Maintaining Moisture: The LOC and LCO Methods Deconstructed

Okay … so I’ve been thinking …

The popular LOC textured hair moisturizing method — introduced by Alikay founder Rochelle Campbell in 2011 — is a popular “thing” for moisture retention. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, the LOC method is a 3-step product layering system that combats moisture loss and brittleness that dogs curly and textured hair :

  1. Liquid — Water or water solution such as water and a leave-in conditioner or aloe vera juice.
  2. Oil — A medium or heavy weight oil to seal-in the tiny H20 molecules and prevent moisture loss.
  3. Cream — A light to medium weight cream to further seal in moisture.

Here’s the thing. Cream is an emulsion of water and oil. So, essentially, you’re spritzing on a water based solution, followed by an oil and, then, adding a water and oil emulsion. Isn’t it redundant and maybe a little bit of overkill? The answer may be both yes and no.

In it’s unaltered state, textured hair usually has lower porosity. The cuticles are laying comfortably flat. Water molecules leach through those cuticle scales to fortify the existing bonds and restore hair’s elasticity which, in turn, is the first defense against breakage.

Sebum, our naturally manufactured skin oil, is designed to coat the hair follicle (and skin layer) to seal in moisture for a period of time. The tighter the curl pattern, the harder it is for natural sebum to travel from the gland at the base of the hair follicle, down the individual hair shaft to the ends. It’s a long and winding road. Moreover, textured hair requires a delicate balance of protein and moisture.

Once the oil is applied, cream is likely to double the effort. The water molecules in the cream would get trapped between the oil already applied and the larger oil molecules in the cream. Excess moisture won’t be absorbed, the oil would quickly oxidize and the long term benefit of layering would be lost. It may be a quick fix for hair with tight curl patterns or higher porosity. Certainly, anyone who has incorporated this method into their routine will tell you their hair is so much more soft and manageable. But, is it as effective on a molecular level?

The LCO Method

The LCO method is the same layering concept in different order.

  1. Liquid
  2. Cream
  3. Oil

Now this makes sense. A water-based cream following a spritz solution is likely to deliver moisture through the cuticle more effectively. Moreover, the cream doesn’t have to be heavy. A medium to light weight cream would be effective because lighter oil molecules are more water soluble and would travel an easy distance though the hair shaft.

Depending on how much moisture the hair needs (and the climate), a good medium to heavy oil would coat the cuticle and seal in water molecules — preventing moisture from escaping. Moreover, once you’ve discovered the right combination of products your hair needs, you probably don’t have to do this but a few days a week … if that much. Your hair won’t begin to dry out as frequently and the moisture/protein balance is secure without the possibility of hydration fatigue — a definite possibility with the LOC method.

A 2-step formula: humectants are the key

The 3-step method isn’t the only game in town. You can restore your moisture balance with two easy steps provided you make sure you have a good humectant on hand such as vegetable glycerine. And rather than buying leave-ins, conditioners, specialty oils and such, all you need is a few ingredients and a little kitchen savvy. A moisturizing spritz with an oil-based hair butter like whipped shea butter will do the trick.

Mix a spritz solution of:

1/2 cup distilled water

1/2 cup aloe vera juice

1/4 cup vegetable glycerine

1 eye dropper lavender essential oil