Skin cycling has been a huge trend over the past year—as has focus on hair care in the same manner as skin care—so it’s no surprise hair cycling has now come into the picture. While TikTok has made the technique trend, scalp expert and founder of Philip B Hair Care, Philip B, says it’s been around for years.
Celebrity hairstylist Glenn Ellis says there’s been a rise in the creation of set routines in beauty and hair care. With skin cycling trending, he says it was only a matter of time before that methodology was broadly applied to hair care. Ellis notes that having a routine simplifies the process and helps foster a habit that ends up becoming second nature. If you want to try the new trend, we have expert tips to get you started.
What is hair cycling?
Similar to skin cycling, hair cycling involves alternating hair-care products to promote the best results for your hair type. “Hair cycling integrates multiple sets of different types of hair care into your daily routine,” explains L’Oréal Paris celebrity hairstylist and colorist Jonathan Colombini. “For example, using a clarifying shampoo followed by a hydrating mask on a Monday, and a moisture-driven shampoo followed by an anti-frizz conditioner on a Wednesday.” Professional hair and makeup artist Allison Kaye notes that incorporating periods of rest with no products is also key to hair-cycling success.
“Hair and skin change with seasonality, stress, environment, nutrition and other lifestyle factors that alter its pH, sebum production, reaction to products, strength, elasticity, shine, bounce and overall performance,” explains Philip B. “It’s never one shampoo that fits all. Changing the routine and understanding your individual needs is key.”
Hair cycling benefits
“Hair cycling or any type of rotation—from a daily shampoo to a deep clarifying shampoo or from a lightweight conditioner to a hair mask—can help to improve the health of your scalp and hair,” says Philip B. “As hair cycling involves giving the hair a much-needed rest period or break from some products, it also benefits from extending additional nourishment as needed,” he adds. Philip B notes that benefits include lowering the risk of inflammation and combating breakage, damage and irritation.
Ellis says another benefit of hair cycling is minimizing product build-up. “The overuse of a product can cause build-up on the hair as well as irritation to the scalp,” says Ellis. “This is typically why stylists recommend washing your hair, at max, two to three times a week and switching out your shampoo every couple of months,” he adds. Kaye notes that, as with most things in life, our bodies can start to reject something if we overuse it. Hair cycling helps “keep our hair follicles from getting fatigued,” she explains.
If you have a specific concern with your hair, hair cycling makes it easy to tackle. Colombini says you can create a routine that addresses a specific issue. However, if you want to just go for overall hair health, Colombini says the technique can benefit all hair types.
How to hair cycle
A simple way to think about hair cycling is using varied shampoos, conditioners, hair masks and other products at different times. Different schedules and products work for different hair. Kaye suggests doing four to five days on and one two days off to give your hair some rest. Meanwhile, Colombini likes to apply the three days on three days off rule that’s often used in skin-care cycling. “Listen to your hair and scalp. Generally, hair dryness or even oiliness can fluctuate during each season,” says Colombini. Due to this he notes that products may shift throughout the year. When building your hair-cycling regimen, Colombini suggests having varied products to avoid overdoing something. Too much moisture or too much detoxifying can be a bad thing.
To build your routine, first monitor your hair. Philip B suggests keeping an eye on if your hair loses its elasticity, is breaking often or becomes flat, heavy, dull, dehydrated or lackluster. While the routine may shift a bit with your hair’s needs, in general, Philip B’s ongoing advice “is to alternate clarifying, moisturizing/hydrating and repairing methods.” Additionally, once a week, or as needed, “focus on detoxing or clarifying your hair, roots and scalp.”
Ellis says most of his clients wash their hair twice a week. He agrees with Philip B that a clarifying shampoo should come into the picture once a week to break up any build-up. Then follow this with your normal shampoo, conditioner and a hair serum. The other wash of the week should “consist of double shampooing with your normal shampoo,” says Ellis. “This ensures your hair is clean and the scalp is purified. Then, follow with a hair mask in lieu of conditioner and then a leave-in conditioner once you are out of the shower.”
Expert-approved products for hair cycling
“The climate you live in and your hair texture will determine specific products and brands you should use,” says Ellis. Experts shared some of their favorite options to choose from. Colombini recommends using L’Oréal Paris EverPure Collection’s Scalp Care + Detox Shampoo ($10). It will help “remove build-up and address any scalp irritants,” he says. If you have color-treated hair or simply want shiny, glossy hair, fold in the Signature Masque ($13). For some strengthening assistance, Colombini suggests Bond Strengthening Concentrate ($13) ”to repair and rebuild weak hair bonds from chemical services.”
Philip B says a great pre-treatment or scalp scrub should be in the hair-cycling lineup. For this he recommends his Peppermint Avocado Scalp Scrub ($78). “Look for natural exfoliants—salicylic acid or salt can work well,” he adds. “Double down by adding a light citrus-based clarifying shampoo like Everyday Beautiful Shampoo ($48) to lift at the root and gently clean away product buildup and any environmental pollutants.” He explains that ingredients like neroli, orange peel and other citrus oils are gentle ways to add clarifying benefits to your cycle. Philip B also notes that witch hazel water is a notable ingredient. It helps balance oil production and reduce inflammation, so if those are your concerns, look for products with the ingredient.
For a more intensive deep cleanse, Philip B suggests the best-selling Peppermint Avocado Shampoo ($36). Peppermint is a great clarifying agent, and plant extracts like “nettle, rosemary, jojoba, geranium, lavender, olive and walnut support and refresh scalp and strands,” he adds. A mask is a must in the cycle. Philip B recommends the luxe Russian Amber Imperial Gold Masque ($225).
Drybar Crown Tonic: Pre-Shampoo Scalp Balancing Cleanser ($36) is another stylist favorite. It provides a more gentle exfoliation to help cancel out excess oil and flakes while promoting a long-lasting blowout. It’s a 10 recently launched a scalp-care collection featuring shampoo, conditioner, a leave-in product and a calming spray. The standout product is the Scalp Restore Miracle Scalp Serum ($32), which is a treatment and relief product in one. Toss this on when your scalp is off balance with itching, burning, dryness on the scalp, and dull, lifeless hair. It will help rebalance oily skin and reduce discomfort with a soothing creamy treatment.