So you’ve heard about the curly hair method, spent ages reading blog posts. Watched countless YouTube videos and joined a couple of Facebook groups trying to get started on a curly hair routine.
You’re ready to purchase some hair products and get started on your curly journey. But you’ve got information overload, feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. Here’s my updated post on How to Build a Curly Girl Hair Routine, and product recommendations.
Keep it Simple
It’s really easy to over-complicate things, but the trick is to keep it simple. It doesn’t need to be complicated. At the most, you’re going to need five products to build a curly hair routine. This post will help you figure out what type of product will work best for your hair. And teach you when, and in what order, to use each product. Start off simple, so it becomes less daunting, and more achievable. That way you won’t want to give up after the first few washes.
Give it time!
Like with anything new, it’s over whelming at first, and you need to give it time. Damage is often caused over time, so you need to accept that it’s going to take time to heal – especially if you have heat, colour or chemical damage. With a little trial and error, patience and consistency, you’ll get the hang of it, and start seeing results, in time. Let’s get started on how to build a curly hair routine!
You didn’t damage your hair overnight, it’s not going to recover overnight either. Or in a few wash days!
How to Build a Curly Girl Hair Routine
Step 1. Final Wash | Clarify
If you’re just starting the curly hair method, you need to do a final wash to get rid of the silicones out of your hair, and any product build up. For this, you’ll need a shampoo that does contain sulfates, but doesn’t contain silicones. My favourite is the Bumble & Bumble Sunday Shampoo.
Technically it’s a chelating shampoo, which is stronger and harsher than a clarifying shampoo. Containing ingredients that remove hard water, limescale, metal and mineral deposits.
So if you live in a hard water area, or swim in the pool or ocean regularly, use this as your final wash and keep ahold of it to clarify once a month. Read this post for more information on chelating and clarifying your hair.
Final Wash/Chelating Shampoo Product Suggestions:
Also available in my Amazon Shop.
If you don’t live in a hard water area or swim in the pool or ocean. You don’t need to use a chelating shampoo that contains sulfates to clarify your hair. You can use a more gentle, curly girl friendly product to remove dirt, oil and product build up.
So many issues people experience is down to not clarifying the hair properly, or regularly enough.
Clarifying is really important for all hair types! Read my Golden Triangle of Healthy Hair post where I explain why in more detail. The product recommendations listed below are not suitable for a final wash, as they’re not strong enough to remove silicones. But suitable for monthly clarifying if you don’t live in a hard water area or swim in the pool or ocean.
Clarifying Shampoo Product Suggestions:
- USA: Bounce Curl Clarifying Shampoo – CURLMAVEN for 10% off.
Get 10% off Bounce Curl using code CURLMAVEN at all of the following distributors/online retailers:
- USA: Bounce Curl
- IRELAND: The Clean Beauty Edit – ships worldwide
- UK: Kiyo Beauty – ships worldwide
- Canada: Curl Warehouse
Also available in my Amazon Shop.
Step 2. Cleanse
So you’ve ditched the shampoo in your new curly hair routine, but now what should you use to wash your hair? And how often should you be washing it? I always recommend washing your hair twice a week, with a sulfate-free, silicone-free cleanser. The goal here is a healthy scalp and hair, not to see how long you can go without washing your hair. For most people, once enough isn’t enough. But three times or more a week is too much, and not good for the hair.
If you’ve just discovered the curly hair method, here’s where it can get confusing and overwhelming. Because the emphasis seems to be on going as long as possible without washing your hair. Or avoiding anything that lathers. With confusing terms like co-washing, lo-poo and no-poo. I’m going to try and simplify this curly hair routine, so you can understand what will work best for your hair. Regardless of what any book, method or rules say.
Dry, Damaged, Coily Hair: Co-Wash
If your hair is thick, coarse, dry and/or coily, tightly textured and/or severely damaged, I recommend using a co-wash. At first, anyway. But don’t just use a regular conditioner to “wash” your hair. Otherwise your hair will quickly become greasy, oily, weighed down, over-moisturized and lose curl definition. And your scalp won’t thank you for it either, it may feel itchy, greasy or oily.
The aim here is to cleanse your hair. A conditioner is not a cleanser, it’s a conditioner. So if you’re going to use a co-wash, use one specifically formulated as a co-wash, which will contain both cleansing and moisturising ingredients. And remember, we’re cleansing here, so you still need to follow up with a conditioner afterwards. A co-wash replaces your traditional shampoo, not conditioner.
Co-wash Product Suggestions:
- USA: As I Am Coconut Co-Wash
- UK: As I Am Coconut Co-Wash
- Miribel Naturals Creamy Hair Cleanser – CURLMAVEN for 10% off on the Miribel site in the US, and Kiyo Beauty in the UK
- MopTop Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner – CURLMAVEN for 10% off
- Bounce Curl Cleansing Conditioner – CURLMAVEN for 10% off on the US site, and at The Clean Beauty Edit in Ireland/EU and at Kiyo Beauty in the UK using the same code.
