I am often complimented and asked how I get so much volume in my curly hair, especially at my roots. I’d not really given it much thought before, as I’ve always had big curly hair with lots of volume. So I paid closer attention to my products and routine so I could share my tips with you. You’ll be pleased to know it’s mainly down to technique rather than particular products.
Do Everything Upside Down
Hands down (excuse the pun) I think this is the biggest factor in how I get root volume in my curly hair. I wash and rinse my hair upside down. When I wash my hair standing up in the shower, I’ll always squish-to-condish with my hair upside down, and do my final rinse upside down too. I apply all my products to my hair with my head constantly tossing upside down and side to side. I’m essentially tricking my hair to fall and be styled one way (upside down) only to toss it the other way (right way up) when it’s dry. This causes the roots to stand up and creates volume.
Change Your Parting
Don’t panic! I mean change your parting when your drying your hair. No matter what I do, if I style and dry my hair parted where I want it to be when it’s dry, it will always go flat at the roots – even with curl clipping! Like when I apply product, I also flip my hair upside down and flip it over each side as I dry it. The roots are never getting a chance to dry flat. By drying it in the opposite direction of how you want to part your hair, you’ll create more root volume when it’s dry and you part it where you actually want it to be parted. Make sense?
My hair has so much more volume and bigger curl definition when I diffuse my hair to dry it. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I diffuse my hair upside down and flip it side to side. I also use the little protruding grips inside the diffuser to ‘lift’ my roots as I dry them. I anchor the diffuser in my hair, near the roots, and then move the diffuser up an inch or two, lifting it at the root. This dries the roots at a ninety degree angle to my head, creating volume.
Kiddie Tip! When I diffuse my daughter’s long curly hair; I lay her on the bed with her head hanging off the edge, turning her from her tummy, to her sides and finally on her back – supporting her neck. I sit on the floor and diffuse her hair from underneath, the same way I do my own hair, upside down.
I’m not sure if I’ve spoken about this in a previous post yet. But clipping curls at the root will really help create volume in fine hair that can easily get weighed down by water and/or product. If I’m drying my daughter’s hair without the diffuser, I’ll scrunch dry it with a cotton towel and then clip her roots until it’s dry. It’s easier for kids rather than getting them to flip their hair around whilst it dries; or if you’re pressed for time. I’ll clip my curls if my hair isn’t completely dry after plopping or diffusing. It’s easy to do, just lift individual curls at the root, and pop the clip in so the curl stands up. I got mine from Sally’s. Take the clips out once the hair is completely dry. As you can see, I don’t clip my hair along any particular parting.
I don’t just put my hair in a pineapple at night. I do it for 20-30 minutes during the day if my hair is a bit flat on the second or third day after washing. It’s a quick and easy way to gently pull and encourage curls to go the opposite way at the root, thus creating volume. You can read this post to find out more about this technique and how to do it.
This is something I’ve only discovered and learned about recently. In December 2017, my curls were so flat, limp and lacked all kinds of volume and definition! My hair had a lot of issues, which I’ll go into in another post. But one of those issues was product and mineral build up from living in a hard-water area. You don’t have to see or even feel product and mineral deposits for your hair to be weighed down. In order to maintain healthy, weightless, defined curls with volume, you’ve gotta do a good clarifying wash once a month! If your hair is in really bad shape, like mine was, you might even have to do two or three of these clarifying shampoos to get your hair back to full health. Always, always follow up with a really good deep conditioning treatment!
Clarifying vs Chelating
Clarifying shampoos, such as Kinky Curly Come Clean, As I Am Clarifying Shampoo and MopTop Clarifying Rescue Treatment (to name just a few) will only get rid of product build up in your hair. To clarify your hair from mineral deposit build up such as lime, you need to use a chelating shampoo. These shampoos have sulfates, and that’s okay for occasional clarifying/chelating shampoos. After a tonne of research, I went for Bumble & Bumble’s Sunday Shampoo. My advice is to avoid clarifying/chelating shampoos that also contain silicones, like this popular one from Joico. The reason they contain silicones is so people aren’t alarmed at how dry their feels after a sulfate-loaded shampoo and they make the hair feel soft and hydrated. But if, like me, you’re following the curly girl method, we don’t want to introduce silicones back into our hair, it’s bad enough swallowing the bitter pill of sulfates!
