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Curly Nikki

Pre-Wash Oil Treatments for Natural Hair

By January 27th, 202170 Comments

Pre-Wash Oil Treatments for Natural Hair

by Nicole of Hair Liberty

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.

Start pampering your hair today by doing Pre-Wash Oil Treatments!

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 it works! 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-Wash 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 can find recommended brands in the Hair Liberty Boutique. You should do Pre-Wash Oil Treatments whether you have relaxed or natural hair.

How to do a Pre-Wash 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 a wide tooth comb to remove tangles or knots.

Step 6: Wash and condition your hair according to these instructions.

Step 7: Be consistent. Do a Pre-Wash Oil Treatment before every shampoo.

Pre-wash oil treatments are a great way to soften and strengthen black hair. Try one and see for yourself!

We’ve discussed pre-poo treatments in the past on
For those of you who regularly engage in this nourishing treatment, what effects have you seen?


  • Bree says:

    Can you do this before cowashing or should you just do this when you shampoo? I'm new this this and was told to shampoo once a month and cowash 2 a week…

  • Mary Jacobs says:

    I was a loyal follower
    of coconut oil but my hair started complaining, guess it became too greasy for
    me. I started using argan oil and it's not greasy at all so it's really good.
    My favorite argan oil is from this brand called Pro Naturals (ordered it online
    from "") because it's
    also a heat protectant and it's very light and has a really nice, subtle smell.
    You can put some on your damp hair after a shower and it'll fix your hair all
    day long, it's really good for breakage, frizz, dryness and to prevent hair
    loss and split ends.

  • Anonymous says:

    I love using coconut oil as a prewash. seriously its not an overnight fix but you will def. see some results after a month. my hair is really long and because of the coconut oil its so super shinny and i get compliments all the time. also use a protein treatment once every 6-8 weeks….with a great moisture conditioner ex Dove, Mizani, etc…and by the way i do the coconut oil once a week and use a great alcohol free oil free heat protectant some say silk proteins, dont use) i flat iron without any oil based products or alcohol based products on my hair after I blow dry and wash it and i always always always wrap my hair with a satin wrap. i never lay down on my hair without it wrapped and when i go out depending on the weather i wear it in a bun or down for date night. good luck!!!

  • cocobutter75 says:

    I'm glad I found this article. I have Vatika coconut oil and was wondering what to do with it. I'm going to try the overnight method and see what happens.

  • Anonymous says:

    This definitely does work but be careful on the oil you buy …try and buy the purest ones. Coconut and Argan oil are the best for dry/damaged hair. its also good for dandruff. Henna is good for cleansing the hair as well as Shikaika powder ..both of which can be found in indian shops.

  • Curlyique says:

    Dear Curly Ladies
    I have a TWA (natural for a month in a half) and I pre-poo once a week. I LOOVVEEE Ojon Restorative Hair Treatment. In addition to the application of ojon oil, I apply extra virgin olive and coconut oil. I either leave it in over night or sit under my hooded dryer for 15 minutes; wrapping my hair with plastic wrap. (the plastic caps do not stop the oil seeping down my neck LOL). I proceed to wash and deep condition. I swear, my hair feels like clouds! Many people, however, cannot take the smell of the Ojon oil because it smells kinda like tobacco, nuts, and/or chocolate. I even use it right before I go swimming in a pool, and it keeps my hair soft and moisturized although my hair was exposed to chlorine.
    I know everyone hair is unique, but I hope this helps.

  • Anonymous says:

    I started yesterday doing coconut oil treatments and the result was wonderful. I will also cowash twice a week and shampoo on Sunday's. I do relax my hair 3 x a year, but would like to get it down to 2x a year. I have clearly seen a difference in my hair with one treatment. I use refined coconut oil and it works well, I will try pure coconut oil next to see if there is a difference.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am from India as have been using coconut oil before hair wash since child-hood… My hair is long and thick 🙂

  • drenie says:

    Thanks so much for this article! I've been natural for a few years now, and my hair is so dry even with using products like Shea Moisture products. I think it's because I haven't done any oil treatments for my hair. Can't wait to try it out!

  • JoJoFree says:

    I use castor, olive, and coconut oil combo to pre-poo. I apply the mixture, cover with plastic cap and sit under the dryer for an hour.
    I have been experimenting with different combinations. I am now under the dryer with a castor, olive, grapeseed, and tea tree oil mix. I like the tingle of the tea tree oil on my scalp. I think this will help me because I have problems with seborrheic dermatitis, although the problem has greatly improved since going natural.

  • MsPooh says:

    It's the terminology that gets me every time! I started doing "hot oil treatments" a few months ago (for me and my son–he loves it!)…I didn't know that "pre-poo" was the same thing. Is there a list of terms and abbreviations I can reference so I don't feel so…{duh}?

