The Cheap Girl’s Guide to the Curly Girl Method

Beginning the curly girl method can be overwhelming. You look at everything in your shower and under your sink and realize you can’t use any of it anymore. You have to start from scratch, shopping for products you’re completely unfamiliar with. No-poo, low-poo, co-wash? What does it all mean?! Well, I’m going to break it down for you. It doesn’t have to be so scary — or expensive!

(If you’re not familiar with the curly girl method, see this post first. It’s a great way to bring life to your hair.)

Before We Begin…

 Don’t Just Jump Straight into the Deep End

Just know that you don’t have to throw everything out and start over right away. You can ease into this. Keep using your regular shampoo while introducing a few curly girl friendly products here and there. Once you’re 100% silicone-free, switch to sulfate-free shampoo (otherwise known as low-poo). Then try doing a co-wash (washing with conditioner) every other wash. Then just see how many washes you can go without shampooing, and there you go, you have your routine.

Don’t Drop Mad Money on Your First Curly Girl Products

The sheer number of products, with all their enticing names and descriptions, can be as exciting as they are overwhelming, but let’s not get carried away here. This is all new, and you’re going to need to do some experimenting to see what works for you and what doesn’t. There are lots of things to learn about, like hair porosity, humectants, and proteins. You are not gonna have a clue at the beginning. Buy the cheap stuff.

The Cheap Stuff

Here are some essentials to get you started.

Low-poo (Sulfate Free Shampoo):

Cantu Sulfate Free ShampooCantu Sulfate Free Shampoo – $4.99 at Target

This baby is cheap, and it’s doing me fine. Though I think it does technically contain a surfactant, it seems to be gentle. I also only use it on my roots and protect the length of my hair with coconut oil, which I apply the night before I wash. This is called pre-pooing among the curly girls, and it is a must for me.

Co-wash (Conditioner Wash)

Suave Naturals Tropical Coconut Conditioner – $1.99 at Target

I haven’t personally tried this, but The Polished Curl, recommended it as a good, lightweight conditioner to use to cleanse your hair. You can’t argue with the price, anyway.

Rinse Out Conditioner

Rinse-out conditioner: Tresemme BotaniqueTresemme Botanique Nourish
and Replenish Conditioner $4.99 at Target

I love this conditioner. It has excellent slip (which just means your hair is easier to detangle and style), it doesn’t weigh my hair down, and my hair feels super soft and bouncy after I use it. Some have complained that the scent is too strong, but to me it’s rather light and definitely doesn’t linger. I see no reason to splurge on pricier conditioners when I’m so happy with this

Leave-In Conditioner

Leave-in Conditioner: Hawaiin Silky 14 in 1Hawaiin Silky 14 in 1 – 5.99 at Sally’s

I know, right? So many conditioners! But curly and wavy hair really needs all the moisture it can get. A leave-in conditioner is a must. I like this one because it’s lightweight. Other, heavier cream-type leave-ins tend to weigh my waves down. It also works as a heat protector, so that’s a bonus.

Curl Enhancing Cream

Curl Activating Cream: AG:RecoilAG Re:Coil – $14.64 on Amazon

Ok, this one’s a bit of a splurge. It’s the only one I’ve used, and I like it, so that’s all I can say. It also won best curl enhancing cream in 2013 on the Wavy Hair Community product review page, so it may be worth the extra money. But I’m open to less expensive recommendations in the comments! One thing I will say, though, is to make sure to get this on Amazon. It’s a lot more expensive anywhere else.

Hard Hold Gel

Hard hold gel:Ecostyler Argan Oil Ecostyler Argan Oil – $5.19 at Sally’s

This is my current gel of choice after trying and failing with a few other brands. I like it because it’s moisturizing and has a reasonably strong hold. Also, it’s cheap. You’ll get the best value at Sally’s. A container half the size sells for twice as much at Target, Walmart, and Amazon. This was also a Polished Curl recommendation. Sorry, my container is so well-used you can’t even see the label anymore.


wide tooth comb for detanglingOptional: Wide-tooth comb – $1 at The Dollar Tree

This isn’t a necessity, but it does help get all the tangles out of your hair in the shower. (Always detangle hair in the shower while it has conditioner in it!)


Total Cost: 38.79.

That’s not so bad, is it? One word of warning, though: many of these products have glycerin and protein in them, which some people have problems with. If your hair is coarse, for example, you may want to be careful with the protein. But if they don’t work out, at least you didn’t spend a fortune on them, right?

Any other good, cheap starter products you guys like? Let me know in the comments!

Pin this! The cheap girl's guide to the curly girl method infographic

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