Can the Curly Girl Method be applied to wavy hair? Definitely!

In fact, the Curly Girl Method was originally set out for both wavy and curly hair. We have Lorraine Massey and ‘The Curly Girl Handbook’ to thank for this.

The same general rules should be used for wavy hair as curly hair but with just a little modification.

curly girl method for wavy hair

I’m going to give you all the steps you need to start the Curly Girl method For Wavy Hair

Wavy hair is no.2 of the 3 types of curly hair

Wavy hair has a texture like curly hair but it tends to be less dry.

Sebum distribution varies in different hair types. Natural oils fully coat wavy hair shafts faster than with curly hair.

Having said this, unlike naturally straight hair, wavy hair has cross-sectional points (in the bends) and these can make it weaker.

We still need to make sure we add enough moisture!

The other big challenges with wavy hair are encouraging the wave clumps to form so that the waves aren’t elongated or stringy and we need to fight the frizz!

We’re on it!

With these points in mind, the Curly Girl Method can be used and applied to wavy hair to enhance wave shape, tame frizz and retain even more moisture.

I’m going to lay out a simplified breakdown of The Curly Girl Method and how it can be used for wavy hair with fantastic benefits

Curly Girl Method (CGM) for wavy hair can be broken down into 2 main areas:

 – Things To Avoid

 – Things to Add In To Your Routine

The aim with both of these is to improve the condition of your waves and enhance their natural pattern.

Things To Avoid

  • Sulphates
  • Silicones
  • Heat

Essentially, all of the above will dry your waves out. 

Wavy hair is slightly prone to dryness so we need to minimise any factors which will dry it out further.

We want our hair to be as strong as possible so eliminating these drying factors is a great way to start a journey to robust, healthy hair.

In the long term, these changes will lead to healthier hair and hair which will be wavier in its natural state. A bit more work at the beginning will lead to great results later!

A Quick Look At Each of The Above  – Why Should They be Avoided?


Sulphates are a detergent added to many shampoos. They can be very effective cleansers but they are too harsh for wavy or curly hair as an everyday shampoo.

Sulphates remove natural oils from the hair, drying it out.

They can be used infrequently to clarify hair but more on that later!

Try to find a sulphate-free shampoo to use for your regular washes.

These won’t foam up as much as shampoos which contain sulphates but they are a much gentler way to cleanse your waves. Product recommendations will be below..


Silicones are found in many hair products, particularly those marketed at frizzy hair.

These products cover hair with a thin layer of silicone.

This makes the hair appear shiny and healthy and also weighs it down slightly to make it seem less frizzy. This sounds great but the trouble is that silicones can build up on the hair and eventually lead to greasy, limp waves.

Worse still, the best way to remove them is with sulphate shampoos!

Hair dried out from sulphates will need the moisture which silicones promise..and so the cycle continues.. Regular use of both is best avoided to maintain a good wavy hair routine.

Many products now label themselves as ‘silicone free’ which is amazing!

Others still hide for silicones is most easily done by looking for ingredients that end in ‘cone’ such as ‘dimethicone’, ‘cyclomethicone’ or ‘amodimethicone’.


Heat is extremely drying for wavy hair.

Hair that is already prone to dryness will become even more dry and likely to break if you use a dryer on a high heat setting or a heated tool.

Straighteners and curling irons should be avoided because they get so hot! If you are using a hairdryer set it to a low heat setting and use a heat protector. Air dry your waves where possible!

Read my full post on why heat is bad for curly hairit applies to wavy hair too!

Also Avoid Too Much Brushing!

Try not to brush your hair when it is dry. Over-brushing wavy hair can lead to frizz! It can also break or weaken your hair.

Things That We Will Add to Your Wavy Hair Routine

  • A New Shampoo Routine

Less frequent shampooing and fewer sulphates.

  • Extra Conditioning

Wavy hair needs extra moisture so a deep conditioner will improve the health of your hair. This is a mask to use once a week or it can be a light oil.

