Curly Girl Method vs. Wavy Hair Method
“What is the difference between the ‘curly girl method,’ and the ‘wavy hair method'”? is one of the most common questions I’m asked. So today we deep dive into some differences between the CGM (Curly Girl Method) and the Wavy Hair Method. This is a long (but informative!) post, so feel free to scroll if you only want the differences. By the end you should
- Understand the Curly Girl Method (and how it varies)
- Learn the “Wavy Hair Method”
- Learn the KEY differences between “curly girl routines” and “wavy hair routines,”
- Understand how to best incorporate this for YOUR waves.
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So...What even is the Curly Girl Method?
The toughest part of the comparison between wavy hair method and the curly girl method is that the CGM is really a spectrum. The overall “rules” that people agree on are
- Sulfate free shampoos or Co-Washing only
- Silicone free conditioners ONLY
- NO heat styling tools (such as a straightener or curling iron), or blowouts of any type.
- No chemical relaxers/straighteners.
Another point in the Curly Girl Handbook is that we should ONLY use fingers to detangle hair. We’ll get to that though. The point is…..there isn’t one set curly girl method. That handbook is a decade old and a lot of new products are available nowadays.
Okay....so what is the Wavy Hair Method?
- Sulfate free shampoos primarily, co-washing may work.
- Minimal heat usage (best results if none)
- Avoid sulfates unless clarifying.
- Avoid sillicones, but if you must use only water soluble silicones and amodimethicone
- No chemical relaxers/straighteners.
- Lightweight/Weightless is your friend, even if you have thick coarse waves.
Differences between the Curly Girl Method
and the Wavy Hair Method
Wavy Hair Can Be Detangled Dry, and Certain Brushes Are Okay
Wavy hair can be brushed without significant risk of hair breakage. Type 2c wavies may need to proceed with caution, but certainly types 2a and 2b wavies can brush their hair. I personally detangle my hair with a Tangle Teezer (I’ve had it a decade!). I know several wavies who use a Denman Brush, some who use a wide tooth comb, and others who use a Wet Brush. And they all can work! It’s about what works for you. Some choose not to detangle dry, but I find if don’t I end up with more tangly hair overall. If you like to detangle in the shower with conditioner only, or a detangler like KCKT, then keep doing that!
💛Try it!: If you’ve never detangled your hair dry, now is the time to give it a chance. And don’t EVER brush your hair after conditioning. That may help curly girls/people with definition, but it will destroy your “clumps” of waves.
Note: While “Denman” is a brand, what people mean when they say Denman brush is a “nylon bristle brush,”
Mousse Should Be the Starting Point, NOT Gel.
Mousse. Mousse. Mousse. Say it with me, “mousse!” The curly girl method heavily relies on gel to get hold and definition,but it’s usually WAY too much for wavy hair. Not only in the amount of product, but the weight of the product. Many wavy friends end up with weighed down hair, gunky build up, and end up cleansing their hair far too often (even daily). Instead, mousse offers hold but is lightweight. Because I have thick and coarse waves, I thought it’d be best to avoid anything labeled “lightweight” and boy was I wrong. Lightweight = bouncy = more wavy! There is a balance though between bouncy with hold or frizzy if the product doesn’t have enough hold. My favorite mousse that I recommend to everyone is the Herbal Essences Totally Twisted Mousse. It’s affordable, and a great starting point.
💛Try it!: Use a mousse as your primary styler. Check out this routine for tips.
Difference #3: Volume at the Roots Takes Effort on Wavy Hair
Unfortunately, most wavies have to put in a lot of effort to get volume at the roots, and especially for their wave pattern to go all the way to the roots. Most curly friends don’t need to worry about this. Volume at the roots can be achieved by root clipping, diffusing, or a combination of the two. This can be as difficult and time consuming as you want it to be, and I think is something that is the most frustrating for wavy hair friends.
Personally, I don’t worry about root volume that much. I like my routines fast and easy. I’ve got two kids 4 and under and it’s just not worth the time for me. I diffuse rarely, but when I do it’s with the Black Orchid. If you love the volume and don’t mind the time, then awesome! Go for it!
Difference #4: Wavies Need to Be VERY Careful How they Apply Styling Products
(Raking Can Ruin Your Waves and Going Up to the Roots is Bad Too.)
Every time I see video of a curly hair routine, I wince when I see the person rake in a curl cream, definer, curl enhancer, gel, or all of the above. Raking will DESTROY that wash day/style, especially if you have 2a waves. What raking does is break up the “clumps” of waves (which you want!), and literally pulls down the waves. While curly hair can spring back up, wavy hair stays limp.
