If you are new to the Curly Girl Method you might be overwhelmed with all the terms, abbreviations, techniques and tips. Don't stress! We're here to help.
The Curly Girl Method is a way of caring for your waves, curls and coils in the healthiest way possible. Founded by stylist and author Lorraine Massey in 2001, it's a movement away from sulphates, silicones, direct heat, terrycloth towels and dry brushing.
Below is a simple glossary of some terms to get you started. If there are terms or abbreviations you've come across and they aren't here don't worry, we'll be doing a more in depth Curly Girl Method 102 soon.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR RINSE (ACV Rinse)
Rinsing with Apple Cider Vinegar can help remove build-up, close your cuticles, balance your pH, protect your hair from fungal growth and increase shine and softness. Do not do it more than once a month and make sure to follow it with a conditioner or deep conditioner like The One & Only Creamy Conditioner. To read up on how to make an ACVR go to this blogpost
BC: BIG CHOP
Also sometime referred to as the Big Chop or BC, this is a haircut to remove chemically straightened or otherwise permanently damaged hair in order to transition to naturally curly hair. The Big Chop is done on hair that has been straightened for a very long time (think years), relaxed or had some other form or chemical straightening.
A big chop is often a big deal because it results in a much shorter style but on the plus side, allows healthy new hair growth and an ability to see what your curly hair really looks like.
This is the gradual accumulation of products on the hair strand, it can occur even with regular cleansing. It's normally worse from using products containing silicones. As build-up increases regular cleansing will battle to remove it. Moisture is essential to healthy curls, product build up prevents moisture from penetrating the hair shaft. It can also lead to scalp flaking and other scalp issues.
If you have build-up even freshly washed hair can look dull, flat, lifeless and dirty. It may even feel gummy, as if it has a film over it.
To combat this try an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse or clarifying shampoo. Read up on how to do an ACV Rinse (Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse) here
The stiff outer layer that styling products, like the Creme De La Curl Creme or Hold Me Baby Curly Hair Gel, can create as they dry. A cast helps to hold your curl for longer. Scrunch out the crunch (SOTC) gently to be left with soft, natural looking flake-free waves or curls. If your products don't cause a cast don't panic - hair type and humidity are just some of the things that can stop a cast from forming.
CGA: CURLY GIRL APPROVED
Members of the curly community will often refer to something as CGA meaning it is Curly Girl Approved. It contains no sulphates, silicones, parabens, waxes, mineral oils or drying alcohols and therefore adheres to the Curly Girl Method.
CGM: CURLY GIRL METHOD
You may see curlies say they are following the CGM. This means they are following the principles of the Curly Girl Method by using approved products as well as no terrycloth towels, dry brushing or direct heat.
The act of removing product buildup from your hair. We recommend using a sulphate free clarifying shampoo made for curls. Clarifying helps to restore bounce and shine to curls by removing product build-up or residue, but should not be done more than once a month.
You should clarify if :
Your hair feels dull, flat, lifeless and dirty, even after you have just washed it.
Your products suddenly don't seem to be working.
You have a dry itchy scalp or flaking.
There are many other reasons which we will go into in depth in another blog post soon.
A styling method that coaxes curls to stick together to form fuller, defined sections. Curls that haven’t “clumped” can have a stringy look. Using enough water is essential here. Clumping your curls is also achieved by using the 'Squish to condish' method, 'Praying hands' or using a special brush on wet hair to twirl your curls. Look for Denman ( a type of brush favoured by curlies) styling on YouTube for tutorials.
Using a hydrating cowash like the Mint To Be Peppermint Cowash to wash your hair. While the term 'cowash' traditionally means 'conditioner washing' an actual cowash will get your hair cleaner than using conditioner alone. We like both - using a cowash (you will normally still condition afterwards) and using conditioner, like The One & Only Creamy Conditioner, only to wash, (obvs no conditioner afterwards), for mid week washing. Usually used on coarse, curly or coily hair it can often be too heavy for fine or wavy hair and therefore weigh it down.