CGM also recommends leaving a little bit of conditioner in your hair after your regular shower – this will be one of the steps below.

  • New Styling Products Such as Gel

Gel will help form your wave pattern and retain clumps as your hair dries.

It is worth experimenting with different styling products until you find the one that suits your hair the best. Within wavy hair there are many variations. Wavy hair can be fine or thick and the waves themselves vary in definition. 

New Wash Day Routine – Right! Here we go..

Wavy hair can experience product build up – particularly if it is finer in texture. This is why it can be a really good idea to clarify as the first step.

1. First Step – Clarifying Waves Pre CGM 

As mentioned, sulphates should generally be avoided because they can be too harsh and strip wavy hair of its natural oils.. However, we are beginning a new phase of hair washing and styling so a final wash with a sulphate shampoo (this can be the shampoo you are already using) to clarify the hair can be a good place to start. It means that any existing product build up will be removed and will leave us with a blank canvas ready for the Curly Girl Method. Condition and style as usual with non-silicone containing products ready for step 2 on the following wash day!

If you want to do it all on one day then move straight on to step 2 once you have done your final sulphate shampoo!

Not Strictly CGM Side Note:

Although the use of sulphates is not approved by the Curly Girl Method some people with wavy hair find that a monthly wash with a gentle sulphate shampoo can help keep hair at its best. If any of the following apply it might be worth considering a clarifying sulphate wash every now and then (on the quiet)

  • You feel like hair is being weighed down or is limp
  • Very oily roots
  • You see different results even though you are using the same products
  • You experience dandruff
  • You have frizz despite following CGM rules
  • Regular swimming – it will be a good idea to clarify monthly to remove any chlorine build-up

One thing to remember is that clarifying with a sulphate shampoo will always remove moisture from your hair so when doing this it is a good idea to use a deep conditioning treatment afterwards. This will replace any moisture lost. Conditioning recommendations coming below!

Clarifying Shampoos

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Kevin Murphy Maxi Wash

A deep cleansing shampoo to remove product residue and excess oil. Detoxifies and stimulates the scalp. Suitable for coloured hair.

Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo

Gently removes product build-up for a detox but not recommended for coloured hair

2. Second Step – The Next Wash Day – New Shampoo!

Now that the old is out we can start on the new. This is where we are going sulphate free! Some shampoos also contain silicones so this is worth checking for these too. Just to be sure. 

Use the shampoo as you would usually, being aware that it won’t lather up as much as a sulphate shampoo. Rest assured that it is still doing its cleaning jobs. 

A light yet moisturising shampoo is ideal

Curly Girl Method Approved Shampoos

Bouclème Hydrating Hair Cleanser

Sulphate free shampoo with a mild lather for fine hair and loose waves.

Organic Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo

Extremely moisturing shampoo for thicker wavy hair.

The Curly Girl Method talks about ‘co-washing’.

This is removing normal shampoo altogether and using a conditioning cleanser instead. Lorraine Massey even recommends using a botanical conditioner alone to cleanse hair. Wavy hair might find this too heavy. It is worth experimenting with co-was such as

As I Am Coconut Co CoWash Cleansing Conditioner

every other or even every 3rd wash. A cycle of sulphate-free and co-washing will ensure that your hair is still clean, has volume (not weighed down) and is moisturised.

3. Third Step – Conditioning

This is where is starts to get a bit more interesting!

Apply the conditioner as usual. Now we have options!

The 2 different ways of doing this both have the same aim – to leave some of the conditioner in your hair.

There are some amazing leave-in conditioners available to buy but a tip is to use some of the conditioner you have already used. No need to buy another product!

The fancy (and arguably, proper) way to do this is by not fully rinsing the conditioner out in the fist place. Just using the shower to rinse quickly so that you are leaving some in.

Ideally, this would be around 10 – 20% of the conditioner. I can’t do this! It just doesn’t happen for me. I get carried away and rinse it all out, can’t help myself!

Luckily there is another way and I would argue that the second way also helps with the formation of clumps – clumps are when strands of hair sit together  as they dry. Wavy hair needs to start drying in clumps to enhance the wave.

