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Is the Curly Girl Method right for your hair? An expert breaks it down

This practice will have your curls "looking and feeling their best."
Vivian Le / TODAY

More than 20 years ago, author and hairstylist, Lorraine Massey released her book "Curly Girl: More Than Just Hair... It’s An Attitude" outlining what she called the Curly Girl Method, which became the blueprint for many people when it came to caring for curly hair.

And the practice is still popular to this day. The "Curly Girl Method" tag on TikTok has more than 1.3 billion views, with people sharing their successes and favorite products to use.

So what exactly is the Curly Girl Method, and who should try it? We tapped an expert to share everything you need to know.

What is the Curly Girl Method?

The Curly Girl Method is a hair routine geared toward people with curly or coily hair, shares hairstylist Brendnetta Ashley. The method consists of five main steps — cleansing, conditioning, styling, drying and maintenance of the hair — which, when followed, can help ensure that your curly hair is getting the TLC it needs.

"Curly hair is fragile, so without proper care and hair routine, it will be dry and brittle, which will lead to breakage," Ashley says.

Who is the Curly Girl Method good for?

Ashley says the method is great for those with all curly and coily hair types, and can even work for those with wavy hair, you just need to adjust the product you use. "By following this method, you will notice your curls/coils looking and feeling their best," she says.

How often should you do the Curly Girl Method?

"You should be doing these steps every time you wash your hair," Ashley says.

Below, Ashley walked us through each of the steps and we picked popular products that you can use for each one, based on her recommendations.

One thing to keep in mind: "Have patience with your hair and stay committed to the process," Ashley says. "The results will come, and your curls/coils will be thriving!"

Step 1: Cleansing

The first step of the method is cleansing your hair. For this, Ashley recommends using a sulfate-free shampoo, which won't strip the hair of its natural oils. "You should wash your hair at least two times to ensure your hair and scalp are properly cleansed," Ashley says.

According to Massey's site, CurlyWorld, when cleansing, you want to use circular motions to firmly massage your scalp. The friction of your fingertips, along with the cleanser, will help break up and wash away dirt and buildup.

L’Oreal Paris EverCurl Sulfate Free Shampoo

Formulated without sulfates, parabens or other unwanted ingredients, this affordable shampoo is made for those with curly hair. It features coconut oil, which the brand says delivers deep moisture without weigh down your strands.

OGX Nourishing + Coconut Milk Moisturizing Shampoo

Infused with coconut milk, whipped egg proteins and coconut oil, this sulfate-free shampoo is said to provide up to 24 hours of frizz control and humidity protection. Plus, it's designed to leave your hair with an "irresistibly delicious scent."

Malibu C Un-Do-Goo Shampoo 

Two experts previously recommended this shampoo to us for curly hair. They shared that it can help remove buildup from styling products.

"A must for the Curly Girl Method for clarifying away product buildup," one shopper wrote. "Just make sure to deep condition afterwards. Curls come back to life. Scalp is sooo clean!"

Step 2: Conditioning

According to CurlyWorld, if you're in the early stages of incorporating the process into your routine, you may need to use more conditioner, as your hair might be drier.

When applying, Ashley says you should always work from the ends of your hair up to your scalp. "This is also the time to detangle," she adds. "Detangle with a wide tooth comb or your fingers. I particularly like to use my fingers. This allows me to fully work the conditioner into the hair."

Allow the product to sit in your hair for at least 15 minutes before rinsing with cool water, she instructs.

SheaMoisture Conditioner Curl and Shine 

More than 16,000 Amazon shoppers have given this conditioner a perfect five-star rating, with a number of them noting that it works for the Curly Girl Method. It's said to instantly soften and detangle hair, while infusing your curls with moisture.

DevaCurl One Condition Original Rich Cream Conditioner

Made for medium to coarse curls, this conditioner is said to fight tangles, control frizz and leave your hair feeling soft and nourished. The brand says that it's free from silicones, parabens and sulfates.

Hyoujin Large Wide Tooth Comb

If you're not using your fingers, you can use this wide tooth comb to detangle. It's made to be used on wet hair, so it's perfect for tackling your tangles in the shower.

Step 3: Styling

When it comes to styling, you always want to be working with wet hair, Ashley says. What product you use will depend on if you have wavy, curly or coily hair. "For more defined hair I use a gel. For a light hold I use a curl mousse or curl foam," she adds.

You want to work the product in section by section and either rake or scrunch your hair. "Once completed, do not touch the hair. It needs to set so it can create a cast on the hair," Ashley says. "The cast allows for frizz control. The more you touch while wet, it will create frizz."

Ouidad Curl Shaper Out Of Thin (H) Air Volumizing Jelly

Unlike other gels, Shop TODAY production associate Jill Ortiz says that this curl jelly doesn't leave her curls feeling crunchy. "Even after it dries, my hair still feels like hair, not straw. It also helps give my curls some volume — even though it is meant for finer hair — and I like using it on second-day hair to help tame frizz."

SheaMoisture Curl Mousse 

Ortiz is also a fan of this lightweight mousse. In fact, she said that discovering it was a "blessing in disguise." "I will spend large sums of money on any SheaMoisture product, and this mousse is no exception. It provides the perfect amount of hold without making my hair feel crunchy once it dries or sticky from the sheer amount of product I have to use to tame my curls. Plus, it smells so nice!”

Step 4: Drying

For drying, you have two main options — you can air dry or use a diffuser. "Your hair needs to be 100% dry before separating your curls," Ashley says, otherwise it may become frizzy. "When diffusing, allow the outer cast to dry prior to emerging the diffuser into the hair. Use a medium heat. This allows for the curls to dry without creating heat damage from the blow dryer."

If you're going the air dry route and want to use a towel to remove excess moisture, CurlyWorld recommends using a paper towel, an old cotton T-shirt or a bamboo towel, instead of a regular towel.

When drying, the key is not to touch your hair until it is completely dry, Ashley says. "Once your hair is dry, use a light serum or oil to break the cast. Slightly separate the curls. Use a pick-comb to create volume at the scalp."

Black Orchid Hair Diffuser

This popular diffuser has a number of drying vents, which the brand says provide simultaneous airflow from root to tip to dry your hair faster. It's designed to fit on hair dryers with a 1.8-inch diameter nozzle.

Body Shop Bamboo Hair Wrap

This wrap is said to be "soft," "absorbent" and gentle on hair.

OGX Renewing + Argan Oil of Morocco Penetrating Hair Oil 

Once your hair is dry, use this oil, which is designed to lock in nutrients and boost shine. It features cold-pressed Moroccan argan oil and is designed to leave your hair with a floral, woody scent.

Step 5: Maintenance

The process doesn't end once you're finished cleansing and drying your hair. Maintenance is another key element. Ashley says you should always sleep in a silk or satin bonnet or use a silk pillowcase to help prevent frizz. In the morning, lightly fluff your hair to revive your curls.

Bedsure Satin Pillowcase

This best-selling satin pillowcase has more than 211,000 five-star ratings from shoppers. Customers have called it a "curly hair must have" and said that it helps keep tangles and frizz at bay.

Bonnet Queen Silk Bonnet

"This bonnet is great for keeping your hair safe and well-kept!" one shopper wrote. "I have really curly hair and it helps keep the style so I don’t have to do my hair when I wake up in the morning."

Meet our expert