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Tapiwa Gachala
Updated on January 20, 2022

Pre-poo? Sounds weird but trust me it is the game changer you probably didn’t know you needed in your wash day routine! I never used to think it was necessary until I gave it a try a few years into my natural hair journey and I’ve never looked back.

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What Is Pre Pooing?

As the name suggests, pre poo is simply short for pre-shampoo treatment. It is basically a conditioning treatment that helps prepare and protect your hair when you shampoo, which makes it an excellent first step of your wash day routine.

Pre Poo Treatment Guide

Shampoos tend to strip your hair’s nutrients and oils leaving it with that unpleasant squeaky plasticky feel (this is the very reason why you do not have to shampoo your hair too often). Incorporating a pre-poo treatment helps form an outer layer that will act as a barrier to protect your hair during the shampooing process.

But wait, there’s more! Pre-pooing also leaves your hair feeling softer, which makes detangling much easier! It also adds to the moisture to your hair, which means less breakage. Sounds great, huh?

Pre-pooing works best for hair types with more shrinkage and a tighter curl, that is type 3 to type 4 hair. Also, if your hair is suffering from dryness or tangles, pre-poo treatment can help you address these concerns.

How to Pre Poo Hair

I have two ways in which I pre poo and it all depends on how much time I have or what the state of my hair is. On days where my hair is on the dryer side and time allows, I pre poo overnight. I love using hair oils to pre wash my mane. My leading oil for pre-pooing is extra virgin olive oil but you can also use coconut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, or a custom blend of oils.

On dry hair, you section your hair (I normally do 4 sections but if your hair is shorter you can do 6) then coat your hair with the pre-poo treatment and make sure it is evenly distributed over all your hair. I then massage the treatment into my hair and scalp for a few minutes. Then, I twist each section, throw on my shower cap, place a silk bonnet on top, and head to bed. It’s as simple as that! If you are going to treat your hair overnight, be sure not to be too heavy-handed with the oil to avoid it dripping all over your bonnet and bedding.

Alternatively, you can follow the same process a minimum of 30 minutes before you begin your wash day. I have low porosity hair so I normally prefer to pre-poo overnight vs on my wash day to give my hair more time to soak up all the goodness from the treatment and also benefit from the heat created under my bonnet during my sleep.

In both instances, there is no need to do anything special before shampooing. Once you’re ready to wash your hair, you just unravel your twist and shampoo! You will definitely feel the difference as your hair will be more manageable. Also, I believe the longer you have the treatment in, the better the results, so always plan the pre poo ahead of your wash days.

DIY Pre-Poo Recipes

I love using oils to pre poo my hair. I feel they do the best job when it comes to protecting your outer layer. My leading oil for pre-pooing is extra virgin olive oil but you can also use coconut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil or a blend of oils. For an elevated experience you can mix it with any hydrating conditioner you might have in your hair stash.

Here is my favorite pre-poo recipe:

  • 2tbsp. of Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp of honey
  • 1 tbsp of the aloe vera moisture intense leave-in conditioner
  • 3 drops of pure glycerin
Leave In Conditioner for DIY Pre Poo

For this recipe, you mix all ingredients together in a bowl until blended well then apply to your sectioned hair as described above. This is moisture intensive recipe great for dried-out hair, especially during the colder months. Honey and glycerin are both humectants so your hair will be sure to draw in loads of moisture. I only use this treatment when my hair feels dry because too much moisture can cause hygral fatigue which leaves your hair feeling weak and dull.

Pre-Poo Treatment for Low Porosity Hair

This recipe is perfect for low porosity hair because it’s lightweight and definitely won’t weigh your hair down:

  • 3 tbsp of sweet almond oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • A few drops of lemongrass essential oil

To prepare this pre-poo mix, you begin by beating the egg yolk till it’s light and fully then you mix in the oils till it’s all blended together perfectly. Next, you follow the basic steps as outlined above when applying the recipe to your sectioned hair.

