Deciding to follow the Curly Girl Method is one thing. Understanding the terminology? Much harder! There are so many phrases, techniques and methods to keep track of that it might deter you from starting. But don’t! I have created the ultimate Curly Girl Method Glossary to help you master your curls.
This Curly Girl Method Glossary contains all the key terms you need to know when starting your curly journey. The list is packed with simple explanations for each term as well as helpful tips and advice.
Curly Girl Method Glossary: Common Terms
The most common terms are ‘co-washing’, ‘squish to condish’, ‘plop’, ‘scrunch out the crunch’ and ‘diffusing’. These terms all refer to particular steps on the method which you can read more about here.
Other terms refer to techniques such as the ‘bowl method’, ‘finger coiling’ and ‘praying hands’ which have all been developed to help you achieve the best curls possible.
Let’s get right into it and start learning some new terms.
Curly Girl Method Glossary: The Complete List
First in this Curly Girl Method Glossary is 2nd-day hair. It refers to the day after wash day. Some have great success in maintaining their curls for two, three or even four days after washing their hair, but a good curl routine is needed.
Sleep with a bonnet or buff to avoid friction and retain your curls for longer.
An ACV rinse is an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse. These are good for when your hair feels particularly grubby or if you think you may be protein sensitive.
An AVC rinse is sometimes also known as ‘clarifying’ as the mixture helps restore the natural balance of your hair. You will be using a lot of product on the Curly Girl Method, so hair can easily get heavy.
Mix a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with water and rub the mixture into wet hair. Leave for a few minutes (ideal if you’re having a shower) and rinse. Follow up with a deep conditioner to restore moisture.
These are my personal results after an ACV rinse around 5 months into my journey.
Air dry means to simply let your hair air dry! Some curly girls prefer this method to avoid frizz but it can take hours.
The big chop refers to curly girls who have decided to go natural and cut off most of their damaged hair. Be careful about using this term loosely as it doesn’t simply refer to anyone chopping off a bit of hair.
The term is mainly used for women/men with afro hair which has been chemically relaxed and are now transitioning to natural. The term is therefore loaded with the significant historical value of both afro and straight hair and women’s need to conform to societal pressure.
I’m not trying to get political, just warning you in case you want to use it.
A bonnet is also referred to as a cap or a sleep cap. They are made of satin (or silk if you’re feeling fancy) and protect your hair while sleeping.
Bonnets are great for retaining curls overnight and for preventing frizz. It can be tricky finding the right one just for you. Some are too big and some are too tight. I got my sleeping cap from Amazon and it has proven to be a good investment. Definitely give one a try.
The bowl method is a way of applying product to your hair to keep it hydrated as well as saving water. You simply apply your styling product or conditioner/water over a bowl to catch the excess product/water/conditioner.
This way, you can reuse the mixture without too much waste.
Breakage is when hair snaps due to poor condition, being too dry or damaged.
Brushing is of course – brushing your hair! However, this is a no go on the Curly Girl Method. Brushing causes breakage and can damage the natural flow of your curls.
You should only ever use a wide-tooth comb to separate and detangle your curls. I find it particularly useful when co-washing to get rid of all that excess hair that ends up sitting on my wall!
A Buff is a protective headscarf and is tubular shaped. You can also wear it around your neck or to cover your face if cycling etc.
Most Curly Girls use their buffs for sleeping but it’s also great if you’re doing strenuous work such as gardening or cooking. Buff is actually a trademarked name for a brand who make these headscarves, but you can pick up a much cheaper unbranded one on Amazon.
Build-up refers to grease and dirt from products and pollution. A good hair care routine is always necessary to avoid greasy hair, but it’s even more important when following CGM. To avoid build-up, use a scalp brush when co-washing, clarify regularly and don’t use heavy products.
A cast refers to your hardened curls after you have applied gel and left them to dry. Once you find the right gel or mousse for you, there is no better feeling than scrunching out those curls!
Also Read: 2020 Top UK Curly Girl Approved Gels
To clarify is to remove build-up and grease from your products. I would recommend doing a Lemonaid rinse, so add a few spoonful’s of lemon juice to your conditioner or do an ACV rinse.
Clumps are sections of hair stuck together when washing. The better your clumps, the better your curls are going to come out.
The key to big juicy clumps is squishing when you condition (see squish to condish) and my own personal favourite, cool water. I’ve tried washing my hair in both warm and cold water and cold water wins every time.
