In the past year, I went from being the girl who used a Revlon brush to blow out her hair every single day of the week to a self-proclaimed curly girl. I owe this transformation to several factors—living in an incessantly humid climate, supportive friends who encouraged me to love my curls, and a stellar curly haircut among them—but above all, my curly hair transformation happened because of CurlTok. I would be completely lost without the guidance of the internet teaching me the difference between gel and mousse, how to properly diffuse, and most importantly, how to embrace my curls for their unique pattern. However, there are a few viral methods that I have yet to test out on my own curly hair, mostly because of the sheer amount of effort that they require. Dunking my head upside down into a bowl of water? Yeah, that’s included.
Whether the viral bowl method has graced your FYP or not, you’ve likely found yourself skeptical about at least one out-there curly hair routine that has circulated on the internet in the past couple of years. To get to the bottom of whether the bowl method is actually worth the daily effort—or worth even trying in the first place—I tested it out on my naturally curly hair. Here are my thoughts on TikTok’s favorite new strategy for maximizing curl volume at the root and creating larger curl clumps.
What is the bowl method?
The bowl method first went viral on TikTok with a video from @curlyzia.xo, though some sources credit hairstylist Lorraine Massey for the creation of the method. Many (if not most) of the strategies for improving curly hair that circulate the internet on a daily basis originate from the advice of Black women, and the reason why so few people know how to properly care for their curls in the first place is because of racially biased beauty standards that permeate our culture and uphold a preference for straight hair. That said, the reason why the bowl method is popping up on the internet now is because of the approval of influencers like Zia and Jonathan Monroe.
The steps of the bowl method include the following:
- Wash your hair as you normally do with shampoo and conditioner. When you get out of the shower, fill a bowl with cold water.
- Flip your hair over and rake through any tangles with your fingers. Then, dunk it in the water while upside down (be sure to completely submerge and soak all of your hair). Lift your hair out of the bowl, still upside down, and scrunch your curls with your hands.
- Rake curl cream through your hair, still upside down. Then, proceed to do the same dunking-and-scrunching repetition on the front and sides of your hair.
- Remaining upside down, glaze over your curls with your preferred gel or mousse, and scrunch your curls to distribute the product evenly and remove the excess water.
According to Allure, there isn’t much science behind the process of the bowl method. However, creators like Zia claim that the strategy helps to reduce frizz by distributing the conditioner and curl cream evenly throughout curly hair. The constant upside-down nature of the method also increases the volume of the curls, as gravity does its thing to lift the curls away from the root. Given that some experts even oppose the method, is a viral curly hair dunking method really worth the effort? This was the question that prompted me to test the bowl method for myself.
About my curly hair
Consider this a major disclaimer: If you also have curly hair, the chances that your bowl-method-curls and my bowl-method-curls turn out the same are basically zero. Everyone’s curly hair is different, so no “curly-girl method” is going to work the exact same on anyone. With that said, here’s the 101 on my own curly hair. My hair is fine, but I have a lot of it, and it also leans on the dry side. I struggle with maintaining volume at the root of my curls for a few reasons, including years of straightening it, as well as product buildup due to how lightweight it is.
Though a properly layered curly haircut and some fantastic clarifying shampoo definitely help, the fact that I struggle with volume at the root of my curls means that I’m a prime candidate for testing out the bowl method. My normal curly-girl routine is much less complex than dunking my head upside down in a bowl of water. Instead, I usually rake-and-scrunch my curl cream and gel through my hair (right-side up, thank you very much), hover diffuse (this I admittedly do upside down, in order to dry my roots first), and then allow my hair to air dry once it is no longer dripping wet.
How the bowl method measures up
I’m going to be honest: there was a middle point of testing out the bowl method when I was very, very concerned about the direction in which my curls were headed. Though I found the process of dunking and scrunching in the bowl to be somewhat therapeutic, once I had glazed my gel over my wet hair upside down, I had a panicked “What now?!” moment. Flipping my hair back up was a challenge, and the wet curl clumps appeared to be going in all different directions when I first looked in the mirror. However, I decided to trust the process, and I managed to go about my regular diffusing routine without totally freaking out.
In the end, I am happy to report that I did see results from doing the bowl method. My curls were undoubtedly more voluminous at the root, and the process did make my curls bigger, due to the large clumps that resulted from repeatedly soaking my head. CurlTok isn’t totally full of B.S. on this one: My hair was bouncier and more defined after trying this method. If you have a try-anything-once mentality like I do when it comes to my curls, then definitely test it out on yourself—you might just find the answer to your own curly hair woes.
However, at the end of the day, I can’t say that I see myself doing the bowl method more than once a month or so for one simple reason: It’s just too much work. The added steps of filling a bowl with water and repeatedly dunking and scrunching my hair, not to mention the lower back discomfort from being upside down for so long, make this method hugely inconvenient and not exactly sustainable for every day (for me, at least). Aside from the fact that it’s impossible to recommend for everyone because everyone’s curls are different, I think that the bowl method is not necessarily worth working into a daily routine because of the sheer amount of time that it takes. Luckily for those of us who don’t want to make a regular time commitment to the bowl method, there’s a whole internet full of many, many more curl tips waiting for us to explore. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind an added step, this one is definitely worth checking out.