This post is basically going to explain in excruciating detail the experiences I've had with my hair for the past few years with trying shampoo free routines, and what led me to try Curly Girl. My next few posts will actually describe how I apply the CG method to my hair and the products I'm using. This post does not describe that stuff at all.
Recently, I’ve started experimenting with the Curly Girl Method. For those of you who do not know, the Curly Girl Method is based on a book by Lorraine Massey. The method is based on eliminating sulfates. Sulfates are what cause a product to lather. Because sulfates are being eliminated, one must also eliminate silicones. This is because silicones can only be removed with the application of a sulfate. The book also recommends eliminating parabens. I think the idea is to promote an all-natural way of caring for your hair.
First of all, let me just say that I’ve been down the all-natural road, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. For anyone who knows me, this might come as a shock since I’m half a tree hugger and all, but I’ve experimented for years and years trying to eliminate artificial ingredients from my hair care routine. As appealing as it once was to think of going natural with my hair care, I’ve discovered that my hair can’t live on a bunch of freaking extracts! I will say though, that my experience was probably hindered by my continued use of silicones throughout. I had no idea what I was doing back then!
Back then, I was attempting a shampoo-free routine. I heard that it was really good for curly hair (all hair, really, but especially curlies) to shampoo less frequently and let the natural oils build up. I was hoping this method would help me to grow my super-prone-to-breakage-and-split-ends hair. So I started experimenting with washing my hair less. I was using the full line of Infusium-23 products at the time (shampoo, conditioner, leave-in, no product), which were unfortunately laden with sulfates and silicones.
As I progressed through my shampoo eliminating journey, I naturally realized the concept of conditioner washing (what most curly girl method users call CO-washing), which is basically using conditioner in the same way you would use shampoo…massaging one’s scalp with conditioner to loosen and eliminate any build up.
By this time, I was also experimenting with all-natural (aka: sulfate free) shampoo’s. I eventually settled on Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap as my shampoo of choice. Once I started CO-washing, I could go much longer in between shampoos than I ever could before, but still needed a weekly washing with Dr. Bronner’s. Unfortunately, I still found that my scalp often got itchy and accumulated build up at my roots after extended periods, even with CO-washing and Dr. Bronners once per week. I usually had to lather up with a sulfate rich shampoo at least once per month. Little did I know at the time, but the build-up issue was all probably due to the fact that I was using products with silicones!
My hair was really, really, super healthy using these products, but was a little hard to style. I never knew what to do with it, or which products to use! I finally settled on Infusium 23 Leave-In treatment followed by a mousse (can’t remember which one I was using…might have been pantene curl). It was a winning combo for a while.
Then I got a hair cut by a new stylist. I expressed to him my feelings surrounding my hair and the issues I was having (frazzled ends, limp roots, no manageability). He suggested a new styling routine. I had no idea at the time, but he was essentially recommending the Curly Girl Method! He told me to stop shampooing (which I already was), only condition, finger comb only (no brushes!) in the shower, rinse lightly (leave some product in your hair), then (while still dripping wet in the shower) apply gel by scrunching and scrunch dry with a T-shirt (he also recommended a shamwow for drying). The one thing he forgot to mention? Stop using silicones.
So here I was, using this new method. (Let me just say right now that having slippery, sticky, humectant-rich liquid spilling down your body and face is NOT a comfortable feeling.) I was actually loving this new method! My hair was healthier than ever. I was getting these really nice chunky curls and I had some volume at my roots for once! But I was still using the silicone-heavy Infusium-23 Conditioner and Leave-In (because I didn’t know any better, just knew that my hair seemed to react very well to them!), so I was still having issues with itchy scalp and build-up. I went down the herbal road at some point and started using Auromere shampoo and oil treatment. Did wonders for my hair, but left me sort of itchy after a time.
Eventually, a day came where I just could not deal with the itching anymore and I caved and bought some sulfate shampoo. I was really sad to see all of my healthy hair “progress” go down the drain (no pun intended…lol), since I was having some pretty decent hair days of late, but I just could not stand it anymore. I washed and washed and washed until my head didn’t itch anymore, and OMG did it feel good! Now looking back, I’m not surprised one bit that it felt so good! I was washing away years of silicone build-up! Blech! So I was officially a daily shampooer again. Sometimes I wouldn’t even condition because my hair was so soft from the shampoo.
About a year later, I started having issues with breakage and split ends again (probably the resulting damage from long term sulfate use). I’m at my wits end and start googling for remedies, which is when I found a blog post about someone else using the CG method. This is the first I’ve ever heard of CG. I was intrigued, but held off on buying the book while I scoured the interwebs for as much CG info as I could find.
Well, about a week ago I finally bought the book, and am finally ready to begin the Curly Girl method! I’m a little sad to say good-bye to silicones, but now that I know silicones were the problem I have high hopes for returning to a shampoo-free routine J
For the record, I do recommend buying the book. Everything I've found on the internet regarding the method is very helpful, but there are still things that I learned from the book which I would not have as easily come across on the internet.