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…

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

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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 head. 



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 is… 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 used… 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 U.S.… 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 source of… 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.