Podcast Episode 4: When Should You Change CG Products?

One of the most tempting things to do with Curly Girl (CG), is to buy too many new products and get lost in trying new routines. If there is no method to the madness, you may have trouble getting the results you want. After many failed attempts for improvement, you will start to feel like you tried everything, but nothing worked. In reality, you may have certain methods and ingredients that just don’t work as well for your hair.

In this podcast episode, I talk about some of the differences in routines that could impact your curls. I highly recommend you don’t worry about changing products until you have spent a few months with the Curly Girl Method and have kept up a simple routine with safe products.

Why Would You Need to Change Products?

After giving your hair a chance to adjust, you may find that the products you are using are not right for your hair. Products could have a variety of problems:

  • Too light (doesn’t weigh hair down enough and hair may dry fluffy—this may also happen if you aren’t adding enough of the leave-in product)
  • Too heavy (makes hair feel lotiony, weighed down or grimy when fully dry)
  • Not enough slip (doesn’t make hair feel smooth when added and may dry frizzy)
  • Wrong ingredients (your hair might be reacting poorly to certain key ingredients, like coconut, avocado, oils or other ingredients that are technically safe)
  • Bad ingredients (an accidental slip up can lead to using a product that has a wax, silicone or drying alcohol and makes the hair react badly with excessive buildup or frizz)
  • Not enough balance (all hair needs varying levels of protein and moisture—you will have to figure out your best balance over time)

Remember, it may not be the products. Try changing how much you leave in or how you apply the products (like squishing the hair full of conditioner to work it in or fingercombing at a different point in your routine) before you give up on the product itself.

What Should You Do When Products Aren’t Working?

When you do determine it might be the products that are too heavy or just want to try something different, only change one. You might theorize that a lighter leave-in will give you bouncier curls, but if you change out both your leave-in and gel, you won’t know what is improving and what isn’t. Maybe the new leave-in makes your curls shinier and bouncier, but the new gel leaves your hair flatter and duller—giving you a combined result that isn’t much better than your previous routine. If you had just changed the gel, you would feel how much worse it made your hair. If you had just changed the leave-in you would immediately notice the improvement, even if it wasn’t perfect.

Hair gel for the curly girl method for healthy silicone-free hair
A fraction of the hair gel I use per washday

Don’t throw non-working products away! What you might find is that it was your application or the point in your routine that mattered more than the product itself. For the first year I thought my hair hated Vo5, but now I’ve found it actually does a great job if I only use it for the cowash step. Plus, you can use up the products you already have that are safe on days you don’t care as much about the results.

Say I’ve worked out at the gym (so I need to wash my hair), but I know I’m mostly doing things around the house for the next day or two. The perfect time to use up product, give my hair a break or test out new products is when I’m not trying to have a good hair day. I think it’s better for the hair when you change up your best routine sometimes, giving your hair new ingredients and avoiding potential buildup. I’ve always found that switching products seems to help the regular products work better.

What About Protein and Moisture?

One of the trickier parts of the Curly Girl Method is in trying to figure out whether your hair needs more moisture or protein to be balanced. It’s pretty safe to say that at first, your hair is going to crave moisture. For beginners, the recommendation is to focus on getting more moisture into your thirsty curls.

But after a few months, your hair might start to become over moisturized and need protein. With bleached hair, you may find that it needs even more protein than normal. I use protein in my leave-in and gel steps, and I even add it in my cowash from time to time. Around 3.5 months, my hair started getting limp and frizzy because it had reached the point of being over moisturized.

Cowashing for curly hair silicone-free conditioner safe for the CGM

If you think your hair might be over moisturized, you can add protein by swapping out one of your products in your routine to something that has protein in the ingredients. It isn’t recommended that you do a protein treatment unless you are sure you are over moisturized and protein will help. If you go too far the other way in adding too much protein, your hair may become brittle and break easily. It is harder to come back from over protein treated hair than over moisturized hair, so I recommend you go slow with the protein.

Once you’ve added in protein, watch for signs that your hair has had enough. If your hair starts to look dry and a little frizzy, ease off your products that have protein. Try to find a balance that will give you healthy curls. Remember, this will actually change by season in most areas as the climate goes from warm and moist to dry and cold. So, you might need extra moisture in the winter and more protein in the summer.

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