This post is for everyone in search of some Curly Girl approved products but doesn’t know what products to start with!
Here are some tried and true favorites from the curly girl community. Many I’ve tried and use myself, but any I haven’t I’ve seen recommended multiple times by other curly girls.
If you’re just starting the Curly Girl Method, you’ll likely have to buy a bunch of new curly girl approved products, so everything listed here is inexpensive! Most are under $10 and all are under $15 with the exception of the blowdryer options.
(If these links take you to anything over $15, it’s likely for more than one product.)
Without further adu, here are so awesome Curly Girl method products for beginners.
This page does contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something using the product links on this page, I may get a small commission. This comes at no extra cost to you and helps keep this site running. Thank you!
Also, I follow the simplified version of the Curly Girl Method most directly derived from the Curly Girl Handbook. This means the only ingredients I look to avoid are sulfates, silicones, and drying alcohols. If you have more ingredients that you look to avoid, it would be a good idea to check the ingredients for yourself before making a purchase.
Overwhelmed or in a hurry? These curly girl approved products are for you!
If you want to know exactly what to try, here are tried and true favorite curly girl approved products to get you started.
Here’s what you really need to start:
- Suave Essentials Tropical Coconut – Co-wash conditioner
- Cantu Hydrating Cream Conditioner – Rinse out Conditioner
- Eco Styler Olive Oil Gel
- T-shirt for drying
Here are some other products you may want:
(You don’t necessarily need all or any of these to start, but you may want to add them in overtime.)
- Cantu Sulfate-Free Shampoo (This may be a good idea if you want to ease into your transition)
- Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Hair Mask – Deep conditioner
- Mielle’s Hawaiian Ginger Leave-in Conditioner (you can also leave a little of your rinse out in instead)
- Shea Moisture’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie
- Microfiber towel for drying (instead of a t-shirt)
- Diffuser and blow dryer (for drying, on a low heat setting)
- Wide tooth comb for detangling (or you can also use your fingers)
- Satin Pillowcase (for sleeping)
Everyone’s hair is different, so your hair’s response may vary. But everyone has to start somewhere. These products come out on the top of a lot of curly girl’s lists!
You can read on for more information and options for each category.
Curly Girl Approved Products
Curly Girl Approved Products: Sulfate free shampoo (optional)
- Cantu Sulfate-Free Shampoo
- Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Shampoo
- L’Oreal EverPure Scale Care Shampoo
Shampoo is an optional part of the Curly Girl Method, so feel free to skip this.
According to the method, most curly girls can get by with just conditioner-washing (aka co-washing).
But if you’ve been reliant on shampoo, you may want to take time to transition and/or occasionally give your hair a good wash.
If that’s the case, you can use a shampoo that’s sulfate free.
Here are those curly girl products again: Cantu Sulfate-Free Shampoo, Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Shampoo, and L’Oreal EverPure Scale Care Shampoo.
Curly Girl Approved Products: Co-wash
- Suave Essentials Tropical Coconut
- Vo5 Herbal Escapes Conditioners
- Cantu Complete Conditioning Cowash
In place of (or in addition to) shampoo, you’re going to co-wash your scalp to remove any dirt and product build up.
There are a few conditioners that are specifically designed to be co-washes that you can check out if you want, but you should really be good with an inexpensive lightweight conditioner.
The recommended co-washes are very inexpensive. Here’s that list of curly girl products: Suave Essentials Tropical Coconut, Vo5 Herbal Escapes Conditioners, and Cantu Complete Conditioning Cowash
Curly Girl Approved Products: Rinse out (may be the same as co-wash depending on hair type)
- Tresemme Pure Pro Conditioner for Daily Moisture
- Cantu Hydrating Cream Conditioner
- Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus
If your hair gets enough moisture from your co-wash, feel free to use the same product for your rinse out.
If you have thicker, more damaged, and/or curlier hair, you should probably go for something heavier and more moisturizing.
I strongly suggest going with an inexpensive conditioner when you’re just starting out. Your hair usually needs more moisture at this stage, so you’ll likely need a LOT of
A curly girl classic used to be Tresemme Botanique Nourish and Replenish, but they have since changed the name and formula. The new version is still Curly Girl Approved, but people who used both aren’t fans of the new version. I’m going to leave this link here in case you can get your hands on the old version.
If you’d like to try the new version–which might be good for you–you can find it here.
