A curly-haired girl’s guide to taking care of temperamental hair
Figuring out your curl type is often the first step to finding what works for you
My hair and I have a long history of discontent. Growing up, it looked like Emma Watson as tween Hermione Granger—poufy. My mother insisted on brushing my curly hair out and I would straitjacket it with an army of bobby pins and braids. I spent hours coaxing it into the right direction, only to have my efforts overshadowed by show-stealing frizz. It was sheer laziness that I never tried a semi permanent hair smoothening treatment.
I heard about the curly girl method (aka CG method), last year, when a model with bouncy ringlets casually called my hair 2c, not damaged or frizzy, but 2c. She pulled out her phone to explain it better with a chart that classified textured hair based on curl pattern. There it was, an image that looked exactly like my bushy locks, sandwiched between pictures of tight ringlets and loose waves. And that became the starting point of my hair renaissance.
Photograph: Masha Mel, Styling: Kay Felicity
Based on Lorraine Massey’s book Curly Girl: The Handbook, the CG method is a maintenance routine for textured hair. Figuring out your curl type is often the first step to finding what works for you. As per Massey, there are specific methods to wash and style hair, and even guidelines to pick the right hair care. Devout fans follow routines that rival the 11-step Korean skincare ritual. They scan product labels for sulphates, non-water soluble silicones and drying alcohols. And they’re all part of active, resourceful online communities (on Facebook, Instagram and Reddit), where they discuss their latest experiments and tweaks to Massey’s methods.
To be honest, I was expecting to run into some bad hair days in the beginning. But across techniques, the CG method delivered defined, ideal curls. I now know that brushing hair ruins the bounce, leave-in conditioner is a trusty ally, and a little styling product can make all the difference. Before you decide to slip down the CG method rabbit hole, here’s a head start…
The buzzwords that will help you get started:
Pineapple: Preserve curls with this simple hairstyle before you go to bed. Pull all your hair to the top of your head, close to the hairline, and tie it into a loose knot or ponytail—so that you look like the tropical fruit.
“Naturally curly hair tends to be porous making it tough for hair colour to last longer. Before a colour job, opt for a few salon sessions of any one of the ‘plexes’ to ensure hair is healthy and ready for your new colour.”—Kanta Motwani, curator, Kromakay Salons and Academy
“If you have to comb your hair dry, spray leave-in conditioner and go over it with a wide tooth comb. Then scrunch with your hands to reform the curls.”—Franco Vallelonga, Hairstylist.
Plopping: Unlike the classic towel-and-twist, this drying technique involves wrapping hair in a T-shirt at the top of your head to keep natural twists from getting stretched.
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Co-wash: Short for conditioner washing, it means skipping shampoo for second-day hair effect. While you can try a cleansing conditioner, a regular silicone-free conditioner will work well for dense, dry locks.
“Always use a leave-in conditioner and curl cream to moisturise hair. Also, the less you touch curly hair, especially while it’s drying, the less likely it is to get frizzy.” —Franco Vallelonga, Hairstylist.
“Use leave-in conditioner in milk or spray form to enhance curls, while keeping them airy. If you have thick hair, add a serum to your routine too. Apply it on damp or dry hair to manage frizz.” —Kanta Motwani, curator, Kromakay Salons and Academy
SOTC: Aka Scrunch Out The Crunch. To eliminate stiff ringlets (blame it on strong-hold gel), use silk or satin fabric (like your pillowcase or blouse) to scrunch hair and soften the crispy cast.
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Praying Hands: A technique to apply styling product with your palms instead of fingers. Clap damp tresses between your hands (like the praying emoji) and pull them down towards the end, evenly coating each lock.
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The products you will need:
Kérastase Specifique Bain Vital Dermo-Calm Shampoo, INR 2,490: Scalp health is one of the primary deciding factors for a good hair day; trust this shampoo to keep things in check.
Flora & Curl Curl Refresh Clay Wash, INR 2,399: Ignoring product build-up on the scalp and follicles is a rookie mistake that often leads to dullness and frizz. Trust this Moroccan and bentonite clay mix to detox.
Ouai Curl Jelly, INR 1,850: If Hollywood’s most in-demand hairstylist jen Atkin says it’s good; we’re inclined to believe her.
Arata Hair Gel, INR 599: You can count on this CG-friendly gel to shield hair from humidity so you don’t have to worry about unruly, limp waves.
Nashi Curly Maker, INR 1,450: Amplifies bounce, hydrates and holds—it’s the perfect starter product for styling newbies.
Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer, INR 2,000: This styling cream intensifies your curl or wave without weighing it down. Follow it up with a blow-dry using a diffuser for extra volume.
Sebastian Professional Twisted Styling Cream, INR 1,500: Unlike most styling creams that are greasy and make hair limp, this lightweight formula works its magic on fine hair as well.
Ash:ba Botanics Leave-in Conditioner, INR 949: Applied on wet hair or on dry third-day hair, this vegan leave-in conditioner will soon be your holy grail product.