5 Tips To Make Your Oil Pre-Poo More Effective

5 Tips To Make Your Oil Pre-Poo More Effective

Pre-pooing is a perfect way to help detangle your hair, reduce dryness and add some moisture to it. For some, it’s an imperative step in their natural hair routine, while for others it’s just a synonym for extra work. Yes, it may feel like another ritualistic step, but, believe me, the benefits far outweigh any time it takes to do it. Plus, the mild temperatures of this season will soon give place to lower temperatures and you’ll need all the help you can get to keep your hair moisturised and protected. Here are three effective ways to make the most out of your oil pre-poo.



1| Apply On Dry Hair

The primary goal of a pre-poo is to protect our hair from the cleansing effects of a regular shampoo, which completely removes sebum from our scalp and hair strands and leaves them dry. Although there is a plethora of gentle sulphate-free shampoos and cleansing conditioners available in the market to address this issue, they still remove a fair amount of our natural hair oil. Moreover, eventually, regardless of our chosen hair cleansing method we all need to clarify our hair, which is, even more, drying than a regular shampoo.



Getting into the habit of doing a regular pre-poo will help protect the hair during the washing routine. Although some people may want to have their hair wet or damp, the best way to do it is on dry hair. When making an oil or oil mixture pre-poo on wet hair the water will repel any oil you apply to it, it will sit on top of the water and work more as a sealing agent, gliding through and perhaps offering a less protective action on the hair once the hair is cleansed.



2| Choose A Penetrating Oil

Since your taking the extra mile to protect your hair why not take the most out of it? Choose a penetrating oil or an oil mix with one, this oil will not only protect your hair strands on the outside, but it will also penetrate into the cuticle layers. This will offer nourishment, malleability and more moisture to your hair even after it’s washed, providing a less stripping experience.


Don’t wet your hair, your hair can only take so much in, and if it has water it will take less oil in which will offer less protection to your hair. For a penetrating oil, you can choose extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil or babassu oil.



3| Let It Sit There

I actually do my extra virgin olive oil pre-poo overnight because I know that despite being a penetrating oil, EVOO takes longer than coconut oil to travel into the cortex of the hair. That’s just how it is, some penetrating oils take longer than others and if you want to profit in on them leave them there for longer, preferably do it the night before your washing day. This way pre-pooing won’t feel so much like extra work.



4| Add Some Heat

Heat, when well managed, can work wonders on our natural or transitioning hair. Applying a little bit of heat to our pre-poo treatment can help the layers of the hair to open and let the oils in with ease. There are several ways you can add some heat, and it will help you if you don’t have time, forget or just prefer to do your pre-poo and wash routine in one go.



5| Massage That Scalp

Just as our hair gets dry when sebum is washed away so does our scalp, and it needs to be protected equally. Don’t forget to apply some oil on your finger pads and gently massage them on your scalp. There is no need to overdo it with oil as you can clog pores. Why not add a few drops of peppermint or rosemary essential oil and take advantage of the scalp massage to stimulate those hair follicles and maybe even increase your hair growth rate?!



NOTE. Please be aware that although a simple sulphate-free or mild-sulphate shampoo will fairly cleanse your hair they are not able to remove oil completely, it will eventually build up on your hair. You will need to add to your hair routine a clarifying shampoo.  This is even more relevant if you do the LOC method and regularly use oils and hair butters. If you fail to do this you will be effectively ‘moisturising’ dry hair, because no moisture can get in!


How do you do your pre-poo? What are your tips?


Featured Image Credit: Phu Thinh Co on Flickr (license).

34 thoughts on “5 Tips To Make Your Oil Pre-Poo More Effective

  1. I have a question about pre pooing on dry hair and pre poo mixes. I know the sole purpose of doing it on dry hair is so that the oil can penetrate directly into the hair shaft and eliminate hydral fatigue, because if the hair is wet, then it would more so just be like sealing the hair. But, when using a mixed pre poo, of conditioner and oil, how is this method not exactly the same thing, just sealing, not penetrating, being that the first ingredients in the conditioner is water? What makes this any different?

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Doing an oil Pre-pooing can help prevent hygral fatigue, but pre-pooing is also a technique you use to prevent sebum depletion from cleansing your hair (this is one of the main purposes), decrease breakage and help with detangling. For the purposes of preventing or improving hygral fatigue an oil pre-poo is the best thing you can do as the vegetable oil (a sealing one) will penetrate and help with your hair´s elasticity.

