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Should I Rotate My Shampoo? I Tried ‘Hair Cycling’ To Find Out

Welcome to Beauty In A Tik, where each week we put TikTok's viral beauty hacks and innovative trends to the test.
There are some TikTok hacks I'm reluctant to get behind. Take slugging, for example, which involves applying a thick layer of petroleum jelly to your face before bed. As someone who experiences acne flareups, this pore-clogging trend has proven to be a recipe for disaster.
Then there's using glycolic acid as deodorant. Anecdotal evidence suggests it works a treat to quell odor, but dermatologists would rather you skipped this one, not least because the potent ingredient could cause some serious irritation under there.
But there are other hacks born on TikTok, like skin cycling (a four-nightly method put forward by dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, M.D.), which have revolutionized my beauty routine. The goal? Clearer skin. Night one consists of applying a leave-on exfoliating acid, such as glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid, then following with your moisturizer. Night two involves using a retinol serum. Nights three and four require a simple moisturizer only. Then the cycle continues.
Considering skin cycling's popularity (it's doing wonders for my hormonal acne, but don't just take it from me — #skincycling has 3.5 billion views and counting on TikTok), it was only a matter of time before the tried and true method made its way to haircare.
Enter: hair cycling.

What is hair cycling?

In a similar vein, hair cycling (which has amassed 1.8 billion TikTok views) involves rotating between a handful of different shampoos, which is said to improve your hair and scalp health in the long run.

please sound off in the comments because I want to know if this is a thing and/or makes any sense😂

♬ original sound - kelsey griffin
TikToker Kelsey Griffin recently went viral for breaking down their hair cycling routine. "I usually wash my hair about two to three times a week, and every time I wash my hair, I use a different type of shampoo slash conditioner routine," they said. "One of my washes is a detox shampoo, so it's a reset routine," continued Griffin. For their next wash, they tend to use a reparative shampoo (for example, something with bond-building technology to strengthen hair weakened by things like bleach and dye, mechanical damage from brushes or thermal damage from hot tools). For the third wash, Griffin usually enlists a shampoo that hydrates and moisturizes.
The name of the game is to alternate your shampoo products throughout the month and to give your hair time to rest in between, rather than washing it every single day.

Do hairstylists recommend hair cycling?

Jenn Lynton, hairstylist and colorist at Neil Moodie Studio, says hair cycling checks out. In fact, she has been doing it for years. "It means your hair and scalp are in optimal health," says Lynton, "because your hair doesn't need [only] one type of treatment." Depending on the weather or your lifestyle, for example, your hair and scalp needs are ever changing.
Jay Dharamshi, a hair specialist and the cofounder of SKY Clinic, agrees that there's method in the viral hack. "There are lots of benefits to hair cycling as it basically involves using different products to target different concerns," says Dharamshi. One day, your hair might be super oily and require a clarifying shampoo. Another day, the ends could feel dry and be in need of something more moisturizing. "Hair cycling is beneficial for all hair textures, for example straight, curly, thick and fine, as well as all types, like oily or dry," says Dharamshi. Everyone has different requirements, though, so Lynton suggests chatting to your hairstylist if you don't know where to start.

The hair cycling routine

Like Griffin, hair cycling is something I've realized I've been doing for the last couple of months, unintentionally. I use lots of moisturizing hair creams, dry shampoo, and hairspray, so my hair and scalp can be prone to buildup, which leads to excess oil and eventually dandruff.

1. Clarifying shampoo

Approximately every third wash, I reach for a clarifying shampoo. Right now, I alternate between K18 Peptide Prep Detox Shampoo and Head & Shoulders Scalp Detox Anti Dandruff Shampoo a trusty, affordable favorite). [Editor's Note: A scalp scrub would also work for this step.]

2. Bond-Repair Shampoo

Since getting the boyfriend bob, I've been straightening my hair most days so I also need something protective and strengthening, like Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo. (If you have less to spend, Revolution Hair Plex 4 Bond Plex Shampoo is a great alternative.)

3. Moisturizing shampoo

Lastly, when my hair is feeling frazzled (almost always at the ends), I reach for something very nourishing, like The Body Shop Shea Intense Repair Shampoo.
I always finish with the same conditioner, though: Garnier Ultimate Blends Honey Treasures Strengthening Conditioner which is cheap, cheerful, and makes my hair more manageable.
Shop my hair cycling routine:

How often should I wash my hair when hair cycling?

Before hair cycling, I used to stay loyal to one shampoo at a time. But halfway through the bottle, regardless of the brand or ingredients, I'd wonder why I was suddenly getting flakes or my scalp was becoming itchy. Other times, a number of washes in, my hair wouldn't feel as soft as it did the first few times I used it. That's because no single shampoo does everything. (If yours does, you might have a magic elixir on your hands.)
Dharamshi says it's possible to overuse certain hair products, which could upset your hair or scalp (for instance, if your shampoo is ultra nourishing, packed with oils, and ends up weighing down your hair over time). So what of the aforementioned 'rest' days? How often you wash your hair is all down to personal preference, of course, but hair expert Neil Moodie adds that rest days are important so that your scalp can create its own oils. "Your scalp's oils coat your hair, thus nourishing it naturally," says Moodie. "If you shampoo daily, you are reducing the scalp's natural ability to look after your own hair." Dharamshi agrees and says that rest days between washes keeps hair healthier.

What are the best affordable shampoos to use for hair cycling?

My only real gripe with hair cycling is that it requires multiple shampoos, which means spending more money. But shampoo doesn't have to cost a lot to be effective. TikTok can be a hub of beauty misinformation and certain content creators have demonized affordable or drugstore shampoo, claiming it's 'bad' for your hair. This is a myth we recently busted at R29. Dr. Hasan Benar, a dermatologist at Dr. Elif Clinic, told me that there is actually very little difference between affordable shampoo and professional or luxury brands. Generally, he said, they do the same job.
What's more, drugstore shampoo has come on leaps and bounds recently. New research and technology means they're better than ever. Take L'Oréal Elvive Hydra Hyaluronic Acid Shampoo, which breathed life into my dry and damaged hair for under $5. A handful of beauty editors I spoke to recently also extolled the virtues of Creme of Nature Argan Oil Moisture & Shine Shampoo and Maui Moisture Curl Quench Coconut Oil Shampoo for curly hair and natural hair specifically; as well as OGX Anti-Breakage Keratin Oil pH Balanced Shampoo for damaged hair; and Garnier Ultimate Blends Delicate Oat Milk Soothing Shampoo for a sensitive scalp.
Shop affordable shampoo, below:
When comparing ingredients lists, I spotted that even the luxury brands use ingredients like silicones (for shiny, softer hair) and sulphates (necessary for cleansing hair properly but often get a bad rap, as they are known to fade color over time and cause allergies in some). The Ordinary is also making a case for sulphates with its excellent 4% Sulphate Cleanser for Body and Hair. In other words, you don't have to spend a fortune to get into hair cycling.
Another thing is that hair cycling will look different depending on your lifestyle (such as the products you use or whether you color or heat-style your hair) and your hair texture. Dharamshi suggests tapping your hairdresser, who should be able to suggest a personalized treatment plan and recommend products for your budget. Your scalp and hair will certainly thank you for it, thinks Dharamshi.
This story was originally published on Refinery29UK.
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