As a transitioning and natural hair blogger, I love to observe (and sometimes participate in) the waves and trends that roll through the natural hair community. First, it was all about growth, length retention, and proving that textured hair could be just as fab (if not moreso....but hey, I'm biased) as straight hair. Now, some of our favorite bloggers and YouTubers are doing second and third chops, and tapered cuts are taking the reins. Coloring natural hair used to be met with the side eye, but now bright and bold colors are everywhere -- with only a marginal few claiming that hair dye strips you of the title of naturalista. What used to be a race for the most complicated regimen is now met with "ain't nobody got time for that" and a supreme side eye. The current trend in minimalist/lazy natural hair care has ladies looking to eliminate the fluff from regimens, focusing only on what's necessary.
Which brings me to this point: is pre-pooing a necessary step in your wash day regimen? Could that 30 minutes to an hour be better spent, or eliminated to truncate wash day?
The answer isn't as cut and dry as one would think. The real answer depends on what you're using to prepoo your hair, whose advice you trust, and what has yielded the best results for your own head of hair. Let's explore the two most common pre-poo methods, and what folks have to say about them:
Pre-Pooing with Oils
The first popular pre-poo method is done with oil -- either a single oil, customized blend, or pre-poo oil like Vatika, Darshana or Ion. Most ladies like to pre-poo with an oil because strands coated in oil glide past each other easier, which results in a less complicated detangling job. Oils are even be used to help prevent shampoos from drying the hair out. But one thing is to be noted -- all oils were not created equal. It is widely understood that coconut oil possesses the unique ability penetrate the hair -- moisturizing, strengthening, and preventing the hair shaft from swelling during the uptake of water, which helps minimize cuticle damage. According to Jc of The Natural Haven ( a scientist with a passion for natural hair), coconut oil should be added to the hair prior to shampooing to reap the most benefits.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those like multicultural stylist Jennifer Rose at Belissimo Hair Spa in NYC who believe a pre-poo is an unnecessary step and a waste of time. Via Instagram, Rose says (on a post encouraging ladies to simmer down on the wash day madness):
Why are you dousing your hair in oil which only prevents your shampoo from binding to the dirt, sweat, and product thereby preventing cleansing? You're the reason you have a wash day instead of a wash hour. Pare down, please.
In a general sense, I can see where Rose is coming from--many oils sit atop the hair and do not readily penetrate the hair. In that case, they do prevent the shampoo from stripping the hair completely clean. However, most natural ladies don't desire that "squeaky clean" feeling, so the presence of oil on the hair after cleansing isn't entirely problematic. My advice? Try a wash day with and without oil pre-pooing. Don't change anything else, the presence or absence of the pre-poo should be the only variable. Does your hair look, feel, or behave any differently? Therein lies your answer.
Pre-Pooing with Conditioner
Many naturals for a variety of reasons have also taken to pre-pooing their hair with a rinse out or deep conditioner prior to cleansing. The idea here is that conditioning the hair prior to manipulating it results in softer, more pliable hair that is easier to detangle and is less likely to encounter breakage. Additionally, many of the conditioners utilized have enough slip to ensure that strands glide past each other without tangling or knotting.
But is pre-pooing with a conditioner more or less effective, or even necessary? Once again, I consulted the work of the fabulous Jc of The Natural Haven. According to her findings here, conditioner adsorbs (sticks to the hair) and works better after the hair has been shampooed. This is because hair carries a slightly negative charge that is enhanced by shampoo (thanks to anionic surfactants). Conditioner carries a positive (cationic) charge and therefore is more attracted to the hair post-poo. Does this mean that your conditioner-based pre-poo doesn't work? Not necessarily. I've always been a fan of pre-shampoo treatments (Kurlee Belle Banana Nut Avocado Deep Treatment is my favorite) to detangle, soften, and prep my hair for cleansing. But for most heads of hair, deep conditioning or pre-pooing with a deep conditioner before washing does not remove the need to deep condition afterward. You will still have to deep condition after cleansing to replenish the strands and lie the cuticles flat.
Just like pre-pooing with oil, try pre-pooing with a rinse out or deep conditioner during your wash day, and then again skipping that step. Which yields you the best results? That's the one you stick with.
When all is said and done, pre-pooing is not an essential step for any hair care regimen. It's optional. If your hair benefits from it, then continue to do it. But if you're feeling like it yields you no tangible benefits, throw it out
At the end of the day, it's about doing what works best for you and your hair, not incorporating random steps because someone told you so.