By Nicole of

Black hair is inherently fragile. Unfortunately, African American natural hair is sometimes described as “nappy”, but it’s really just extremely curly hair. African American hair is breakage prone because it tangles and knots more readily than the hair of other ethnicities. That’s why many African American women (over 60%) opt for relaxers instead of their natural hair. Unfortunately, relaxers may make African American hair easier to manage, but they also cause serious damage. It’s an uphill battle no matter what you do, so you must always take time to give your hair the TLC that it needs.

For many years, women from India and other parts of the world have applied oil to their hair before washing it. That may sound completely backwards, but keep reading! Cleansing your hair with shampoo is important because it washes away hair products, dirt, pollution, and anything else that’s gotten stuck to your hair during the week. The downside of shampoo is that it can also strip the natural oils from your hair. Your hair needs a certain amount of oil to stay healthy, so you don’t want to wash it all away with shampoo. You don’t want your hair to be “squeaky clean”! Women on the Eastern Hemisphere figured out a wonderful solution to this problem many decades ago. Oiling your hair before washing it, gives your hair a softening, deep oil treatment. It also provides extra protection so that your hair doesn’t get completely stripped during the shampoo process. No wonder hot oil treatments became so popular for a while! Warm your oil in the microwave or cover your head with a warm towel for faster results.

The key to this long tradition is choosing the right kind of oil. The only truly effective oils are: coconut, olive, and avocado oil. These oils are high in saturated fat which means their molecules are small enough to penetrate into the hair shaft. All you have to do is soak your hair in the oil and let it absorb. Coconut oil is the easiest to use because it’s solid at room temperature. You can scoop it out of the container and rub it between your palms. Olive and avocado oil are liquids so applying those could get messy.

Here’s the most important thing: You have to use pure oil for Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatments – like the extra virgin olive oil in your kitchen cabinet. Don’t be fooled by hair products like “Olive Oil Mayonnaise” or “Coconut Oil Hair Conditioner“. Those products rarely contain any significant amount of high-quality oil. Many times they are mostly made of mineral oil, which cannot penetrate the hair shaft. Pure, edible oils are the only way to go. You should do Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatments whether you have relaxed or natural hair.

How to do a Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment

Step 1: Using your fingers, divide your hair into 4-6 sections.

Step 2: Apply a heavy coating of pure coconut, olive, or avocado oil throughout each section. Make sure to put oil on every layer of your hair. Use 4-6 tablespoons depending on your hair length and strand thickness.

Step 3: Cover your hair with a plastic cap to keep the oil from dripping down your face and neck.

Step 4: Leave the oil on your hair for 1 hour. Some say it’s better to keep the oil on longer (even overnight), but you’ll have to decide for yourself. You can try different lengths of time to see if your hair feels better after longer treatments.

Step 5: Before you shower, comb your hair out with your fingers to remove tangles or knots.

Step 6: Wash and condition your hair.

Step 7: Be consistent. Do a Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment before every shampoo.
Pre-Shampoo oil treatments are a great way to soften and strengthen African American hair. Try one and see for yourself!

Ladies, do you do pre-shampoo treatments? How do they affect your hair?

Hora, RM, Ruffenachm, F. Inner Beauty: Discover Natural Beauty and Well-Being with the Traditions of Ayurveda. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books; 2005: 72-73.
Keis, K., Persaud, D., Kamath, Y., & Rele, A. Investigation of penetration abilities of various oils into human hair fibers. J Cosmet Sci, 2005: 56(5), 283-295.
Rele, A., & Mohile, R. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. J Cosmet Sci, 2003: 54(2), 175-192.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

Leave a Reply

49 Comments on "How To Do a Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment"

Notify of
mw webster

“Black hair is inherently fragile.” …no, its not, it can break a comb.

I have been doing a, as I like to say, ‘pre oil treatment’ for 6 months and I have honestly seen a difference in the texture if my hair. I like to mix coconut and avocado oil, only. I noticed Olive oil makes my hair hard and crunchy. I would pour the two oils in a spray bottle, part my hair in 4 sections and spray on each section and twist them when I’m done. I’ll put on a plastic cap and let it sit overnight. Then the next day, ill wash it out and follow up with a moisturizing… Read more »

Ambearr, Both Coconut oil and Olive oil make my hair dry and brittle. I have to dilute them with another carrier oil.


