Pre-Poo Before Shampoo: Technically Speaking

Pre-Poo Before Shampoo: Technically Speaking

Our post today will address a question from “Ask the Chemist.” J. D. asked the following question:

Hi Joe,
I have been do hot oil pre-poos most of the summer using castor, olive, and coconut oil combination sitting under dryer with plastic for 30-45 minutes. I have noticed lately when I wet hair to shampoo, my hair feels straw-like. A moisturizing sulfate-free shampoo does not coat hair enough. Once I apply conditioner, my hair seems fine. Should I start looking for another shampoo? Please advise.

This is an excellent question that, especially since it allows me to address pre-pooing.


All About Pre-Pooing

Let’s start with the pre poo.  The purpose of a pre-poo is to give your hair elasticity and suppleness.  When you apply oils to the hair and add heat (remember to use low to medium heat), you are doing two things: (1) lifting the cuticle, and (2) making the oils less viscous.  This allows the oils to penetrate the cortex of the hair.  Now when you follow up with shampooing your hair, you will cool the hair back down and consequently, seal the cuticles and trap the moisture from the pre-poo and the water from washing your hair.

Now having said that, olive and coconut oils are great for pre-pooing because they are rich in oleic acid, which will give your hair elasticity and suppleness.   Elasticity and suppleness prevents breakage and drives healthy hair.


About Castor Oil

You should limit the amount of castor oil.  Remember oils are composed of essential fatty acids.  Castor oil is rich in a ricinoleic acid, which will coat the hair and give it softness and sheen; however soft, shiny hair is not indicative of healthy hair.  To give you and example, think silicone-it makes the hair soft and shiny, but it does not make the hair healthy. Therefore, castor oil is not the best choice for a pre-pooing; however it is an excellent styling agent.


All About Shampoo

Continue using non SLS shampoos.  They are far less aggressive at removing your hair’s natural lipids (oils) than a traditional SLS shampoo.  Using a SLS shampoo will defeat the purpose of pre pooing your hair because SLS is a harsh de-greasing detergent that is actually used at car washes to get rid of oil. So you definitely would not want to get rid of all the oil in your hair.

To address your question about how the shampoo will condition and moisturize your hair- when formulating, I tend to stay away from coco betaine due to conflicting studies on skin irritation and toxicity.   Look for shampoos with decyl glucoside. It is a great surfactant that will cleanse without stripping the hair.   In our Hydration Supreme Moisturizing Shampoo, we use a blend of decyl glucoside and sodium lauroyl lactylate.  This blend has an Eco cert.  It also has superior foaming and moisturizing/conditioning properties.

Finally, look out for excessive amounts of protein.  The comment about your hair feeling like straw might indicate that your hair has too much protein.  Proteins are found in oils, shampoos and conditioners so please read your labels.

Hope this helps,


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