So, you’ve taken the plunge and decided to embrace your natural curl or wave pattern? CONGRATS! Starting research on the curly-girl method can be overwhelming. It’s hard to try to remember things like curl pattern, moisture vs. protein, porosity etc. On top of all that, you’ve got to replace all your hair products!

When I first started the curly-girl method (CGM), I started looking at what I was putting on my head. Then at different alternatives, ones that were CGM approved, for each step of the process. Then, I looked at the price tag on them! Man, who knew making such a change would come at such a cost. My goal was to collect solid, inexpensive products, that most hair-types could use.

What You Need

Generally speaking, you’ll need a low-poo (sulfate free shampoo), a co-wash (conditioner wash), a rinse-out conditioner, deep conditioner, a leave-in conditioner or curl cream, and a gel or custard. I’m going to list a few of my favorites below for each item. All items listed are between $2-$15, fingers crossed that I can keep this under budget for everyone!

When it comes to tools, you have a few different choices. I’ll list a few different curly-girl options, hopefully one of them works for you! PS: If you need to refresh your memory on any curly terms, check out my Curly Girl Glossary.

Cleansing Products


Depending on how oily your hair is or how quick it builds up product, you should only shampoo at most, once a week. I personally shampoo every two weeks. I currently use Not Your Mother’s Naturals Tahitian Gardenia Flower & Mango Butter Curl Defining Shampoo ($8.99). A few other options are Cantu Sulfate-Free Shampoo ($4.99), Maui Moisture Curl Quench + Coconut Oil Shampoo ($8.99), Yes to Carrots ($8.99).


When you aren’t shampooing, you still need to clean your hair. Shockingly, most conditioners on the market have ingredients that can handle basic hair washes. I currently bounce between L’Oréal EverCreme Deep Nourish Conditioner ($7.99) and Not Your Mother’s Matcha Green Tea & Wild Apple Blossom Nutrient Rich Conditioner ($8.99). A few other options are SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Conditioner ($9.99), Aussie Miracle Moist Conditioner ($2.99), Suave Essentials Tropical Coconut Conditioner ($1.99).

Rinse-Out Conditioner

A great way to help replenish healthy hair oils is to use a rinse-out conditioner after you’ve washed. I use TRESemme Botanique Nourish + Replenish With Coconut Milk & Aloe Vera Conditioner ($4.99). Another great option is SheaMoisture Red Palm Oil & Cocoa Butter Rinse Out or Leave In Conditioner ($9.99), and V05 Herbal Escapes Free Me Freesia Moisturizing Conditioner ($5.99).

Deep Conditioner

This is a super important step in the curly-girl method. It helps maintain the delicate protein/moisture balance that curls need, it can repair damaged edges, and support nutrient replenishment. I try to set aside one day a week to deep condition my hair for at least 15-30 minutes. Most of the time I’ll put it in before I shave or something like that (TMI? Sorry haha). My current favorite is Not Your Mother’s Matcha Green Tea & Wild Apple Blossom Nutrient Rich Butter Masque ($8.99). Some other great options Garnier Fructis Hair Mask ($2.99), Mielle Rosemary Mint Strengthening Hair Masque ($9.99), and Cantu Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque ($5.99).

Styling Products

Leave-In Conditioner / Curl Cream

This is a great way to retain moisture in your curls for everyday styling. It also helps manage frizz. Be mindful, depending on your hair’s porosity and styling technique; too much of this will weigh your curls down and keep you from achieving volume. I have long been a fan of Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave In Conditioner ($11.99). A few other great options are Kinky-Curly Knot Today Leave In Detangler ($11.99), Not Your Mother’s Curl Talk Defining Cream ($7.99) and SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Multi-Action Leave-In ($11.49).

Gel / Custard

This is the icing on the cake for curl-girl styling. You need a solid gel in order to set the curl and build a cast before you scrunch out the crunch! My favorites are MopTop Curly Hair Custard ($15.99) and Aussie Instant Freeze ($3.49). Some other great options are Garnier Fructis Style Curl Scrunch Extra Strong Hold Controlling Gel ($3.49), and Eco Style Professional Olive Styling Gel ($2.99).


You’ll come across a few curly-girls who say that you should swear off brushes entirely. I only use a brush when my hair is soaking wet and full of conditioner or leave-in. This is for the purpose of detangling, and the creation of curl clumps. I love my Denman Styling Brush ($13.00).

Another favorite curly-girl ‘tool’ you will need is a microfiber towel, but since those can run pricey at times. Regular towels will lead to frizz after sucking more moisture out of the hair than is necessary. When in doubt, grab an old t-shirt and use that to scrunch out some excess water.

Be Patient

I hope that this helps! I know it can be overwhelming, but it shouldn’t be bank-breaking. All the products on this list are widely available in stores like Target, Ulta, and Walmart. Your location might impact the products availability. If you have a question about a products ingredients then use the CurlScan site to give you a good overview.

Thankfully, as more people embrace their natural hair, more Curly-Girl friendly products show up at your local drugstores.

Did I leave off your favorite inexpensive curly product? Leave it in the comments!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. This is at no extra cost to you and all products linked are ones I use personally and/or paid for myself