Need a great curly hair routine for beginners?

A curly hair routine for beginners can seem like a big task. There are new products, techniques and recommendations so there can be a lot to consider when starting a transition to enhance your natural curls.

What you could really do with is a checklist, right? ‘Just tell me what I need!’ I hear you cry.

Here it is. A checklist of the basic kit and essentials you will need.

For a deeper look at essential products and techniques for your curls, check out my Curly Hair Masterclass.

(There’s also a helpful freebie at the end so that you can track your progress 😉)

curly hair routine checklist for beginners

1. The Right Shampoo

‘Right’ means that it will be gentle and help to enhance your curls.

There is a lot of information regarding the different shampoos. I have a whole post on ‘Co Wash vs Low Poo vs Shampoo‘ but for now a sulphate free shampoo is the best thing you can invest in.

You might even be using one already. Lots of companies have brought out sulphate-free ranges recently!

Brands tend to label their products if they are sulphate-free because it is such a big plus point. If you are in any doubt, however, is is easy to find out..just google the ingredients of a shampoo and copy and paste them into CURLSBOT. I have this saved on my phone – it will ALWAYS be useful. No matter how far you are into your curl journey.

10 Curly Girl Approved Sulphate-Free Shampoos

2. The Right Conditioner

‘Right’ here means silicone-free. Having happily used silicones for years, it is a big step to go silicone-free for your new routine.

Most commercial conditioners will contain silicones so it really is worth doing a little bit of research here.

They don’t have to be expensive, just silicone-free. Silicones coat the strands and can build up, causing greasiness and limp hair, weighing curls down.

10 Curly Girl Approved Conditioners

3. A T-shirt

t-shirt for drying curly hair, your new routine

Yep, that’s it. For drying your tresses.

A t-shirt is much softer than a towel and won’t roughen the cuticle.

You can use a t-shirt to dry as you would with a towel or you can ‘plop’. Plopping means lowering your hair forwards into the t-shirt and then tying it up around your head.

Next, you leave the t-shirt on for anywhere between 10-40 minutes and then remove it.

The idea is that the t-shirt absorbs water whilst helping to keep curl clumps together.

Another example of this is ‘micro-plopping’. Micro-plopping means holding the t-shirt in one hand and then scrunching each curl clump individually to remove water. Whichever way you do it, a t-shirt will always win over a towel.

As an alternative, you can use a microfiber towel, which is softer than a regular towel.

4. A Styling Product – A Gel, Mousse or Cream

gel mousse and cream for a curly hair routine

It is common to use a cream, a gel, or a mousse. Some people use all 3!

Start with one – you can try them on their own or layer as your collection grows.

A great curly hair routine for beginners starts with one styling product and builds them up as time goes on. Experiment!

Once again it is worth popping the ingredients into a checker.

This takes extra time but it is worth the effort. Making sure your products don’t contain any nasties is probably the most important factor when making your transition.

As well as silicones, styling products often contain alcohols which can be drying. ‘Alcohol Denat’ is a really common one.

Read my full post on alcohols for curly hair

Apply styling products onto wet strands. Preferably soaking wet! This will help to tame frizz. Scrunch them in, right up to the root.

The key is getting your hair to look good when it is wet and then preserving that look as it dries, encouraging that curl.


A gel will work wonders. The idea is to catch and preserve the curl as it dries in a gel cast.

This cast can then be removed by scrunching it out once your hair is 100% dry. and the curl will be intact underneath.

This is hands-down my favourite gel Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly.


A cream will help to reduce frizz but it will likely not define the curl as much as a gel. Cream is good for softer curls and volume


A mousse for curly hair should define and add volume too, and particularly when applied at the roots. Crucially it shouldn’t be sticky. It should be light so that you can’t feel it once everything has dried

5. A Diffuser

buy a diffuser for your curly hair routine for beginners

Whilst air-drying is great, most people will come to use a diffuser when styling their curls.