  • Deborah says:

    I did this yesterday using a mixture of Castor Oil, raw Shea Oil and a few spritzs' of water. I detangled using my fingers and put a plastic cap on and wrapped in a towel. I left it on for about three hours then proceeded to wash and deep condition. Today my hair feels softer and moisturised. The only thing that I would say is not to get to hung up on the time. Id you only do this 15 mins/1/2 hour before washing it will still make a difference.

  • Sanni says:

    I did this the other night and yes my hair was much softer but I still felt the oil residue after I washed & conditioned. it was dripping down my neck, on my clothes and my body. My hair was dry the next day after letting it air dry. my soaks up the oil. I used EVOO.

  • Carla says:

    In my last comment, I mentioned I was going to try this. I did last night and it made a HUGE difference. I used a combo of coconut, hemp seed, jojoba, and a few EO on my dry hair for about 30 minutes prior to shampooing. I covered my hair with a plastic. After washing, conditioning, and twisting, my hair feels baby soft for the first time in a long time! Oil treatments is a winner in my book!

  • Anonymous says:

    So I'm newly natural and have been doing a lot of research on hair care. I LOVED this article– thanks so much!! I did my first pre-wash oil treatment a bit differently tho. I dampened my hair, section it and to each section I first applied hot honey because it is a humectant (holds onto the water) and then hot olive oil. Then I wrapped it up overnight and washed it out in the morning. I'm not sure if I noticed a big difference but I liked knowing that my hair spent the night in an intense moisture bath 🙂

    Has anyone else used honey? Was my info on honey wrong? Should I or should I not include it in the routine?

  • luvmylocs says:

    is it necessary to shampoo out the oil or can you still cowash?

  • luvmylocs says:

    i recall reading somewhere that oil is effective for hair that mats, like mine. i think i'll do this so i can see some improvements in my hair. thanks for such good articles/posts.

  • Nettie says:

    I just did this last night, and I DEF felt a difference. I left the EVOO on overnight because I got lazy and didn't want to wash and twist my hair last night. So this morning I washed with very diluted peppermint soap and then conditioned with whatever was in the cabinet. I sprayed with diluted infusium and added a couple dollops of cantu leave in. I have crazy shrinkage and extremely tangle prone hair and I have never had such an easy time combing it out. I had been using EVOO mixed with conditioner before washing but I think the pure oil works better for me.
    I will have to see if there is a huge difference to my twist out later. Either way, the benefits already make it worth it.

  • Anonymous says:

    I just tried this technique this morning and did a DC afterwards. My hair felt so waxy that I had to wash my hair all over again. I think it was because of the oil that I used. I'm going to try using coconut oil and see if that makes a difference.

  • Anonymous says:

    i always pretreat with olive or cocconut oil because my hair gets that squeaky sound to it if I dont(when I shampoo)!

  • Anonymous says:

    I use jojoba oil and it works like a charm every time!

  • Anonymous says:

    excellent article Nicole. I'm an avid oil treatment girl and I don't know where I'd be without it.

  • D Alexandra says:

    Shinier hair, softer hair, less split ends. I used to just use extra virgin olive oil but a friend of mine put me on to a whole list of oils he uses! wheat germ, peppermint, shea, jojoba, and many others! He has amazing hair! Very shiny and beautiful.

  • Anonymous says:

    I like to spritz my hair with water before applying the oil. I also add a little bit of conditioner to soften my hair. During this time I finger detangle my hair and put it in sections. This method shortens my washing session greatly.

  • Anonymous says:

    I truly wish I had read this before washing my hair about an hour ago. I have olive oil in my kitchen and will try this next week. Thanks for sharing on facebook, which is how I found your.

    Sista Suga

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm from the pacific islands and oiling the hair with plain coconut oil or herb infused coconut oil before washing it is common practice ( at least in my experience). The hair does not feel as stripped as it would without this step and I don't suffer from much breakage. Plus it makes the hair really soft. Extra virgin olive oil is good too.

  • Anonymous says:

    shelli! you brought up a great point. and its good to understand the nature and science behind what we do. Africans have been doing this for ages who knew we were the greatest scientist!

  • Jeannette says:

    Pre-wash oil treatments are from Ayurvedic Hair care regimen, which I do follow and LOVE.

  • Anonymous says:

    thanks for the answer Shelli:). i'm going to try it out

  • Breanna says:

    Has anyone tried Lekair Cholesterol in the Shea Butter Cholesterol Creme for conditioning the hair? I brought this evening but wasn't sure of it, normally i will use the Olive version Cholesterol or ORS packs.

    Also after doing step 4 are you going to get under the dryer as well, or only let the plastic cap sit on the head? Also are you wetting the hair some before step 5 since you say to comb, because I thought it wasn't good to dry comb hair.?

