All Beauty, All the Time—For Everyone.

Meet the Maximum Hydration Method: 6 Steps to Soft, Natural Hair

Girls with 4c curls swear by this method.

woman with natural hair glowing in sunlight

@theouai 

Natural girls everywhere know that wash day usually means you, your hair, and your arsenal of beauty products will spend the entire day together. I am more of a low maintenance natural, but if you find that your hair type is still dry post-wash day, you may want to give the Maximum Hydration Method a try. 

While this method might be new to you, many of the steps and ingredients (like apple cider vinegar spray and bentonite clay) will likely be familiar to you. Ahead, we're breaking down exactly how to master the Maximum Hydration Method—just be prepared to invest some time and patience.

What Is The Maximum Hydration Method?

The Maximum Hydration Method is a hair care regimen (typically comprised of five steps) designed to "systematically increase moisture levels in the hair until max hydration is reached." MHM started making waves on a Black Hair Media thread back in 2014 when a user known as Pinkecube posted the method to debunk the longstanding myth that 4c girls can't wear a wash-and-go because our hair is too kinky As a wash and go girl with 4c hair, I think that this is a myth, at least based on my experience.

But, I didn't learn this until I had a one on one session with DevaCurl specialists Ezzy and Donatella of Curls One On One. They helped me understand that hydration is the key to a "juicy" wash-and-go no matter your hair type—which is essentially what the MHM is all about... just with more steps. 

How Does the Method Work?

If you're someone with low porosity hair (meaning the hair cuticles are tight and sometimes resistant to soaking up water and moisture), the five-step regimen is said to hydrate, strengthen, and stretch curls while maintaining volume. Pinkecube says that you'll know the method is working when the hair is "clumping and curling at the ends" and when your curls are "shakeable even when hair is completely dry." While users tend to put their own spin MHM to address personal hair concerns, the Max Hydration Method is usually completed in the following six steps:

Step 1: The Cherry Lola Treatment

As the first step in the Max Hydration Method, you'll want to create a mixture that's known as the Cherry Lola Treatment, which combines a number of ingredients (including greek yogurt, amino acids, and honey) to hydrate, reduce frizz, and make hair easier to detangle. Before you get started, you'll want to take the Cherry Lola ingredients and smooth them in a blender, then pour them into a bowl.

There are a number of variations on the Cherry Lola Treatment, with the two most important (and non-negotiable) ingredients being yogurt and amino acids. All other ingredients are optional, but the below is the most well-reviewed and moisturizing routine when you're using the Cherry Lola Treatment as part of the Maximum Hydration Method (Cherry Lola can be used as a hydrating treatment on its own without completing the remaining steps in the Max Hydration Method).

Recipe:

2 cups greek yogurt

2 tbsp baking soda

2 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp raw coconut amino acids or regular amino acids 

1/2 tbsp raw honey

1 tbsp Unsulfured molasses

1/2 an overripe plantain or banana

3/4 tbsp avocado

1 egg (optional, but I used it no problem)

When your mixture is ready, you'll apply to dry, detangled hair, saturating it from root to tip. Once each strand is evenly coated, put your hair up into a shower cap. You'll leave this on for between an hour and a half to two hours (depending on your exact hair type) and then rinse thoroughly with warm water.

Step 2: Clarify

r+co acid wash
R+Co Acid Wash ACV $32
Shop

You have two options here: You can mix a baking soda rinse or an apple cider vinegar rinse. Both are easy to create. 

Baking Soda Mix: You'll mix one and a half tablespoons of baking soda into 1/3 a cup conditioner and let sit on the hair for ten to thirty minutes. 

Apple Cider Vinegar Mix: You put in a spray bottle with a 1:1 ratio and spray on hair leaving it for thirty minutes to an hour. To skip the mixing, you can also use a pre-made apple cider vinegar rinse.

Step 3: Co-Wash

pantene cowash
Pantene Deep Hydrating Co-Wash $10
Shop

Since some shampoos can strip hair, co-washing cleanses while conditioning which is beneficial to natural hair types. You'll section the hair and apply your co-wash product from root to tip, apply a shower cap, and steam the hair for twenty minutes. Pantene's Deep Hydrating Co-Wash is one of my favorites as it doesn't have sulfates and truly moisturizes my hair (which was a pleasant surprise). As far as steamers, I have tried a few, and The Q-Redew handheld hair steamer is my top pick since it's easy to pack when I wash my hair on the road.