Get 10% off MopTop here using code CURLMAVEN.
The Thing About Plopping…
I talked about plopping in this post about curly girl techniques. However, if I plop my hair when it’s soaking wet, it makes my roots incredibly flat! Especially at the back and front of my head, where the plop is tightest. And to me, that defeats the whole purpose of plopping curly hair. So when I plop, for added curl definition and root volume, I do it when my hair is 70-80% dry and I don’t tie it so tight.
I’m a firm believer that great curl results are from good techniques rather than a particular product. However, for my fine, low-porosity 2c/3a curly hair; creams or too many products weigh down my curls no matter what techniques I use. Mousse, gels and whipped creams which are lighter in texture, or custards work best for my hair. I can’t use products from Shea Moisture or Cantu. They are just too heavy for my hair, no matter how much I clip my curls, diffuse, plop, pineapple and do all the things upside down. So if you’re doing all these techniques and your hair is still flat and limp, take a look at the products you’re using and the last time you did a clarifying wash.
Struggling with halo frizz? Here’s what may be causing it and how to beat it.
Check out this post of all my favourite curly girl products, especially for low porosity hair.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the tips, advice and product recommendations. Click here for more information on my Curl Clinics™. A completely bespoke curl consultation service tailored to suit you and your hair. Designed to help get your waves and curls back and achieve your healthy hair goals. Or book in here!
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comforter set says
Appreciate the recommendation. Will try it out.
Hi Gabriella! I found you few days ago! which is great because I still love read blogs and yours is quite proffesional and interesting. I´m from Madrid and despite I was living in Dubling for a year my english is not so good. I´m check in which colour of heat cap I will order but I would also like to know if you can recomend me a Shampoo. i was using Shea moisture but isn´t working for me neither, Bumble and bumble neither. I was using Icon Products but I would like to change. Which one do you think I should try?
Thanks and congrats for your curly world!
Hi Olga, thank you for your kind words. Bumble & Bumble isn’t CG friendly and I wouldn’t be a fan of Shea Moisture. Check out my post on My Favourite Curly Girl Products, and How to Build a Product Routine for “shampoo” recommendations. You can see what fabric combinations are available for my Curly Cailín Heat Caps on my Instagram. I’m @curlycailin.ie or you can email me or contact me using the form on the Contact Page of my site. Hope that helps xx
Me too I have the same problem, leave-in, cream weight down my curls. I have fine hair. Only mousse help, and have to put little bit. But still not found out my holygrail products. Sorry for my english, I am french. If you found out good one let me tell me please, thanks
Elizabeth Fragoso says
This post was very helpful. Just started this curly girl stuff and although my curls are nicer my hair is constantly flat in top. I will try your advice on plopping when hair is a little dryer. Do you have any recommendations on products for fine hair? I also think that is affecting my results.
Hi, yes for fine hair you’ve really got to avoid using heavy products that have a lot of oils or butters in them. Givonanni Direct Leave In is the most lightweight leave in conditioner I’ve found. Giovanni products are quite light also, and for styling you’ll most likely find the best results are with a mousse and a gel. For cleansing and conditioning, use a low poo and a light conditioner such as Gentle Lather Shampoo and Aloeba Daily Conditioner from Jessicurl. If you use code CURLYCAILIN20 at checkout, you’ll get 10% off your order. Hope that helps. xoxo
Joanie Greene says
Totally love your website. Great information and excellent tips for halo fizz. Thanks so much for all you expertise. Joanie- NJ
Aww thank you so much Joanie!!! That’s made my day!
What are the best ways to get volume and the top using scrunching methods and different partings?