Very technically curls are classified into letters and numbers from 2A to 4C. If you are just starting off on your journey don't worry about this too much, it's more important to know if you have wavy, curly, coily or kinky hair. It is very normal to have more than one curl type on your head which is why you may find you have waves and curls for example. Every curl pattern is unique, and has different haircare needs. This is also why we have the Come Clean Gentle Cleanser for wavy and fine hair and the Mint To Be Peppermint Cowash for coarse, curly and coily hair. For styling we have the Creme De La Curl Creme for wavy and curly hair and the Coiling Me Softly Curl Custard for coily and kinky hair.
The outermost protective layer of the hair, cuticles resemble overlapping tiles on a roof and help to seal moisture inside the hair shaft. In curly hair, the scales of the cuticle are naturally lifted, which is why curls can be dry and frizzy. The technique we teach for smoothing the cuticle when washing is a game changer for frizz free, longer lasting curls. Watch the video on how to 'smooth the cuticle' here
DC: DEEP CONDITION
Deep conditioning is the act of super-hydrating your hair. Deep conditioning is great for adding back lost moisture and as a treatment for very dry hair or after colour or bleaching.
Drying your hair without using direct high heat and a strong air flow. By using a diffuser, like the Universal Collapsible Silicone Diffuser, you spread the airflow over a wider area which does not disturb your curl pattern. Diffusing usually results in a slightly looser curl pattern with more volume than air drying. Read up on 2 ways to diffuse your hair here
Pretty obviously these are alcohols that dry out your hair. Dry curls tend to be frizzy and unformed so drying alcohols are to be avoided if you want curls that pop. They are often ingredients in non Curly Girl Approved products.
FINAL WASH (THE CLEAN SLATE METHOD)
This is the wash you do before you start using IntrinsiCurly Me products for the first time. It is designed to remove silicones and waxes that you may have from not using Curly Girl Approved products in the past. It is essential to do this before using IntrinsiCurly Me as silicones and waxes will stop our products from penetrating and doing their magiCURL job. To see how to do the Clean Slate Method head over here
Another self explanatory one, finger detangling is detangling with your fingers while you condition your hair. We can't stress enough how important 'smoothing the cuticles' is here once you have finger detangled. Smoothing the cuticles helps the hair strand to retain moisture, increases shine, reduces frizz and helps curl formation. Read up on how to smooth your cuticles further down in the list.
Some curlies prefer to use a wide toothed comb on wet hair rather than finger detangle. While you have to figure out what works for you, we advise finger detangling as it has longer term benefits and is the most gentle way to treat your hair.
Probably what most wavy, curly or coily haired people struggle with. In a frizzy state curls are undefined and dull. There are different types of frizz and different causes but often frizz is from dry hair and raised cuticles caused by friction (most often from washing incorrectly, using a terrycloth towel or sleeping with unprotected hair). Frizz is a reality to some degree but it can be managed.
Read up on 10 ways to prevent frizz on our blog here
This refers to a conditioner that is applied to the hair after washing and not rinsed out. A leave-in conditioner is often used on hair that is very dry and needs more moisture. The One & Only Creamy Conditioner can be used as a rinse-out, leave-in, styling aid, a deep conditioner and a scalp scrub.
Read up on how to use The One & Only Creamy Conditioner here
Also known as scrunching. Micro plopping is using a microfibre towel to gently squeeze out the water once you have added your stylers. As a microfibre towel is more gentle on your curls it helps to remove excess water without roughing up your cuticle and causing frizz. To micro-plop, gather a section of hair in your towel and gently squeeze to the root.
A high curly ponytail on top of the head, named because of its resemblance to a pineapple’s leaves. A popular style for preserving curls while sleeping. Make sure to tie up your ponytail loosely as pulling your hair too tight can stretch out your curl pattern.
Porosity is essentially your hair's ability to absorb and retain moisture. The more your hair is able to absorb and hold onto water the more hydrated and healthy it will be. The more hydrated your hair, the better the curl! There are 3 types of hair porosity (low, medium and high) although some hair can be mixed.
Porosity is often dictated by genetics, but UV exposure and hair bleaching have a huge impact on porosity too. Understanding your hair porosity is important to your haircare routine so that you can give your hair what it most needs. That said don't get hung up on it. Your hair is smart, it'll show you what it needs.
There are claims that a float test can help you figure out your hair's porosity but these tests have been disproved as inaccurate due to hair density, hardness of water, surface tension and the amount of natural oils on your hair at the time. A more accurate way to determine your porosity is how your hair behaves with water.
