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.
Meet the Expert
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. For even more tips, I consulted with a few natural hair experts to get their take. Scroll on to lean how to use the maximum hydration method to hydrate and moisturize natural hair.
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. Stormi Steele, the founder of Canvas beauty, adds "The maximum hydration method mainly pertains to those with 4C hair type. The purpose of this method is to achieve intense maximum moisture."
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. Cataanda James, brand educator of The Mane Choice adds, "Hydration and moisture are two key essentials to maintaining healthy hair. You cannot retain one without the other."
The Benefits of MHM on Natural Hair
If you're someone with low porosity hair, the five-step regimen is said to hydrate, strengthen, and stretch curls while maintaining volume. "The maximum hydration method is good for people who feel like their hair doesn't hold moisture," explains Steele. "This is most likely due to having low porosity hair. This regimen can restore the moisture in your hair follicles creating healthier less dry, coarse and brittle hair." Jesseca Dupart agrees, "This method keeps my hair flowing. It's easier to comb through and also has a great shine and is soft to touch."
How to Do the Maximum Hydration Method
Let me warn you, the MHM isn't a quick process. You'll need a few ingredients and tools on hand, and possibly a few hours of wash and styling time. 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 on 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).
- 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 and then rinse thoroughly with warm water.
Step 2: Clarify
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. Steele recommends the
Canvas Beauty Moisture Moolah Galore Conditioner ($8). "It would be great to use for this mixture as it is designed to provide moisture without the frizz, dryness, and breakage," she says.
- 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
Since some shampoos can strip hair, co-washing is meant to cleanse 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 ($79) 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
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.
- 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 — try honey, which may 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: Apply Your Styling Products
- 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 Dupart. You'll apply the leave-in sections running it through from root to tip to ensure you get out any tangles. Dupart recommends the Kaleidoscope Miracle Shake Leave-In Detangler Spray ($20)
- 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)
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, next to pineappling and plopping, to stretch my hair without adding heat. 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 ($31) or silk scrunchies are ideal because they will secure the hair without snagging.
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 to 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 to maintain hydration and moisturization.
The Final Takeaway
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 may have significant benefits too. One thing I've learned on my natural journey is there is no one method that 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.