Have you ever thought that your naturally curly hair was “difficult” or even “unmanageable”? If so, you’re not alone. For years, women with curly hair have been made to feel like their natural hair is a problem that needs to be fixed. Thankfully, by learning how to properly care for your curls you'll soon discover how great it can look au naturale.
The Curly Girl Method for Healthy, Bouncy Curls
The Curly Girl Method (CGM) was first developed by Lorraine Massey, a British hair dresser, in her book Curly Girl the Handbook. Her aim was to provide hair care and styling tips to enhance naturally curly hair instead of suppressing it.
By identifying the issues curly hair types struggle with, Massey began to understand how to get the best out of naturally curly hair. Since then, the movement to celebrate curly hair texture has been popular with both celebrities and regular women across the internet. These hair care tips are the real deal.
Read More: How to Figure Out What Type of Hair You Have
Learning to love your Natural Curls
The Curly Girl Method is all about embracing your natural hair rather than forcing it into submission through chemical or heat straightening. It's a celebration of the curly hair type worn as it was intended by nature.
These methods promote healthy hair growth and gorgeous defined curls in a way that is natural and safe for hair.
Hair Texture: Identify Your Curl Pattern
Unlike straight hair, curly hair comes in numerous shapes and sizes. Curly hair varies in textures from fine to course and curl shapes vary from tighter, smaller curls to larger and looser ringlets.
Being able to identify and understand your curly hair type and curl shape will help you develop a hair care routine that is perfect for you. The curl geniuses over at NaturallyCurly.com developed this hair type quiz that can help you understand more about your hair type. Even if you already know your curl pattern, the quiz can help you get to know your hair in-depth, including your hair's porosity, density, and width.
Protect your hair by understanding your hair type—what works for 3A hair might not be compatible with the other types of curly hair.
3A Curls in a Nutshell
The first thing to understand is your curl pattern. 3A hair is characterized by its loose corkscrew curls. It might be easy to mistake 3A hair with 2C hair which is similar in appearance. The difference is that 2C hair is S-shaped while 3A hair are corkscrewed.
Those with 3A hair texture might have fine or medium textured hair, this is why curls are loose spirals, not tightly wound like hair with coarser texture like 3B or 3C hair.
It can be said that 3A hair is one of the easier to manage curly hair types. Fine and medium textured hair allows for its loose curls to be more elastic than denser coarse hair or tight waves.
Problems facing 3A curls
Unfortunately, there are also some pitfalls that those with the 3A hair type may suffer. By being mindful of the issues that arise with 3A hair, you'll be more prepared to manage it properly.
- Frizz and flyaways
- Limp hair
- Curls becoming flat
Luckily, the Curly Girl Method works wonders for 3A hair. Following the next steps correctly will allow you to have gorgeous, loose yet defined ringlets.
Designing a Hair Care Routine for Your 3A Hair Type
Once you know your hair's characteristics, the next part of the Curly Girl Method is to develop a hair routine to allow your hair to flourish. This routine focuses on getting hair healthy by removing anything harmful to curls including intense heat styling and hair care products that dehydrate hair or cause buildup.
The 3A Curly Hair Routine
The Curly Girl Method's goal is to gain an understanding of your curl type and how to enhance your curl shape and curl definition. There are four cardinal rules which you must follow if you want to get the most out of your curls:
- Stop heat styling
- Comb hair only when wet
- Stop towel-drying hair
- Avoid products that cause dryness or buildup
Hair Products to Avoid
In order to keep your hair in tip top shape, there are certain styling products and hair care items that you simply should avoid using.
Avoid hair products that contain sulfates, silicones, alcohols, waxes, and minerals at all costs! These will dry your hair out and weigh it down, taking the spring out of your curls and causing them to look frizzy and dull.
Quit Your Hot tools
Put down the flat iron. Don't even think about touching a curling iron! Blow dryer + round brush is a big no-no.
In some cases, it is okay to use a blow dryer with a diffuser attachment on the lowest heat setting.
If you're having trouble achieving volume with your curls, a diffuser may help. But diffuse sparingly and not after every wash.
3A hair care goes beyond styling products
Having curly hair means that your hair is more vulnerable to breakage and damage. To avoid growing dry and brittle, curly hair needs proper hydration.
Chemical processing and heat damage are the number one culprits when it comes to stripping moisture and natural oils from hair. But they are not the only contributors.
Environmental factors like harmful sun rays and indoor heating during the cold months are enemies to moisture too and can really dry your hair out.
Protecting hair and preventing frizz while you sleep
It's important to maintain your hair's natural oils, especially as you sleep. Even at night, it's possible to inadvertently cause damage to your hair with the use of tight hair elastics and cotton pillowcases which cause unnecessary friction.