  • Anonymous says:

    No, the hair does not need to be wet. You can apply to completely dry hair. I've also spritzed my hair very lightly with filtered water and then applied oil. I only did that because my hair felt dryer than normal, so I thought the slight dampening might help since I only pre-poo for a half hour/hour before washing. You can find youtube videos on different pre-poo techniques. I've watched the ones by TiaShauntee, Mop Top Maven and one that was posted on this site. But, there are many others.


  • Anonymous says:

    does the hair need to be wet?

  • Anonymous says:

    This is another article I read on the subject of coconut oil vs. mineral oil that discusses hygral fatigue and the science behind how coconut oil reduces the effect:


  • Anonymous says:

    This is one of those things I am just not willing to spend time/money on. I have found washing, conditioning, and oiling my hair to provide plenty of moisture and softness to my hair. Personally, I'm not into adding extra steps.

  • Anonymous says:

    CORRECTION: The term is hyGral Fatigue (not hyDral). Here is an article about it:


  • Destination- Love// says:

    i was just wondering if my hair needs to be damp for the pre oil treatment or can it be dry?

  • Anonymous says:

    I recently started pre-pooing with coconut oil, then switched to Vatika oil (it's more economical than coconut oil from the grocery store. And you know its main ingredient is coconut oil, because it solidifies). I've been pre-pooing for about a month now, once a week. Just did it last night before a mid-week co-wash. I definitely see a difference with detangling and shine. One thing this article didn't discuss is that oil pre-poos prevent/reduce hydral fatigue. Nikki posted a video about a month or two ago about this. The primary reason I added an oil pre-poo to my regimen was because of the hydral fatigue info. I'm no expert, but if you look it up, you'll find that hydral fatigue is what happens to your hair when you quickly saturate it with water the way you do when washing. If I remember correctly, it causes the cortex of the hair strand to rapidly expand and this can damage the surrounding structures of the hair strand. Pre-pooing prevents/reduces the expansion because the oils slow the penetration of the water. Sorry if I'm a little off in my explanation. Maybe someone else can explain it better or more accurately. Or, you can look it up=).


  • Carla says:

    For some reason, I thought oiling BEFORE shampooing was counterintuitive, but I will try it next time I wash! Thanks for the article.

  • Anonymous says:

    I've noticed a difference in shedding and softness when i pre-oil as oppossed to shampooing first. My regime involves sectioning my hair in 4 parts apply a mix of coconut/olive/avocado oil, V05 conditioner and then spray with a mixture of water and Apple cider vinegar. I detangle gently with a wide tooth comb and sit for an hour. Doing this process first has helped me retain length and moisture. I definitely noticed a difference when I got lazy and cut it out.

  • Dolores says:

    Did I do something wrong? I tried this before and did not notice a difference. I detangled using coconut oil and it took an eternity. I left it in over night and noticed no difference after I washed and conditioned my hair.

  • Nicole - Hair Liberty says:

    I'm so glad you guys enjoyed the article! The oils listed are the best place to start, but doing an oil treatment of any kind is better than not doing one at all. If you like Ayurveda, check out Bhringaraj oil. It's totally slept on! It doesn't penetrate, but it will give you lots of shine.

    Anon 3:14 – Make sure you wash your hair after the oil treatment. I've lost some good t-shirts to olive oil.

    Neesh – This is something to add on to what you're already doing. Keep up with your conditioning routine too.

  • Anonymous says:

    I prepoo & detangle with Hollywood Beauty's Olive Cholesterol mixed with EVOO. SUPER SLIPPERY!!!!!. I sit under the dryer or let sit overnight to deep condition then co-wash out and style. I consider this my all-in-one (prepoo, detangler, & deep conditioner) to save time.

  • Jessica says:

    I actually got the idea for a pre-treatment from my roommate in college who is from India! She has the shiniest, thickest hair i'd ever seen. She told me about how her mother would oil her hair everyother night before shampooing it. I started with olive oil back in college when I was still relaxed. I even got my roommate during medical school into it. Now that i'm transitioning I use coconut oil and I think my hair is shiner and more moisturized when I pre-oil it overnight before shampooing or cowashing! I love it!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anon 2:08 Yes, draining problems can happen especially if you use coconut oil or vatika oil that solidifies in the cold months. My kitchen sink has been giving me problems and I know it's the oil (I use vatika and love it)but what I've been doing is boiling hot water and pouring it down my drain. So now I plan to do Kalpi Tone pre-poos alternating every other week with vatika oil to give my plumbing a break.

  • Neesh says:

    This sounds very important as well and beneficial. My question is would it be redundant to also do a DC after this wash?

  • Anonymous says:

    I think I've done this before with olive oil and my hair felt kinda greasy afterwards (and days later it was leaving a residue on anything my hair touched). 🙁 Maybe I'll try it again but with coconut oil this time. ~KF519

  • HairPolitik says:

    This is an awesome, awesome article! And a wonderful site! I absolutely love your shop and will definitely be buying some things this weekend! Thanks!

