Thursday, March 20, 2014

Oil Pre-Shampoo or Pre-Wash (And how to make it work for YOUR hair)

Science-y Hair Blog © 2011 by  Wendy M.S. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

The previous blog post included information about how oil pre-shampoo treatments work.

If your hair is at all porous - even just a tiny, little bit, if it ever gets tangly or poofy or frizzy and seems like it needs weight, if washing it makes it seem to float in the air or if the ends of your hair seem to get wispy and disappear, oil pre-wash treatments can help. Oil pre-wash treatments add flexibility, softness and "weight" to hair. And when you think of "well moisturized" hair, you are referring to a number of qualities, two of which are flexibility and softness.

Here's the deal:
You know how washing your hands regularly can make them dry or chapped - even if you don't use soap? Washing your hair ultimately dehydrates it too unless your hair is tremendously low porosity. By that I mean the cuticles are un-damaged and in such pristine condition that they don't let water in at all. Porosity is a surface thing. Oils have other great effects like making hair soft and flexible - those are partly related to porosity. Even low porosity hair can get dried out with too much washing or dry air or a lot of sunshine.

Any oil will keep the water out of your hair for a little while and that is great. Many oils can surround any chipped and broken places in your hairs cuticle covering, giving you better protection.

Hair-penetrating oils are ideal for some people's hair because they "waterproof" the inner part of your hair that swells. If we can keep water from getting into our hair and swelling it up, it won't end up waterlogged and the cuticles will chip off less and we'll keep our lovely proteins and everything that keeps out hair strong from escaping down the drain.

My top picks for oil pre-washes and pre-wash blends: 
Penetrating oils for managing porosity and softness: Coconut oil, fractionated coconut oil, sunflower oil, babassu oil, olive oil, avocado oil, palm kernel oil, a blend of these oils and any others you like. Castor oil is good for some people's hair.

Lubricating oils for slip and flexibility: Broccoli seed oil, jojoba oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil.

Oils go on dry hair! For an oil pre-wash treatment, apply oil directly to your dry hair. That gives you more control over distribution than wet hair and the oils can penetrate without water getting "in the way." It's okay if you have some conditioner or styling product in your hair.

Not every oil and every application volume is right for everybody!
Coconut oil is great for hair that usually feels dry or rarely feels soft. Coconut or palm kernel oil - the serious hair-penetrating oils are ideal for hair that is not easily weighed down. Babassu oil is a good penetrating oil for hair that is  easily weighed down. Think of hair-penetrating oils as "active ingredients." Some hair needs full-strength hair-penetrating oil.

Butters are good in moderation for hair that needs a thick, creamy, heavy pre-wash treatment. Butters can build up on hair - feeling waxy or making the hair get dry almost immediately after getting out of the shower or a draggy feel in dry hair. Trial and error!

If your hair is easily weighed down, hair-penetrating oils need to be blended into other oils so they don't overwhelm your hair. Lesser-strength, but still active! If that still doesn't work for you, then light oils such as grapeseed may work.

Your hair's response will tell you which oils are too heavy, too "light" or just right. Don't worry about what works for somebody else or what you've been told or even what you expect to work. Try different things. Use what works for you.

A conditioner containing oils can work too.

How Much Oil?
Some people can use lots of oil - so much their hair looks a little greasy. This is likely to be porous hair that feels dry and acts brittle, soaks up lots of conditioner without getting greasy or limp.

Others need to use enough oil to make the hair shine, maybe look and feel a little more heavy than usual and needing to be washed. This might be you if your hair is normal porosity and porous on the ends - but not necessarily every time you use an oil pre-wash.

If it always feels like oils sit on top of your hair, you may need just a little bit of oil for a pre-wash. Enough to add a little bit of shine - but no more.

Hair gets crunchy or stiff or brittle with coconut oil (or another oil)?
I'm in this group. Some people get crunchy or brittle hair or rigid hair from coconut oil with it's unusual fatty acid profile and saturated fat content. My solution is to blend coconut oil with other oils or to use a different oil like sunflower oil or babassu oil. Just about any oil can disagree with somebody's hair and create an unpleasant result. This post describes that in more detail.

How much to use and how long to leave on?
Some people need to use enough oil to make their hair feel oily. Sometimes you only need use enough to add a hint of sheen to your hair. If your hair doesn't seem to soak up lots of products and oils/conditioners - err on the side of using less oil. Concentrate on areas that are exposed to the elements - the ends and the top layer of hair. If using a lot of oil doesn't work, try using less or vice versa. If you are using a hair-penetrating oil to help protect your hair from swelling and drying out when washed - leave the oil on for 4 to 8 hours or longer before washing. Most oils are better left on for a little while when you have the time. Hair-penetrating oils need time to "soak in" deeply and other oils can use some extra time to spread throughout your hair and seep in around broken cuticles.