Protect 3A hair by switching to high quality 100% mulberry silk pillowcases, like Blissy. The smoothness of silk fabric causes 43% less friction on average than cotton. As a result, the silk pillowcase helps your hair cuticle lay flat as you sleep, minimizing frizz.
Cotton is highly absorbent and can suck the life right out of your hair by soaking up your hair's moisture. The tight weave of a 22-momme 100% silk pillowcase will lock in your hair's natural oils rather than absorb them.
This ensures that your 3A hair keeps the hydration it needs and grows stronger. Using a silk pillowcase can also prevent frizz, helping hair stay manageable.
Curly hair is weaker against friction damage than straight hair. Tight hair elastics can cause friction, dents, and put strain on your hair that causes breakage (not to mention ripping out your hair!).
Replace tight hair elastics with silk scrunchies which will hold hair back without damaging it.
Hair Care Routine for Your 3A Hair Type
To get the best curls, you need to be using the right products to cleanse, condition, and style your hair the right way.
Focus on making sure hair is healthy and growing strong while minimizing damage. In doing so, you'll allow your hair to look it's best, naturally.
1. Reset wash
The first thing you're going to want to do before you set out on your Curly Girl journey is reset your hair by washing out all the product and buildup that may be weighing your hair down.
Achieve this by washing hair with a clarifying shampoo (containing sulfates) to remove all buildup. Moving forward you will only use this shampoo if you get wax or silicone products in the hair, as clarifying shampoo is incredibly drying.
Depending on your hair's characteristics, you may choose to wash your hair with a sulfate-free, silicone-free shampoo or co-wash your hair (or some alternating combination of the two—more on co-washing in a moment).
You do not need to cleanse your hair every day if you have 3A curls. Experiment with frequencies from every other day to once per week to see what works for you. Most 3A curly girls find washing their hair a couple times a week is sufficient.
Instead of cleansing hair with shampoo, you may want to try co-washing your hair. Co-washing is the practice of washing hair with conditioner only. Make sure the conditioner (or special co-wash product) is CGM-approved and doesn't contain silicones.
3. Condition generously
If cleansing with shampoo, follow up with a moisturizing conditioner that doesn't contain silicones. While your hair is wet, use a wide-tooth comb to untangle your hair. This is the only time you're going to want to ever comb your hair.
You may want to experiment with washing only some of the conditioner out of your hair versus rinsing it out completely. Curly hair needs all the extra moisture it can get.
If you do rinse your conditioner out completely, you may want to apply some leave-in conditioner (CGM-approved, of course) to add some moisture back to your hair.
4. Detangle and scrunch
Scrunch your hair after it is detangled and slippery with your conditioner to re-establish your curl pattern.
5. Apply gel and dry
Using a handful of a CGM-approved hair gel, apply the gel to your curls and scrunch to enforce the curl pattern.
Wrap your hair in an old cotton t-shirt or microfiber hair turban. Do not use a terry-cloth cotton towel, as it will cause friction and frizz your hair.
Allow hair to sit in the t-shirt or microfiber towel for anywhere from 10 minutes up to an hour (experiment with these times). Then free your hair from the cloth and arrange your curls around your head and allow to air dry.
The gel will form a curl cast around your hair. It will be hard to the touch while drying—but don't fear. Your softness will return in the next step.
6. Scrunch out the gel cast
Once your hair is dry, flip your head over and scrunch your curls. This will remove the gel cast and your curls should be soft and bouncy.
Embrace Your Natural 3A Curly With the Curly Girl Method
The 3A curl pattern can be a blessing or a curse. At best, you have voluminous, bouncy hair that is the envy of straight-haired girls everywhere.
At worst, your hair can be notoriously unmanageable. Know there is something very special about 3A hair. It has a texture and bounce that is unique and it can be absolutely gorgeous when cared for properly.
Make the Most of Your Curls with a Blissy Silk Pillowcase
While you’ll want to cut out the hair products with harmful chemicals, you will want to add Blissy’s silk products to your hair care routine for best results. Sleeping on a Blissy pillowcase will allow you to extend the time you go between washes, keep your curls hydrated, and smooth frizz. All while you sleep!
Get the best curls by using the right products and cleansing your hair the right way. Focus on making your hair healthy and strong and minimizing damage. In doing so, you'll allow your hair to look it's best, naturally.
- Massey, Lorraine. Curly Girl the Handbook. 2nd Edition, Workman Publishing, 2010
- Metzger, Chloe. “How to Do the Curly Girl Method for Beginners.” Cosmopolitan. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/a34292024/curly-girl-method-how-to/
- [Arialvetica]. 2021. r/Curlygirl. https://www.reddit.com/r/curlygirl/wiki/basics/
- Rubenstein, Dylan. “Type 3A Hair: What It Is and How to Care for It.” Byrdie. https://www.byrdie.com/type-3a-hair-5271293