In many ways, the life of a naturalista is a full-time job — accompanying the one that actually pays for your monthly beauty care expenses. Much more than just committing to a certain type of maintenance, there’s an extensive amount of research and education involved, all in pursuit of discovering and understanding the unique complexities of your hair. Finding the styles and treatments that work — and maybe most importantly, the ones that don’t — is truly a tall order. The well here runs deep. One of the most critical concepts that some of us tend to struggle with is knowing the proper and most effective way to moisturize our scalp using natural oils. This is a subject of much debate throughout the natural hair community, and because every curl falls differently, there is no definitive right or wrong answer. There is, however, a bit of science that goes into determining whether you’re treating your tresses in the best and most productive way possible.
Take the LOC method, for instance. An abbreviation for “Liquid or Leave-in Conditioner, Oil, Cream”. As traditionally presented, you start this process by applying your liquid — typically water or a water-based leave-in conditioner such as Midnite Train — to serve as the foundation of moisture for your hair and scalp. Next, you apply an oil, such as Shining Star Hair & Scalp Elixir, to lock in the moisture. Finally, comes your cream product, such as Extra Butter or Supercurl, to serve as a sealant and really secure those well-moisturized tresses as you finish up your style/maintenance for the day.
However, the order of the LOC method is a hot debate among naturalistas. While both oil and butter are known for creating a layer along the hair shaft to lock in moisture and protect the hair from environmental toxins, it is my opinion that switching the last two steps – thereby making it the LCO method – is a much more effective process for moisture retention. The logic behind this simply lies in the role oil plays within your hair regimen. When applied, oil products, specifically those fortified with natural oils such as castor oil, jojoba oil and grapeseed oil, act as a natural sealant, locking in moisture and preventing moisture loss. It also prevents additional moisture from penetrating into your tresses, in turn reducing frizziness. Thus, your oil product should serve as a much better top coat or sealant than your creams do.
Layering your products in this order to lock in moisture becomes especially important during during the winter months, when cooler air dries out our skin/scalp rather quickly. It also applies for those regions out west where you have less humidity and drier climates. Use your leave-in conditioner to hydrate your hair, which will work in tandem with your cream to secure moisture retention, then apply your oil product to serve as the sealant for it all, locking in that added moisture while also providing a fresh sheen to your ‘do.
The porosity of your hair, or how well it accepts and retains oil/moisture, may play a factor in which method you prefer. For those of us with higher porosity hair, which accepts moisture more readily, the LOC method might be more effective as the oil may help to slow down the evaporation of moisture from the hair. Naturalistas with lower porosity – hair that doesn’t take in oil as easily – will benefit more from the LCO method applied in conjunction with a steamer to open up the hair shaft. This is especially important for women with color treated, or chemically processed hair. (Side note: Yes…women with relaxers can use the LCO method. Simply apply products lightly to the hair.)
Again, how you go about it is entirely predicated on your hair type and what makes you the most comfortable. The most important thing is to have a regimen that creates maximum hydration for your hair. Nailing that down goes a long way in dictating the rest of your routine.
Which method do you prefer — LCO or LOC? Let me know in the comments!