To heat or not to heat:
Oils become more fluid with heat and less fluid with cold. Some heat will help oils spread throughout your hair evenly. Gently heat also increases porosity slightly so that oils can move around and under cuticles more readily.
How to provide gentle heat without drying your hair? Don't blast your oiled hair with a hot hair dryer, that will probably be more dehydrating than helpful. Instead, wrap your hair with a plastic cap or plastic bag and put on a warm hat, wrap your hair with a warmed wet towel, sit under a hooded dryer or use a hair dryer on a temperature that is comfortable to your skin.

Application tip for people who are wary of oils: To use mere drops of oil, put 1-2 or 3 drops in your palm and rub your palms together vigorously. There will be a hint of shine and oil on your hands. Smooth (stroke with the hair between the palms) over the ends of your hair and the top layer. If all the shine has left your hands, add another drop of oil.

Don't write off oils forever because they don't work for you in one way. Try other approaches!

If you want the oil to penetrate your hair (assuming you've used some amount of hair-penetrating oils), leave it on for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 or 8 or 12 hours or an entire day. If you take morning showers - apply it the night before (as long as you don't have any itchy or flaky scalp problems). If you take night showers - just wear it in your hair all day under a styling product or tied back and up.

You need to experiment with time too. Maybe you have the best results from a longer or shorter time with the oil on your hair. Just because the research says the best results were achieved from leaving coconut oil on your hair for 8-12 hours does not mean you will like that result in your hair! If you have chronic itchy scalp problems, you are better off not having excess oils on your poor scalp overnight.

Washing out:
Sometimes you need to wash twice to remove excess oil if you've used a lot, but that means you used too much oil. I do that with a dilute shampoo the second wash so removing the oil doesn't do more harm than good.

Some people don't need to use shampoo at all, using a clay cleanser or conditioner-wash (co-wash) - this works best if you already know how  much oil to use.

Ideally, you want a balance between using enough oil to give you a good result without having to use a large handful of shampoo to de-grease your hair.

How often to use:
Once you find an oil and an amount of oil and a length of treatment that works for you; use the oil treatment as often as fits your hair's needs.

If your hair always feels dry and/or inflexible by wash-day, you might use an oil pre-wash every time you wash. If that starts to weigh your hair down or leaves it feeling unpleasant, use it less often or change the amount of oil you used or length of time you left it on.

If you have a specific result you achieve from an oil pre-wash, do an oil pre-wash when your hair loses the benefits of the last oil pre-wash.

If your hair is seriously dehydrated from a chemical treatment (coloring, highlighting, perms, relaxing) or from a lot of swimming or time in the sun or dry wind - that's a great time for an oil pre-wash.

If your hair tends to get too flyaway, that's time for an oil pre-wash.

Noticing more tangling than usual? When was the last time you did an oil pre-wash?

Planning to do a protein treatment on coarse hair? Oil pre-wash before you use the protein.

Once you know how to make oil pre-washes work for you, your hair's behavior, feel and appearance will tell you when you need one.

If your hair ends up limp or too heavy after an oil pre-shampoo, it may have been too soon, or the wrong oil, or too much, or left on too long...

Won't this weigh my curls/waves/straight hair down?  No! Not if you do it right. Getting it right takes some practice. If you find that oil treatments give your curly or wavy hair nice definition (or make your straight hair less flyaway), but also make it lose its bounce - follow up an oil treatment with a protein-containing product to put the bounce back. Assuming your hair gets along with protein. Oils soften, protein supports.

Does this moisturize your hair? Technically no - oils are free of moisture (water) but oil pre-wash treatments can help your hair stay better moisturized (better hydrated), here's how: Hair-penetrating oils make normal porosity hair or porous hair or hair with porous ends get through wetting and washing without swelling in water and becoming dehydrated. If hair is not dehydrated - then what is it? Hydrated! Hooray for cheap and easy solutions.

Take home message: Oil pre-shampoo treatments are a great way to keep your hair hydrated (moisturized) throughout the washing process! It can add weight to help with frizz and keep curls or waves defined and straight hair nice and swing-y.

By choosing your oils to suit your hair, the time the oil is on your hair, the amount of oil you apply, and how you remove it you can create a multitude of different effects in your hair and hopefully one of them will be right for you.