Co-washing is an important word to know from this Curly Girl Method Glossary. It means conditioner washing. It is essentially replacing shampoo. Make sure you use a conditioner without silicones, sulphates and drying alcohols. I have written a list of approved UK Curly Girl products if you need to find one.
Many conditioners and curl cremes contain coconut. Not every hair type agrees with coconut as it acts as a protein mimicker so if you’re protein sensitive, stay away.
Also Read: 5 Important Signs of Protein Overload
It is OK to colour your if you’re following the Curly Girl Method. My advice is to see a professional as they can advise on what would suit you best. If you, however, are used to colouring your hair at home, just keep doing so.
Crunch is another word for a cast. When you ‘scrunch out the crunch’ (see SOTC), you’re essentially breaking down the hard cast to reveal beautiful soft curls.
Conditioner bars are generally not CG friendly as they are made via a process called saponification. This essentially produces a soap which has a low PH and can be damaging to hair and even harsher than sulphates.
Most Curly Girls classify themselves via the Andre Walker curl type system which goes by numerical order of 1-2-3-4 and then by an A-B-B suffix. If you have straight hair, you’re a type 1 (ABC). If you have wavy hair you’re a type 2 (ABC). Type 3 is curly (AB) and type 4 is kinky (AB).
Everyone has different hair so don’t worry about this too much. There’s no particular product that works for one type of hair.
It all comes down to the condition of your curls, your porosity level and how you maintain your hair.
Curlsbot is an online ingredients checker for Curly Girl safe products. You can enter a list of ingredients and if any of them show up as non-CG, you shouldn’t use the product. It is not foolproof so use with caution.
Check out my list of approved UK Curly Girl products if in doubt.
CG stands for Curly Girl and CGM stands for Curly Girl Method.
Custard is a thick styling product used instead of or alongside gel or mousse.
The crown is top part of your head. When drying curly hair, it’s best to dry the area around the crown first. This is also where you will be using root clips for added volume.
Deep conditioning is a key term in this Curly Girl Method Glossary. applying a thick or hydrating conditioning product on your hair for longer. Ideally, you want to deep condition for around 30 minutes and once a week.
Watch out for ingredients such as protein or coconut if you are protein sensitive.
DEEP CONDITIONING CAP
You can use a deep conditioning cap to intensify the hydration process. You can buy heated caps which will open your hair follicles and allow the product to penetrate your hair strands more easily.
A cheaper option is to simply wrap cling film around your hair to seal in the heat!
The amount of hair you have growing on your head.
A Denman brush is a particular kind of brush which is used by many to detangle hair.
Detangling is separating curls from each other and removing knots and tangles.
Diffusing is a very popular drying method on the Curly Girl Method. It involved a diffuser, a bowl-like attachment that sometimes comes with hairdryers. I use the Hairizone diffuser which I bought from Amazon and I think it’s so worth the money.
A diffuser speeds up the drying process and is less harsh on your hair. Don’t forget to alternate between the heat settings as high heat is not recommended if following CGM.
Drying alcohols can be found in hair products and should be avoided. Examples include:
- Ethanol alcohol
- Ethyl alcohol
- Propanol alcohol
- Alcohol denat.
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Isopropanol alcohol
- Benzyl alcohol
Protein is good for some hair types however egg protein, in general, does not have the ability to penetrate your hair. This doesn’t stop Curly Girls from making their own egg protein masks and many have reported good results. You can also buy an egg protein mask such as the Vatika Egg Protein Mask. This mask contains hydrolysed proteins which have been proven to penetrate hair follicles.
Also Read: Protein Vs Deep Conditioning Treatments
Refers to plant oils which are used to add scent or function as anti-humectants. In general, the Curly Girl Method doesn’t promote the use of oil but you can add essential oils to homemade masks or gels.
Finger coiling is a styling method which creates springier curls. You do so by wrapping curls around your finger, smoothing the edges so as to clump the entire curl together. This can create smaller neater curls but might not suit everyone.
Fluffing is when you use your fingers to rake through your roots to create volume.
A final wash is not part of the Curly Girl Method but somehow, the term has sneaked in on online forums, blogs and Facebook groups. It supposedly refers to a last ‘get rid of sillicones’ wash using a sulphate shampoo.
It is said to ‘reset’ your hair but that’s just nonsense.
You cannot undo years of damage with one single wash. If that was the case, wouldn’t we all be walking around with amazing curls? If you are interested, read this post I wrote about why you don’t need to do a final wash if following the Curly Girl Method.
Gel is essential when following the Curly Girl Method and you can make your own with flaxseed gel. You can check out Curly Suzie’s recipe here.