💛Try it!: Coat each clump of waves with product. I’ll get a picture in here eventually, but to describe….rub the product into your hands, then gently grab a clump and slide your product-covered hand down from about 3-4 inches off your scalp down to the ends. Don’t bring the product up to your roots or you’ll end up with build up and absolutely no volume (see #3)
pppsssttt, follow @allwavyhair on social media. Click below!
Difference #5: Wavy Hair Routines can Drastically Change Based on Time of Year
Now curly hair also deals with changing hair routines, no doubt. But for wavy hair, there is a BIG difference between each season. One month your hair might want mousse and strong low-poos, and the other time of year you may need to deep condition often or co-wash only with curl creams AND mousse. You may even find your holy grails need to be put away for a few months. That’s completely normal.
note: this is also SUPER frustrating because as SOON as you feel like you’re getting the hang of your waves, they change! Once you’ve made it through a full year of seasons things will start to seriously click.
Difference #6: Co-washing may not be a good idea...
Co-washing is often talked about in the curly community, but it’s very hit or miss for wavy hair. Again, this relies on difference #5. In dry winter months, co-washing may be the best thing for your hair to keep them hydrated, defined, and bouncy. In hot humid months though, it can lead to a limp, lifeless, weighed down mop. In general, if you have fine hair, or thin hair, avoid co-washing. If you have thick or coarse hair, it’s worth trying. Note the time of year! I suggest using a conditioner that can also act as a “normal” conditioner. The Yes to Tea Tree & Sage Oil Conditioner is a great option that works as both a cowash or normal conditioner.
The co-washing topic is complicated and is why I haven’t made a full post or hair routine on it (yet). Some wavies LOVE co-washing. I’ve noticed though that those wavies tend to have 2c/3a hair so they’re juuuuust on the verge of curly. But I do have one that’s drafted so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it!
Difference #7: Wavy Hair Can Use Sulfates (Carefully!)
There is a whole post about sulfates on wavy hair here, but the point is that some wavies need sulfates to remove the build up on their hair. Try to be minimal with this though as sulfates can easily strip the hair of its natural oils. All Wavy Hair recommends clarifying on an average of once a month, depending on your exact hair type, how hard the water is in your shower, the amount of product used, time of year, an other factors.
Difference #8: Some Wavies Use Heat (like actual styling tools)
Because there are fewer guidelines, I know a lot of wavies who go between their natural wavy hair and using heat stylers (such as a straightener or curling wand). Personally, All Wavy Hair does not recommend doing this regularly. The heat damage is real. BUT, that said if its an occassional thing, it won’t be detrimental. I even wrote a post about being bored of my waves. Because I was! I’ve averaged 2-4 heat stylings per year in the last several years. Let’s get real: heat is damaging. But we’re not judging if you do it sometimes. If you feel the need, at least use a silicone free heat protectant like this one.
Difference #9: Wavy Hair Can Be Cut Wet
Wavy hair does NOT necessarily need a curl specialist hair stylist. In fact, many wavies have admitted being made to feel uncomfortable during a curly hair cut. Some were told their hair wasn’t curly enough and even turned away. Yikes. I’ve documented the experience of my first Devacut (2017) here. My experience was overall great. Unfortunately, where I live now, I’d need to drive 2+ hours away and those curly specialists are expeeeeeensive. So I go to a “normal” hair stylist at a “normal” salon, and she’s wonderful! Do I leave with perfect clumps? No. She doesn’t always style my hair perfectly. But the cut is what matters most to me, and I’ve never left looking like a poodle. This is also when I use sulfates (see #7) It’s an Aveda salon and I use the Cherry Almond line when I’m there. Since it’s maybe twice a year I don’t mind. Plus her rate is awesome and I’m able to give a 30%-40% tip and still come away cheaper than a curly specialist.
Recommendation: if you love your hair stylist, don’t leave them because you decided to stop using silicones and sulfates. Explain your new hair goals, and your stylist should adjust accordingly. If you’re in the market for a new stylist anyways, look around for one who also has wavy hair that they leave naturally wavy at least once and awhile. You can specifically ask for someone with wavy or curly hair when you go to set up an appointment.
Final Thoughts and Encouragement
Learning about wavy hair will always be an individual experience. While the above info should help, it will still likely take awhile to settle into a routine that works for both your hair and lifestyle. It’s okay to spend a lot of time on your hair if you want allll the volume and definition, and it’s also okay to just get it done fast and rock the slightly messy beachy look. Everyone’s waves look different! There will be days where you think your hair is a mess, and some blessed stranger compliments you out of nowhere. It’s worth continuing! Good luck. -Rachel