How To Do a Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment

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

Black Girl With Long Hair

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


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49 thoughts on “How To Do a Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment

    • 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.

    • 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!

  1. 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?

    • 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!

  2. Pingback: Burt’s Bees Avocado Butter Pre Shampoo Hair Treatment | lspencerivera

  3. 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 it into my hair strands. Then I go about conditioning like normal and moisturizing like normal . . . but my hair, mainly my scalp, is still oily. Like, scratch-your-head-and-come-away-with-shiny-fingers oily. Is it because I don’t shampoo the oil out?

    Also, when I did my last hot oil treatment, I left the remainder of the oil that didn’t get used in a little applicator bottle without a top. Will this effect the oil? Make it perishable?

    • 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.

  4. Pingback: Olivenöl – Wundermitteln für die Haare | Black in Germany

  5. Pingback: Olivenöl – Wundermittel für die Haare | Black in Germany

  6. 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!

  7. 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?

  8. 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

  9. 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 shampoo (Joico Moisture Recovery shampoo) and the Design Essential Super Conditioner, Aphogee Pro Vitamin Leave In, a little Fantasia hair serum while its damp and I proceed to blow dry. My hair is amazingly softer, healthier and manageable.

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