Here’s that recommended list of curly girl products again: Tresemme Pure Pro Conditioner for Daily Moisture, Cantu Hydrating Cream Conditioner, and Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus.
Curly Girl Approved Products: Deep Conditioner
- Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Hair Mask
- Garnier Fructis Goji Extract 1-Minute Hair Mask
- Flawless by Gabrielle Union Deep Conditioning Hair Treatment
You’ll probably use this 1-2 times a week at first. As you get deeper into the Curly Girl Method, you’ll likely be able to cut back. But in the beginning when your hair is drier, you may find you benefit from more regular deep conditioning.
It’s a good idea to stick to the directions on the package, so you don’t run the risk of over-moisturizing your hair.
Here are those curly girl approved products one more time: Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Hair Mask, Garnier Fructis Goji Extract 1-Minute Hair Mask, Flawless by Gabrielle Union Deep Conditioning Hair Treatment.
Curly Girl Approved Products: Leave in (start with your rinse out)
- Cantu’s Creamy Hair Lotion
- Mielle’s Hawaiian Ginger Leave-in Conditioner (You can check out my product review here)
- Curls Blueberry Bliss Leave-in Conditioner(You can check out my product review here)
I would honestly suggest just using a little extra of your rinse out conditioner as a leave-in in the beginning.
This usually adds enough moisture and eliminates an added purchase. (I used this as my leave-in for the first two years following the Curly Girl Method).
However, if you find your rinse out is too heavy, or you struggling with finding the right amount to leave in, then a desginated leave-in might be a good option for you.
Here’s that list of curly girl products one more time: Cantu’s Creamy Hair Lotion, Mielle’s Hawaiian Ginger Leave-in Conditioner, Curls Blueberry Bliss Leave-in Conditioner.
Curly Girl Approved Products: Cream (optional)
- Shea Moisture’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie
- Cantu’s Moisturizing Curl Activating Cream (Check out my product review here.)
The official Curly Girl Method doesn’t have a cream component but a lot of curly girls find the extra moisture and definition helpful, especially in the beginning when your hair is recovering from dryness and/or damage.
Side note: If your cream is heavier, you may not need both a cream and a leave-in.
Here are those creams again: Shea Moisture’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie, and Cantu’s Moisturizing Curl Activating Cream.
Curly Girl Approved Products: Gel
Gel is one of the most important Curly Girl Method products. It’s also the key styling product.
Gel is what will lock in moisture as your hair dries and leave you with beautiful curls that hold throughout the day.
How much hold you need will depend on your hair type and how damaged it is.
In the beginning, you’ll likely need a fair amount of a hard-hold gel. But you’ll have to play around with the amounts to see what works best for you.
Also, don’t forget to scrunch out the crunch when your hair is dry!
Once again, those curly girl approved products are: Eco Styler Olive Oil, Aussie Instant Freeze, Tresemme Mega Hold.
Bonus! If those gels end up with too hard of a hold, you can try:
Biotera’s Styling Defining Gel: Check it out on Amazon, Check it out at Sally.
It’s a medium/hard hold, that’s my absolute favorite, but it wasn’t enough for me in the beginning.
Curly Girl Tools
Cloth for drying
- A T-shirt (any old one will do, but if you don’t have one laying around, grab a cheap one here.)
- A microfiber towel
Ditch your towel and dry your hair with a t-shirt to dry your hair. Regular towels pull a lot of moisture out of hair, which is what we’re trying to avoid.
Instead, use a t-shirt to get rid of any excess water.
If you really aren’t a fan of the towel-free lifestyle, you can get a microfiber towel.
Blow dryer and diffuser (optional)
Air drying is best for the Curly Girl Method, but that’s not always an option for everyone. Plus, you’ll likely get more volume if you dry it with a blow dryer.
If you go in this direction and already have a hairdryer, make sure you have a diffuser! This will help keep your curls in place while you try your hair, which reduces frizz.
The linked diffuser is an example so you know what you’re looking for. If you already have a blowdryer, make sure you get a diffuser that fits your dryer.
If you don’t have a blow dryer but are thinking you might want one, there are plenty that come with the diffuser attachment.
Also, make sure you use your dryer on lower heat and air flow settings.
If you don’t have a dryer or diffuser and are looking for something compact, Bed Head makes an inexpensive, lightweight diffuser dryer. I don’t diffuse often, but when I do, this is what I use.
- Your fingers
- Wide tooth comb
An important step to the curly girl method is detangling your hair in the shower.
