LOC vs LCO Method: Tips You Should Know

Most curly girls have probably come across the LCO method and LOC method at some point. This post will cover everything you need to know about how to choose between them.

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 lco or loc for low porosity hair
© Iuliia/Adobe Stock

The LOC vs LCO Method

Both methods include the application of a leave-in conditioner, oil, and a cream-based product. The difference between the two methods lies in the order of application.

Some people experience the best results with applying oil before cream, while others have the best results when applying cream before oil. Let’s talk about why the order of application matters. Usually an oil-based product is applied last because oil creates a barrier that other products can’t penetrate.

Oil

First, it’s important to know how different oils benefit your hair. Oil is a moisturizer, but it’s also a sealant. It will seal in the products you apply to your strands and prevent moisture from leaving your curls. However, it can also prevent more moisture from coming in. The type of oil you use also matters. If you use a light, easily absorbed oil like jojoba oil, then your hair will absorb the oil quickly.

If you use a heavier oil like coconut oil, it will take a while for your hair to absorb the oil, and cream won’t be able to penetrate the hair strand until the oil is absorbed.

Even so, some choose to apply cream after oil. Applying a styling cream after an oil will allow you to style your hair after you apply your hair care products. In the end, it depends on your goals.

Who is the LCO and LOC Method For?

The LCO and LOC methods are for anyone interested in hair care. These methods are more common for courser and curlier hair types because the methods require layering several products on the hair.

If you have thin hair, this could weigh down your strands and create a greasy effect. The LOC method is usually best for thick, curly hair types. The extra layers of moisture are great for natural hair types.


quick guide: Recommendations

  • Low porosity curls: LCO Method
  • High porosity curls: LOC Method
  • Exceptions: The method you choose will depend on how your hair responds to both methods.

Do Curl Types Help With LOC and LCO? Are Curl Types Real?

Curl types are a guide that give you a “ballpark” for the type of products that will work to define your curls.

Curl types are very controversial because everyone’s hair is different and some people may feel categorized. Please remember that you are not limited to a “curl type” and this is just a guide for information about the shape of your curls.

Understanding your hair is crucial for all aspects of your hair routine.

Note: When I refer to the shape of your curls, I’m referring to the way your curls fall, not your hair cut. Your hair cut does affect the volume of your hair. However, the shape of your curls or the way your curl falls/coils (tightly, loosely, clockwise, counterclockwise) will affect your styling routine.

If you’re not sure about your hair, the graphic below is a great resource. You’ll notice the 4B and 4C have a “S” shape instead of a coil curl shape. The shape of your hair affects how your hair absorbs moisture.

hair types quiz
© svetolk/Adobe Stock

You will need to experiment with the LCO and LOC methods to determine which one is best for you. Environmental factors also play a role. In harsh weather conditions, you may find that LCO, applying oil last, helps protect hair from the elements.

How Does the LOC Method Work?

loc or lco for low porosity hair

The LOC method works by applying a leave-in conditioner, an oil, and a cream-based product. The oil seals in the leave-in conditioner, and the cream works to style your curls after the oil is applied. It works by strategically layering your products to effectively style and moisturize your hair.

If you need to manage your protein moisture balance, you can apply a protein-based cream instead of a cream that is formulated for moisture.

How Does the LCO Method Work?

The LCO method works by applying a leave-in conditioner, a cream-based product, and an oil. The leave-in and cream is applied first to allow the oil to seal in the moisture applied to the strands. This method is great for a two-strand twist because it provides moisture and long-lasting curls.

If you are trying to restore your protein moisture balance and find that moisturizing treatments aren’t enough, then changing your styling routine to include this method is a great option. The LCO method also can also protect your hair from harsh weather conditions because the oil acts as a barrier.

LOC and LCO Method with Gel

If you need something stronger to prevent frizz, you can use a gel or custard instead of a cream to lock your curls in place. You can easily substitute the cream step with a custard or styling gel. If you decide to use a gel instead of a cream, it is best to do a strand test.

Gels are heavier and can cause flakes if combined with products. Don’t make the mistake of going through your whole hair routine only to realize your products don’t mix well and leave a white residue. Always test before applying to your curls.

LOC & LCO Methods for Low Porosity and High Porosity Hair

Curly girls with high and low porosity hair can use either method. Just remember to adjust your products for your hair type. Porosity will affect your experience because porosity affects how your hair responds to products.

Low Porosity Hair

A person with low porosity hair may find their hair is working hard to absorb a cream-based product 24 hours after application. Meanwhile, a person with high porosity will likely notice that the cream and oil applied to the hair is mostly absorbed after 24 hours.

