The “Curly Girl Method” Primer


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According to Lorraine Massey — author of Curly Girl — The Handbook and guru of The Curly Girl Methodemulsifying sodium lauryl sulfate shampoos tend to strip, dry and frizz curly, kinky and coily hair textures.

“You’d never dream of washing a good sweater with detergent. Yet most shampoos contain harsh detergents that one finds in dishwashing liquid. They’re great for pots and pans because they cut grease so effectively. Your hair, on the other hand, needs to regain some natural oils, which protect it and your scalp. Stripping them away deprives the hair of necessary moisture and amino acids and makes it look dry and dull,” she writes.

So, Massey introduced a concept called co-washing fondly dubbed “no-poo.” The idea is to use conditioners as hair cleansers, not shampoos.

My  beauty school training taught me that conditioning without first shampooing was a no-no. I was taught to believe shampooing was the only way to get rid of buildup around the hair follicle.  It’s not. To me, the no-poo idea makes perfect sense.

So here’s the curly girl method abbreviated by Massey during an interview with San Francisco based

  1. Get rid of your shampoos and find the right conditioner. Make sure the conditioner has these ingredients: emollients (shea butter, vegetable oils or nut oils), proteins (soy, whey or wheat protein), humectants (vegetable glycerine, panthenol) and moisturizers (aloe vera, amino acids).
  2. Remove product build up. Massey suggests using diluted lemon and, if needed, baking soda. However, most kinky/coilies have discovered that baking soda’s high alkaline pH is way too harsh for African hair textures. Lemon is also, and should be used sparingly. Apple cider vinegar has become the go-to rinse.

  3. Eliminate styling products with silicones. Once you do some digging you’ll find there are precious few products that don’t include silicones.
  4. Exfoliate your scalp regularly. This not only stimulates the scalp but sloughs off dead skin cells and conditioner build up. My favorites are clay and mud scrubs, but sugars can be used carefully. Salt scrubs are best for smooth skin.
  5. Don’t over manipulate. Massey recommends that curlies avoid over brushing because the repeated motion will disperse curl definition and cause frizzing. Kinkies/coilies should avoid too much mechanical manipulation of any kind — brushing, combing, tight braiding, tight twisting and excessive pulling.  Rather detangle your hair under a shower stream. Above all, be gentle. Nice hair … nice hair ….
  6. Avoid heat. All hair is susceptible to heat damage, but curly, kinkies and coilies can suffer the most. You can tell when kinky/coily hair is heat damaged. Besides the dry, brittle and split ends, heat damage can straighten your natural curl pattern. Using high heat from blow dryers and irons can sabotage your hair growth as well. Hood dryers and diffusers are a healthier alternative if you need to speed up the drying process.

Massey’s method is the curly/kinky/coily standard worldwide (Massey’s from the U.K.) It encompasses basic guidelines that can be modified for various hair types and textures. Neo-natural divas  within the African, African diaspora and Latin communities have tweaked the rules to fit the diversity in hair textures.

Therein lies the freedom. You’re not bound to one set of rules. All you need to know are the guidelines and principles behind them. Once you know them, you’re free to experiment until you arrive at your perfect beauty regimen.

Have fun!