Also available in my Amazon Shop.
Co-Washing isn’t for everyone! It’s a great way of boosting the moisture levels in the hair. But for most people, switching to a low-lathering cleanser after a few months works best.
Fine, Wavy + Curly Hair: Lo-Poo
A low-lathering cleanser, or lo-poo, is what suits most people. If you have fine hair, either in density or thickness of the hair strand. If your hair is normal to oily, wavy or curly, I recommend using a sulfate-free, low-lathering cleanser.
Personally, I think Bounce Curl have the best cleansers on the market. But MopTop and Innersense Organic Beauty are a close second. If you’re in the USA, you can get 10% off Bounce Curl and MopTop using code CURLMAVEN. If you’re outside the USA, you can get 10% off Innersense Organic Beauty and Bounce Curl using code CURLMAVEN at The Clean Beauty Edit in Ireland/EU and at Kiyo Beauty in the UK.
Lo-Poo/Low-Lathering Cleanser Product Suggestions:
- Bounce Curl Clarifying Shampoo – CURLMAVEN for 10% off
- Bounce Curl Moisturising Shampoo – CURLMAVEN for 10% off
- MopTop Gentle Bamboo Shampoo – CURLMAVEN for 10% off
- Innersense Hydrating Cream Hairbath
- Innersense Colour Awakening Hairbath
If your hair is really fine, gets easily weighed down and loves protein. Then I recommend Innersense Pure Harmony Hairbath or TréLuxe Curl Renew & Restore – CURLMAVEN for 15% off. These are two of the most lightweight cleansers I’ve tried!
Also available in my Amazon Shop. You can get TréLuxe at Sari Curls or Le Curl Shop in the EU. 10% off at Kiyo Beauty in the UK and Curl Warehouse in Canada using code CURLMAVEN – or The Curl Store in Australia.
Step 3. Condition
This is usually where you find silicones in products. So it’s really important to check the ingredients when purchasing your conditioner, deep conditioner and/or leave-in conditioner.
I’ve included product suggestions for all three conditioner categories below. But please note: you do not need all three! So don’t feel you have to rush out and buy all of them to build a good curly hair routine.
Get one conditioner made with good quality ingredients, leave it in for 15+ mins to deep condition, but no longer than an hour. Instead of purchasing a separate leave-in conditioner, simply leave in some of the conditioner you already have in your hair.
Top Tip: Give the roots a quick rinse, then let the residual water run through your hair until a milky colour and consistency comes out the ends as your leave-in conditioner.
When choosing a conditioner, look for high concentrations of plant-based ingredients, and a good balance of protein and moisture. Read this post for more on the protein moisture balance. Avoid anything that contains too many rich emollients and heavy oils and butters. These will weigh down, often over-moisturise the hair and cause excess hair shedding. Not to mention limp, lifeless curls.
Conditioner Product Suggestions:
- Rich Protein-Free: Matrix Biolage Hydra Source Conditioner – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Lightweight Protein-Free: Jessicurl Aloeba Daily Conditioner
- Lightweight Protein-Rich: Innersense Pure Inspiration Daily Conditioner
- Protein Moisture Balanced: Innersense Colour Radiance Conditioner or MopTop Bamboo Daily Conditioner – CURLMAVEN for 10% off
Leave-in Conditioner Product Suggestions:
- Giovanni Weightless Moisture Direct Leave In – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Flora & Curl Leave-In Detangler – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- MopTop Leave In Conditioner – CURLMAVEN for 10% off
- Miribel Naturals Powerhouse Protein Cream – CURLMAVEN for 10% off
Deep Conditioner Product Suggestions:
- Rich Protein-Free: Matrix Biolage Hydra Source Conditioner – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Protein-Free: Bounce Curl Ayurvedic Deep Conditioner – CURLMAVEN for 10% off – or 10% off at The Clean Beauty Edit and Kiyo Beauty using code CURLMAVEN.
- Protein-Rich: Hairfinity Strengthening Amino Masque or Curl Junkie Repair Me!
- Protein Moisture Balanced: Innersense Hydrating Hair Masque or Phyto Joba Moisturizing Mask or Act + Acre Restorative Hair Mask.
Top Tip: use a Curl Maven Thermal Heat Cap to help open up the cuticle to get the maximum benefits from your deep conditioner.
Step 4. Style
Clarifying, cleansing, conditioning and deep conditioning is where you fix any issues with dry, brittle or frizzy hair. Or limp, lifeless curls that drop within hours of washing. You won’t fix any of those issues with the styling products, not with long-lasting results anyway.
When choosing styling products for your new curly hair routine, think about what you want your hair to look like. What do you want from your styling products? Some people want texture and volume, others want definition and hold. Most often, people want a combination of a few different things.
Enhance + Define
There are a few one-and-done styling products, but for most people using two styling products gives the best and most consistent results. Essentially you want something to enhance and define the curl. And then something to hold the curl. Try out my LMG Method which gives me great results every time! When layering styling products, always start from the most lightweight to heaviest texture or consistency.