Hi Sarah, please see my YouTube video on my full wash day routine to achieve maximum volume here: https://youtu.be/b3y593StTcA
I’ve just started the curly girl method after 15+ years of straightening my hair. I was wondering how you diffuse your hair as in what speed/airflow to use and if you use any heat at all? I tried diffusing my hair with no heat and high airflow today and it took forever.
HI, I diffuse on medium heat and medium speed. Putting it up to max speed if I need to, but never going up to max heat. Have you seen my YouTube video about curly girl essentials? I explain in detail diffusing etc but also the voltage difference in the US compared to the UK etc and how it took me much, much longer to diffuse my hair in the States than it does back home in Ireland.
Karen Olsen says
I decided to stop fighting my 2C-3A curls this summer. I’ve blown and straightened for decades. But what I’ve found is that I’m just fighting my hair in a different way.
I’ve liked reading your posts on products and techniques. I’ve been using, and experimenting with a lot of them! I just wish I could see some hope with my dry, uneven curl, frizzy in places hair. After I “scrunch out the crunch” I end up with a mess and want to start over.
Thank you for your “sensible” ways of taking care of curly hair. I guess I’ll keep trying, but my flat iron is looking pretty good about now;)
Any extra advice would be appreciated.
Are you doing deep conditioning once or twice a week? If you were blow drying f9r years, it might have forgottwn how to curl. Try her finger coiling method, only wash once a week or so (I can get up to 10 days). Maybe find a curly stylist & get a good cut & have them educate you on methods? http://Www.naturallycurly.com has adatabase where you can look for a stylist. Remember, you’ve been doing this for less than a month so you have to undo years of damage.
Everything Susan said. xoxo
Also, when finger coiling make sure your head is upside down. If you do it in a upright position you will be pulling the roots down, not away from the the scalp. Also, finger coiling takes practice. I use my middle finger and when I reach the bottom I use my whole hand to get back to the roots then scrunch. I was one of those who chemical straighten, then blow dry finishing with a flat iron.
It’s like you are my hair twin! Same issues. I’ve learned that much of what I did, technique-wise, before going CG actually was best for my hair. After changing everything up I’ve gone back to my tried-and-true technihews, just minus the silicones and sulfates.
Oh that’s great! How has it worked for you? I was doing a lot of CG-friendly techniques before I actually discovered the method. Like not using a towel, not brushing my hair, sleeping in a pineapple etc.
Actually, I’m curious what deep conditioning treatment you use. Like you, Shea Moisture and many others leave my hair too weighted down and limp. But I definitely need the moisture boost at times!
Hi Rachel, I have a few deep conditioners that I use. Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment (use code CURLYCAILIN20 for 20% off), I also like Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! but my favourite is probably Hairfinity Amino Strengthening Mask. If you need an intense moisture boost, check out Matrix Biolage Hydrasource Conditioner and just use it as a DC, or Boucleme Intense Moisture Mask. Hope that helps!
I had straight hair as a kid, but my hair started to change in my mid 30’s when I started going through premature menopause(I’m 48 now). I believe my hair is low porosity, with a mix of 2a-c waves and maybe a couple 3a curls as well. About a month ago I came across the cgm on YouTube (while looking for ways to make wavy hair healthy)and actually started about a week and a half ago. My bangs are the worst right now (they are ear length and half straight). I also think I am experiencing halo-frizz. The products I have are SheaMoisture JBCO Strengthen & Restore Shampoo, Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Conditioner, Curl and Style Milk, JBCO Strengthen & Restore Leave-In, Cantu Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream and a level 3 hold gel. The leave-in makes my hair feel gross, could I use this as a mask and then wash it out? I also bought some Down Under Naturals Conditioner to use as a co-wash and because the SM conditioner seems to make my hair greasy.
Sorry for the long comment, but your post is like the only current one I have came across.