      As you rightly point out, doing a conditioner + oil mix will probably not help as much in preventing hygral fatigue. However, the first thing you should do to prevent hygral fatigue is to stop having your hair wet the majority of the time or having it wet every day. If you keep wetting your hair and add the oil pre-poo to your hair routine it will actually also help to keep the moisture in for longer and worse the hygral fatigue condition. To know more about Hygral Fatigue read this post and this one on how to avoid it.

      I hope this answers your question, Jamie.

  2. I know this is an old post, but I need help on this one. My question is, can you still retain some of that oil from the pre-poo once you shampoo? Or is the major goal for it to penetrate into the hair before you wet it? I ask this because I recently did an overnight pre-poo which really penetrated my hair, but once I shampooed it, I felt like all that oily goodness was gone.

    1. Hello Wats,

      A pre-poo is done to facilitate detangling your hair, help retain moisture and to prevent regular sulphate shampoos to deplete your hair from its natural oil (sebum). When you do an overnight oil pre-poo with a penetrating oil a part of it will remain on the outer layer of your hair, protecting it from excessive shampoo/cleanser depletion and it will be removed once you wash your hair but it will. What remains inside your hair will help retain any moisture your hair receives (water or any water-based product).

      The ‘oily goodness’ you are referring to is probably you noticing a big change in your hair for the better in relation to how it was before. Just remember that a portion of the oil will still remain inside the hair, just use a penetrating oil. You can always use an oil to seal your hair once you apply your moisturising products.


  3. Hi,
    I just started my transition journey and I’ve got this oil mix for hot hair treatment. Can hot hair treatment work as a prepoo? Thanks

  4. Hi, i’ve been transitioning for 18 weeks now. Its a struggle with my new growth and i dont know how to tame it. My hair is shoulder length and i have about 5cm of new roots. I am at my wits end. My roots are thick n feisty and my lengths are starting to look sick in comparison. Im attempting to hold on till December before big chopping but maintenance is a struggle.
    Thanx for this site.

  5. Will using olive oil once a week be too much and cause me to get oily hair? Right now my hair is really dry and i have an itchy scalp. I did this last week and I can see how much it’s helped my hair already. Just wonder is once a week is going to be too much for my hair?

    1. Hi Lauren,

      Doing an oil pre-poo once a week is not too much. However, you need to check the reason why you have an itchy scalp. Is it because your shampoo (if you use it) is too stripping? Could you be allergic to a specific ingredient? Could you have too much buildup on your scalp thus why it’s dry and itchy? Could it be your water? Or any other practice you’re doing?… Check for this.

  6. I have created a couple of oil mixes, all Olive based. One I use right now for intense moisture, growth and sealing is a mix between EVOO, Jojoba oil, Avocado, Argon, JBCO, Vitamin E oil, and Peppermint. This has been leaving my hair more than soft, shiny as well! Im planning to make a prepoo mixture concentrated with EVOO, Jojoba, Vit E, and Peppermint <plan to make more quantity of this for prepoos only. Otherwise I use my initial mix as an everyday wake me up moisturizer.

    1. Hello Julisa, your oil mixes sound good, however, be aware that oils are not moisturisers, they are emollients. Therefore, you need to have your hair already moisturised when you use the mix. For a pre-poo, you don’t need to moisturise first. Also, you don’t need to apply oils to your hair every day if it’s well moisturised, check this post. Take care.

  7. I always pre poo my hair with coconut oil and also detangle my hair with it. The only problem I face is while cleaning the oil from my hair, I need to use more shampoo than regular so it’s stripping more moisture from my hair. Any proper way to clean oil from hair?

    1. Hi Mahmuda! Are you using a regular sulphate shampoo with sodium laureth sulphate or similar? There are plenty of sulphate free shampoos capable of cleaning your hair. You can try Flora & Curl Superfruit Shampoo. My question is, could you be using too much oil? You don’t need to apply too much and get your hair all greasy. Secondly, does your hair regimen include the weekly use of oils and butter when styling your hair (in products or in DIY)? If so, you need to clarify your hair more often to remove all that build up.

  8. I’ve been using avocado oil with a few drops of rosemary essential oil as a prepoo for a while now and it seems to be doing some good. My hair doesn’t like coconut oil or babussa oil (I guess because they are so similar) so I can’t get away with using either as prepoos. My question is I’m doing this weekly is using something like rhassoul clay enough to properly cleanse my scalp and strands? No matter what shampoo I try it’s just too drying. What else would you suggest for clarifying?

    1. Hello Ashley! No, I don’t think rhassoul is enough to properly cleanse your hair. A simple test done by a polymer scientist revealed it doesn’t completely remove oils. So use a sulphate free shampoo and occasionally, use a clarifying shampoo to remove buildup. There are lots of mild shampoos capable of cleaning your hair well, here’s some more information on surfactants and sulphates.