Frizz is incredibly annoying. It is the wispy loose bits of hair that fall away from your curls and cannot be contained.
I don’t mind a bit of frizz to be honest as it can sometimes add volume to your crown. To avoid frizz, make sure you squish to condish, use cold water at the end of co-washing, use gel to seal in your curls and avoid heat at all costs.
You can also use lube after drying and styling your curls to keep those single hair strands in line.
A gelatin treatment is a protein treatment using gelatin to make a hair mask. I’ve never personally made one myself and would rather rely on a protein-rich deep conditioning product.
Glycerin is a humectant ingredient which attracts moisture to your hair. It can be found in various products and I recommend testing a few to see if it works for you or not. Some find they cannot use glycerine products at all as it gives them frizz, especially during the summer when it’s humid.
Gel is used to stick clumps of hair together to create curls. You want to apply gel when your hair is either soaking wet (wet styling) or when you have dried it off with a microfiber towel or cotton t-shirt.
If you apply it soaking wet, you are retaining more moisture.
When you’re starting out, I recommend trying a gel over a mousse or styling cream, just so you can experience the whole ‘scrunch out the crunch’ thing.
And here’s a tip, you always need more than you think.
There are so many different gels to choose from and in different price ranges. Don’t be scared to try a super cheap one. I have had great success with Boots essentials gel and this only costs 99p.
No one likes greasy hair but prepare for it when starting your journey. It is totally common to experience a few weeks of ‘bad hair’ so don’t give up.
The best advice I can give is co-wash, use a scalp massager and deep condition. Don’t use heavy conditioners if you suffer a lot from greasy hair.
Focus on rehydration and try an ACV rinse when clarifying.
Glazing is a technique used when styling hair by applying product to your hands and gliding them over your curls.
Hairspray is usually not considered CG safe. I have personally never used it.
The holy grail refers to your ultimate favourite product. The product that makes all the difference and gives you great results.
My personal holy grail product is the Pantene Hair Biology Cleanse and Reconstruct Conditioner. I use it as a co-wash and I just love it.
Halo frizz is basically frizz on top of your hair. This is very common and can be managed using gel or lube. Don’t feel bad if you get halo frizz, it’s essentially a sign that new hair is growing!
Some Curly Girls experience a lot of hair loss when following the method but don’t worry! You’re not actually losing any more hair than usual.
It may feel this way whenever you see that big clump of hair in your hand after co-washing, but it’s perfectly normal. You have fewer wash days when following the GM and remember that if you have very curly hair, dead hair will stay within these curls.
You won’t shed as much as you used to when straightening your hair and so larger clumps of hair are expected. If for any reason you are worried, go see your doctor.
The CGM does not recommend any use of heat. A hairdryer with a diffuser is OK but make sure the heat setting is not on high.
Henna is not recommended on the CGM.
If you have high porosity hair, your hair cuticles are often open and receptive towards products and water. You’ll want to ensure you use the right conditioner products and use cold water at the end of each treatment to close the cuticles.
Your hair strands will feel rough and you may have very tight curls.
It is important to hydrate your hair when following the CGM.
Give yourself a weekly deep conditioning treatment and make sure when you co-wash and condition that you squish to condish.
Really massage the product with the water into your hair. Also, drink plenty of water. Hydration starts from within!
Believe it or not but there is such a thing as too much hydration. If your hair is over moisturised it can become dull, flat and you might even experience split ends.
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what your hair needs but try a protein treatment if you think you may be suffering from hygral fatigue.
If you’re going to follow the Curly Girl method you’ll need to get used to looking at the ingredients list. Your products cannot contain sulphates, drying alcohols or silicone.
Have a look at my approved Curly Girl products list for inspiration on what to buy.
Methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone are ingredients which can be found in some products and are known to cause itchy scalp. If you are suffering from this condition, check your conditioner and replace with a product that does not contain any of these two chemicals.
You will get an itchy scalp if you don’t get rid of build-up and grease. Ensure you co-wash your hair as much as you need to and use a scalp massager to encourage oxygen flow.
Keratin is a protein used in many hair products. It is also one of the basic elements of hair and thus your hair needs protein to regenerate.
If you produce too much keratin, your hair may become sensitive to it and you should do an ACV rinse. The signs of protein sensitively are limp, dull hair which won’t curl.
A Lemonaid rinse is a natural clarifying method in which you cleanse your hair. Simply add a few squeezes of lemon juice to your conditioner and massage your hair thoroughly.
Not many people talk about it but so many do it. That’s right. Lube. Lube is excellent for keeping those flyaway hairs at bay. Use a bit of lube after you have dried and scrunched out your cast. It really does work!
