Most people with naturally curly hair struggle to create the perfect wash day routine. It certainly took me a while to figure it out!
On the one hand, kinky, curly, and wavy hair tends to be drier than naturally straight hair. All that texture makes it difficult for the natural oils from your scalp to travel down the hair shaft and moisturize your locks. On top of that, the skin on your scalp could also be a bit on the dry side. That means that you’d have to avoid products with certain ingredients and seek out alternatives.
But can using a pre-shampoo treatment before wash day really improve hair and scalp health? Before we discuss the benefits of pre-poo treatments, let’s talk about curly hair and shampoos in broader terms.
Table of Contents
Curly Community Glossary: Pre-Poo
Wash day is a sacred ritual in the curly hair community. However, newcomers to the curly girl method can find the terminology around shampooing a bit confusing. So let’s take a moment to explain what no-poo, low-poo, and pre-poo products are.
When I started looking into products for curly hair, I quickly discovered that most shampoos contain incredibly damaging ingredients. For one, most of them contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate, a surfactant that’s bad for most hair types. However, SLS is especially harsh on curly hair, which is already dry enough without adding chemicals that completely obliterate your natural oils into the mix.
Understandably, some people in the curly community have started removing shampoos from their hair care routines altogether. That resulted in the creation of no-poo and low-poo routines. Basically, people try to completely replace shampoos with cleansing conditioners or incredibly gentle low-poo products. But you needn’t go that far!
If you use a pre-shampoo treatment before you wash your hair, you could get away with having gentle surfactants in your shampoo. So, before I tell you about the most effective pre-poos I’ve tried, let’s find out how using a pre-shampoo treatment can benefit curly hair.
The Benefits of Using a Pre-Shampoo Treatment
There are plenty of reasons to use a pre-poo treatment, from strengthening your roots to hydrating your scalp and hair. While each kind of pre-poo treatment provides different benefits, most of them just prepare your hair for wash day — here’s how!
Moisturize and Protect the Scalp
Curly hair isn’t meant to be washed all that frequently: most people do it every 4–7 days. However, some people can go even longer between wash days, especially if they have their hair in a protective style. But even if your hair is in box braids, you’ll still have to take good care of your scalp.
None of us are immune to scalp dryness and itchiness — and trust me, dandruff is not a great look. Whether you’re dealing with a skin condition or you’re using an overly harsh shampoo, a good oil-based pre-poo should sort out the issue. Leave the treatment on your scalp for an hour or two and your scalp will be itch-free for days to come.
Prep the Hair
In addition to moisturizing your scalp, the right pre-poo treatment could also hydrate your tresses. Some pre-poo treatments just seep into the hair shaft, providing all the moisture that can’t come down from your scalp. Other pre-poos are great at prepping the hair and opening it up to receive the hydration you’ll add during your wash routine. Ultimately, using a moisturizer before shampooing and a conditioner after results in wonderfully soft and shiny curls that are easier to style!
Most curly-haired people tend to dread detangling, so they only do it if they have plenty of water and conditioner in their hair. However, once your roots are wet, detangling your hair could cause unnecessary breakage. So how can a pre-poo prevent that?
To begin with, you should leave your pre-poo treatment on your scalp and hair for as long as it takes to get the benefits I’ve already explained. When you’re ready to shower, you can add more of the product to your hair in sections. Then, gently break up any knots in each section with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb. So you see, this isn’t a fully dry detangling technique — rather, it allows you to keep your roots strong while you work through the tangles.
Once you have detangled your hair completely, you can hop into the shower and do the rest of your routine. Hopefully, you’ll notice less hair shedding overall if you do this method.
What Are the Most Popular Pre-Shampoo Options?
As with any other hair care product, finding the pre-shampoo treatment your hair can be a torturous process. Still, there are plenty of options you can try, from commercial products to homemade solutions.
Generally, if you want to keep your hair and scalp moisturized, you can’t go wrong with oils. The most popular oils among curly-haired people are, of course, good old coconut oil and olive oil. Additionally, castor and argan oils are great on their own or in various conditioning products.
What’s more, you can even try mixing your own pre-poo oil treatment. Any of the oils I’ve already mentioned would make a great base, and you can spice things up by adding various essential oils. Tea tree oil is great for dandruff and peppermint oil will leave your scalp feeling fresh and cool.
Along the same line, there are other natural ingredients you can use as your pre-poo treatment. Mango and shea butter come to mind, as both can provide ample hydration. Additionally, banana paste, honey, and yogurt are also pretty beneficial.
On the other hand, you could simply use your conditioner as a pre-poo treatment. Alternately, there are plenty of commercial pre-shampoo treatments and masques online.
Step-by-Step Guide to Using a Pre-Shampoo Treatment
Different kinds of pre-poo treatments require different applications. If you get commercial pre-poo products, you’ll just have to follow the instructions on the packaging. But how do you apply the homemade solutions we talked about?
First, dampening your hair with a spray bottle is always a good idea. Basically, water can help you distribute the treatment evenly.
If you’re putting oils on your hair, you can leave them in as long as possible. Most people put their hair in a pineapple and leave the oil in overnight. You can protect your pillowcase by laying down a pillow or wearing a shower cap to bed.
Alternately, if you don’t have time to let the oil sit, consider using heat to help it penetrate the hair. You can either wear a dryer bonnet attachment or blast hot air directly at the hair. After about half an hour, the oil will have done its job well enough, and you’ll be able to get on with your wash day routine.
Ultimately, using a pre-shampoo treatment is a completely optional step of a curly hair care routine. Still, it’s one of the best things you can do to ensure the health of your scalp and your hair.
Here’s another article laying out all necessary steps to keeping your hair looking fabulous!