In the world of hair care, there’s almost nothing that the haircare experts at Turbie Twist haven’t seen. From salt sprays to get that “messy beach hair” look to anti-shampoo campaigns, there are just so many bad ideas out there. So, when the term “pre-poo” surfaced, you bet that eyes went a little squinty around the office. However, it turns out that this pre-shampoo treatment trend is not just effective at combatting dry and damaged hair, but it’s actually based on science.
Now that’s worth some attention. Let’s dive in and check it out.
Pre-Shampoo Treatment aka Pre-Poo: The Ridiculous Sounding Fad That’s Actually Slightly Genius
Pre-poo is short for pre-shampoo treatment. Basically, it’s a hair treatment that you apply to your hair for some hours (or even days!) before you wash it. Early proponents of pre-pooing advocated for these treatments before shampooing your hair, especially for bearers of kinky and curly hair. Although it’s just now hitting the mainstream hair care world, some digging reveals that the term first appeared on the internet around 2008. There, it specifically referred to the overnight conditioner and oil mixtures used in the curly hair care community.
Pre-pooing is a pretty tried-and-tested hair technique, but it isn’t a magic bullet for your haircare problems. (Surprise!) There’s more to it than just throwing some hair masque on your head and going to bed. Here’s what the science tells us about why it works (and when it doesn’t).
What a Pre-Shampoo Treatment Does for Your Hair
When you research the benefits of using a pre-poo treatment, you’ll come across a lot of different claims. Some of the most common out there include:
- A pre-poo delivers moisture directly to your hair without water getting in the way.
- It helps protect your hair during the washing process, thereby reducing frizz.
- It gives your rinse-out conditioner extra support to leave your hair soft and supple.
- It helps you avoid “overly clean” hair that can lead to dryness or scalp problems.
A well-considered pre-poo that’s right for your hair will deliver these benefits. However, there are a few things that can get in the way of that.
Many people who pre-poo complain that it causes their hair to become stiff, chalky, or greasy. To understand why that happens, we need to take a look at a few unique properties of oils, conditioners, and hair.
The Role of Water in Pre-Poos
There are some people out there who swear by applying pre-poo to dry hair. We aren’t among them.
That’s because of the unique interaction that happens between shampoo, conditioner, and hair. Notably, the main mechanisms of shampoo and conditioner aren’t chemical in nature. Rather, they’re electric.
Your hair has a slight positive charge. You can see this most readily when it stands up in the presence of friction or a negatively charged atmosphere (like a cold winter day).
However, conditioner also has a slightly positive charge. As a result, your hair will naturally repel it. One of the other major roles of shampoo is to take a proton from your hair to make its charge negative so that the conditioner will adhere to your hair.
If you’ve applied a conditioner-based pre-poo to dry hair, you may have noticed that instead of making your hair silky and smooth, it made it chalky and dry instead. That’s because the electrical charge of the conditioner is repelling from the electrical charge of the hair. To do this, you can do two things:
- Apply water to your hair before your pre-poo. Remember 7th-grade science class? Water is a polar molecule. It has a negative charge (oxygen) and a positive charge (hydrogen). One oxygen molecule clings to your hair, the other clings to the conditioner and helps the hair absorb it.
- Use an oil-based pre-poo instead. Unlike conditioner and hair, oil has a neutral electrical charge. It won’t be repelled by your hair’s positive charge, which makes it effective when applied dry.
How to Choose the Best Pre-Shampoo Treatment for You
The right pre-shampoo treatment depends a lot on your hair type. In general, you’ll find three distinct categories of pre-poos out there. These are:
Many pre-poos use coconut oil, argan oil, avocado oil, or some other type of nutritious and moisturizing oil. You can use these straight, or you can find a blend of them available from many beauty suppliers.
Who They’re For: Ladies with sun (or chemically) bleached hair want to start right here. Likely, your hair is suffering from over-washing and a water-based pre-poo will just stoke that further. Nourish your hair and scalp with high-quality oil-based pre-poo to add moisture, strength, and shine.
Deep Conditioners and Masks
Deep conditioners and masks come jammed pack with extra nutrients and more moisturizing power. They’ll typically have a variety of ingredients which may include masks, butters, and other nourishing supplements. They’re designed for dry hair and can be worn overnight.
Who They’re For: If your hair is low porosity but also dry, it will benefit from a deep conditioner rather than an oil-based pre-poo. Likewise, if you suffer from oily hair that lacks texture, browse some hair masks. Many formulas deliver pH-balancing benefits to address the oil at its root cause. Just make sure to spray your hair down with some water to raise the cuticles and get the conditioner or mask into your strands.
Homemade blends often consist of conditioners and oils, but increasingly encompass natural ingredients as well. In addition to a custom oil and conditioner blend, you can find recipes for pre-poos that use bananas, honey, avocado, mayonnaise, raw egg, apple cider vinegar, and many other common home beauty ingredients.
Who They’re For: Everyone, especially if you’ve got Type 3C curls. You want total control over what’s in your pre-poo, and you need the flexibility to experiment with quality oil and conditioner blends.
Up Your Hair Game with a Pre-Shampoo Treatment
The pre-shampoo treatment is fast becoming all the rage – and for a fantastic reason! They’re a powerful way to introduce moisture and nutrients into your hair. We’ve explored some of the science around why they work as well as provided tips on avoiding many of the snags that people hit with them. Now you’re armed with just one more means to pamper yourself with a nourishing, gentle, and scientifically proven technique to unlock the natural beauty in your hair.
While you’re in the process of upping your hair game, check out our Turbie Twists®. Say hello to perfect hair – hands-free!