I enjoyed reading Your article the information was very helpful. I do have one thing to say; it would be helpful when someone ask a question that you will answer it since it’s your blog /website. The information that others post are good however, knowing that you agree with what they’re saying is better God bless


Hey thanks so much for all this info. It’s great! Is shea butter as effective as olive and avocado oil? In fact which is better?

Chanice Hird

I can’t wait to try this! My hair is currently tucked away due to breakage at the back but as soon as I get it back out i’m going to start doing this with coconut oil. I already cowash but my hair is still breaking! Really hope it helps my hair grow!

Do you HAVE to shampoo the oil out? Because I don’t use shampoo at all, period, for any reason, unless I use an extremely bad, thick product that just sits on my hair like hair lotions that forces me to shampoo the product off (trial and error, ugh!). I noticed that when I do a hot oil treatment my hair is still very much oily after. I apply the oil to damp hair because product works best for me when my hair is wet, then I do a cold water rinse to wash the oil out as well as seal… Read more »

Yeah, that oil is just sitting there. You might want to try a cleansing conditioner instead of shampoo. I’m on my second bottle of the pantene cleansing conditioner. It’s the only thing that doesn’t dry out my hair or leave my scalp oily. It’s only $5 at my local Walmart.


[…] is an article that explains the importance of pre shampooing as well as a YouTube video that shows the best way, […]


Hi! Can I do a pre-shampoo oil treatment if I co-wash my hair?


Hi Marielys! From my experience, this is an amazing routine to try out. I use a few tablespoons of coconut oil before I hop in the shower, use a light conditioner, and then use my Pantene cleansing conditioner. It’s literally the best thing I’ve ever tried. I can’t go without my coconut oil or my pantene cleansing conditioner, otherwise my hair is super dry and frizzy. Hope this helped!


I have dry and curly hair what can I use to keep it moisturized besides the avocado oil treatments? I can oil my hair and it’ll be dry the next day. Any suggestions?

JA Rhys-Morgan

Try red palm oil. Your hair will stay moisturize, soft and manageable.


Very good advice….. amla oil is a good oil to try with that method as well.

simran kalra

why cant we oil hair after hairwash?


You can! I do an oil rinse after every wash and shampoo and it’s great for my dense hair… My hair is soft and luscious. Check out oil rinsing on Youtube!


Because water repels oil. If you try to put oil on wet or damp hair, the oil will just run off your hair or in the case of damp hair sit on the surface. To get the most out of an oil treatment, always do it on dry hair, preferably before washing your hair.

Knowledgeble Sista
Great article. I just wanted to make one comment. If you have never done a hot oil treatment, here is a tip. Do not microwave olive oil and put it on your head or you will burn your scalp! What you want to do is put the oil in a small plastic bottle. Then microwave some water in a cup or bowel to the desired temperature (it takes less than four minutes for water to boil!) and put a plastic bottle in the water. Wait a couple minutes. Test the oil temp on your hand before adding it to your… Read more »
Thick Nigerian Hair

People will find the dumbest things to get upset about. Who cares about what kind of Black or African you are? That was not the point of this article.


I do this every week. I use a mixture of avocado oil, rice bran oil and castor oil. I mix the oils and infuse them with peppermint, nettle, lavender and rosemary.


I do an oil pre-poo every time I wash my hair. I put my hair into four or six sections, saturate w/aloe vera juice and a little bit of oil and detangle each section. After that, I saturate each section w/1/4cup melted coconut oil. I cover my hair with a plastic cap for 15-30 minutes. I rinse the oil out and follow w/a wash and conditioner. My hair is always soft and moisturized.

Textured Queen

This is very helpful, I just bout some avocado oil and was making sure it would work well for a hot oil treatment (I usually use coconut oil). Im thinking of making a concoction but Im not sure if I’ll be over doing it lol (I get excited sometimes)so let me know if this will work well or if I should just keep it simple. avocado oil, coconut oil, vitamine e oil, tea tree and honey….. Too much????

Got alove for ma hair
Got alove for ma hair

Does anyone know if mixing evoo and honey for a pre-poo is a good mixture?


I do that. A few tablespoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of honey warmed in a clean plastic container. Best thing I’ve ever done!!!

Sapphic Seduction

Garlic infused extra virgin olive oil is just perfect. Great for shedding too (:


Hello !!

i’m wondering… what do you think of pre-pooing before co-washing,or before a nopoo??


I do pre-shampoo oil treatments on dampened hair before shampooing. It works well to impart moisture and enables me to finger-detangle with ease. I use coconut oil.


