What to Use for Pre-Poo Treatments

Woman with a twist out

 Leighann Blackwood / Unsplash 

You're all about healthy hair and keeping yours manageable and as soft as possible. Either you've heard about pre-poo treatments, or you're already doing them, and want product/ingredient options. Your mane's needs change at times, so the pre-poo you're used to today may not be as beneficial in a month.

The following products and ingredients are great for your pre-shampoo treat for various reasons. Maybe your mane needs extra moisture, or perhaps a strengthening regimen is in order for brittle tresses. Use a product designed for your specific needs to experience the most benefit. If you're not currently in the habit of pampering your tresses before you cleanse them, you might change your mind once you discover what these products can do. We talked with two experts to find out why adding a pre-poo to your washday routine can be beneficial.

Meet the Expert

"A pre-shampoo mask is a great addition to anyone’s wash routine," Faith Huffnagle, Director of Education at Prose. She recommends looking for ingredients with hyaluronic acid, castor seed oil, and plant collagen to help moisturize, nourish, and repair your hair.

prose-pre-shampoo hair mask
Prose Pre-Shampoo Hair Mask $38

Niani B, a natural hairstylist at Naturalicious Salon, agrees pre-poo treatments are beneficial especially for detangling pre-cleanse. "I typically pre-poo if the hair is extremely tangled, or has been in a protective style for more than a few days," she tells us. "Pre-pooing and detangling together can help remove excessive tangles which without the pre-poo would only get worse when you shampoo. It can also help to remove shed hair that has accumulated if you have been wearing a no manipulation style for over a few days like twist, box braids, crochet braids, etc."

Now that we know pre-poo's are beneficial, the type of oil you use will vary depending on you hair's needs. Finding the right oils for your hair isn't a one-size-fits-all task, so it may take a little trial and error, but on washdays when you find yourself with excessive tangles, you'll want to give this step a try.

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Coconut Oil

Dr. Bronner's Coconut Oil
Dr. Bronner's Regenerative Organic Coconut Oil $12

It's probably best to save coconut oil as a pre-poo ingredient during warmer weather, simply because of its natural tendency to harden when temperatures drop. Using it while it's in a liquid form makes it easier to apply as a pre-poo. However, hardened coconut oil still has its beneficial properties, which include great moisturization. The small amount of protein in it makes it ideal for women who need a mild boost without overdoing it.

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Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Public Goods Extra Virgin Olive Oil $9

Another natural favorite, olive oil works well as a pre-poo treatment. A heavy oil, this one is perfect for anyone who wants a big moisture boost. Look for extra-virgin varieties that are cold-pressed and retain more of the beneficial properties of olives.

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Food Mixes

Oyin Handmade Honey Hemp Conditioner $14

It's easy to find pre-poo treatments in your own home when you have honey, mayonnaise, bananas or yogurt in the kitchen. Many women who don't mind mixing it up try food treats. Honey is a natural humectant, so it helps your tresses hold onto moisture, while bananas add softening properties. Yogurt is touted for strengthening locks, while mayo adds plenty of moisture.

When using food as a pre-shampoo treat, only mix up as much as you'll use right then; it won't keep as long as commercial products. Also, it's best to avoid using heat with food-based treatments, especially when using eggs. You don't want dinner cooked on your head!

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If your tresses are brittle or feeling lifeless, they may need an infusion of protein. Be sure and check any products you purchase to avoid buying those that work better post-shampoo. While some ladies like a food-based pre-poo containing eggs or coconut milk, others prefer commercial products containing protein.

SheaMoisturePower Greens Reconstructor, Moringa and Avocado
SheaMoisture Moringa & Avocado Power Greens Reconstructor $10

Note: Pre-poos are often left on for hours or even overnight, but leaving a protein-based treatment on for this long can lead to dryness. Protein pre-shampoo treats should be left on for a maximum of one hour.

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Conditioner/Oil Mix

Moroccan Rhassoul 5 in 1 Clay Treatment
Naturalicious Moroccan Rhassoul 5 in 1 Clay Treatment $23

Using conditioner after shampooing is routine, but did you know you can use your regular conditioner as a pre-poo as well? Either apply it alone on dry hair or mix it with any of the oils listed here; you have plenty of other options, too, such as grapeseed, jojoba, and neem.

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Castor Oil

Jamaican Black Castor Oil
Tropic Isle Jamaican Black Castor Oil $7

Besides the popular Jamaican Black Castor Oil (or JBCO as it's commonly known in hair growth circles), plain castor oil works equally well as a pre-shampoo treatment. It's very thick, so it's better for dense hair types or anyone wanting the extra slip to her hair. This oil may be too heavy for finer hair textures.

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Mango Butter

Terrene Fusions' Ultra-Rich Mango Butter Deep Conditioner
Terrene Fusions Ultra-Rich Mango Butter Deep Conditioner $27

Not as popular as some other treatments, mango butter is nonetheless worth trying. Like shea butter, this one is extremely thick in its natural state, but you can easily melt it in the microwave or double-boiler. Once melted into a liquid, mango butter is simple to apply. It's a very rich treatment full of emollients and vitamins like A and E. It's a good product for women who want a fatty-rich oil.

Note: I've used mango butter as a pre-poo on several occasions. My experience has been that it doesn't leave my hair feeling as soft as a similarly heavy oil like olive, but it feels stronger. It rinses out more easily as well.

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