Hair care by trial & error: Experimenting with the ‘curly girl method’

Budget and commitment level are vital aspects of a hair care journey

It’s difficult to find a routine for the perfect curls.

“How to figure out your curl type.” “Product dos and don'ts for curly hair.” “Common curly hair mistakes and how to avoid them.”

These are just a taste of titles from the overwhelming slew of articles meant to guide you through the challenges of managing curly hair circulating online. Throw in YouTube recommendations filled with curly hair routines and an endless stream of TikToks that each say you need a different product, and curly hair care can seem daunting—if not impossible.

I wish I could provide a low-down of everything to do with curly hair but, unfortunately, I have yet to figure out the perfect curly hair routine for myself. Since the beginning of my relatively new commitment to taking care of my natural hair, I’ve been on an endless, somewhat expensive, highly experimental journey of products and techniques.

After weeks of seeing creators touting it on TikTok, my first step was to look into the ‘curly girl method’ of hair care, a respected routine among people with curly hair.

My experience has been that, although it’s a nice general guide for how to achieve smooth curls, this method has to be adapted to your curl pattern, budget, and commitment level. Even then, some products and techniques won’t work for you.

This makes the journey of finding your own personal ‘curly girl method’ exciting, confusing, and a little frustrating at times.

To begin, the basis of any good hairstyle starts with the tools.

A diffuser, which is an extension for your hairdryer, is a must-have for me. A diffuser dries your hair in a way that reduces frizz and maintains the curl pattern without the long wait of air drying. While I wouldn’t recommend heat drying every day, it makes sure that my curls stay nice and keep their volume on the days where a quick dry is necessary.

For the days when air drying is an option, a microfiber towel or a simple cotton t-shirt is my best friend. After washing my hair, I flip my head upside down and scrunch out all the excess water with the towel, giving a chance for my hair to fall away from my scalp to create volume at the roots. After running my products through my hair with my fingers, I pile my hair at the top of my head and wrap it in the microfiber towel or shirt. I only keep my hair wrapped for about 15 minutes to let the curls set before I lightly shake my hair away from my scalp again and let the curls air dry.

As far as products go, I am still quite early in my exploration of hair care products, but I currently have two on the go.

The first is the Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie. When I first got my hands on this product, I had high hopes it would be a curl miracle because I’d seen it in so many people’s routines online.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed when it did nothing for my curls and just weighed them down. After looking through some reviews, many long-time users are claiming that a change in ingredients has made the product lose its effect on curly hair. However, since I have a whole tub of it to get through, I’ve continued putting small amounts of it on the ends of my damp hair. I then go in with my Herbal Essences Curl Boosting Mousse—my second product—which is the one mousse that has outshone the countless others I’ve tried.

I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that, after years of heat damage, I can’t expect my hair to revert to its former curliness within a year—especially when there’s no one-size-fits-all guide out there for curly hair. While the products and practices I currently use have yielded decent results, I can’t help but feel like they’re still weighing my hair down.

My biggest piece of advice to anyone who is looking to experiment and find a curl routine that works for them is to get a sample size of new products you’re trying whenever possible, do your research, and be ready for some disappointment. Though the Shea Moisture was a letdown, I can’t help but get excited all over again for the delivery of my newest investment, the Olaplex Hair Perfector. It reminds me that as discouraging as this process can be at times, there is a whole world of hair masks, oils, and leave-in conditioners to look forward to.


All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.