What is Hair Cycling?
A hair cycling routine includes a series of shampooing, conditioning, and styling sessions that use specific products to meet certain hair needs, says Amy Abramite, creative director and hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. The concept is actually simpler than it sounds. Just as your skincare routine revolves around what your skin is going through at any given time (think: a hydrating mask if you’re dealing with dryness, an acne-fighting cleanser if you’re dealing with breakouts), hair cycles follow a similar principle.
While your specific hair type and texture will play a role in how you structure the cycle, most hair cycle routines follow the same game plan: “The first cycle is to detoxify and clarify, the second is to repair and strengthen, and the third is preparing hair for the best styling results,” says Abramite.
The benefits of hair cycles
According to Kerry E. Yates, trichologist and founder of Color Collective, our hair and scalp conditions are constantly changing due to both internal and external conditions. For example, your hair can sometimes produce an excessive amount of oil due to hormonal changes. Or the opposite can happen: seasonal shifts to colder weather can lead to dandruff, dry scalp and irritation. Hair cycling tackles these challenges head on. “Alternating hair care products hair cycles addresses the problem and prepares the hair and scalp for optimal health,” says Abramite.
Hair cycles can also be helpful if you’re the type who never switches hair care products. “Repeated use of the same product over time can overcorrect one problem and cause another,” Abramite tells WebMD. W. Take scalp scrubs, for example. While they can be an integral part of a hair care routine (especially if you suffer from dandruff), Abramite warns that constant use can over-exfoliate and strip hair of moisture, leaving the scalp dry, itchy and irritated. The same applies to the continuous use of moisture-rich products. “Overly deep conditioning treatments can cause a heavy buildup of oils, leading to clogged pores and making a hair look limp,” says Abramite. However, rotating different formulas, such as with hair cycles, ensures that your hair isn’t getting too much of a good thing (which can ultimately be detrimental to health, Yates adds).
Hair Cycling Routine
Hair cycling is beneficial for everyone, but it looks different for everyone. For example, “If someone has color-treated hair and the protein structure is compromised, that person can have a protein treatment every other week to combat breakage,” says Dr. Isfahan Chambers-Harris, trichologist and creator of Alodia. Or, if someone has product buildup because they wore braids for several weeks, [they] can cycle in a clarifying shampoo to remove buildup. It’s up to you to consider the factors that can affect the health of your hair and scalp and use products accordingly. To clarify, hair cycling is great for all hair types.
Here’s an example of a hair cycle routine, as laid out by Abramite.
First wash (detox and clarify): On the first cycle, use a clarifying shampoo to remove buildup, excess oil, or dry skin. Follow up with a hydrating mask to replenish the moisture and seal it all up with a leave-in conditioner to amp up the moisture a few days before the next cycle.
Second Wash (Repair and Strengthen): “The second cycle is for repairing and strengthening weakened hair strands,” says Abramite. “A shampoo, conditioner, and styling product that builds a bond will strengthen the hair cuticle in preparation for heat styling and chemical services, such as color and texture-changing treatments.” This is an important step in preventing damage.
Third wash (prepare for styling): The third cycle involves using products that will help you achieve the best styling results, whatever your styling goals. Abramite recommends using a shampoo, conditioner, and styling product that work synergistically to prep the hair. For example, if you’re looking for volume, go for a volumizing shampoo, followed by a light conditioner on the ends and a mousse or volumizing spray as a styling product.