The founder behind the Curly Girl Method and the author of Curly Girl The Handbook.
A styling method whereby you layer liquid, oil and cream in that order. Not used much on the Curly Girl Method as we don’t recommend oil.
Low poo refers to a cleansing product which doesn’t contain sulphates. You’ll find them advertised in drugstores but they are generally not recommended for the CGM.
The reason for this is that instead of sulphates, chemicals are added as a substitute. These can cause even worse damage than sulphates. Read more about why you shouldn’t use low poo shampoos.
If you have low porosity hair, it means that your hair cuticles are tight and are less likely to let in water.
As such, substances such as oil won’t do much good and you’re better off using light products. Your hair strands will feel smooth and it may be difficult to add moisture.
A weekly deep condition routine is recommended to combat signs of dryness.
If you have medium porosity hair, you have a fairly balanced hair type and most products should work on you. Your hair will respond well to treatments but be careful as it will also easily absorb bad chemicals.
A microfiber towel is a much faster drying towel which won’t cause friction or damage your hair. This type of towel is recommended on the CGM.
You can also use a t-shirt but you cannot use a regular towel.
Healthy hair needs a balance between moisture and protein. Ensure you get enough moisture into your hair by co-washing and squishing to condish at least twice a week.
A weekly deep condition treatment is also recommended. You can also take advantage of wet styling which seals in moisture.
NO SHAMPOO, SILICONES, SULPHATES, HEAT
The ethos of the Curly Girl Method is to use no shampoo, silicones, sulphates or heat.
Non-CG refers to product or methods which are not recommended when following the Curly Girl Method.
No-Poo means to not use shampoo so essentially just co-washing and condition.
Oils are generally not used on the CGM. Trace amounts are OK or essential oils but oils, in general, have become saturated with synthetic ingredients and most of these are silicones.
Lorraine Massey has, therefore, changed her stance on this subject and explains that oils now create a barrier between water and your hair strands if applied in large amounts. This means that your curls will not be properly hydrated.
See more from Lorraine here:
Olaplex is a restoring treatment product which you can purchase online or in drugstores. Many Curly Girls use this when they are first starting out to restore shine and health. It can also be used after you have coloured your hair.
This is mainly used when sleeping or working out so as to avoid curl damage.
You will find many Curly Girls talking about their pillows. Why? Because a regular pillow can cause damage to your hair as the material rubs against your hair strands leaving your curls tangled.
A staple term when following the Curly Girl Method is ‘plopping’ so add this to your glossary. Plopping is when you collect your hair in a microfiber towel or t-shirt after washing to let it set or dry. I prefer to do mine straight in the shower.
After I have conditioned and applied my styling products upside down, I squish my curls and wrap my head in a microfiber towel.
This way, my curls are out of the way and I can get on with my routine. I then remove the towel after 20 minutes, apply a bit more product and then I diffuse.
Hair porosity refers to how porous your hair is. If you have low porosity hair, it means that your cuticles are very tight and are resistant to water. In this case, the texture of your hair strands will often be smooth.
If you have high porosity hair, your cuticles are open and your hair strands will feel rough and bumpy. Water should easily penetrate.
If you have low porosity hair it is important to do regular heated deep conditioner treatments so as to open the cuticles and let moisture in.
Praying Hands is a method for styling. You add product to your palms and then glide your hands over your hair so as to smoothly apply the product onto the curls.
Healthy hair needs a good balance of protein and hydration. Some hair types can be sensitive to protein whilst others crave it.
You might even find that you need to switch between protein products and hydrating products throughout the year. Avoid coconut products if you are protein sensitive.
Protein treatments come in various shapes and sizes. You can opt for natural ones such as making an egg or gelatine mask. You can even make a rice water rinse.
These all work great but if you don’t have the time to make your own, consider buying a deep conditioner. Get one with keratin or protein as an ingredient, or even coconut as this acts as a protein mimicker.
Pulsing refers to applying product to your hair by repeatedly scrunching and squishing your roots.
Raking means to finger comb products directly into your hair.
A refresh is a routine you do the day or days after wash day. Next day curls are always a bit flat and a refresh helps rejuvenate them.
There are many ways to do a refresh. Some prefer to wet their hair slightly and add a bit more conditioner whilst others prefer to use gel.
Also Read: How To Refresh Curls
If a wet refresh makes your hair frizzy, try a dry refresh. Simply shake your hair about and add mouse upside down and scrunch your curls. Wait for them to dry and give them another shake and scrunch.