Hi Laurie, my bangs were pretty bad too, even after a year of following the CGM. I had some great curls growing in, and decided to cut the straight parts of my bangs off, due to all the heat damage they’d suffered over the years. Have you read my post about how to beat halo frizz, it’s often caused by things you wouldn’t even think of! You are using an awful lot of heavy butters and oils in the products you have, which is probably why your hair feels gross. Personally I stay away from Shea Moisture and Cantu, I would opt for something more lightweight, and with much less oils and butters. I hope that helps. x
ive been doing the cg technique for about two months. My hair is just above shoulder length. It flattens when plopping and so far hasnt really curled even with the product in. My thing is what to do at night. Its abit too short to pinapple as it just straightens it further and the same with using a buff. ive tried medusa clipping but my scalp hurts very quicklyThe second and subsequent days hair just looks straightish wavy. Any advice would be great. x
Hi Karen, the first few months are definitely the toughest, and I nearly gave up 3 or 4 months in! Plopping can cause the hair to flatten, however, I diffuse my hair until its about 80% dry first and THEN I plop. This really helps and I don’t get flat curls this way, so maybe try that. If your hair is really short and medusa clipping is sore, you could try just sleeping on a satin pillow case. Give your hair time, it took a long time to do damage and lose your curls, it will take a while to get them back. xoxox
My curls have lost their definition they look flat from roots.I have currently started using ogx coconut water shampoo. Is this brand good for my hair type ?? If not can you recommend some please..
I’m not sure if that shampoo is CG friendly/approved. Check out my post on My Favourite Curly Girl Products or How To Build A Curly Girl Routine, both of which have product recommendations. If your curls have lost definition, it could be because you need some protein. Check out my post on My Modified Rice Water Treatment for more info on that. Hope that helps x
Hey there! I have the same type of hair. I’ve only been doing CGM for about a month. I’ve bought so many products!! I feel defeated and yucky. I currently use the NYM naturals pink shampoo/conditioner and jessicurl citrus lavender deep conditioner. I have the HE totally twisted mousse and thebioterra defining gel. Any recommendations would be appreciated. What products are your very favorite…I might try them in your same order with your technique and see if that helps.
Hi Lauren, I would start off by saying your hair is probably still transitioning after only one month. My hair took about 4 months to fully transition and before I saw results that I was happy with. Everyone is different. Although I loved the NYM Naturals Pink shampoo and conditioner, my hair didn’t. I absolutely love the Jessicurl Hair Cleansing Cream, Too Shea Conditioner, Confident Coils and Spiralicious Gel. You can use code CURLYCAILIN20 to get 20% off their products on their site. I also have a post on My Favourite Curly Girl Products, and How to Build a Curly Girl Routine – both of which have my favourite products and some of my routines. Hope that helps xoxo
Thank you for all this great information. I have low porosity fine curly hair. I am some where in between 3a and 3b type curly hair. Do you recommend clarifying with apple cider vinegar with water or lemon juice mixed with water to clarify using natural products?
Thank you so much! I’m very wary of lemon juice as it can really dry out and damage the hair if not used in the right quantities. Have you read my post on why and when you should clarify your hair? There’s lots of tips, tricks and product recommendations, including natural alternatives, on there. Here’s the link> https://curlmaven.ie/why-when-you-should-clarify-your-hair/ Hope that helps xoxo
Cynthia Read says
You are so right on the upside down stuff.
Thanksl for sharing!
This was soooo helpful! I was starting to feel a little crazy after cycling through several different products that did *not* help with volume at all. I don’t know why, but I haven’t tried pinning my curls yet. That, plus shampooing and rinsing upside down are two things I’m trying on my very next wash day.