  1. I pre-shampooed my hair with coconut oil for ~30-45 mins and it made my hair soft, voluminous and moisturized when I washed it with an herbal shampoo. BUT it only lasted for a 3 days. How can I make it last longer, say a whole week?

    1. the ends and the top layer of hair. If using a lot of oil doesn't work, try using less or vice versa. If you are using a hair-penetrating oil to help protect your hair from swelling and drying out when washed coconut oil

  2. Hi Kerchi,

    If you are wanting the oil treatment's effects to last a week and you're only washing your hair once per week, that may be too much to expect. But if you washed your hair during that week, you may need to repeat the coconut oil treatment more often. Your goal is less-frequent oil treatments - but you may need to do the coconut oil treatment more frequently for 2-3 weeks before you can reduce the frequency and retain the benefit you mentioned for a longer time. Short-term investment for longer-term benefits.

  3. Wow such great info!
    Thank you very much for the write up.

  4. Do I wet my hair before adding the oil?

    1. Hello Sheryll,
      Oil should go on dry hair so it can spread well and soak in if you're using a hair penetrating oil. But even if you're using an oil that doesn't "soak in" - oils still go on dry hair because oil and water don't mix - so wet hair is more difficult to distribute oil on. Unless you're using lots and lots!

  5. If the hair is a week old from a wash and go with hair gel such as kinky curly curling custard , or any curl defining gel.
    would the oil be able to penetrate through the hair gel?

    1. Hello Tjenelle1,
      Yes! Oils should be able to penetrate through a gel like Kinky Curly Curling Custard (or any other curl defining gel). It's probably wise to allow the oil a little more time just to be on the safe side.
      Think of it this way - if you spread a little gel on a light-colored shirt and let it dry, and then put a drop of oil over the gel - you would end up with an oil stain on your shirt regardless of the gel.

  6. [Sorry if I double post, I clicked something pre-preemptively and I don't know what lolol] I read about oil pre-washes in an Ayurveda book some time ago and used that info to decide to try sesame oil for my hair type. It worked wonders! Coconut and olive oils, which everyone I knew loved, really sucked for me, but hair typing according to Ayurveda saved me from giving up :D I've also read more into the usefulness of double shampooing lately, which I always avoided before. I think that will help me to continue with my current favorite washing method - a mix of rye flour+water. A single wash wasn't removing oil well enough, though otherwise I find this works incredibly well. I want a rinse for hard water buildup (used vinegar for ages, but it's too drying) still but I remember pre-oiling helped with that a lot in the past so I'm nerd excited to try again.

  7. Would oiling my hair before washing protect my locks from hard water?

    1. Hello Catherine,
      Oiling your hair before washing it will not prevent the minerals in hard water from interacting with your hair.

  8. Hi

    Hot oil pre wash treatments tend to leave my hair gunky/sticky feeling. I usually use mostly olive oil with a dab of coconut and/or avocado oil. I put a lot on dry hair put on shower cap and let it sit for ~1hr. I wash 2-3x with my usual sulfate free shampoo (shea moisture). How can I keep doing oil treatments without my hair feeling gunky afterwards? New oils, stronger shampoo, don't use as much oil? Also I'm relaxed.

    1. Hello Naimah,
      If you are washing twice and your hair still feels gunky, you are probably using too much oil. The solution to that is to use less oil! If you were using a stronger shampoo, the oil should wash out in the first wash, though for people who like their hair really clean, a second wash with a milder shampoo or a diluted shampoo should get the job done. With Shea Moisture shampoo, if the only detergent is decyl (or lauryl) glucoside or decyl (or lauryl) polyglucose, those detergents are not the best de-greasers and 2 shampooings may be necessary for all but the lightest of oil treatments. Although I know people who use conditioner to wash out oil treatments, so I'm leaning towards you needing less oil or needing to switch oils...
      It's also possible that your hair does not get along well with coconut oil. When that happens, hair can feel rigid, stiff, tacky, brittle, crunchy, or waxy. In that case, avoid coconut oil and use olive or sunflower oil or avocado oil instead.
      I only have information about heat improving penetration for a limited number of oils.

      Heat will improve penetration of coconut oil and sunflower oil but not olive oil. I can't make a good guess for avocado oil.

      You might try leaving the oils on longer. It takes about 6 to 8 or 12 hours to get the oils to penetrate the hair. You can speed it up with heat, but the best result will be from a little more time with oil on your hair and some heat at the beginning or end to speed things up.

