What is pre-pooing, and should you do it?
A pre-poo or pre-shampoo refers to adding moisture to the hair and scalp before washing to protect the hair strands during cleansing and to aid in detangling.
You can use different hair products as a pre-poo, including hair masks, conditioners, oils, aloe vera gel, or DIYs. Penetrating oils such as coconut oil are the most effective. Naturally curly or coily hair needs moisture to remain hydrated, healthy, and strong. Yet, too much moisture can lead to hygral fatigue. Since the process of water swelling and deswelling of the hair is one of the causes of hair damage by hygral fatigue, pre-pooing with penetrating oils may provide better protection. The oil is absorbed into the hair strands keeping the amount of water that can enter (and swell the hair) to a minimum. The right pre-poo can also leave the hair shiny and soft.
Pre-poo if you have dry, damaged, or high porosity hair – the pre-poo acts as a protective barrier
Pre-poo if it takes you thirty minutes or more to detangle your hair on wash day
Pre-poo if the hair has been in a protective style for several days
Pre-poo in winter when the air is extra dry and curls need more moisture
Use penetrating oils, such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, or babassu oil, to penetrate the hair for better protection
Apply the pre-poo on dry hair in sections
Saturate the ends to keep them moisturized and healthy
Pre-poo for a few hours or overnight (minimum of 30 minutes)
Massage the oil on the scalp, preferably with a soft scalp massager
Clarify once or twice a month to remove oil (and other) build-up from the hair and scalp
Use a pre-poo for transitioning and naturally dry hair
Pre-poo to repair dry, over-processed, or brittle and broken hair
Pre-poo if you use sulfate-containing shampoos
Do not pre-poo with oils if you have healthy, low porosity hair; instead, use a detangler or conditioner with great slip
Do not apply heat if you have high porosity or damaged hair; the cuticles are not tight, so the oil can easily penetrate the hair
Do not pre-poo with a conditioner if your hair is prone to hygral fatigue
Do not pre-poo with sealing oils such as jojoba oil, argan oil, castor oil, and mineral oil or butter such as cocoa butter and shea butter. These compounds do not penetrate the hair shaft but instead sit on top of the hair, where they are unlikely to protect against hygral fatigue
Do not pre-poo if you only co-wash your hair; the co-wash provides sufficient moisture
Do not pre-poo with oils if you have naturally oily or greasy hair
Do not pre-poo if you have healthy, wavy hair
Resources We Find Useful:
Quantitative measurement of the penetration of coconut oil into human hair using radiolabeled coconut oil, Gode, V., et al., J. Cosmet. Sci. 63.1 (2012): 27-31.