Orchid Diffuser Attachment from Let Loose PH
- Silk/satin products plus a scalp brush from Curlico
- Imported hair products (in tester sizes!) from Skin and Curls
- There are a lot more on Shopee! Searching for CGM products reveals them all.
Final Wash and Transition Hair
I decided to do the “final wash” and did my first CGM wash day routine. At this point, two-thirds of my hair was still straight, so I wasn’t expecting to see results. It really encouraged me when I saw that simply scrunching gave the tiniest bit of definition to my roots.
What products I used:
- Joy Dishwashing Liquid (yes, the blue one)
- HairFood Co Argan Gold Masque – Amazing deep con in a tub!
Just after this wash, you can see how curly, bouncy and shiny my curls got!
My mainstay products for the first couple of months were:
- Zenutrients Tea Tree Scalp Shampoo – Which ended up to be too drying for my hair. I gave it a few washes but gave up on it eventually.
- Johnson’s® Active Kids™ Shiny Drops Conditioner – This has protein, which my damaged hair loves. But I soon found out my hair had a preference for protein-free conditioners.
- HairFood Co Argan Gold Masque
- Cantu Curl Activator Cream – I found the smell of this to be too strong. While it works, it was just too heavy for my hair type, so I didn’t use it so much. Good thing I only bought an 89ml sampler!
- LA Looks Wet Look Gel Level 10 Hold – It was OK, nothing special. (Let Loose hasn’t restocked on this as of writing since I purchased in May 2020.)
I wanted to get my scalp used to CGM products even though most of my hair was still straight. I couldn’t really squish to condish (S2C) at this time since most of the curls were only a couple inches or so away from the root, but I did my best.
Over the course of the following months, I attempted to cut my hair in my bathroom using craft scissors. I was just feeling weighed down with my straight hair, and I probably did this four times. It just kept getting shorter and shorter!
So after three months (May-August 2020) of this light routine and snipping away my hair, I wanted to get the big chop. The big chop is cutting away all the damaged and processed parts of your hair, leaving you with your natural hair. It was just so hot back in July, and I felt like I needed a change after being cooped inside the house for months, so as soon as I got word of a curly hair specialist in Manila and the fact that some salons could operate at low capacity, I decided to book Jazz from Cutz and Curlz by Jazz. My appointment was at the end of August, a year after my last rebond.
The Big Chop
I did not regret doing this one single bit. After three months of experimenting on different curly girl method products, I thought it was time to get serious and focus on rehabilitating my curls. The result was this retro cut that I didn’t expect I’d rock:
It felt so liberating to have my hair cut this short, which was a first for me. I’ve always had long hair! But I loved it. I consider this a pivotal moment in my CGM journey because now I got to focus on just my curls. And for the next three months after that (August-November 2020), I saw some of the biggest progress with my hair.
I also became more particular in experimenting with protein-free products, which my natural hair prefers. My rebonded hair had different needs, and I was just glad to get it out of the way. 🙂
I got really OC and created a table to organize my hair care products. Here’s a screenshot, in case you want to save it and explore some of the products I mentioned:
- As I Am Olive Oil and Tea Tree Anti-Dandruff Shampoo – The only non-drying shampoo I’ve ever encountered!
- Nature’s Nutrients NANU Spring Conditioner – A local, eco-friendly brand with products that work. You get free shipping on your next order as long as you return their reusable bottles!
- HairFood Co Argan Gold Masque
- Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave-in Conditioner – Super light, candy scent with a formula that quenches my curls.
- Bounce Curl Moisture Balance Leave-in Conditioner – Perfume bomb! When I use this, my hair smells pretty good until Day 3.
- SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie – A better alt for me than Cantu.
- Bench Fix Extreme Hold Hair Gel – Cheaper than LA Looks and gets the job done. I dilute it with water.
I previously didn’t know what hair type I had and was told that I had 3A. But as my hair gets healthier, I’m starting to realize it’s really more of 3B, with corkscrew curls!
And this is only after six months of CGM. I’m looking forward to the changes my hair will undergo as I keep going!
The Evolution of My Wash Day
You might be wondering how long my wash days take. Well, it’s evolved as the months went by! I wasn’t kidding when I said CGM can be tricky in the beginning, but thankfully as you go along you’ll see that it gets faster. I also discovered damp styling vs. wet styling, and my hair has a clear preference for the two.
Damp Styling (1-3 months)
Cramming everything I could learn online into my head, my first wash days were long—and I’m talking 1 hour long. I also practiced damp styling at this time, which is what generally most blogs teach. Here’s what I used to do:
- I used to co-wash with Zenutrients Coco and Honey conditioner, but this didn’t satisfy me. After I tried to love co-washing (and failed), I used shampoo instead. Unfortunately, Zenutrients’ Tea Tree shampoo was too drying for my hair.
- I’d go ahead, and S2C with J&J Active Drops. This would take a while, and I’d leave it in while finishing my shower.