  • Anonymous says:

    I use warm EVOO to do this every time I shampoo. Love the results. Stronger, softer hair, less shedding, less tangling. I consider that my deep conditioning.

  • thenaturalmo says:

    I have been doing this weekly for the last 3 wks and I can DEFINITELY tell a diff. I use a DC along with an oil and let me tell you my hair is like butta. I first tried w/ CD khoret amen smoothie+ the oil (rec by lisa price at a meet &greet) and my hair looked and felt FANTASTIC. After I ran out of the CD I did the same w/my hairveda strinillah and some peach kernel oil I had close to the same results, but the CD hair was a little softer IMO. I will be doing this routine weekly trying diff DC and oils to see what I like.

  • Anonymous says:

    Pre-pooing is a routine I picked up during my transition. I've used a coconut/olive oil combo as well as coconut oil only in the summer. This winter, I've switched to coconut oil mixed with Qhemet Biologics Amla and Olive Heavy Cream, which is also full of oils. My hair is always moisturized and easy to detangle.

  • Krystality says:

    I started doing Pre-Oil treatments 1x per month and I can definatly tell the difference. I used to do it in the beginning during my transition but then I stopped b/c I was being lazy, but I have found that once a month will give me the same benefits. Soft, silk, and moisturized hair.

    I use a mixture of EVOO and some essential oils

  • Krystality says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Amber says:

    I've used EVOO for about two years and I do notice a difference. My hair is always soft and shiny after a treatment, and my scalp feels nourished (I have seborrhoeic dermatitis).

  • Anonymous says:

    After washing the oil out of your hair, does anyone ever experience drainage problems? I'm afraid the oil may cause my drain to clog after several washes.

  • Siobhan says:

    Great timing. I've just bought big bottle of EVOO. I'm going to try this tonight!

  • Anonymous says:

    when i do a pre-poo with oil my hair is softer after washing and not as dry. it's a really nice feeling. i usually use olive and coconut oil for the pre-poo. i also find that my hair is easier to detangle. this is a very effective method i found from reading about indian hair care.

  • Shakirah says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE evoo pre poos! Makes my hair soft and I swear it's easier to wash.

  • JustMe says:

    I just started doing this! I used Vatika Oil and I swear I had the best (easiest) detangling session ever! My hair also felt very soft and moisturized. I left the Vatika Oil overnight and used a hot towel for heat/steam. This will now be a part of my regimen!

  • Wassila says:

    i am definitely going to try this….I've been looking to buy coconut oil for a really long time. feel that my hair would approve lol

  • Anonymous says:

    Indian women use Sesame Seed Oil and Mustard Oil as well as Coconut Oil for oil treatments.

    ~Spiral Moon

  • mangomadness says:

    I detangle with EVCO before shampooing. I don't leave it on after the detangling process so I'm not sure if it's much of a pre-poo. Either way my hair feels great after shampooing.

  • Anonymous says:

    I've never tried it. Does it really work? Has anyone found that they didn't see any real improvements?


  • Anonymous says:

    But is this necessary if you use a sulfate-free shampoo? I did an overnight pre-wash oil treatment last weekend with a lot of coconut oil, and shampooed with my moisturizing sulfate free Mizani shampoo. I felt no difference in my hair afterwards. But i hear so many women praising this technique, I'm just curious because I don't want to waste good oil, nor disregard a useful method.

  • Anonymous says:

    i usually detangle [prior to poo-ing]using olive oil and get great results…less breakage/shedding. not interested in an overnight pre-poo. don't want wash day to become a long drawn out ceremony.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am from Somalia and this is a common practice among Somali women. I have used sesame oil. I usually apply it on Friday night and sleep with a shower cap and bonnet. I wash with non-sulfate shampoo (Trader Joe's Nourish & Shine)and deep condition either the next day or even on Sunday. It leaves your hair shiny, manageable and soft! We have also always used henna, so it's awesome to see it being embraced by women of African descent here in the US.

  • Julissa says:

    I need to remember to do this each time I'm going to wash my heair, I just forget to do it. but my hair does feel better whan I've done it. Thanks for the reminder

  • Latoya says:

    I always pre-poo with coconut oil and it is a life saver! I love coconut oil in general. I personally don't like olive oil and I've never tried avocado oil.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm going to try using coconut oil! my hair is so freaking dry!!! probably because i play in it so much. and im still trying to find a regimen that works for me. i bc'd in october 2010 and i haven't seen any real growth yet 🙁

  • crissyq says:

    Thanks for explaining this in detail. I have always heard the term but never knew what it meant and what it was for so I never did it. Now that I know, guess what I am doing next shampoo day.

  • Anonymous says:

    I never even thought to do this! I'm going to try this tomorrow. Thank you so much!

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