Every refresh routine is different so you need to find the right one for you.
RICE WATER RINSE
Rice water rinse is a protein treatment where you use rice water to rinse your hair.
To gain more volume whilst drying, you can try root clipping. This method refers to pinning alligator clips to curl sections on top of your crown to keep your roots up.
Try clipping in different directions and always dry your hair in the opposite way to your parting.
SCRUNCH OUT THE CRUNCH (SOTC)
Scrunching out the crunch is breaking the dry cast around your curls after they have dried. Your curls will go from hard to super soft and your hair will double in volume. This is undoubtedly the most satisfying part of the CGM.
Always SOTC either using your bare hands or a t-shirt. Never use a towel. You must also ensure that your hair is 100% dry or you will frizz.
The difference between your hair length from wet to dry is called shrinkage and as you can image, affects Curly Girls (or guys) a lot more than people with straight hair.
Silicone is another baddie ingredient and is used in many conditioners to smooth the texture of your hair. However, silicone is hard to remove which is why many shampoos contain sulphates, the lathering agent in cleansing products. Bad combination.
SQUISH TO CONDISH
Squish to condish is a technique where you continuously squish water and conditioner into the hair in order to better hydrate it. The squishing technique encourages big clumps to form and gives you less frizz.
Not necessarily a term but super important to know if you’re learning your Curly Girl Method Glossary. A scalp massager is your best friend. Invest in one.
It is used when co-washing or clarifying to get rid of build-up, grease or pollution. Scalp care is incredibly important and a scalp massager can help stimulate the flow of oxygen from root to ends.
The best way to remove build-up and grease is by giving your scalp a proper scrub. Use a scalp massager and spend at least 2 minutes scrubbing every inch of your scalp. This not only removes any product build-up and grease but helps stimulate hair growth.
It comes as no surprise that chlorine will affect the condition of your hair if you are an avid swimmer.
The shaft of your hair will absorb the chlorine which can cause breakage, split ends and can strip your hair of its natural oils.
It is suggested that you wear swimming caps when swimming or wet your hair entirely before going into the pool. Good after hair care is also essential and a weekly deep conditioning treatment will help rehydrate your curls.
If you take anything away from this Curly Girl Method Glossary, let it be ‘sulphates’. These are a cleansing agent found in shampoos and some conditioners. These are to be avoided on the Curly Girl Method as they strip your hair of its essential oils.
There are many techniques to use on the CGM. The bowl technique, squishing, plopping and diffusing.
You can find most of them in this Curly Girl Method glossary.
Texture refers to each hair strand, its thickness and how it feels from fine to coarse.
If you are just starting your Curly Girl Method journey, you need to add ‘transition’ to your glossary. This refers to the adjustment period from when you initially start the Curly Girl Method to when you begin to see the benefits of the method.
The transition period can be tough and your hair may feel greasy and heavy. If so, don’t give up!
Continue to deep condition your hair and stop using shampoos. If you do not like your down, consider tying it up on a regular basis. This won’t hurt your hair and the healing process can continue uninterrupted.
You should only use a microfiber towel on your curls as cotton increases friction and can cause damage to your hair.
You can give your hair many treatments such a deep conditioning, protein masks, hydrating masks, ACV rinse and rice water rinse. These all count as treatments which are beneficial for your curls.
The unicorn cut refers to a DIY haircutting method whereby you gather all your hair at the front of your forehead and tie it up using a hairband. You then smoothen out the ponytail and cut off a section of your hair at the front.
This method works great for straight hairstyles but if you have curly hair, you could end up with patchy sides. The unicorn cut is therefore not recommended on the Curly Girl Method.
You will most likely be washing your hair upside down if you follow the CGM, particularly when you squish to condish. You want to squish those curls with as much product and water as possible so as to hydrate them and encourage big clumps.
An up-do is another word for a curly hairstyle you wear up. Committing fully to CG can take a long time and a lot of Curly Girls opt for an up-do during the week.
Volume refers to how big your curls are. Most Curly Girls like lots of volume on the top of their crown as it lifts up their curls.
If you are aiming for volume, don’t use too many heavy products as your curls may deflate. Try using a curl cream or mousse instead of gel.
Wavy is generally referred to if you do not have curly hair. Many CG followers have wavy hair and experience excellent results following the method.
If you have a curl pattern of 2/ABC, then you are a Wavy Girl.
Should not be used on the Curly Girl Method.
I hope you have found this Curly Girl Method Glossary helpful! Let me know in the comments if I have missed any important terms.