- I’d rinse everything and wrap my hair in a microfiber towel. I noticed no matter how gentle I was, or even if I’d use a cotton t-shirt, I’d get frizz right after unwrapping my hair.
- I’d style with Cantu Curl Cream, which was heavy. Since my hair is low porosity, it couldn’t trap moisture well, and using a thick product made it feel sticky.
- If I didn’t use Cantu, I’d just get a bit of J&J conditioner and use that as my leave-in. I’d then top it off with LA Looks Gel and diffuse.
The results of this wash day routine was a mess for me. It could work with others, but since my hair really needed moisture, I had to give it what it wanted: water! That’s why I transitioned to a new wash day and styling routine once I got my haircut.
Wet Styling (3-6 months and counting)
With shorter hair and knowledge of what products do and don’t work, I only shower for 20 minutes, including wet styling. Wet styling means you proceed to style your curly hair while it’s soaking wet and you’re in the shower. Here’s what I do:
- I shampoo my hair thoroughly with As I Am. Yes, I still use shampoo! I can’t quite get on board with co-washing all the time. I rinse off all the product and squeeze excess water with my hands.
- I proceed to apply my NANU conditioner from mids to ends, S2C, and leave it on. That’s right; I don’t rinse at all. I use my fingers to detangle gently.
- I get a small dollop of SheaMoisture and a small amount of either Bounce Curl or Kinky Curly Leave-in (I alternate). I then mix the styling cream and leave-in of choice. I apply it all over from mids to ends, and S2C again, avoiding the roots.
- From here, I use my Denman Brush, part my hair into sections, and brush away from my head. This gives me my corkscrew curls. In the beginning, it looked nothing more than S waves. My hair health has just improved over time. Manes by Mell explains this perfectly in this YouTube video.
- Once I like where my curls are sitting, I finish off with Bench Fix gel, diluted with water. I’d let a towel rest on my shoulders since my hair would still be dripping wet at this stage. After a few minutes, the gel cast will form, and it will seal the water in my hair too.
- If I had work or somewhere to go, I’d 100% diffuse. But since I’m just at home, I just air dry. Diffusing gives me more volume. But since my hair is already thick and naturally gets volumized on Days 2 and 3, I don’t mind skipping diffusing at home.
This has given me great curly days, with results improving over time! And since it’s faster to do everything in the shower for me, I get done quickly.
It’s worth noting that drying time varies per person, which is what takes time for me now. My hair dries 70% with a diffuser in about 30 minutes of high speed, low-medium heat.
Highlights of My Curly Girl Method Journey
Here is a rundown of other important details I want to share about my experience with the curly girl method so far:
- I used to wash my hair every day. I gradually transitioned to every other day a month before I got the big chop. Even now, with a head full of curls, I do an every other day wash, which means I wash my Day 3 hair. This is because it gets so hot, and I don’t feel that comfortable yet going more than two days of not washing.
- In the beginning, my hair would only look good on Day 1 (wash day). Now, six months later, I am confident to rock my Day 3 curls. 🙂
- It took me a lot of trial and error to find the products and routine that best suits my hair! The products I shared are just a guide and mostly protein-free. This is because I experienced mild protein overload after a wash day with protein-heavy products.
- My hair went through different hair types throughout the process. I first started with damaged 2C waves, with my curls not showing. Now with chin-length curls, they’ve bounced back to 3B!
- Dandruff and hair loss are the two most common issues that CGs encounter when first starting the method. I can’t say much about hair loss since I’ve been shedding a lot of hair for as far as I can remember—nothing too alarming, though. My scalp is also dandruff-prone. That said, I do experience mild dandruff in a specific area of my scalp, near the forehead. The rest of my head seems to be spared. I’m unsure yet what’s causing the reaction, but it’s not itchy or bothersome, so I’m just continuing to observe.
- I also still get bad hair days, and this is normal! Straight and wavy-haired folks have this too. 🙂
The Curly Girl Method Promise
And that pretty much wraps up what I’ve done in the last six months with my hair! This was an incredibly personal share, and one I wouldn’t have had courage to do if it weren’t for the pleasing journey I’ve had so far. Like many curly girls, I used to think my hair was hopeless. I’m genuinely surprised at my 3B curls, because I never knew what healthy curls looked like.
So, if you’re planning to embark on this journey, my advice to you is this: Keep the faith! CGM needs a lot of time, effort, research, trial and error, and patience. But once you get to know your hair better, it gets easier—and there’s no going back.
I also feel compelled to say that the curly girl method is not the be-all and end-all of curly hair care. We are all unique humans with different needs. If you feel the need to modify the method, which I have done, feel free to do so. Just get to know the rules first before you break them.
Comment below if you want to share your own experiences, or perhaps questions too. This is based on my journey and results may vary for you. None of the products I’ve mentioned above are sponsored, so buy at your own risk. Google is free, so is asking me. 🙂 I wish you luck, curl friend!