Step 4: Bentonite Clay Rinse

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay
Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay $13
Shop

I personally love using the Bentonite clay mask on my hair. The mask makes my curls pop while the apple cider vinegar in the mix helps clarify my scalp. Depending on your hair's needs, you can mix the clay with honey and an oil of your choice. This is the recipe Pinkecube recommends. 

Ingredients: 

1 cup bentonite clay

1.5 cups of warm water

1 tbsp of honey

1 tbsp of olive oil

Before you add the oil to your mixture, I want to share a tip that curly stylists have given me. Since oil and water don't mix — the oil usually just sits on top of the hair without penetrating the cuticle. But, honey, on the other hand, can help give natural hair what it needs with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Clay masks can be messy in general, so applying it to the hair will likely result in a mess. To ensure you get the benefits, you'll want to separate the coils as you go and apply the mask in thin layers to prevent the hair from tangling or clumping together. You'll leave this on for at least 15 minutes.

Step 5: Appy Your Styling Products

innersense I create hold product against white background
Innersense I Create Hold $26
Shop
  • Leave-in Conditioner: For this step, you'll want to do in the shower or under running water to ensure the hair gets all of the water it needs — another tip I learned from Devacurl pros. You'll apply the leave-in sections running it through from root to tip to ensure you get out any tangles.
  • Gel or Creme: Now, you'll apply your gel or creme in sections. To achieve elongated, defined curls, I typically use a gel as cremes seem to just sit on top of my hair. Many naturals love eco-styler, but after an introduction to Innersense's I Create Hold Gel, it is my go-to. Not only does it hold (and not flake) but their line is one of cleanest on the market.

Once you've applied your gel of choice, turn your head over and give it a big shake from side to side and up and down to separate your curls without touching them to prevent frizz.

Step 6: Time To Stretch (Your Body and Your Curls)

Black Orchid Hair Diffuser against white background
Black Orchid Hair Diffuser $20
Shop

If you're truly washing-and-going, You'll follow the same steps of shaking the hair out, using a diffuser to cut down your drying time. I haven't personally taken it for a spin, but the Black Orchid Hair Diffuser comes highly rated with reviewers noting "much shorter drying times" and "less frizz"—a curly girl's dream. To diffuse with optimal results, 4c hair types should keep the blow dryer on the lowest setting (and don't touch your hair with your fingertips, which creates friction and, subsequently, frizz). To get more volume, flip your head over as you dry with the diffuser, shaking hair out at the roots rather than touching or running fingers through it.

  • Washing and Running: If you're doing this before getting ready for bed and want to air dry, there is one method I'd recommend to stretch the hair: The Banding Method. When I saw Whitney White try this method in a YouTube video, I was hooked. Banding has become one of my tried and true methods to stretch my hair without adding heat next to pineappling. See a full tutorial here.
  • The Nighttime Air Dry: You'll part the hair into four or more sections (depending on your hair's thickness and texture). Start by securing each section with an elastic band. Be careful not to tie too tightly as we want to keep our edges and coils in place. Elastic bands like Snappee's No-Crease Snap-Off Hair Ties or silk scrunchies are ideal because they will secure the hair without snagging. 
slip silk scrunchies in a pack
Slip Silk Skinnies $39 $33
Shop

Finally, you'll take another band and weave it down the length of each ponytail to the ends of the hair. Now, it's time to secure your ponytails with a silk scarf or bonnet. 

How Often Should I Use The MHM?

The Cherry Lola Treatment is recommended to do every two weeks, while the rest of the steps within the Max Hydration Method should be done weekly.

The Maximum Hydration Method is lengthy, but worth the time if you have trouble with dry hair. If the time-intensive process is too much for you, taking the time to just do a clay mask or clarifying the hair and scalp with apple cider vinegar has significant benefits too. One thing I've learned on my natural journey is there is no one method fits all. Experimenting is how you figure out what works for your hair type and lifestyle, so don't be afraid to try something new—even if it requires time.   

Related Stories