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This is a photo of the author, Elisa Camahort-Page, rocking curly hair.

First-Person: Here's Why I Love the Curly Girl Method

What I’m about to share may cause some controversy, but it’s time to come clean. So to speak.

Here it is: I have not shampooed my hair in years. Literally years. I went full no-poo (as in no-shampoo) and have never looked back.

(By the way, can we please call it something other than “no-poo?")

A common alternate name for this approach to hair care is the Curly Girl Method, and it changed my life.

What is The Curly Girl Method?

You know the drill: If you grew up with straight hair, you probably longed for waves and curls (but nothing frizzy), perhaps even going so far as to getting a perm (do people still do those?). But if you’re like me and you already had waves and curls, then in all likelihood, you longed for straight hair.

In my youth, it was the unattainable “feathered” hairdo, a la Farrah Fawcett, that haunted and taunted me. Maybe for you, it was Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel cut or the Dorothy Hamill wedge cut.

Pick your poison, but all curly girls know the kind of serious intervention required to emulate the kinds of hairstyles that sweep the nation.

We’re talking flat ironing, Brazilian blow-outs, chemical relaxing. Rarely cheap, and even occasionally dangerous to our hair and scalps! 

We also know the heartbreak of seeing every movie or TV makeover ever imply that all it takes to turn an ugly duckling into a swan is to remove her glasses and straighten her hair. 

Even so, some years ago I got sick of trying to tame my thick-but-fine loosely curly hair. Sick of fighting the frizz. Sick of split ends. Sick of mostly putting my long hair back in a ponytail or up in a bun to avoid managing whatever it wanted to do that day. Sick of trying out styling products that didn't work on my curl type. I tried everything from deep conditioner to curl cream to hair mousse up the wazoo, but all the new products in the world would not highlight my curly locks in the way I dreamed. From straighteners to diffusers, at various points in my hair journey, I owned pretty much every tool known to (wo)man. But no amount of deep-conditioning or advice from Facebook groups could fix this. Or so it seemed.

I was also a little sick of going to the hairdresser, having him flatiron my hair for that straight look I could never achieve on my own, and having everyone effusively compliment me ... for a look I didn’t rock 95 percent of the time. Why did it have to be so hard?

Discovering the Curly Girl method was a novelty at first.

I loved the primary philosophy that you were no longer going to fight against your hair’s natural proclivities, instead letting your hair be itself. I always felt like “authenticity” was part of my personal brand and ethos, so why was I always trying to manipulate my hair into being anything other than its own authentic self?

No more!

And that meant: No more flat ironing, or blow-drying, or brushing, or even combing preferably. (Except with your fingers ... finger de-tangling is the way to go.) And no shampoo. I wanted natural curls, wonderfully wavy hair. And I was determined to get it.

The theory of the Curly Girl Method is that your scalp produces oils to replace the ones shampoo strips out, so if your hair is good at producing oil it’s the too-frequent shampooing that’s making it oily, and if it’s not good at producing oil, it’s the shampooing that’s drying out your hair even more than it naturally is. And curly hair is, by its nature, dryer hair (which is why all curly-haired folks should avoid drying alcohols at all costs). 

Hardcore no-poo enthusiasts merely massage their scalp and rinse with water, making for the ultimate minimalist hair journey. You can also use an apple cider vinegar mix, baking soda, and other natural ingredients.

Me? I’m a co-wash girl.

Co-wash means “conditioning wash,” and I literally use conditioner a couple of times a week (relying on a handful of curly hair specialist brands) to both clean and condition my hair. The reasoning goes that conditioner is very similar to shampoo, without any oil-stripping cleansers. You might also call me "low-poo" (but I could think of a few other things I'd prefer you call me).

My weekly hair routine goes something like this: About twice a week, I fully wet down my hair, doing a co-wash in the shower. I comb my wet hair and then apply the leave-in hair products. I simply squish and scrunch it in, and let my hair dry naturally (no heat styling for me). My take on Curly Girl: the Handbook is literally that easy; no tutorials necessary. This method is so simple that I have become my favorite go-to hairstylist. 

On non-co-wash days, I prefer to detangle my hair with my fingers, but I do occasionally use a comb (my hair needs are low). And then I apply the product. Most days, it’s just hair oil of some sort. Occasionally I use a curl-activator spray before applying the oil. When done this way, my natural hair is elevated by its natural oils making it moisturizing and lovely. Dry hair and breakage have got nothing on me. If curly is your hair type, you will love this as much as I do.

Oh, and despite all this oil-applying and moisturizer, my hair is not greasy. Or, I should probably say, my scalp isn’t. I have yet to let it go enough days, even during the pandemic, to see my hair look greasy. I can easily go for a week. My fingers and hands are my best styler tool and my naturally curly hair is has a naturally lovely curl pattern. Hair care has become so easy, and scrunching my locks has become satisfying and fun. Also, who knew that I'd love a good air dry? 

I’m not a hardcore athlete or a pool swimmer, but I do walk just about every day and take yoga and work with hand weights, and I live in a climate that can get up to the 80s and 90s during the summer, and the curly girl method still works for me. Product build-up is a thing of the past. My hair grows faster, looks more luscious, and qualifies as my crowning glory, about which I get tons of compliments. My ringlets are here to stay.

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Elisa Camahort Page is a speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur, best-known for co-founding BlogHer. She’s the host of The Op-Ed Page podcast and co-author of Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All. Learn more at elisacp.com.

This is a photo of the author, Elisa Camahort-Page, rocking curly hair.

Sign up for Kinder Beauty today.

Elisa Camahort Page is a speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur, best-known for co-founding BlogHer. She’s the host of The Op-Ed Page podcast and co-author of Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All. Learn more at elisacp.com.