Just a tip I thought I’d share–before I started my curly journey, when I was just trying to be minimal but still take good care of my hair, I discovered that SODA WATER naturally chelates hair when you have hard water. I couldn’t believe it! I use my SodaStream and bring a bottle into the shower with me for a final, post-shampoo rinse. I haven’t done it in the three months since I started wearing my natural curls, so that may be affecting my volume…
Love your blog. You’ve got a devoted reader in me <3
Wowsers, I’ve never heard of soda water being a natural chelating ingredient!Phytic acid is a natural chelating agent too, however, I don’t think it’s as strong or efficient as disodium EDTA. Glad you liked the post on root volume, it’s crazy how we think everything is about product, but often times that’s not the cause (or solutions) to our curly hair issues at all! THanks for taking the time to comment and share xoxo
I thought the Kinky Curly Come Clean was a chelating shampoo?
It is….kind of. Phytic acid is a natural chelating agent. Although I do like it, I don’t find it as good as a chelating shampoo as Bumble & Bumble Sunday Shampoo. I hope that helps x
Thank you!!!! Nixxing Shea Moisture products from my line up! They’re just too much! And trying all your tips because I too have reached the 3 month frustration of exchanging one set of hair problems to another. But I won’t give up now!
Definitely don’t! I almost gave up after 3/4 months and I’m so glad I didn’t. I think some people see results a lot quicker than others. And if you’re one of those people who aren’t seeing dramatic results fast, it can be really tough! Have you read this post about my first year of following the curly girl method? And all the ups and downs I went though? What I tried, what worked and what didn’t. You might find it helpful, or at least give you the inspiration to keep going and not give up. https://curlmaven.ie/following-the-curly-girl-method-one-year-on/
Hiya. older..C.G here! can concur with all your tips..diffusing..upside down..clarify etc do you diffuse til 100% dry? circular motion after twisting method? do you add serum after to add shine? do you refresh on Day 2? 3? 4? thank you!
Hi Amanda, I don’t add serum after for shine, my hair is so healthy now it’s naturally very shiny. Glycerin is always great for shine too, so if you use products that have glycerin high up on the ingredients list it tends to be shinier. I often refresh, usually on day 2 or 3. Hope that helps xoxo
After growing up with curly hair that my mom and I didn’t know what to do with, I had very wavy hair for many years. I lost all of it to chemo a year and a half ago. When it came back in, it was very curly and has remained so. Back in chemo again, I have not lost it, and while it is still curly, it is thinner especially on top, and difficult to keep healthy looking. Hopefully after chemo, it will get better. I have tried a multitude of curly products. Any advice you have would be appreciated.
What’s the best hairdryer and diffuser?
That’s a tricky question to answer because it’s down to personal preference. I will say, don’t be sucked into the hype of getting a Dyson hairdryer. Everyone I know who has one, says it’s not worth the huge price tag and much cheaper dryers are just as good. Personally, I love my Diva Professional hair dryer and XXL diffuser. Which you can see pictures of and read more about in My Favourite Products post. Hope that helps!
I’m having trouble finding a list of products (all-shampoo, conditioner, leave in, mousse, gel, etc) that have protein in them. I’ve chosen the products I’m going to start with, but I think I may have inadvertently gone a little moisture heavy, and not incorporated enough protein. Is there a list somewhere? My head is swimming from trying to keep all of this straight and I’m getting frustrated looking at all the 20-letter long ingredients.
Thanks is advance for any help you can offer!
Hi Stephanie, have you read these two posts? This one on how to build a curly girl routine? There’s sample product line ups and routines which have protein, moisture and a mix of both. https://curlmaven.ie/how-to-build-a-curly-girl-hair-routine/ And then this post on protein moisture balance, it’s got a list of products with protein, and without. https://curlmaven.ie/protein-moisture-balance/ Then there’s the ingredient checker sites such as curlsbot and isitcg Hope that helps x
What about women w thinning hair? I’m constantly looking for products that volumize but are still good for curls and they’re basically nonexistent. If they volumize, they frizz and dry out. If they are for curls, they weigh down and make my wide parts even worse. Help!!
IT’s not that they don’t exist, but if you want volume, then that comes with frizz. That’s what creates the volume. If you have straight hair and you want volume, you must back comb and/or use dry shampoo. It just is what it is I’m afraid.
