Is your frizzy hair actually curly? We dive into the curly girl method

We speak to scientist and beauty brand founder, Brianne West about how to look after curly hair.

If you have curly hair and have ever brushed through it, you’ll know it can really easily become a frizz ball.

However, many women with looser curl patterns are just discovering that their hair isn’t actually frizzy, it’s curly and they’ve just been treating it wrong.

Firstly, we need to begin this story with an acknowledgement that in no way is the ‘Curly Girl Method’ new. These tactics and processes to care for curly hair have been passed down generation to generation in the black community, so it is not a ‘new trend’.

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The Curly Girl Method was also chronicled in a book by hairstylist Lorraine Massey, Curly Girl: The Handbook.

“It is a way of looking after wavy, curly and coily hair types as they require different care and products to keep the delicate curl structures at their best,” explains Brianne West, Founder and CEO, Ethique.

“The basic premise of the CGM is to use hair products which are free from silicones, sulfates, waxes and drying alcohols – anything that is particularly drying or anything that will create a lot of build-up. Many following the method also strictly only comb their hair when wet, never dry, and avoid towel drying to minimise risk of frizz.”

So, if you’ve done everything to improve your hair and still find yourself at a loss, here are her tips.

Why do curls need different treatment and what are the benefits to the hair?

“Typically, curly hair is drier, due to a variety of factors like porosity and structure, so a less cleansing, more conditioning routine is preferred. But not all curly girls and guys need to follow a strict curl routine. Some find they get on perfectly well with traditional products, particularly those with gentler surfactants like sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI), and that’s just fine!

Those that do follow the Curly Girl Method often report that they have bouncier, more durable curls and that their hair feels healthier than using their previous products. It’s all about finding what works for you.”

There are lots of different types of curly hair. How do we know if our hair is curly or wavy or coily?

“It can be tricky! But the best way to tell is by looking at the shape of your hair closer to the scalp. Hair that is wavy tends to have S-shaped strands, either tight or loose, and usually lays closer to the head.

Curly hair has more corkscrew pattern and the curls have more ‘lift’ from the scalp. Again, these can be loose or tight corkscrews. Coily hair forms zig-zag type curls right from the root. It is often very springy and voluminous.”

Curly girls are particularly susceptible to frizz. How can we fight it?

“It does depend on the person, but frizz is caused by many factors; weather, friction (something curly hair is particularly prone to as the hair shafts don’t lie flat), hydration, styling, treatments – the list goes on.

There is no one fix for everyone, but typically speaking, a less cleansing based, more hydration-based routine (such as co-washing where you use one product to gently cleanse and moisturise rather than shampoo and conditioner), plopping (that is gentle drying with a t-shirt or something with less fibre than a towel as that causes friction) and careful use of appropriate stylers is your best bet.”

Why does curly hair need different products to straight hair?

“Curly hair structures are all different, but typically the more curls or coils in a hair shaft the harder it is for the natural oils your scalp produces to find their way to the ends of your hair. There are often places along the hair shaft where the cuticle doesn’t lie flat, which exposes the internal structure to damage. Additionally, curly hair tends to be more porous (absorbs water quickly, but loses it just as quickly).”

Are there any products or ingredients curly haired girls should avoid?

“Many curly haired girls swear by a routine free from sulfates, silicones, waxes or drying alcohols, but it’s absolutely personal preference as some people find products with these ingredients work well for them. Unfortunately, blanket statements rarely suit everyone, but certainly this method is beloved and well followed. “

West’s brand has just launched a range of shampoo and conditioner bars specifically formulated for use with curly hair.

“Professor Curl is probably one of the best shampoos we’ve ever made – it has a super creamy lather and really light finish to promote and enhance your curls. Curliosity is extra special though… it’s the equivalent of nine bottles of conditioner in one concentrated little bar, which is the best value conditioner bar out there. It can be used as a conditioner, co-wash or as a leave-in conditioner, or deep treatment (just leave it in for longer),” she says.

Bar-style products are all the rage at the moment, considering how much less waste they create than plastic containers. West says most women find them more intuitive to use than liquid product within a wash or two.

The best part? They’re plastic-free, cruelty-free, vegan, palm-oil free, sustainably sourced and ethically traded. The packaging they come in is also compostable.