diverse group of black women huddled together showing the difference between the LCO vs LOC method
Curly Hair Care

The Difference Between the LCO and the LOC Method + Which One Is Right For You

You’re not a true natural if you haven’t found yourself Youtube-ing or Googling the the LCO vs. LOC method.

There’s a lot of debate and misinformation online about which method you should use for your natural hair. And for what it’s worth, it’s because every natural is different. No two curl is the same, sis!

The order in which you apply your products is just as important as the products you use. Mismanagement of products is not only expensive (since you’re not getting the full benefit of your product), but it can also lead to dry and damaged hair because you’re not creating a routine that caters to your hair.

There’s nothing more frustrating than buying products that claim wonders for your hair, only for it to fall flat (pun intended).

Are you looking to find out the difference between the LCO vs. LOC method, and which one is right for you? Let’s dive in.

the difference between the LCO vs LOC method

Before we go the LCO vs. LOC method and into which method is best for your natural hair, let’s discuss what these letters stand for:

The liquid in this routine is the most important part, hence why it comes first! Moisture is notoriously hard for natural hair to retain, which is why we layer the cream and the oil on top. Water is usually the L, and for naturals with super dry hair, a water-based leave in conditioner should follow.

On the other hand, the cream is responsible for locking in the liquid (or the liquid AND oil in the LOC method) and holding down the fort. It can also supply more moisture to the hair depending on the ingredients.

You know the saying "oil and water don't mix"? This is the thought behind the oil - sealing the liquid (or the liquid AND cream in the LCO routine) is critical to preventing the oil from evaporating.

Much like skincare, the order of product application is essential to meeting your hair goals. But you need to know a bit more about your hair before you decide which method you should use.

Hair Porosity 101

The most important thing you should know about your hair is porosity.

Porosity is a super important concept to understand about your hair, even more important than knowing your hair type (Type 3 or Type 4, etc).

Natural hair Porosity

Natural hair porosity is the ability of your hair to absorb water and/products. 

Low porosity natural hair has a low absorption rate, because the cuticles are stubbornly closed. It is difficult for this hair porosity to absorb moisture.

High porosity natural hair has a high absorption rate, because the cuticles are always open. It is difficult for this hair porosity to retain moisture.

Low porosity naturals have stubbornly closed cuticles. Naturals that are low porosity commonly experience the below traits:

  • Deep conditioner doesn’t absorb into the hair, even after being in a bag for a few hours;
  • The hair takes forever to dry after it's washed; and,
  • Product buildup occurs very quickly.

In a nutshell, since these cuticles are so tightly shut, both water and products have a difficult time entering into the hair shaft.

In contrast, high porosity naturals have cuticles that refuse to close. They constantly stay open. Common traits amongst high porosity naturals include:

  • Hair dries quickly after being washed;
  • The hair is commonly frizzy with little to no definition, even with products on top; and,
  • A style cannot be retained for more than a day or two (wash and go, twist out, etc).

If you’re still not sure, pull one clean, dry strand from your scalp. Run your fingers down the length of that strand. If it feels bumpy, you have high porosity hair. If it’s smooth, you have either low porosity or normal porosity hair.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive into the mechanics of the LCO vs LOC method and which one is right for you!


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As mentioned above, low porosity natural hair has difficulty absorbing product. The cuticles are either too small for products to readily enter the hair shaft, or the cuticles themselves are just jammed shut and refuse to open.

The opposite is true for high porosity, where the cuticles are either chipped, broken or extremely porous. This results in moisture entering the shaft easy, but it being released just as fast.

Low porosity naturals should use the LCO method, while high porosity naturals will find more benefit from the LOC method.

For my low porosity kings and queens, where moisture PENETRATION is imperative, you’re going to want to use the LCO method, for the following reasons:

  • Using a cream after the liquid will add another layer of protection to not only lock in the moisture you already have, but to reinforce more moisture into your hair (as creams also contain water).
  • An oil, since it has no water content, should be used last. If used after the L, it will block the effectiveness of a cream to enter into the hair shaft, and;
  • The LOC method will result in more buildup in low porosity hiar because the cream is sitting atop of the oil and not penetrating. Too much buildup will lead to more dryness!

For all my high porosity naturals, where moisture RETENTION is the goal, the LOC should be your go-to because of the following:

  • Applying an oil immediately after the leave in with lock in that first, critical layer of moisture (remember: we want to prevent evaporation in high porosity hair)
  • High porosity hair has a higher chance of experiencing hydral fatigue, where too much the swelling of the hair from too moisture will result in limp, lifeless curls with no bounce (results from a weakening of the protein bonds). To avoid this, the cream shouldn't be layered above the liquid.

The Bottom Line

In general, low porosity naturals will find better results from the LCO method, while high porosity naturals will find better results from the LOC.

Remember: it's important to experiment with a routine for at least a few weeks to see if your hair responds to it. If your hair is dry and not retaining the style, switch out the products and experiment with other ones. If that doesn't help, that method isn't for you!

What are your thoughts on the LCO vs. LOC method? Comment down below!

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