Ok, so all the conditioner is rinsed out. I get out of the shower and then reach for the shower head. I bring all of my hair forwards and wet my hair again. It should start to form into clumps as the water runs away. Then I turn the shower off and then I take my conditioner again. I would put about this much 

leave in conditioner for wavy hair curly girl method

onto my hand and then carefully squish my hair clumps upwards towards my scalp. Don’t rake the conditioner through as this will disturb the wave clumps that are forming.

This is the ‘squish to condish’ method. The name bothers me but I think we are stuck with it! We are adding the 10-20% of the conditioner back in manually.

Side Tip: Detangling

Some divided opinion here on whether to use a comb. My preference is to gently detangle using my fingers.

I do this when I have flipped my head over before adding the conditioner back in. I run one hand through my hair as the water also runs through it. The water running downwards helps.

Hair is at its most vulnerable when it is wet and this is when breakage can occur.

When I use my hand I am much more aware of any tangles that I run into and I can handle them gently rather than risk pulling at my hair with a brush.

Curly Girl Method Approved Conditioners

Bouclème Curl Conditioner

Super hydrating conditioner which strengthens and protects hair from environmental stress

Living Proof No Frizz Conditioner 

Nourishes, detangles and eliminates flyaways.

4. Fourth Step – Styling

The main purpose of our styling products is to encourage wave definition. This is done by encouraging the strands of hair to clump together. Remember, silicone-free products are the key here!

There are quite a few different styling options when it comes to wavy hair

  • Gel

My favourite as someone with partially wavy/partially curly hair. I resisted gel for years but now I am a complete convert! 

It should be applied to wavy hair in pretty much the same way as set out in the Curly Girl Method for curly hair.

CGM recommends letting your wet hair fall into place (as it would sit when dry) before scrunching in the gel.

My favourite way is to apply it while all my hair is still forwards pretty much as soon as I have added the conditioner back in at step 3.

This gives me control over the scrunching as I can see all my hair. I will then gently move it back into place as it dries. It does mean sitting around like this for a while, though

waiting for gel cast to form on wavy hair for curly girl method

The gel will form a cast around your waves which will retain moisture and keep the formation as they dry.

Once fully dry you can ‘scrunch out the crunch’ (SOTC).

Gently move your hair around with your fingers and shake it until you have released the cast.

It is worth remembering that gels have different strengths and a lighter hold gel will work best for wavy hair.

Note: The curly girl method recommends finding a gel that is alcohol free. Some alcohols can be drying to wavy and curly hair. Read my post on …..

Curly Girl Approved Gels

Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat and Humidity Gel

Defines waves with flexible hold, fights humidity and protects against UV and heat

Bouclème Curl Super hold Styler Gel

A lightweight, deeply moisturising gel to control frizz with no stickiness

Curly Girl Approved Mousse

A mousse can ad lift and bounce which is great for waves which need to be encouraged – we don’t want them to drop!

Giovanni Natural Mousse

Curly Girl Method approved mousse that adds body, volume and thickness to hair.

Curly Girl Approved Cream

These can be a little heavier and some may be too much for wavy hair because we don’t want to weigh it down.

Bouclème Curl Cream

Curly Girl Method approved leave in soft hold cream which adds moisture and protects from humidity.

5. Drying Your Waves

The Curly Girl Method recommends using a soft t-shirt or microfibre towel to gently blot the hair once products have been applied.

No rubbing as this will roughen the cuticle of your hair and lead to damage.

It is also worth considering plopping your hair.

Bringing all your hair forwards onto a t-shirt (long-sleeved is best) and then tying the arms on the top of your head to keep it in place. Keep the hair sitting like this for around 30 minutes while hair begins to dry.

This will encourage wave pattern as your hair dries.

This is my little guide to plopping your hair 😊

The Curly Girl Method recommends air drying your hair. This is by far the best for your hair as there is no risk of heat damage.