  9. Hello,

    I have two questions for you. 1. If I pre-shampoo overnight with a mixture of avocado, coconut and olive oils, when I go to wash, do I rinse all the oil out of my hair completely before I shampoo? Or should I just wet my hair a little bit and then shampoo? 2. Should I do an oil pre-shampoo (overnight) before I clarify? I ask because clarifying shampoos strip everything out of the hair so I just wondered if the pre-shampooing would be beneficial on my clarifying days (once a month).

    1. Hello Natural Gyal,
      For question 1: I like to wet my hair (with the oil in it) first to help the shampoo spread around evenly and easily. If you're using large amounts of oil, you might want to wet it only a little bit so the water doesn't dilute the shampoo too much, but then it seems like it might be efficient to use a little less oil rather than more shampoo.
      2) Oil pre-wash treatment before clarifying? Probably better to clarify on hair without oil in it. Oil on hair can repel water a little while and can buffer against shampoo and when you use a clarifying shampoo (or a chelating one for hard water), you want the shampoo to have contact with whatever you're trying to remove and oil reduces its effectiveness. But it's worth trying a clarifying wash with and without an oil pre-treatment to see if the *overall effect* is better with or without the oil.
      Good luck!

    2. Thank you so much for responding! I forgot to ask you another question. I suffer from a very bad dry/itchy scalp. I've tried everything and nothing works. Doctors cannot pinpoint what is causing the itchiness. Do you recommend an overnight pre-poo with the avocado, coconut and olive oils/tea tree and jojoba mix (to scalp only) and then about 30 minutes before I wash I add the Shea Moisture African Black Soap Purification Masque? I've read many positive reviews about the Masque providing relief from itchiness. Do you think it will be beneficial for me as far as the oils providing their moisturizing properties if I add the Masque and then eventually shampoo everything out? I have to shampoo my hair every week due to the itchiness (I use a natural sulfate free moisturizing shampoo). I will still follow with my regular wash day routine, which includes a moisturizing conditioner, deep conditioner, leave-ins, etc.

      Do you any other recommendations for relieving itchy scalp?

    3. The links here are not active - you'll need to copy and paste.
      I know of people who use an overnight oil treatment with tea tree oil for itchy scalp with successful (but not permanent) results. I would avoid using olive oil because it can be a little more irritating thanks to the high oleic acid. This blog post describes how much tea tree oil to use There are some more remedies here:
      However, if you're very sensitive - an overnight oil treatment might make things worse and tea tree oil itself can be an irritant. So you might play it safe and give that treatment a short trial (leave the oil on for 15 to 30 minutes) the first time to be sure your scalp is okay with all these ingredients. Rosemary essential oil can also work and smells very different than tea tree oil.
      Shea Moisture African Black Soap Purification Masque uses kaolin clay and salicylic acid - good ingredients for some itchy scalps.
      Your description of your itchy scalp makes me wonder a few things. I wonder if you might be sensitive to some ingredients in products. Some people go for years being sensitive or allergic to preservatives or fragrances or whatever - and don't know it until they start trying to pin down irritants and avoid them. Sensitivity and allergy can cause everything from oiliness to dryness to dandruff and painful little bumps.

      Some people with eczema elsewhere on their body cannot tolerate plain oils on their skin, but do okay with creamy skin lotions - also have the same experience with their scalps.

      Some ingredients are great for dry scalps are not oils, like humectants (panthenol, glycerin, sodium PCA, hydroxypropyltrimonium honey, propanediol, polyquaternium-7, aloe). These ingredients may reduce irritation in skin. You might need a cleanser and conditioner that is well-balanced - so it contains some oils and conditioners and ingredients like the ones listed in the parentheses to reduce irritation on your scalp and help your skin retain moisture. Sometimes it makes a huge difference for itching to get those scalp-soothing ingredients in products. A less-irritated scalp can heal and protect itself better.

      Topical hydrocortisone (find products with this ingredient here: can be very helpful for itchy scalp.

      Some people who have nearly year-round allergies (dust mites, dogs and cats, molds) have more itching. It may be aggravated by fungi that normally live on our scalps - or not. And if you've had long-term itchy scalp, you're *so much more likely to notice* than somebody who has it rarely! In that case, antihistamines or a trip to an allergist for extra help, might help reduce the itching.

      Lots of us with itchy scalps need to use medicated treatments and in the last post linked above, there are lots of treatments for itchy scalp and one (or more) of those might work for you. I'll copy that link:
      Good luck!