High Porosity Hair

For those of you with high porosity hair, you may need to reapply a moisturizing oil to your ends to help you maintain moisture after all of the products are absorbed. Low porosity hair types will benefit from applying products when the hair is damp and the cuticle is open. The LCO method may work best for low porosity hair since it will be harder for low porosity hair to absorb the oil.

LOC/LCO and Protein Moisture Balance

When you’re choosing products for the the LCO or LOC method, it’s important to consider your protein moisture balance. If you often lean toward drier curls, then you’ll need to focus on moisturizing products.

If you often need protein, you’ll want to choose hair products that are infused with protein to prevent a moisture overload. The LCO and LOC methods are extremely moisturizing routines, so it’s important to consider how your protein moisture balance will be affected.

hygral fatigue and protein overload chart

LOC Method Products

The best products for the LOC method will depend on your hair type. Here are a few clean beauty suggestions:

Leave in: Quiet Calm Curl Control

I use the Innersense’s Quiet Calm Curl Control as part of my weekly routine. The formula is a light styling cream that defines your curls without leaving a heavy or sticky residue. If you have very curly hair like mine (3C-4A) you will likely need to follow with a gel. I love this because when I take time to really work this into my curls with a denman brush the definition is stunning.

Almond Oil

You can use any oil, but I recommend lighter oils that your hair can easily absorbed. I’ve tried the almond oil linked here (and all of the products in this post). I also find that jojoba oils works well. Please refer to the section above about oil if you are not sure which kind of oil works best for your hair type.

Oil for Ends: Innersense Harmonic Healing Oil

I love the Harmonic Healing Oil from Innersense. This oil is perfect at night for the ends of your hair, especially if you live in a humid climate. You won’t experience as much frizz on your ends. It’s very light, but if you generally don’t like the smell of essential oils this may not be the best option for you. This is a bit on the pricier side, but a little goes a very long way and it will last a long time.

Cream: Innersense Whipped Cream Texturizer

I love the Innersense Natural Inner Peace Whipped Creme Texturizer for defining my curls. It’s a natural product that won’t change your curl texture, it just brings out your natural definition. This is not a curly girl approved products only because it contains natural beeswax for conditioning your curls. I’ve never had a problem with buildup while using this product, but if you’re concerned it will weigh down your curls, I would opt for the Quiet Calm Curl Control instead.

Gel: Innersense I Create Hold

I Create Hold is a natural styling gel from Innersense that I use when I know it’s humid out or I need to go to the beach and don’t want to deal with frizz. My hair is never crunchy after using it. 

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Great Additions to the LCO and LOC Methods

To refresh your hair, adding a mist, mousse, or foam is a great option for refreshing your hair between washes. If you need a light refresh, try a mist. If you need a little more support, a mousse if perfect for refreshing your curls later in the week.

Shea Moisture LCO and LOC Routine

Shea Moisture is a popular brand. The brand offers many products for the LCO and LOC methods. The brand did change some formulas, resulting in a slightly lower safety score for some products. Please see the ratings below and review the links.

Evidence of a change between 2017 and 2018 can be found on COSDNA and EWG Shea Moisture product pages. Here are a few common products:

Recap: LOC Method vs LCO Method

The LCO and LOC methods are based on the application of a leave-in conditioner, an oil, and a cream-based product.

Your choice will depend on your hair type and your styling goals. Before you can determine a method that works well for you, you will need to experiment with the types of products you use (and environmental factors such as the weather to determine which method works best for you).

First, examine your curl type and think about how heavy you need your products to be to achieve curl definition. Then, consider your hair porosity. How quickly does your hair absorb moisture and which products are you often using to restore your protein moisture balance? Finally, consider what you’re looking for in products and the ingredients in different formulas to help you maintain protein moisture balance with the LCO or LOC routine.

Q&A: What is the difference between LOC and LCO method?

A: How often you do the LOC method will depend on your hair type. If you have curly hair, it is best to avoid washing and reapplying products every day as this can dry out your hair. If you incorporate it into your hair routine, it’s best to use this method on wash day and refresh with a styling product in between washes.

A person with low porosity hair may find their hair is working hard to absorb a cream-based product 24 hours after application. Meanwhile, a person with high porosity will likely notice that the cream and oil applied to the hair is mostly absorbed after 24 hours.

The LCO method may work best for low porosity hair since it will be harder for low porosity hair to absorb the oil. Low porosity hair types will benefit from applying products when the hair is damp and the cuticle is open.

You’ll have to experiment to see which method your hair responds best to. However, a person with low porosity hair may find their hair is working hard to absorb heavy products which is why applying the oil last is usually best.

Curly Hair Checklist

You’ve tried a million products and you still can’t get the curl definition you want. This simple checklist will help you build a routine that actually works even if you have no idea where to start.

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LCO vs LOC
LOC Method products

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