Natural haircare is a science. And like any good scientist out there knows, there are times when you’ll have to experiment to prove your theory.
One method that has been tested by naturalistas and has been shown to be tried-and-true is the LOC routine, which details the exact order products should be applied for bouncy and defined curls or coils. If you’re not sure what this means or if you haven’t locked down your LOC methodology, you’re in for a treat. In this deep dive, we will provide you with the ultimate LOC guide and detail what you should know or do every step of the way.
Keep on reading to find out how your hair can thrive under the LOC method.
What Is The LOC Method?
The LOC method is very straightforward. The letters of this method are a mnemonic device that will help you commit to memory the order of your hair care products the same way your middle school math teacher burned PEMDAS into your mind.
What does this little abbreviation break down into: Liquid/Leave-In Conditioner, Oil, and Cream. Any deviation from this order will automatically disqualify it from being considered LOC. (There is an LCO method that some naturals swear by, but we’ll go over that another day.)
The thing that separates the LOC method from other wash-and-go or style routines that apply hair products without a rhyme or reason is that this method takes careful consideration of how to layer products in a way that maximizes moisture retention. The same way skincare uses toner to deliver that initial layer of hydration before heavier moisturizing substances are applied, hair care does the same with liquid and leave-in conditioner before oil and cream are applied to seal the deal.
To get more specific, the term "liquid" in the LOC method generally refers to water or a conditioning hair spray that uses water as a base. Leave-in conditioners are typically also water-based and can range in texture feeling watery, milky, creamy, foamy, whipped, or like a lightweight custard or pudding.
The term oil in the LOC method is just that—an oil. The beauty of an oil is that it can create a layer around the hair shaft that prevents water from escaping, which in turn helps hair to stay moisturized for longer periods. Creams do a similar job, but as the last step in the LOC method, they are meant to be the heaviest out of the bunch. Whether your hair prefers a thick moisturizer that is like a smoothie or butter, this final step ensures hair has retained as much hydration as it can on the hair shaft.
The LOC method is best when applied on dry hair that struggles to retain moisture. This occurrence is typically seen in high porosity hair types that are on the curly, coily, and kinky side—which sometimes feel perpetually thirsty. These textures with low porosity are also a fit for the LOC method, but they may require a different approach since these hair types take longer to saturate or absorb product due to their compact cuticles.
Although porosity plays a major role in whether or not the LOC method will work for you, it is still an effective tactic for treating hair regardless of curl pattern, density, and whether or not the hair is chemically-processed (including hair coloring).
Hair textures that have loose curls or waves can endure limpness and a greasy appearance as well as product buildup if not careful. The same is true with straight hair types (or type 1 hair). However, if you fall into this category and want to give the LOC method a try, you can do so—but you need to use products that are the lightest weight possible.
Below is a quick and easy cheat sheet that can help you figure out your hair type. If you need a more detailed guide, you can read Byrdie’s curl ID article.
Type 1: This hair is straight in texture and falls closest to the head. This type can range from silky and fine to coarse and thick. It can also be prone to excess oil buildup.
Type 2: This hair is wavy in texture with a defined S-pattern. These tresses lay closer to the head and can range from fine to coarse.
Type 3: This hair is curly in texture with a springy pattern that can either be loose or tightly compact. These tresses tend to grow away from the head and have a natural sheen but are also prone to frizz.
Type 4: This hair is extra coily in texture with a Z-pattern that is commonly referred to as afro or kinky. These tresses grow away from the head and are the most delicate, dry, and prone to both frizz and shrinkage. It can range from soft and fine to coarse and wiry.
The Things You’ll Need
Sure, the LOC method has three key products, but there are a few other tools you may need to get the best results. Here is a list of items you’ll need for success:
How To Do It
The LOC method is easy to implement into a hair routine since it requires products that are probably on your vanity right now. All you really need to do is follow the order of application presented in the method. If you can’t wait to use the LOC method on your hair, here are the steps you’ll need to abide by.
Step 1: Liquid/Leave-In Conditioner
Section out your hair and re-wet it with water if it is completely dry. This is much easier to do if you have a spray bottle and sectioning hair clips in hand.
