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Hair Cycling Is TikTok’s Latest Craze—Here’s How to Do It From the Pros!

Photo by Frederic Cirou/Getty Images

By this point, you’re probably already familiar with skin cycling. This TikTok-famous beauty trend is the act of “cycling” through a different skincare product each night for a certain number of nights, and then using rest days to incorporate different products. The skincare routine will vary from person to person, and no specific products will work for everyone, but the general nature of this practice is proven to be effective. That said, did you know there’s also hair cycling? 

Hair cycling—which has also become popular on social media—has a similar concept to skin cycling, but there are some differences. To get to the bottom of the trend and meet your own hair needs, we spoke to two hairstylists. The hair cycling process applies to all hair types, so keep reading for everything you need to know to amplify your hair care routine.

About the Experts: 
Annette Davenport is a professional hairstylist and makeup artist based in Los Angeles. She has worked with some of the top artists in fashion, film, TV, and print.
Ashley Gomila is a Los Angeles-based hairstylist and makeup artist for celebrities, actresses, and models and a contributor to editorial shoots.

What Is Hair Cycling?

Have you noticed when you use brand new hair-care products, your hair strands look a lot more lively, luscious, breakage-free, and frizz-free—especially after the first wash? And then over time, it seems like there’s an overuse of products, and your hair concerns no longer feel met? It’s definitely happened to us, and that’s where a hair-cycling routine comes into play.

“Hair cycling is when you rotate two to three different products on your hair each time, washing and conditioning to avoid buildup or irritation,” says hairstylist Ashley Gomila. “I personally follow this trend because my hair has different needs depending on the way I’m planning to style it or care for it.”

Here’s How to Hair Cycle at Home

1. Start With Scalp Care

First things first: All the product swaps in the world won’t make a difference if you have a compromised scalp. Hair care starts at the head, so ensuring you have a healthy jumping off point will help whatever you do next go smoothly. “Starting with good scalp health is the most important step in maintaining cycling,” says hairstylist Annette Davenport. “Not properly cleansing or not addressing hair integrity prior will only be putting a Band-Aid on the growth and health of your hair.”

If you’re dealing with scalp issues or you simply want to maintain and exfoliate, we love the non-abrasive NATURELAB. TOKYO Perfect Shine Clarifying Scalp Scrub. The product gently exfoliates the scalp to remove excess buildup and oil. You also can’t go wrong with the GROW GORGEOUS Defence Detoxifying Scalp Scrub to keep gunk at bay.

2. Pick a Normal-Day Routine

In addition to hair cycling’s purpose to avoid buildup, not all hair wash days should be the same anyway. There will of course be your everyday wash days, which Gomila points out should be when a treatment or styling-day routine isn’t in the mix. But these “normal” shampoos and conditioners shouldn’t be used during every wash. 

When we’re after a standard day of shampooing, we opt for the REFRESHMENTS Superb Strength Shampoo & Conditioner. The full-size, sulfate-free duo battles weak, brittle strands and protects the hair from damage with an ultra-strengthening, highly restorative formula.

3. Pick a Treatment-Day Routine 

Deep treatments aren’t designed to be used on the reg. If you’ve gone a few days without washing, or your strands have been exposed to environmental stressors, this is when those heavy-duty treatment formulas come to the rescue.

“I hair cycle by using a clarifying shampoo and moisturizing hair conditioning mask once a week,” says Davenport, who also alternates between a moisture-driven shampoo, volume shampoo, and fine hair conditioner or mask if needed.

4. Pick a Styling-Day Routine

If there’s a day you plan to wear your hair curly, for example, or you need more volume for an event, this is also when you can cycle your routine to meet those needs. “On the weekends, when I style my hair more, I like a bit more volume,” says Gomila, who opts for a volumizing shampoo and conditioner. “The extra volume helps me get an extra day out of my hairstyle so it doesn't fall flat.”

If we’re opting for extra volume, we especially love the CHRISTOPHE ROBIN Delicate Volumizing Shampoo with Rose Extracts because it caters to fine hair, sensitive hair, and color-treated hair. 

5. Be Patient With Results

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your master hair plan won’t be either! As with anything, give your new approach to hair care some time to settle in. “Give the routine adequate time to cycle before giving up,” Davenport says. “It usually takes a few months to see the results from this.”

The Benefits of Hair Cycling

Hair Care Continues to Work: As we mentioned above, consistent use of the same products can lead to product plateau (as we call it), which is when they lose their efficacy even if they’re still good products overall. “Hair cycling makes it so the hair doesn’t get fatigued or used to a particular product or ingredient,” says Davenport.

Various Needs Can Be Accommodated: There are only so many needs that can be addressed in one routine, so if you stick to the same thing time and time again, you may limit your care options. Davenport is a fan of hair cycling because she can tackle multiple needs in multiple hair wash sessions.

Buildup Is Reduced: Gomila’s favorite part of hair cycling is the clarifying shampoo component. This step can be drying or stripping to the strands, so it’s not recommended for each wash. But it’s great for a once-a-week refresh to kick that buildup to the curb.

When it comes to busting buildup, you can’t go wrong with the OLAPLEX N4 Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo, which breaks down heavy metals, chlorine, minerals, pollutants, and lingering products.

Are There Any Downsides to Hair Cycling?

Our experts don’t identify any downsides to hair cycling that involve the hair directly. In fact, Gomila says the only real downside to hair cycling is there's an upfront cost to having multiple products. This is something she says balances out over time, though, because you’ll have all the products you need depending on how you wear your hair. For example, using curl shampoo on days you plan to wear your hair straight could weigh it down, so you won’t be using it all the time.

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About the author
Dahvi Shira
Dahvi Shira
Dahvi Shira is a Los Angeles-based beauty writer, who has a passion for hair, makeup, and skincare. She contributes regularly to Mane Addicts and her blog, Skyelyfe. Her work has also appeared on Glossy, People, E!, Sweety High and more.
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Article Last Updated May 8, 2024 12:00 AM