Doesnt pre- shampooing give the same results as deep conditioning before every wash?
I deep condition before most of my washes and I add coconut oil and olive oil in my deep conditioners.


do you prepoo on dry hair?


You can do it on dry or damp hair. If I use oil, I do it on damp hair. If I use conditioner, I do it on dry hair.


What if I don’t use a rinse out conditioner and just use a leave-in conditioner?


I only use a leave-in conditioner and pre-shampoo oil treatments work well for me.

Actually the 4-5 T is correct, as they actually do an Oil WASH/Pre-Poo. I’ve done both and I’ve found that for oil washes, castor oil/JBCO works best and for pre-poo oil coconut oil. Just remember that you are oiling your HAIR & not the scalp when you do this. You want to use alot of oil, partially for it to be absorbed and partially for it to cling to dirt/stuff on the hair. When you wash it out, you can tell if you used too little based on the way your hair is before hand. Another thing you can do… Read more »
I’m definitely going to try this today. I made a garlic infused olive oil to aid in my shedding issue (it’s not really a big issue, I just want to keep it down as much as possible, plus garlic is great for you). I needed some technique pointers for applying the oil. This does the trick! Thank you. And ladies, let’s not get hung up or offended about labels. African-American is a blanket term, though this is an international blog, I believe the majority of us, including the author of the piece is American. A better term could have been… Read more »

4-6 TABLESPOONS? Wear a cap so the oil doesn’t DRIP? That is waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy more oil than necessary.


I have a lot of hair. I could probably put the whole bottle on my head and it still not be enough. My first though were, ‘Tablespoons?? That will be enough for what, 1/8 of my head.’ 🙂


I’ve been doing something similar for going on to a month now. Its a mixture of olive oil, castor oil and avocado oil in equal amounts, and there has been a great improvement in my hair. I sleep with it in my hair overnight with the plastic cap and my night cap, and believe me it works wonders, my hair is so much easier to deal with and it doesn’t retain water which leads to hydral fatigue, it also feels so much stronger and I’m losing a lot less hair.


Good Morning Goddesses!

I have been pre-pooing for the entire 14 months I have been transitioning…it’s worth it ladies! I use an olive, coconut, amla oil mixture.

It’s definitely worth it! Most of all, coconut and amla oils are inexpensive! You can find them at your local Indian market. Be sure to check the expiration dates though! They keep items on the shelves until they turn to dust! (In my experience!)



I started pre-pooing with virgin coconut oil or Vatika oil last year after learning about hygral fatigue. Just did a video on how I apply it a week or so ago and it’s pretty much just like the steps above.

I don’t know if the embed is going to work. So, attaching the link too:



I used JBCO on my ends here. But, I’ll have to try olive oil next time.


What is African American hair? Is this meant to be black hair?


I asked myself that question too? Is AA hair of a different catogory? I’m only from little old England but i recognise that there are many people who look like me and share the same hair type all over this world.
Back to topic in question, I’ve been pre pooing my hair with coconut oil for the past 4 months and i swear my hair seems a lot stronger than it has been in years.



Natural hair is a global thing.

There are many women rocking natural hair (like myself) with expressed African ancestry who are not African-American. There are also naturals who are just African (and who may or may not be in America).

Hair Liberty, you’re on notice.

mediumrowngirl, I’m sorry but you sound ignorant. Did it ever occur to you that the author is African AMERICAN and that her intended audience is African AMERICAN. If you find this post useful then say thank you and use the tips. You sound really silly chastising someone about writing to and for their own cultural group. Ignorant and offensive. If you don’t like the references to African AMERICANS then please hang out on blogs in your own country so that you’re not offended. African AMERICANS are allowed to speak to each other without a lecture from onlookers from outside the… Read more »

African Mmerican is always used as another way of just saying ‘black’. In this case i think it was just used as a blanket term too; she just meant black and was not trying to specifically refer to just Americans of African decent.

It should be clearer i guess. i get where your coming from though.

“The only truly effective oils are: coconut, olive, and avocado oil. These oils are high in saturated fat…” Coconut oil is the only oil [in this group] that is high in saturated fat–about 94%. Olive oil is mainly a monounsaturated fat, with a small percentage of saturated fat. Avocado oil is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat (I don’t know how much of its fat is saturated, if any at all). Saturated fats are solid (when cold, unheated): coconut oil, red palm oil (which is good for the skin and hair, because it is rich in Vitamin E–a much better… Read more »

Are you recommending coconut oil over the other oils? and do you think palm oils is better than coconut oil? thanks in advance.