Curly Girl Glossary

What is the Curly Girl Method*?

The CGM* is a method of caring for your waves, curls or coils in order to achieve healthy and beautiful hair.

It calls for cutting out of silicones, waxes, mineral oils and parabens. When you see a product described as “Curly Girl Approved” or CGA, this means the products are free from those ingredients and therefore safe to use with the method.


A brief guide of commonly used terms

The Curly Girl Method comes with it’s own unique set of terms and techniques. Here we will outline the most commonly used abbreviations and terms.

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A haircut to remove chemically straightened or otherwise permanently damaged ends in order to transition to naturally curly hair. A big chop is often a big deal because it results in a much shorter style –but on the plus side, allows healthy new hair growth.

When hair sheds from the mid-shaft. The tighter the curl, the more fragile the hair can be. Damage from friction, heat, and color or chemical processing can all cause breakage in curly hair.

Accumulation of product / sebum in the hair, which leaves a feeling of molasses, dandruff and little definition.

A cast refers to your hardened curls after you have applied gel and left them to dry.

Products that contain none of the prohibited ingredients: sulphates, silicones, drying alcohols, parabens, and non-soluble waxes.

Using a deep cleansing shampoo to remove buildup from the hair. A clarifying shampoo helps to restore shine and bounce to curls by removing residue, but should not be used more than once every week or two, since it is more intense than regular shampoos.

To co-wash is to use conditioner to cleanse the hair, instead of a shampoo that lathers. For curl types that are more prone to dryness, such as kinky curls, co-washing with a cleansing conditioner helps hair to better retain moisture and prevents the stripping of natural scalp oils.

The act of coaxing curls to stick together to form fuller, defined sections. Curls that haven’t “clumped” can have a stringy look.

Every curl pattern is unique, and has different haircare needs. Ouidad classifies curls into four types: Loose, Classic, Tight, and Kinky curls. Find out your curl type here.

The outermost protective layer of the hair, the cuticle resembles overlapping shingles on a roof and helps to seal moisture inside of the hair shaft. In curly hair, the scales of the cuticle are naturally lifted, which is why curls can experience dryness and frizz.

Adding styling products to damp hair.

To use a treatment to restore moisture and nutrients to the hair. Deep conditioners are richer than daily conditioners and meant to be left on the hair longer.

The amount of hair strands per inch on the scalp. (Not to be confused with texture, which is the thickness of the individual strands.) Low-density hair appears thin and the scalp can be visible; high-density hair is often tricky to part.

An attachment that spreads the airflow from a blow dryer over a wider area so as not to disturb the curl pattern.

To use specific products and styling methods to stretch curls that are prone to shrinkage.

A final wash refers to a last ‘get rid of sillicones’ wash using a sulphate shampoo.

The use of fingers or a pick to add volume and shape to curly and coily hair.

The stiff outer layer that styling gel creates as it dries. With high-quality gels, this cast can be broken by smoothing closed palms over the hair to leave soft, flake-free curls.

Halo frizz is basically frizz on top / crown of your hair. This is very common and can be managed using gel.

A class of ingredients that promotes moisture retention by attracting water molecules to the hair.

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.

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.

The founder behind the Curly Girl Method and the author of Curly Girl The Handbook.

Using a gentle shampoo without sulphates, insoluble silicones and petrolatum derivatives to wash hair.

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.

A high curly ponytail on top of the head, named because of its resemblance to a pineapple’s leaves. A popular style for preserving curls while sleeping.

Refers to hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. Hair can have low-, medium-, or high-porosity; to find out yours, take the quiz

This method includes wrapping wet hair in t-shirt or microfiber towel in order to quickly to gently absorb excessive water that would drip otherwise.

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.

This includes applying an oil or conditioner prior to shampooing to help the hair maintain necessary moisture during the drying shampoo process.

This is a type of style that does not expose the ends of the hair and is typically left un-manipulated for 2-4 weeks. Protective styling is primarily used to retain length.

The “building block” material that hair is primarily made of (e.g. keratin), or a class of ingredients used to strengthen hair. Curly hair is constantly losing moisture and nutrients thanks to its open cuticle, which is why regular protein treatments are a must.

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.

If a wet refresh makes your hair frizzy, try a dry refresh.

Every refresh routine is different so you need to find the right one for you.

Describes a product’s ability to glide through hair and detangle. A conditioner that makes hair feel slippery is said to have good slip.

A class of foaming cleansers that are typically used in shampoos. There are different types of sulfates, ranging from deeply cleansing (sodium lauryl sulfate) to quite gentle (ammonium laureth sulfate). Sulfates help to remove buildup from hair, but sulfate-free shampoos can be a good option if you feel like sulfates are too harsh on your curls.

A class of ingredients that give hair a silky feel and help to create shine, detangle, and seal the cuticle. Silicone comes in many forms and is used in more than 50 percent of hair products. Look for lightweight or water-soluble silicones that can easily be washed out to prevent buildup.

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.

To scrunch is to gently squeeze the hair upward from ends toward roots to encourage curl definition and remove gel crunch

The name for the journey from chemically straightened (or severely heat damaged) hair to naturally textured curls. Transitioning to natural hair often takes many months (or years!) as new, healthy hair grows in at the scalp.

Adding styling products to soaking wet hair.


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