This can really be done with your fingers, but some people like a little more help.
I’d suggest starting with your fingers, but if you feel like you want to give a comb a try, you can get a wide-tooth comb for pretty cheap.
Satin for sleeping
Regular pillowcases pull a lot of moisture out of your curl,s which causes frizz.
To cut down on this, you can either sleep on a satin pillow case, or wrap your head in a satin scarf.
If you’re just trying this curly girl thing out, the scarf will likely be cheaper, so that may make the most sense. However, in the long run, I find the pillow cases to be more comfortable.
You can find a satin scarf here.
And a satin pillow case here.
For more on the basics of the Curly Girl Method, check out the Curly Girl 101 post!
Looking for more guidance on your curly hair journey?
If you’re new to curly hair care and looking for some help, you should check out the No-Stress Guide to Curly Hair Care!
After spending two years learning and caring for my curly hair, I wanted to create my own, in-depth guide to help fellow curlies create incredible curls in the easiest way possible.
It took me a while, but I eventually found an approach that helped me create a curly hair routine that fits into my life in the simplest way possible. And now I want to help you do the same!
For more intermediate/advanced guidance
If you’ve been on your curly hair journey for a while but still have some struggles, check out Curly Hair Problems!
After spending hours scouring the internet looking for solutions to my own curly hair problems, I found myself wishing for an easier, more comprehensive guide to the most common problems.
So that’s what I created!
Curly Hair Problems offers you 78 total solutions to the five most common curly hair care problems, including frizz, curl clumps, limp curls, product issues, and scalp issues.
Sound off: What curly girl method products are you most excited to try? Do you have recommendations of your own to share?
I uave a combination curly hair. I also am letting my silver take over. Since silver growing i have bern using a sulfate free purple shampoo and conditioner, but my curls are just Gone!! I am now just a big silvery salt and pepper bush! I noticed this shampoo and conditioner have dimethicone in them. Could that be the culprit? If so,how do i condition my silvers without them going yellow ?
The dimethicone could absolutely be part of the problem. That’s a silicone that needs to be washed out with a sulfate, so if you’re using a sulfate free shampoo, that silicone isn’t getting washed out and may be building up on your hair. This would also mean that the silicone is coating your hair and preventing water and moisture from getting into your hair, which may also explain why your curls are gone. Try washing your hair with a sulfate shampoo to get rid of the silicone, and then switching to sulfate and silicone free products like the ones in this post. You also may want to check out the Silver Hair Handbook, which is by the same author as the Curly Girl Handbook. I hope this helps!
Love your blog! I bought 1 yard of satin material at WalMart and made an easy pillowcase for $2. It’s working great! Amazing how much smoother my hair is just with that trick.
Thanks so much! And this is an awesome tip! Thanks for sharing it! 😀
Just found your blog today. I’m 58, had curly hair as a child, more wavy as a teen. After 10 pregnancies and 6 live children, my hair was pretty straight for the last couple of decades. Then 3-4 months ago, it started getting curlier. And curlier. And curlier! I couldn’t think of a reason why, but then I recalled I’ve stopped using shampoo all but 2, sometimes 3 times a week. Could this be the cause of my curl to return? It’s been quite an adjustment, and I’m still not completely thrilled with the change to my appearance. I’ve got a lot to learn – I towel dried earlier this week thinking it would help dry my hair faster, and oh my, I was frizzy, lol. The best advice I’ve received so far is from my nail tech, who told me to stop using a blow dryer, which helped enormously. I’m glad I found you.
Cutting down on shampoo could very well be part of the reason! It’s likely allowed more of your own moisturizing oils to hydrate your hair which is helping it curl. It can totally be an adjustment but once you get past the learning curve, you won’t be sorry! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I’m glad you found me too! 🙂
To my fellow silver hair curly, you can add a few drops of Wilton Violet Gel Food Coloring to your approved curly girl shampoo (or co-wash) & Voila!! You now have purple shampoo for your hair. Works like a charm for my curly silver hair.
I just colored my hair and my curls have disappeared just fuzzy now. What should I do
It has been a very long time since I’ve colored my hair, so I can’t speak from experience, but from what I’ve read, dying can dry your hair out, so conditioning your hair (A LOT) may help!
