If you’ve been on any form of social media lately, you’ve likely come across videos about skin cycling, a catchy term used to describe how and when to apply certain skincare products. As quickly as the term began to go viral on apps like TikTok, it’s second cousin, hair cycling, is having a moment as well.
“Hair cycling is just a term that someone coined for creating a specific haircare routine, which is a good idea for people with all hair types and textures,” says Harry Josh, a celebrity hair stylist and founder of Harry Josh Pro Tools.
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In other words, hair cycling really just means practicing a consistent routine to keep your hair and scalp healthy and clean, and incorporating different products based on your specific hair type, texture, and needs. And while hair cycling is popular for a reason, there are a few things you should know before getting started. Read on for all things hair care and let’s get cycling!
What Is Hair Cycling?
Simply put, hair cycling is the process of creating a specific routine of shampoos, conditioner, and stylers to support your specific hair type and texture to achieve your best hair, says Josh. “It’s more than just having a favorite brand or go-to shampoo, it’s about having a weekly or monthly cycle of products that have different purposes but are all working together for the common goal of healthy, nourished hair,” he adds.
Your cycling regimen is unique to you and your hair, but it’s typically a four to five day routine that incorporates “rest days” throughout the week, says Helen Reavey, a celebrity hair stylist, certified trichologist, and the founder of Act+Acre. This allows for your hair to breathe and repair itself after using products, cleansers, or masks, she explains.
What Are The Benefits Of Hair Cycling?
According to Reavey, hair cycling minimizes irritation to the scalp from your products. “[It] reduces the potential risk of inflammation from active ingredients or products that have stripping ingredients such as sulfates and gives the hair a break from regularly using silicones, which tend to build up on the scalp and hair follicles, leaving them more susceptible to irritation,” she explains.
Not to mention, sticking to a set routine prevents you from overusing products—especially on your ends, which can cause hygral fatigue (damage to your hair follicles caused by repeated swelling and unswelling typically caused by over-conditioning), adds Reavey.
Who Should Try Hair Cycling?
The short answer is anyone. Hair cycling is great for any person who wants to improve their scalp and hair health, says Josh. In other words, you’re all invited to the party.
In terms of risks, there really are none. Just remember to not overdo it. “It can be tempting to form a 30-step hair routine with every product under the sun, but that can be more damaging to your hair and weigh down your strands,” says Josh. Instead, find a go-to shower and hair care routine, and stick to it.
How To Hair Cycle
First things first. Figure out your hair type and texture and consider your environment (think: is it humid and rainy or cold and dry?), says Josh. Then, create a schedule that works for you (and that you can stick to) and decide which days you will cleanse, clarify, condition, and mask. It may also take a few weeks to nail the perfect routine, so you can expect some trial and error. Find products you love, because once you establish what’s right for you, the benefits will start rolling in.
It’s also worth noting that there’s a fine line between washing your hair too much and not washing it enough.
“If you’re not using heat tools to style afterward, then washing daily is optimal as most of the damage is done from styling, not from cleansing,” says Reavey. “It really is a myth that you shouldn’t wash your hair too often, because dead skin, pollution, and sweat can all contribute to the hair shaft weakening, which causes unhealthy hair growth.” If you workout regularly, live in a polluted environment, or have dandruff, then it’s better to cleanse more often, she adds.
Everyone’s hair is different, but here’s a sample hair cycling schedule recommended by Reavey and Josh to get you started:
- Use a gentle exfoliating treatment to remove product building up and break down oil. Just remember to be careful, because harsh scrubbing can cause micro-tears on the scalp and cause discomfort or infection.
- Double cleanse with a sulfate and synthetic-free shampoo. The first cleanse removes product build-up and the second purifies the scalp.
- Condition with a hydrating conditioner.
- Finish off with a hair serum or oil to lock in moisture and repair split ends.
- Double cleanse with your sulfate and synthetic-free shampoo.
- Use a thick hair mask to lock moisture back into each strand.
- Massage in a leave-in conditioner to eliminate heat damage, smooth frizz, and prevent any breakage that may be caused by aggressive brushing, pulling your hair back too tightly, overusing heat tools, and/or sleeping on wet hair.
Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based writer and graduate student at Northwestern Medill. She’s a mass consumer of social media and cares about women’s rights, holistic wellness, and non-stigmatizing reproductive care. As a former collegiate pole vaulter, she has a love for all things fitness and is currently obsessed with Peloton Tread workouts and hot yoga.