TikTok is many things. The place I while away hours snort-laughing at teens impersonating celebrities, the safe space I learn where I can pick up a sushi train (Amazon, should you care), and now, the teacher informing me that I’ve been washing my hair wrong all this time.
Recently, an increasing number of videos with the hashtag #HairTok have been popping up on my FYP (that’s For You Page, the equivalent of an Instagram feed or Explore page, by the way). Now, there are many sub-Toks on TikTok, like ChefTok, StripTok, CleanTok and even ShantyTok, which is dedicated to sea shanties. But as the owner of long, heat-styled and bleached hair that snaps faster than your Dry January resolve during a pandemic, HairTok had me immediately hooked. One person I kept seeing was a user named Lilly, who has Rapunzel-esque lengths that she also seems to bleach and heat style. There were countless Duets (when someone replies to another video with their own comments and content) from converted fans saying her routine had made their hair shinier, stronger and altogether more lustrous. So obviously I had to try it, right?
Now, in the name of true journalistic integrity, I swore to follow her directive to the letter. Product-wise, I got Shea Moisture Styling Lotion, Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie, Shea Moisture Moisture Retention Shampoo & Conditioner, Rahua Legendary Amazon Oil and Rahua Hydration Detangler and UV Barrier – Lilly also recommends using a silk pillowcase, but being a beauty editor, I already have four of those.
There’s essentially four phases to her routine: pre-wash, wash, post-wash, and maintenance. However, almost immediately, my resolve was threatened. A fairly key component of her wash routine, and indeed, of many healthy-haired-people’s routines, is a so-called ‘rice water rinse’. This is a historic technique, thought to date back to ancient China, wherein you soak rice in water until cloudy, and then apply to the hair and rinse out. Rice does have lots of amino acids and proteins, as well as vitamins, so I can see how it would work, and anecdotally, the results are impressive. However, I simply could not bring myself to do it. I suppose you could cook the rice after, but you'd have to be committed to a lot of rice-focussed meals.
However, the rest of it I was able to stick to. So that’s daily scalp massage, which takes all of five minutes and can be done whilst watching Netflix, weekly application of a mix of the Shea Moisture Curl Smoothie and Rahua Legendary Amazon Oil left on overnight, which is a doddle because it’s passive, and then just washing and styling my hair with some extremely nice products. The Shea Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner are fabulous, and left my hair feeling very hydrated, though perhaps not quite as much as my beloved Dizziak Hydration Wash. I struggled to lather them out of my hair fully at first, but switching to a hand-held shower attachment did the trick. For styling, I applied the Rahua Hydration Detangler and Shea Moisture Styling Lotion before blow-drying, and finished with the Rahua Amazon Oil again, which might be my favourite product from this haul. It’s so lightweight, but smells gorgeous and really polishes the ends of the hair up beautifully.
No one routine can be one-size-fits-all when it comes to products, as depending on your hair type, you’re going to want different things. I have naturally curly, delicate hair (I’d say 2B to 2C on the curl pattern chart), and while I don’t wear my hair curly that often, I find products designed for curly hair and Afro hair often work really well for me, as they cater to the fragility of my hair without adding heft or making it feel oily.
This routine was freeing in the sense that I wasn’t asked to give up my Dyson AirWrap or plait my hair overnight to give myself ‘beachy waves’ – the plan accepts that you’re going to continue to heat-style your hair and gives you options to mitigate that risk. Two weeks in, my hair looks shiny, feels light and healthy. I’ll definitely be keeping the overnight treatments, the Shea Moisture Styling Lotion, the scalp massaging and the Rahua Amazon Oil, but I think I’ll switch back to Dizziak and the Olaplex Shampoo and Conditioner once these run out, as I find them that bit easier to lather up and rinse out. Who knows? Maybe that rice water is what I really needed all along...