If you have fine, wavy or curly hair that gets easily weighed down, mousses, foams and serums are great for enhancing and defining. As well as giving texture and volume. These will all work if you have thick, dry, coarse or coily hair too. However, you may find better results using a milk, lotion, balm or cream. All of which are more moisturising.
Styling Product Recommendations: Enhance + Define
- Mousse: Pantene Defined Curls No. 5 Mousse or Herbal Essence Totally Twisted Mousse – available in grocery stores and supermarkets
- Foams: Innersense I Create Lift Volumizing Foam
- Giovanni Hair Styling Foam – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Flora & Curl Curl Volumizing Foam – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Serums: Innersense I Create Volume for volume
- TréLuxe Reflex Curl Styling Serum for definition – CURLMAVEN for 15% off
- Jessicurl Rockin Ringlets – 10% off Jessicurl at Kiyo Beauty
- Lotions: Jessicurl Confident Coils
- Flora & Curl Curl Activating Lotion – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Balm: Curlsmith Hold Me Softly Styling Balm – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Creams: TréLuxe Curl Supreme – CURLMAVEN for 15% off
- Bounce Curl Clump & Define Cream – CURLMAVEN for 10% off on the US site, The Clean Beauty Edit and Kiyo Beauty
Also available in my Amazon Shop. Use code CURLMAVEN for 10% off Innersense Organic Beauty and Bounce Curl at The Clean Beauty Edit, who ship worldwide. You can get TréLuxe at Sari Curls or Le Curl Shop in the EU. You can get 10% off at Kiyo Beauty in the UK and Curl Warehouse in Canada using code CURLMAVEN – or The Curl Store in Australia.
The final step in the styling routine is something to seal everything in and hold it all together. For this you can use a gel, jelly and/or custard. If you just want hold, go for a gel. If you want definition, clumps and hold, go for a jelly or custard. But I often use both, if I want great clumps, definition and hold.
You can get lightweight to strong hold gels. Gels, jellies and custards work best when applied to wet hair. For extra clumps and definition, you can give your hair a final brush through with a Denman Paddle Brush before you scrunch and diffuse. CURLMAVEN for 20% off the Denman Paddle Brush at LOOKFANTASTIC, who ship worldwide.
To get long-lasting hold, you need to let the gel, jelly or custard dry fully on the hair, creating a cast. This cast will give you hard, crunchy crispy curls at first, which is what you want. You then need to gently break the cast, or “scrunch out the crunch” to reveal the soft, defined curls underneath.
Top Tip: If your hair is covered in white flakes after using a gel, it’s most likely because you used too much.
Gel, Jelly + Custard Product Suggestions:
- Light Hold:
- Aveda Confixor Liquid Gel – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Bouclème Curl Defining Gel – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Curlsmith Shape Up Aqua Gel – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Medium Hold:
- Innersense I Create Hold
- Aussie Instant Freeze Gel
- Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Bounce Curl Light Creme Gel – CURLMAVEN for 10% off
- MopTop Curly Hair Custard – CURLMAVEN for 10% off
- Curlsmith Hydro Style Flexi Jelly: – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Strong Hold:
- Bouclème Super Hold Styler – CURLMAVEN for 20% off
- Jessicurl Spiralicious Gel – CURLMAVEN for 10% off at Kiyo Beauty
- Giovanni Styling Gel – CURLMAVEN for 20% off – the strongest gel I’ve found
- TréLuxe Hi! Definition Gel – CURLMAVEN for 15% off – my favourite gel of all time!
Also available in my Amazon Shop. Use code CURLMAVEN for 10% off Innersense Organic Beauty and Bounce Curl at The Clean Beauty Edit, who ship worldwide. You can get 10% off TréLuxe using code CURLMAVEN at 10% off Curl Warehouse in Canada or Kiyo Beauty in the UK. You can also get TréLuxe at Sari Curls or Le Curl Shop in the EU. Naturalistic Products in the UK or The Curl Store in Australia.
Putting it all together
If you want consistent results, you have to have a consistent routine. You can’t be switching up your wash day line up all the time. Somehow expecting your hair to look good each time. I listed each product category in the order you’d use them.
Apart from your final wash and monthly clarifying, you need something to cleanse, condition, style and hold. Hopefully from my tips, advice and recommendations, you can figure out what products will suit your hair best. So you can build your curly hair routine.
Trying New Products
When trying out new products, use one new product at a time to determine if it works or makes a difference to your hair. Or keep one half of your wash day routine consistent. For example, if you want to try out different styling products, keep your cleanser and conditioner the same. You also need to try something out consistently for at least 2-3 weeks before you see any signs of improvement. But more like 4-6 weeks to see long-lasting improvement.
I know this was a really long post, with a lot of information and product recommendations! But hopefully you feel much more confident now on how to build a curly hair routine. As well as figuring out what products, or types of products, will work best for your hair.
Like with anything new, it’s daunting and overwhelming at first. But once you get started, you’ll realise how simple it actually is. And hopefully by then, you’ll start seeing really great results too.
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