If it really needs a lot of time and water to get wet and takes a long time to dry your hair is most likely low-porosity.
If it feels like it gets wet and then dries in a reasonable amount of time it is probably medium porosity.
If it gets wet and takes on water very quickly and dries very quickly it's high porosity.
We'll go into more detail on porosity in a new blog post soon. Stay tuned.
A method of applying products, usually styling, by rubbing the product between your palms and by using 'praying hands' smoothing the product onto sections of your hair from root to end. This method helps with frizz reduction and can elongate curls slightly.
Wrapping your hair after adding styling products. Plopping helps to remove excess moisture while keeping your curls defined. Some curlies plop overnight (sleep with wet hair in a microfibre towel or old cotton t-shirt) but this can be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungal growth so we advise against it.
Raking is a method of applying your leave-in conditioner or styling products to your hair. Apply a small amount of the Creme De La Curl Creme to your hands and rub together to emulsify. Then rake with your fingertips from root to tip, give your curls a little shake at the end to help curl formation. Once you have done this you can micro-plop or plop.
This is a way to revive your curls a day (or 2 or 3) after wash day. It's important to know that refreshing may not give you as defined curls as on a wash day. However is a great way to get some oomph, definition and life back into your hair without having to wash all over again. Go to this blog post for 3 simple ways to refresh
A conditioner that is applied to your hair and then rinsed out. The One & Only Creamy Conditioner can be used as a leave-in, rinse-out and as a deep conditioner. Read up on how to use it here
The oily, waxy substance secreted naturally by the scalp. Sebum is important as the natural oils help to moisturise hair. In straight hair, sebum is able to travel from the roots downward to moisturise hair through to the ends. The shape of a curly hair strand prevents natural oils from traveling all the way down the hair shaft leaving the ends drier, which is why moisturising products are so important for curls.
A Curly Girl Method no-no! While silicones may initially make your hair feel silky and smooth, they coat the hair shaft and stop water penetrating. Silicones build up over time, leaving your hair feeling dry so you apply more silicone which in turn dries out the hair as water cannot penetrate the hair shaft.
SMOOTHING THE CUTICLES
When the cuticles of your hair are 'lifted' your hair loses moisture, feels rough, doesn't reflect light (ie is dull) and makes your hair appear frizzy. By 'smoothing the cuticle' when conditioning we are combating all of these problems. When conditioning use a 'milking' downwards motion along a section of your hair. Continue doing this until that section of hair feels slimy or like seaweed. Now move onto the next section. By doing this you are helping those cuticles to 'lie' as flat as they can. This ensures better moisture retention, increased shine and less frizz. Head over to these videos to see this technique in action
SOTC: SCRUNCH OUT THE CRUNCH
After your hair has dried completely (we can't stress the 'completely' part enough), you gently gather a handful of hair, raise to your scalp and gently scrunch in your hand a few times to break up the cast that may form from the Creme De La Curl Creme or Hold Me Baby Hair Gel.
When all IntrinsiCurly Me products should be applied, at the sopping wet hair stage. This helps to draw in water and moisturise your curls. You can gently scrunch out the excess water with the Scrunching Microfibre Towel.
STC: SQUISH TO CONDISH (PULSE)
This is the act of cupping your sopping wet conditioned or styled curls in your hands and gently pressing them up towards your scalp while you squeeze your hair a few times, you should hear a squishing sound. This helps your curls absorb the conditioner or styling products and water.
Another benefit of this technique is that it helps encourage your natural curl pattern.
Short for Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), these are foaming agents found in many shampoos. Commonly referred to as sulfates/sulphates, which is why you may see sulfate/sulphate free on products that in fact contain no SLS/SLES. They are harsh cleansers that strip your hair of its natural oils, these are essential to healthy hair and are a natural source of moisture. As curly hair tends to be drier than straight hair they dry the hair out even more and can cause your scalp to overproduce oil. This leaves your hair feeling oily so you wash more often which continues the cycle. SLES/SLS are another absolute no-no in the Curly Girl World!
The name for the journey from chemically straightened (or severely heat damaged) hair to naturally textured curls. Transitioning to natural hair is a journey as new, healthy hair grows in at the scalp.
The most important way to hydrate curls. You can tell if a product is hydrating as water/aqua (H20) will be one of its first ingredients.