Air drying can take a LONG time. Particularly as the hair is drying in clumps, and you will be using products that are designed to keep moisture in!

As well as speeding up drying-time, diffusing also helps to encourage curls by moving the curl clumps up towards the scalp as they dry.

Go gently and try to use a low heat to minimise any heat damage.

A dryer without a diffuser is likely to disturb curl clumps. Better to air-dry than use a dryer without a diffuser.

No heated tools, though!

I used to use my curling wand all the time. My hair did not thank me for it.

As you move into your new curl routine for beginners it’s time to move away from heated tools like these.

6. A Deep Conditioner

It is recommended that you deep condition at least once every 2 weeks, if not once a week.

A good deep conditioner will hydrate your curls, which can be naturally dry. They also soften and help to detangle.

Deep conditioning treatments typically contain oils and butters. Apply after shampoo and leave the treatment on for about 30 minutes.

An alternative is to do a ‘pre-poo’ treatment. This means pre-shampoo.

It can be an oil that you apply to dry strands and then wash out the following morning or a treatment such as Olaplex which you apply before you wash.

Final Tip

Keep track of what you have done on your washday. I would recommend making notes of the following

  • Which cleansing and conditioning products you used including any deep conditioners
  • Did you plop or micro-plop?
  • Which styling products you used, in which order
  • Did you apply them with your hair hanging forwards or back?
  • Did you scrunch them in?
  • Did you diffuse to 100% dry or 80%?
  • Take pictures too! These will be invaluable when it comes to figuring out what has worked best

I still write down subtle changes that I make on my wash days.

Sometimes small changes can make a big difference!

That’s why I like to keep track with my Wash Day Planner.

I made this for myself so that I could track which wash days were working out and I’m going to share it because I find it invaluable!

wash day planner and tracker

Lastly, it sounds cheesy, but I’m going to say it anyway…You will need a little time, and dare I say, love.

It is possible to have amazing results from one wash when you are using the right products and techniques but you will find that it just keeps getting better.

Product Recommendations To Get Started

– As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I receive a commission if you buy any of the products below through the links provided. It doesn’t affect the price you pay and helps to run this website. Thank you x

Shampoo and Conditioner

As far as I’m concerned you can’t go wrong with Noughty as a starting point. Their Wave Hello range is affordable and they are as careful (if not more careful) with their ingredients as high end brands that cost 2 or 3 times as much

  • sulphate free
  • paraben free
  • silicone free
  • petrochemical free
  • cruelty free and vegan
  • Curly Girl Method approved
  • 97% natural ingredients

Noughty Wave Hello Curl Defining Shampoo

Noughty Wave Hello Curl Defining Shampoo, Conditioner and Styling Cream Bundle

Styling Products

Umberto Giannini styling products are among the best I’ve come across. Their Curl Jelly (gel) provides great hold and curl definition. It disappears without a trace when you scrunch it out and smells amazing.

  • silicone free
  • no drying alcohols
  • pthtalate free

Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly

Mousse for curly hair is also fantastic. Umberto Gianini’s mousse is lightweight and provides great definition for bouncy curls. Great for finer curl textures.

Umberto Giannini Curl Whip Curl Activating Mousse


There are many to choose from! Most diffusers will work well but larger diffuser heads tend to work better as they distribute the heat well (and speed up drying time).

If you haven’t got a diffuser head for your dryer you can either buy a single diffuser attachment or a new dryer which comes with one. If you are buying a separate diffuser attachment to fit an existing one it is worth doing some research first. Not all ‘universal’ diffusers fit all dryers. I found this out the hard way!

Babyliss Curl Dry Hair Dryer With Diffuser Attachment

  • Ionic frizz control
  • Curl-boosting
  • Large diffuser head

Deep Conditioner

Garnier’s Ultimate Blends Hair Food Masks can be used as masks, leave-in conditioners or as conditioner. They are an affordable way to moisturise hair once a week and smell incredible too!

Enjoy the start of your curly journey!

Lauren xx

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