How to start a 'hair cycling' routine for a glossy, healthy mane

Personalise your wash days

Editor / May 23 2023

After years of hair trends that saw us endure daily heat damage, over-bleaching and ignoring our natural texture, the tides are finally turning. No matter what hair type you have, a healthy mane (and scalp) is at the top of the 'hair goals' list. And one popular method for reaching it? Starting a hair cycling routine. 

If you're thinking that sounds familiar, you might have already heard of skin cycling. And just like its sister, hair cycling also earned its name from TikTok.

But don't go assuming its presence on the app means it's just another silly little hack. The hair cycling method has been expert and dermatologist-approved for years. It's just been given a catchy title to snatch our attention.

What is hair cycling?

To put it simply, hair cycling refers to using different hair products on different days. So rather than subscribing to a traditional wash, condition and style schedule that's repeated again and again, a hair cycling routine involves switching up the products you use to suit your ever-changing hair needs. 

For example, if you're someone who uses a clarifying shampoo weekly to remove build-up but a hydrating shampoo every other time, that is a form of hair cycling.

Board certified dermatologist Dr. Geeta Yadav gives another example: "If I have a patient that has severe dermatitis or psoriasis, I might recommend a medicated shampoo but ask them not to use it every day of the week. They can alternate it with [products] that are a little more hydrating."

The tricky thing about nailing down a hair cycling routine is there is no 'one way' to do it. Unlike skin cycling  which follows the pattern of exfoliate, retinol, and recovery  a hair cycling routine should be tailored to your specific hair needs.

An example of a hair cycling routine

Step 1. Start with a scalp scrub

A popular starting step for many hair cycling routines is a scalp scrub. Depending on your hair needs, you can repeat this step weekly, fortnightly or monthly to suit. It'll help to remove, dead skin, dirt and oil, clearing the path for hydration and creating a healthy base for your hair to thrive.

We recommend: GROW Longer Stronger Stimulating Scalp Scrub, $17 at Woolworths

Step 2. Create an easy baseline

For the most part, you'll still have a semi-regular lineup of shampoo, conditioner, and an optional post-wash treatment (ie. leave-in styling or hydration product). You might already have these basics down pat and it's A-OK to keep them in rotation. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The idea of hair cycling is to simply elevate your results with an extra occasional step (or two).


We recommend:

1/ TRESemmé Smooth & Silky Shampoo with Silk Proteins & Argan Oil, $14 at Woolworths

2/ TRESemmé Smooth & Silky Conditioner with Silk Proteins & Argan Oil, $14 at Woolworths

3/ Biolage Ultra Hydrasource Leave-in Cream, $35.95 at Adore Beauty

Step 3. Make masking a habit

If you're someone who experiences dry ends (or dry hair root to tip), having a set schedule for masking can make a difference. Whether it's every second Sunday night or a Friday morning special, you'll be much more likely to treat you lengths to some hydration if it becomes a part of your weekly ritual.

We recommend: Glow Lab Hair Mask, $12 (was $20) at Woolworths

Step 4. Reset with a clarifying shampoo

Whether you rely on dry shampoo to get you through the week or love sealing your style with hairspray, adding a clarifying shampoo to reset your 'hair cycle' every month or so will help to rid your hair of any heavy leftover products and oils. This step can be used in place of or alongside the scalp scrub in step one, depending on your hair needs. A clarifying shampoo will leave your scalp and hair refreshed, and ready to soak up all the goodness of your hydrating hair products that follow.

We recommend: Klorane Antidandruff Rebalancing Shampoo with Galangal, $14.99 at Chemist Warehouse

Main image credit: @cwoodhair

After a routine specific to your hair type? These are the best products for naturally curly hair.

Samantha McMeekin was BEAUTYcrew's Editor from January 2020 to June 2023. She has worked as a journalist in the beauty and lifestyle industry for over 10 years. In 2019, she was nominated for Best Digital Writer at the BSME Awards for her work on GLAMOUR UK. If you ever meet her in person, she'll probably try to guess which fragrance you're wearing (she's got a humble 60% strike rate).