HELP 🙂 I tried the upside down rinse and combed out the tangles with my wide toothed comb. I stayed upside down with product application and diffusing. This gave my roots a nice curl (transitioning now so they tend to be flat), but my curl clumps fell apart a bit and I had a lot of tangles/loose frizz. Do you comb your hair through when you rinse upside down? Just drying upside down did not give me the same results with my root – so I would love to make this work. What am I doing wrong. NOTE: I used to have a regular right side up routine and just flip to dry, but that was 20 years ago….never resulted in frizz and always has root curl. Just not working for me now/
Hi Nettie, it takes a while to adjust and figure things out when you try a new technique, the same goes for applying products, styling and diffusing upside down. Don’t have your hair completely hanging upside down, but more like a sunflower, hanging down the whole way around your head, except the nape of your neck, that way you’re ensuring you’re getting every area of your hair, rather than just the outer and inner layers, which should help.
Aisling O'Farrell says
Hi I’m 12 and I’m I have just started the curly hair journey and my hair looks great but its really oily or wet all the time. I let my hair dry for half an hour then u put mouse in then wait another half hour and defuse it. I use the coconut cowash and the biolage conditioner. I just want my hair to be curly and not frizzy for when I start secondary school
Hi Aisling, make sure that you’re rinsing out your co-wash properly, and your conditioner, especially at the roots – you can leave a little conditioner at the ends to keep your hair hydrated and moisturised until you wash it again. I would advise that you apply your mousse as soon as you’ve rinsed your conditioner out, rather than waiting half an hour to apply it, and then waiting another half an hour to dry/diffuse your hair. That’s most likely what’s causing the frizz. Apply your mousse straight away, and then diffuse straight away.
HI! I am new here and overwhelmed! There are so many great tips, but where do I begin?
My hair is not heat damaged but I know I have been misrepresenting my curls. Here is my plan after spending hours on your blog:
1. Start with co-washing for a couple weeks (using suggested “As I Am CoWash”
2. After a couple weeks, add in clarifying shampoo twice weekly (most likely will go with Bounce Curls!)
3. When beginning clarifying, add in deep conditioning/twice a week regular conditioning with clarifying shampoo.
Am I on the right track??!?!!
Thank you for laying it all out for us curly girls
I have a tab on my blog called CG Basics, I recommend that you start there. It’s all the easy to understand basic starter information for curly girl beginners. Alternatively, I offer 1:1 Curl Clinics, they’re a 30 min consultation via video where we go through all the products you’re using and the issues your experiencing. I then put together a routine and recommend products to suit your hair’s needs, your budget and any other requirements you have. If that’s something you’re interested in, please fill out this form, and I’ll get back to you via email with all of the details. http://www.curlycailin.ie/contact
Julie Turnbull says
Really interesting post. I have short 2c-3a/b naturally curly hair. The problem I have is that half hour after diffusing my hair (or even less) the top of my hair goes really flat. I have always used cantu curl activator, although I have more recently been using The lmc method you advised, but still get the same reults. I am confused and frustrated with myself because I can’t get it right.not helped that I am extremely self critical ♀️♀️
Hi Julie, I don’t use or recommend Cantu. Most likely that’s too heavy for your hair which is why it’s going flat not long after washing. Are you doing everything upside down? Root Clipping? Diffusing? Using enough styling products? Using lightweight, protein rich conditioner and/or styling products? Are you clarifying regularly? All these things have an effect.
Joni Gonzales says
I found this article while looking for help with halo frizz. I tried your method of doing my hair upside down while in the shower and omg what a difference! Thank you! I have the same type of hair you do. Next I want to try to find the chelating shampoo since we have a lot of trouble with hard water
Curly Hair says
Loved the blog as it was so informative. This helped me a lot with the curly hair as mine get frizzy so quick and the I have to go buy a new bundle but this one was a great help. This blog helped me as how i can get more volume without buying a new bundle again and again.