My CGM Story: Nursing my hair and self-confidence back to life
I grew up with commercial-worthy straight silky hair. But after an ill-fated hair relaxing treatment left my hair severely damaged in February 2011, I was left with not only damaged hair but a damaged self-esteem too.
Hoping that my hair could be revived, inches of my hair were chopped off for months to remove the damaged parts. What grew out however were frizzy and dull strands. Add that to the sheer volume of my hair and I had a literal lion’s mane, except that it is jet black.
For years, I’ve tried almost every product and gimmick available on shelves: conditioners, hair oils, and even hair vitamins in hopes of taming my buhaghag hair – none of it worked.
Plagued with years of insecurities about my hair, I thought it was already a lost cause. But thankfully, I stumbled upon a Facebook group about the Curly Girl Method (CGM) – an alternative set of hair care techniques for those with wavy and curly hair. There I learned all I needed to know about how to nurse my hair back to life.
What is CGM?
CGM was developed by US-based hairstylist Lorraine Massey. It entails avoiding ingredients often found in commercially available products as well as techniques that could inhibit curl health.
With CGM, you have to unlearn a lot of what you know and have been doing to your hair because wavy and curly locks have different needs than straight hair. Curls need more moisture and more TLC for it is as fussy as a newborn baby.
Ingredients to avoid while doing CGM are:
- Sulfates (Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, etc.) – commonly found in shampoos, sulfate cleans your hair well. But, it also strips your scalp of its natural oils that are essential for moisture in wavy or curly hair.
- Silicones (Dimethicone, Amodimethicone, or any ingredients ending with -cone, -conol, -xane) – usually found in conditioners, silicones provide shine to your hair but it also restricts water absorption into hair strands.
- Drying alcohols (Denatured alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, etc.) – some alcohols dry out your hair and create more frizz.
Techniques to unlearn:
- Combing or brushing the hair – combing your hair separates your curls and creates more frizz. Only comb your hair while it’s wet!
- Towel drying your hair – opt for microfiber towels or cotton shirts when drying your hair to avoid frizz.
- Say bye to heat tools – no more blow dryers, flat and curling irons for you! Heat would only dry out your hair and create frizz.
September of 2019 was when I finally started on CGM. On the first day alone, I saw my hair’s wave formation. It was surreal to see for I always believed that I had straight hair, but turns out, hair types can change.
I had a considerably shorter transition phase, or the beginning stages of CGM when your hair will look its worst (mine was only a month and a half long!) because I never had my hair chemically treated again after the 2011 mishap.
Two months in and my waves were already bouncy and shiny – two words I never thought I’d ever use to describe my hair.
Gone were the days that I almost always tied my hair up, I now wear my wavy hair out and proud almost every day. Instead of the usual backhanded comments about my hair before, I am now more often met with praise.
But my experience in CGM was not all rainbows and sunshine.
Being a student, it is hard to maintain a steady stock of the at least five products that I use. Not to mention the trial and error with every new product that practically drained my wallet.
Getting used to the techniques as well was challenging. At first, my shower time doubled. This caught the ire of my family. It took a lot of practice and a lot of hours spent watching Youtube tutorials, and I still have a lot left to learn.
But the upsides of CGM far outweigh its downsides.
Since starting CGM, I noticed how positively it affected my attitude. I was no longer anxious about how my hair would look like tomorrow or if it would behave in the way that I want it to. With CGM, it takes just a few shakes at my roots for my bedhead to be worn outside.
I gained so much confidence with my waves that in January, I wore them naturally at my brother’s wedding. Armed with a couple of bobby pins and my trusted CGM-friendly products, I achieved a bridesmaid-worthy hairstyle sans heat tools! It’s easy on the budget too as I did not need a hairstylist anymore.
But perhaps the most important gift CGM gave me was the gift of self-love. Embracing who I am and what I have was truly empowering. Not anymore did I treat my hair like an inconvenience or a curse, it is now an asset that makes me stand out.
Almost two years in and I still struggle with frizz but I know that my hair is healthier than ever. The progress has slowed but I’m not thinking of quitting CGM anytime soon. I now take it upon myself to empower more and more Filipinas by rejecting beauty standards and embracing their own beauty through CGM.
Nearly a decade worth of damage to my hair and my self-confidence was repaired through CGM. While it may not be an easy nor an instant fix, the journey of self-acceptance and empowerment that it entails is what makes the switch worthy.
For more information on CGM in the Philippines click here.
About the Author
Ella Laguna is a third-year BA Journalism student from UP Diliman. She is part of multiple organizations including her local college publication, a volunteer organization supporting frontliners, and a socio-civic organization. Her free time is spent baking pastries, watching all things K-culture and taking care of her 9-year old Shih Tzu, Crystal.