Proceed with your desired leave-in conditioner and apply it evenly throughout each section from root-to-tip. Make sure to give extra love to the ends of your hair since these are the oldest and driest part of your hair. A water-based conditioner will provide the moisture that freshly cleansed hair desperately needs.
The amount of conditioner you should use will be determined by the length and thickness of your hair.
Step 2: Oil
Once you have slathered your locks in conditioner, you are ready for the hair oil. You shouldn’t be as generous as you were in the previous step. Make sure to only apply a thin layer of oil to lock moisture, but don’t be excessive to the point that your hair looks weighed down and greasy. To avoid this, you can apply small amounts to each section and slowly add more when you feel you need it.
Hair oils that are formulated with emulsifiers are ideal for this step because it means the oil will mix with water and deliver moisture instead of just sitting on top of the hair shaft like normal oils do.
Just like everything else, hair porosity can play a factor in the type of oil you’ll need.
Here is a list of hair oils that work best with the different porosity levels. For the purpose of this article, each level is limited to two oil examples. There are countless other types that can work for your hair type. Keep an eye out for these oils in your properly formulated hair oil’s list of ingredients:
- Castor oil
- Olive oil
- Argan oil
- Avocado oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Jojoba oil
Step 3: Cream
When your hair is adequately conditioned and oiled, you are ready for the final step in the LOC method, which involves using a creamy or butter-based moisturizer for sealing. For each section, you will apply the amount you feel is most appropriate for your hair condition. Just like what was suggested previously, you can buildup your application slowly but surely.
The end result should give you hair that is hydrated, defined in texture, and can hold out for a few days. In other words, your hair should look poppin’.
If for whatever reason your hair requires moisture or definition, you can follow up with your other styling products like hair spray, foam or curl gel.
Make The LOC Method Your Own
Depending on your hair’s texture, porosity, and a number of other factors, you may need to modify the LOC method for better results. To help you minimize your trial and error, here are a few tips that will help you make the LOC method your own.
- Some naturals who have hair that thrives under silicone can switch out oil for a silicone-based hair serum.
- If you can’t let go of the hair grease your mom used to put in your hair as a child, you can replace the cream layer with your desired choice of “grease".
- For hair that is being weighed down by product buildup, you can limit the number of products you use. This might mean skipping the leave-in or oil step or both.
- Alternatively, you can apply the whole LOC method and wear your hair in a protective style such as a bun or braid and release it when you feel it will be ready for the public eye.
- Many naturals find successes in switching up the order of the LOC method and opting for LCO instead. Low porosity hair tends to do better under the LCO method.
You can do the LOC method every time you attempt your wash-and-go. This can range between every few days or a week or more. You shouldn’t have your hair-washing sessions exceed more than two weeks, however, or you risk severe product buildup.
When implementing any new routine into your hair regimen, it is advised that you give it more than one shot before you toss it aside in the “does not work” pile. For this reason, you should give the LOC method a try for at least three wash sessions to determine whether it is right for you.
There are additional key things you should keep in mind if you are struggling with the LOC method.
- You’re Experiencing Poor Water Quality: Depending on where you live, your plumbing may use hard water—which is a beauty nightmare because these minerals interfere with the effectiveness of your hair products. To remedy this, you might need to purchase a purifying water filter.
- You’re Not Getting Enough Water: If you are not using leave-in conditioners that are water-based, you risk missing out on essential moisture. Make sure to read the label on your leave-in to get an idea of how much water is in it. If water is not listed in the first five ingredients on the list, then your leave-in won’t have a water content high enough to quench your thirsty strands.
- You’re Not Sectioning Your Hair Enough: Although it might feel like you applied enough product to your hair, you might have missed a few parts if you didn’t section enough. Make sure you divide your hair into four sections and section those out further to ensure you’ve adequately covered your hair.
- You’re Not Wearing The Right Style: Hair that is worn down looks pretty, but it's also prone to moisture loss at a faster rate than hair that is worn in a protective style. Opt for buns, braids, twists, wigs, and any other protective style your heart desires to get the most out of your LOC method.