Great information about beginning products. I am 53 and thought I was losing my curl along with the hair loss I have been experiencing. Using the CG method curls are back but the volume is not, less hair =less volume with out some help. I just cut a large chunk of dry hair off so I have an above the shoulder below the chin bob and flat top and curls at the ends. I use clips and a diffuser just need product recommendations for lift and volume that won’t be sticky. Thanks for anything you can offer!
I don’t use products specifically for volume, so I can’t speak to that directly, but one thing that really helps with volume is getting layers cut in. I think my best advice would be to speak to a stylist who knows how to cut curls about layering for volume. I hope this helps some! <3
How important is the Gel Cast for starting out? I have very long and thick hair and I’m struggling to get the gel evenly distributed, even with ‘praying hands’. Any advice would be appreciated.
This seems like it might be two problems–the gel cast and gel distribution. Some lighter hold gels don’t cast and if your hair dries frizz-free then it’s really not a problem. But if you’re getting frizz, then you might want to use a harder hold gel (or, if you’re already using a harder hold gel, try using more of it). As for distribution, you might want to try using a Denman brush or a wide-tooth comb to distribute the product. I can’t say I’ve tried this, but I know people a lot of people who have had this problem find success with this. I hope this help!
Thank you! I was looking for a list of products and this us great! Do you have a clarifying shampoo you recommend?
I’m glad this list could help! I actually clarify using 1 tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water. (I mix it about an hour before my shower, then let it cool to room temperature.) Then I slowly pour it over my hair and massage it into my scalp just like I would shampoo, then I rinse and condition like I normally do. I got this from the Curly Girl Handbook and it’s always worked well for me!
Hi! I’m a Curly Girl and I have FINALLY decided to jump in to the CG method. so far I am in the transition period and I am struggling with the phase where my scalp is saying, “what is this? MORE! We need more oils!!” So I look like I haven’t showered in weeks. I decided to go with co-washing with a once a week shampoo for now. My question is, this clarifying solution, would it help to add it to my pre-shampooing routine to help during this transition period of mine?
Your website is fantastic and I have been devouring everything you’ve written so far. Thanks for all you’ve written, it has been very helpful.
Hey! I’m so glad the site has been so helpful! Typically, clarifying is in place of your shampoo/co-wash for the day. I’ve never tried it as a pre-shampoo, so I can’t speak to it. I only use it once a month or less, and some people have reported that using it too much dries their hair out. (It’s not harsh like a sulfate shampoo, but it’s a little stronger than a sulfate free shampoo.) If you wanted to try it every other week in place of shampoo while you transition, that might be fine, but I’m not sure I’d suggest more than that.
Alternatively, if you find that your hair looks better after you wash with a sulfate free shampoo, you might want to think about using it more frequently now and slowly easing off. So, maybe you shampoo 3 times a week and co-wash the rest for a week or two, then cut back to shampooing twice a week, then one, and then you can work it out completely (if you want to). It may take a little longer to transition this way, but if you find the shampoo reduces the oils, then you’ll likely be more comfortable during this phase and your scalp can ease into your new routine. (At least, this was my experience).
I hope this is some help! You’ll have to come back and lets us know if you give any of these a try and what you have most success with!
Krissy Moscatelli says
I color my hair so I need all color safe products. Is there a page you can direct me to for approvedCG products?
I don’t have direct experience with this, but The Curly Girl Handbook does have a chapter on coloring curls and from what I can tell, it looks like pretty much any curly girl product is going to be safe for color-treated hair. Based on this chapter, it’s really the sulfates that strip the color out of your hair, so if you’re co-washing or using a sulfate free shampoo, you should be good to go! If you want to check this out for yourself, you can find The Curly Girl Handbook here.
I followed the link to Tresemme Botanique, but the link had multiple Tresemme products. Most of them had a 2nd ingredient of cetearyl alcohol. Is this one of the ingredients that needs to be avoided? I’m very new to all this…can you give a little more direction on which Tresemme product to buy? THANKS!!
Hey! I’m not sure where the link is going for you, but when I click on it, it takes me to the Tresemme Botanique Nourish and Replenish, which is the one you want. (Though, it is a 4-pack b/c that’s what I could find with the best price per bottle…) As for the alcohol, you only want to avoid drying alcohols, but cetearyl alcohol is a moisturizing alcohol, so it’s approved! 🙂 I hope this helps!