For better results swap your shower cap for a thermal one, the heat will help open up your cuticles for better penetration. Lemongrass essential oil is great for hair growth so I like incorporating it into my DIY recipes.

Pre-Poo Recipe for High Porosity Hair

The main issue with high porosity hair is its inability to retain moisture, so using a heavier mix of ingredients definitely goes a long way in helping seal in the moisture while treating your hair.

  • About a palm full of unrefined shea butter (varies depending on the length of hair)
  • 1 tbsp of castor oil
  • 1 tbsp of avocado oil
Shea Butter for DIY Natural Hair Mask

Freepik / @freepik

To prepare this mix, melt down your shea butter by placing your mixing bowl over hot water and mixing it till it’s broken down into liquid form then add the oils. As with the other pre-poo treatments, apply it to the sections of your hair. No need to incorporate heat with high porosity hair. Castor oil is a great sealant and coupled with shea butter will do a great job of minimizing loss of moisture and nutrients. Avocado oil is great for repairing as well as strengthening your hair.

Best Pre-Shampoo Treatments to Shop

I am a DIY girl so I hardly use any over-the-counter treatments, but there are some I do love. In addition, most conditioners, deep conditioners, and hair masks can also act as great pre-poo treatments. You can add an oil of your choice to it or simply apply the conditioner as is. If the conditioner you use is water-based, do not leave it overnight. Find them listed below:

1. Aunt Jackie’s Growth Oil

One of my favorite oils to shop is the Grapeseed & Avocado Blend by Aunt Jackie’s. It smells amazing and definitely works great as a pre-poo treatment.

Aunt Jackie's Oil for Pre Poo Treatment


2. Strengthen and Restore Treatment Masque by Shea Moisture

This Shea Moisture masque is great to use as a pre-poo if your hair is feeling brittle and weak. It will definitely help repair your hair. It is more on the heavier side, so when I do use it, I only leave it on for 30 minutes before I begin my wash day.

Shea Moisture Hair Products for Natural Hair


3. Detangling Conditioner by As I Am

Detangling is the most time-consuming and laborious step during my wash day. I normally use As I Am detangling conditioner after I take down a long-term protective hairstyle just to help soften and smoothen my hair and make detangling so much easier. If my hair also feels knotty, go with this pre-poo treatment to assist.

As I Am Hair Products for Natural Hair


4. Marula Detangling Conditioner by Ludo Beauty

I also love using Ludo Beauty detangling conditioner to pre poo because it’s lightweight and absorbs well while giving a great moisture boost to your hair. As a bonus, it also leaves my hair feeling really soft and smooth and so detangling is a breeze.

Marula Based Products for Natural Hair


Things to Avoid when Pre-Pooing

Pre-pooing will only give you the desired results if it is done right. Here are some things to avoid when it comes to pre-pooing:

  • Do not wet your hair before applying your pre-poo treatment. If necessary, you may lightly dampen your hair so it’s easier to manage but do not go overboard.
  • If you chose to use a water-based conditioner to pre-poo, do not leave it in overnight as the chances of over-saturating your hair are higher, which will increase the risk of hygral fatigue. Only oil-based treatments may be left overnight.
  • Avoid pre-poo treatments that are not targeted for your hair type. Knowing your hair type, especially your hair porosity, is key in helping you identify the right treatments to go for. Using the wrong products can damage your locks, so do your research before trying anything out.

It’s so easy to discard pre-pooing because it seems like extra work while wash days are already so tedious, but I promise you it makes the wash day so much smoother and leaves your hair feeling ah-mazing. If done right, pre-poo actually helps cut down your detangling time because it leaves your hair so much softer and more manageable. This treatment also contributes to your hair’s overall health and strength. Definitely worth a try!

For more tips and info on natural hair care please follow me on my Instagram @tapiwa_gachala and subscribe to my blog.

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