Read my post about heat damage on curly and wavy hair

However..diffusing has its benefits!

Aside from drying your hair faster (because air drying can take such a long time!), it can also help with the formation of waves and volume as you gently move your hair from side to side and scrunch the hair up towards your scalp with the diffuser.

The best thing to do is use your diffuser on the lowest heat setting and start once your hair is already partially dry to reduce the amount of time that your hair is exposed to the heat.

One more tip – try not to touch your hair with your hands as it dries.

If you are air-drying try not to touch it at all as any friction at this point can lead to frizz and less defined waves.

If you are diffusing still avoid any contact with your hands and move the diffuser around your hair with care. Those clumps need to stay together!

Additional Tips

Deep Conditioning

Wavy hair still needs additional conditioning to keep it healthy.

Use a deep conditioner (silicone-free!) every week or ever 2 weeks.

Replace your usual conditioner with a mask and leave it on for at least 30 minutes before rinsing out completely. You can then add your usual conditioner as a leave-in or use a conditioning spray – whichever is your preferred leave-in. 

Curly Girl Method Approved Deep Conditioners

Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment

Deep conditioning treatment with cocoa butter and shea butter

Bumble and Bumble Bb. Curl Butter Mask

A unique blend of oils to deeply moisturise wavy and curly hair

Another way of deep conditioning is to pre-poo (short for pre-shampoo).

This means adding a conditioner to your dry hair before you even get into the shower.

You then remove this with shampoo and continue the rest of the steps above. A pre-poo treatment is often an oil. This can be olive oil, coconut oil or others – there are many to choose from. My favourite is argan oil.

Read my post about the benefits of argan oil for hair

It is important not to over use the oil – just start with a few drops and work it through the mid lengths and ends of your waves.

Try not to overdo the oiling because we are using a gentle sulphate-free shampoo which may not remove all of the oil if we use too much!

Root Clipping

This is a popular technique advised by the Curly Girl Method.

Wavy hair can lie quite close to the scalp which means flatness at the root.

Root clipping encourages volume at the roots of your hair by lifting it away from your scalp as your hair dries and relieving the hair of its own weight.

Use them until your hair is dry if you are air-drying, or remove them before you use a dryer if you are diffusing. The clips can be placed just at the front of the hair or throughout.

There are some great YouTube videos on root clipping for wavy hair such as this one by IrenesBeautyTimes.

root clipping curly girl method for wavy hair

Wave Refreshing

Refreshing is for the days following wash day. It helps to get wavy hair to the second or third day with waves still looking great. 

The Curly Girl Handbook advises using water and gel to refresh hair on these subsequent days.

To do this you make a mixture which is 50% your favourite gel and 50% boiling water. Allow the mixture to cool then add it to a spray bottle. Spray and scrunch your hair when you feel like your waves are beginning to drop. 

There are CGM approved refresh sprays available to buy for this purpose too:

Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Comeback Curl Next Day Curl Revitalizer

If you have a product in mind but you re not sure if it meets CGM requirements you can check it here with this great free tool. Find the full ingredients list online and copy and paste into the box.

It is worth trying some products to see which hold your waves the best. I would start with a gel (the original Lorraine Massey recommendation) and then move on to one of the other styling options if this doesn’t work for you.

It is best to experiment and try out one new product at a time, then note the results.

You can then start to plan your ideal wash day with these products.

It really can be a good idea to write down what you have done – subtle differences in techniques, products and timing can make a big difference to the way your waves form and last!

You know your waves better than anybody and some parts of the Curly Girl Method may work better for you than others. You may already be following parts of the CGM without even realising. I know I was when I first started looking into it!

A lot of people will have a mixture of curl/wave types within their hair. I have 2c waves at the top of my hair and 3a curls on the underneath!

This is why we should adapt these ‘rules’ as they suit us and follow the parts that give us great results.

I hope that this helps to outline how the CGM can work for gorgeous wavy hair 😘

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All product recommendations are CGM approved with ingredients as listed 29.05.20

Speak soon,

Lauren xx

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