VERY helpful! I ended up purchasing Aussie Instant Freeze Gel & the Tresemme conditioner from Walmart last night, and I already had Shea Moisture Smoothie. Did a wash day yesterday following all your tips…and my curls have never been so soft & beautiful!!! 😀 I was skeptical until I scrunched out the crunch of the gel, and then I went running through the house to show my hubby & FaceTime my mom! So great!!!
AH! I’m so happy to hear this!! And I’m really glad these products and tips could help you out. ❤️
Charlotte Pellerin says
I love this blog. Started with Curly Girl about 9 months ago and still learning.One very important issue to me is humidity . This make a huge difference on my hair. AussieFreeze Gel made my hair straight later in the day at home in dry winter conditions. I am saving that one for summer.
Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Humidity is such a pain, and it definitely takes some playing around with to find products that work for you. You’ll have to let us know how the Aussie Instant Freeze gel works for you in the summer! 🙂
Katy Wilkins says
I am very pleased so far with As I Am Coconut Cowash and Cantu Coconut Curl Cream. I use the cowash and a silicone free curl shampoo, L’Oréal Ever-Curl sulfate free shampoo and conditioner alternately, depending on what and how much product I have used. I wash/cowash only once per week, give or take, and rinse alone or rinse, condition, and rinse again when I shower in between.
I sometimes want to use hairspray just to keep my curls placed and give body at the roots (fine hair). I do this less than maybe because every 3-6 months, being quarantined, my “special” occasion hair is non existent right now lol.
Can anyone recommend a decent hairspray that isn’t loaded with the taboo ingredients? Alcohol especially along with the silicones. I have Aussie Mega, Garnier, Tresemme and Pantene living in my bathroom. Are any of these ok or none of these? Again, I only use it about four times a year right now.
Thanks so much for sharing your products and routine!
I don’t use hairspray, but just in case no one else chimes in, you can always use isitcg.com to see if the products you have are okay or not. Just know that this site seems to have been designed with the strict curly girl in mind, so if something comes up as not approved for a reason other than alcohol or silicones, you can still use it if you’re comfortable and be “curly girl approved.”
But like you pointed out, you only use the hair spray about four times a year, so if you can’t find a CG approved one, it’s not going to be the end of the world. Just know that if your hairspray has silicone, you’ll want to wash it out with a sulfate shampoo after.
Hi Meghan. I want to start the CGM, can you recommend which post of yours will help me? My head is swimming with information, products, what I need and how to start. Thanks!
Hey Tara! I know, the info can be A LOT! Given this, I’d suggest starting with the Curly Girl Method Simplified, and the Quick Start Guide to the Curly Girl Method. Both of these posts are designed to give you the absolute basics you need to get started and (ideally) cut through the overwhelm. For a more detailed starter post, you can try the How to Start the Curly Girl Method post.
I also just made a Curly Girl Method Beginners tag with all the beginner posts, so you can check that out when you’re ready for more.
And if you want a step-by-step guide through the entire Curly GIrl Method process, I created a No-Stress Guide to the Curly Girl Method, which you can check out here!
I hope this helps!! 🙂
I’m really confused. Do I co-wash with a cleansing conditioner then use conditioner or just put conditioner on my hair after wetting it?
That’s going to depend on you and your preference. Some people will use a cleansing conditioner, then apply a rinse out conditioner. Some people will use a sulfate-free shampoo, then apply a rinse out conditioner. Some people have to wet their hair every day to get good results, but may not want/need to wash it every day. In those cases, these people may just wet and conditioner their hair on the days they don’t wash.
But this post was really designed to be more of a product guide. For more specifics on how to follow the curly girl method, you may want to try this post with more specifics on how to get started. You may also find this post, which is a master post of all the curly girl beginner posts, helpful.
I hope this helps!
Thank you for the reply! It really helped clear up my confusion. I will read the other posts on how to get started. BTW your hair looks amazing!
So, trying to figure this thing out. Cowashing…is this just getting your hair wet and then conditioning? Then adding all the leave ins and gels to support the curls? I’m just wavy but constantly throw my hair in a bun because it doesn’t do anything but frizz
Create Your Own Reality says
Cowashing is using conditioner as shampoo, so you’re washing your scalp with conditioner. If you want to give it a shot, go for it! But as a wavy, you may find that a cowash-only routine leaves you with too much product build up and ends up weighing your hair down. If that’s the case, I’d recommed using a sulfate-free shampoo then conditioning. And yes, then you can style with leave-ins and gel. This should really help you lock in moisture, which should enhance waves and reduce frizz. 🙂