  9. Hello Monica, I am fascinated with your blog, really informative that I needed! I have a doubt about my washing. If I don’t have a clarifying shampoo (yet) should I wash my hair twice? I really need to do a good washing because I have a lot of build up. I have the argan oil OGX sulphate-free shampoo. Thanks 🙂

    1. Hello Maria,

      To clarify your hair means you’re removing product buildup and hard water minerals from your hair and a sulphate free shampoo can’t do that. You can read this post for more info and product suggestions.

  10. Hi Monica, thanks for your answer. I know that the sulphate free shampoo can’t remove build up, but for the moment I don’t have another one. My question is, should I try washing my hair twice, in order to remove AT LEAST A BIT of build up? or isnt that not enough either? I can’t buy the claryfing shampoo for the moment, that is why I ask you this. I appreciate your answer in advance!!!

    1. The sulphate free shampoo will help with removing some types of product build up not all. But yes you can use it to remove some of the buildup, however, a regular sulphate shampoo will be better in removing nonwater soluble silicones for instance if they exist in your products.

  11. Hi.. thanks alot for the info.. this is an old post I know but it came just in time for me!
    I was wondering I wash my hair every 4 days or so but i already use oils after i wash it and i refresh it maybe daily which means my hair is already caoted with products, moreover my scalp is quite greasy.. so is pre-poo a good choice here? How far can my hair absorbe these oils i’m giving it?

    1. Hi Ingy,
      It seems you’re using too much oil in your hair regimen? I would drastically reduce that. Also if you refresh your hair every couple of days that tells me your products are not moisturising your hair properly. Pre-poo is a good hair care practice to adopt, but you need to review your hair regimen first.

  12. This post is great! What I’m wondering though is, after an overnight pre poo, do you apply shampoo to your hair before getting it wet or do you wet it first then apply shampoo? I know when I get oil on my hands, if I apply water first the oil doesn’t come off my hands. A little afraid it won’t come out of my hair without applying shampoo 1st before wetting it! Please advise! Thank you ?

    1. Hi Erin! Shampoos contain surfactants which allow sebum and oil to mix with water and be washed away. Wetting your hair first will allow you to spread the shampoo on your hair better and you will spend less product. As for not cleaning well enough, if you use the same shampoo regularly you know how much lather it makes if, when you pre-poo your hair and shampoo it the first time, it doesn’t lather as it normally does just do a second round of shampoo. I normally shampoo twice. Hope this helps.

  13. When creating a pre-poo oil mixture – how many penetrating oil or what is the maximum number of penetrating oil can be used in the oil mixture? Can essential oil be added to the pre-poo oil mixture?

    1. Hi Pamela! You can put as many oils as you want and add a few drops of essential oil. I would use some peppermint, rosemary or eucalyptus which increase blood circulation to blood vessels in your scalp and stimulate hair growth.

  14. Hi there,

    I have very fine oily hair. I am trying to increase the days between washing (washed everyday since a teenager), going from 2 – 3 but day 3 is horrible. Oily, itchy, gross. Washing and conditioning with giovanni. Do you think an olive oil pre poo will help me? Do you have any other advice?

    1. Hi Sarah! I don’t think an oil pre-poo would help you. Is your hair breaking/fragile and/or is it normally dry in need of moisture? An oil pre-poo benefits more those in these conditions. Also, if you frequently apply oil on your hair that could be the reason you have oily/itchy scalp. If it’s just sebum production you may need a better-formulated shampoo or actually just wash more often. Not everyone can wash their hair just once a week. It depends on your circumstances, the place you live and even your work environment.

  15. Hi.
    This isn’t really related to the article but I have a question, if you have 4c hair but when its moisturized its type 3b/c, what then is your hair? If someone asked what hair type you have, should you answer type 3 or type 4? What is my hair type?

    1. Hi Quinn. Curly hair when wet will be stretched out so it is best to identify your curl pattern when styled and dry.

  16. Hey, me again
    You say oil can cause buildup and sulphate free shampoos wont do the trick when cleansing the scalp. If I shampoo my hair twice in one wash day will that have the same effect as Sulphate shampoos? I only shampoo my hair once on wash day.

    1. Hello Quinn. Doing an oil pre-poo 1-2 month won’t be a problem if you use a good sulphate free shampoo. However, regular weekly use of oil to massage scalp and to style your hair is what leads buildup, especially because most people are not cleansing their hair properly and are not remove all the gunk. The best thing to do is to avoid oils. If you want to do an oil pre-poo do it 1-2 month and make sure one session coincides with your clarifying shampoo. Hope this helps. 🙂

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