Whether you wash your hair every day, several times a week, or a few times a month, you probably reach for certain products depending on how your hair feels and looks at that specific moment. Maybe you’ve been hitting the hot tools too hard and need repair and moisture, or your scalp is caked with dry shampoo, and you’re in desperate need of a deep, clarifying cleanse. (Been there.) Perhaps you have a certain routine you cycle through throughout the month to keep your hair looking its best, one you repeat regularly by swapping out shampoos and conditioners.
That’s the thesis of “hair cycling,” a piggyback buzzword circulating on TikTok after the success of the skin cycling trend. Skin cycling is a four-night routine: two “active” days with chemical exfoliants and retinol and two “recovery” days to nourish the skin, then repeat. Hair cycling mimics that routine, honing in on specific shampoos, conditioners, and styling products designed to support your hair at every stage.
What Is Hair Cycling?
Hair cycling is just what it sounds like—implementing a routine specific to your hair type to deal with any issues and bring out the best in your lovely locks. That could be anything from curl-enhancing shampoos and conditioners, purple shampoos or color-depositing conditioners, or deeply cleansing and invigorating formulas for oily or fine hair types.
After attempting skin cycling, some TikTok users have discovered they’ve been doing a similar thing in the shower; user Kelsey Griffin shared her routine in a popular video, and the comments were flooded with users who had been hair cycling and didn’t even know there was a name for said process. (To their credit, the phrase hair cycling is a relatively new one.)
“I think I’ve been doing skin cycling but for haircare for a long time,” Griffin says in her video, noting that she washes her hair every three to four days. “Every time I wash my hair, I do a different type of shampoo and conditioner routine.” Griffin calls one a “reset routine,” with a detox shampoo and hydrating hair mask, and later that week follows it with a reparative, bond-building shampoo and conditioner, similar to a “rest” day for your hair. Later, she’ll use a shampoo and conditioner specifically for her desired style, like a smoothing duo. Griffin matches her styling products to that in-shower routine, too, making the whole process come full circle.
Should You Be Hair Cycling?
Is hair cycling something you need to add to your shower routine? Honestly, you’re probably already doing it—and the pros have been recommending a similar process since well before TikTok existed.
“It's possible that hair cycling is now trending because someone has finally put a name to it, but observing the needs of our hair and scalp on a daily and weekly basis and adjusting our routine accordingly has been around for decades,” says Sunny Brewer, Technical Education Manager for Davines North America.
Editorial and red carpet stylist Mika Fowler agrees. “The Japanese are already doing hair cycling,” she says. “We call it 'head spa.'” Changing up your hair and scalp care on a regular basis makes a lot of sense, especially as the seasons change or if you’ve dramatically changed up your hair color, cut, or style. “[Cycling] may require using a different shampoo or a different mask or treatment, depending on what you’re experiencing with your hair,” Brewer says. “These experiences can change based on lifestyle, diet, weather, and environment.”
How to Hair Cycle
Need a little inspiration for your own hair cycling journey? Take a cue from the weather, or go straight to the root and lavish your scalp with attention first. “During cooler months, our scalp can become a bit drier, and we may need to incorporate a treatment to help nourish the scalp and keep it moisturized and supple,” Brewer says. “It may also be time to use a weekly moisture mask, something we weren’t using last week.” Brewer recommends Davines' Naturaltech Nourishing Royal Jelly Superactive ($65), a lotion made with royal jelly, or the super-gentle Renewing Shampoo ($34) and Deep Hair Conditioning Treatment ($40) to treat your scalp to some TLC. When your hair is feeling as dry and dehydrated as the winter air, Brewer loves Davines' Naturaltech Nourishing Vegetarian Miracle Mask ($44) for a much-needed dose of moisture to bring it back to life.
Fowler’s method takes a cue from the Japanese head spa and sets the tone for happy, healthy hair, no matter where your hair cycling takes you that week or month. First, she recommends using your fingers and the natural oils of your hair to massage the scalp and help loosen up any build-up or dirt. Once you’re done, soak your hair in warm water and continue to massage, then cleanse well with shampoo. (Fowler likes SH-RD Nutra-Therapy Shampoo, $38.) Rinse well and apply a deep conditioner like Pureology Hydrate Soft Softening Treatment ($41). Apply oil to the ends of your hair, then wrap your hair in a steamed towel and sit for a few minutes before rinsing. Apply a leave-in conditioner or a bit of oil and let your hair dry, and voila—you’re perfectly primed for your cycling routine.
As a bleached platinum blonde with thick, dry wavy hair, hair cycling is an absolute essential in my haircare routine. I wash my hair twice a week and have developed quite the system: once a month, I use a clarifying shampoo (Kristin Ess, easily found at Target) to get rid of any sweat, residue, and dullness, then follow it with a super nourishing mask, so my hair doesn’t hate me. (Lately, I love Dae’s Monsoon Moisture Mask, $28.) Another monthly must is purple shampoo (Shimmer Lights forever) or purple conditioner (Shu Uemura) for any toning needs, though I’m careful not to do this too often, so my color doesn’t look muddy. On a “normal” shower day, I wash with Aveda’s nourishing Nutriplenish Shampoo Light Moisture ($36) to hydrate my parched hair and wake up my waves and skip conditioner in lieu of a K18 treatment. With this “cycle” of products, I’m covering my bases and giving my hair what it craves.