    4. Thank you for responding! I just have an update for you: I went to a Dermatologist and she said I have mild Seborrheic Dermatitis. I honestly don't believe so because all I experience is itching of my scalp. I believe the flaking (very minimal) I have is due to the dry winter/cold weather. In fact, since I washed my hair last week Sunday, I haven't seen any dryness (I washed again yesterday). I honestly believe the itching is due to a product I'm using or even something I'm eating (as you mentioned in the previous post). I just can't pinpoint what it is. I've seen an allergist who tested me and my hair products but he couldn't come up with anything either. I think it may be that one ingredient. The dermatologist prescribed Ketoconazole 2% Shampoo. I've only used it twice so I can't say if its working yet but the itching is still there.

      I've been natural for about 8 years but always (every 2 weeks) got Domininican Blowouts. As you can imagine, I have extreme heat damage. I decide to embark on my Healthy Hair Journey and go on a "No Heat Challenge." I started transitioning from heat damage as of April 12. I know its just the beginning and there are long days ahead, but I'm going to try my best to take care of my hair.

      I do have one more question for you: due to extreme heat styling, of course as expected I have breakage. What I did notice over the past 6 months or so is a lot of shedding. When I used to wear my hair straight, I would see hair falling out when I come it or wrap it at night. Hair would be in the scrunchie if I take down a ponytail. If I hold my hair and just slightly pull, hair would be coming out. It's still happening. Yesterday I did a hot oil treatment (with coconut, castor, avocado and a few drops of rosemary-as you suggested) for 30 minutes under a bonnet dryer). I followed my routine. While I was washing, hair was coming out. After I deep conditioned, same thing. When I was air drying, I touched my ends and hair would just come out. When it came to styling, I brushed my hair to put it in a bun. I put the scrunchie and same thing. Hair stuck in it and dropping out. I spoke to the Dermatologist and was advised that we shed between 50-100 hairs a day. I still don't think my shedding is not normal because it comes out by simply touching. I fixed it this morning and same thing. I don't have any bald spots or patches. Its not coming out in clumps but I'm still worried because I don't think its normal. I did protein treatments but I don't think they work or maybe I need to continue doing them. I am anemic but I take Iron Tablets (90mg), a Mutli and Vitamin D everyday. I eat a lot of vegetables and an ample amount of protein everyday. I would consider myself very health conscious. My hair is a good length (shoulder blade), but its thin and its always been that way. The hair shedding may have been happening for a long time but I just didn't pay attention before so since I am now, I would like to keep it under control.

      My question to you is: do you think I should increase protein treatments? Like every other week? Or is that too much? I plan on alternating between: Shescenit Okra Reconstructor (medium protein), Hydratherma Naturals (medium/light) and Shea Moisture Yucca and Baoba Masque (medium/light). I would start with the Shescenit first because it is stronger and always follow all of them with a moisturizing deep conditioner. I did the Aphogee 2 Step in February but no change.

      Thank you in advance. Sorry for the long post. I'm just worried.

    5. Natural Gyal - good to hear from you again. Sorry you're still having trouble! If your shedding is worse than it has been in the past, then it's probably something to be concerned about. When hair is straight - we see the hairs coming out vs. when more curly or styled they tend not to come out until detangling. But scalp problems can cause hair to shed more than normal.

      There are 2 things that might be going on. Maybe both are happening. 1) Your hair may be shedding a little more than it should because your scalp is still irritated. 2) Your hair may be shedding more than it should because there is friction between the strands.
      Controlling friction between the strands is manageable. You might mix a fair amount of oil into your rinse-out conditioner to give it more slipperiness to add to the slip from your deep conditioning.
      You might try an anti-itch, irritation-reducing product with hydrocotrisone like Scalpicin 2-in-1 just to see if the itching can be controlled. You might even try it on half of your head so you can decide if it's helping or not.
      If there is an ingredient that is irritating your scalp, those don't always get caught in skin tests - there are so many fragrances and conditioning ingredients that could irritate sensitive skin. One approach is to try a fragrance-free, really basic product for a while to see if any of the itching improves. Another approach is just to try products with different fragrances, different preservatives to see if there is less itching with different products. If you have any hair products from a time when you had no itching, and they still do not bother your scalp - compare ingredients and see what is different.

      Another thought is that you may have a sensitivity to the ingredients in the Dominican Blowout. It doesn't have to be products you apply to your hair regularly - once your scalp is irritated, it can stay irritated for a long time. Have you asked the stylist if you can patch-test the product on your wrist or behind an ear? Usually they will let you do that, but if they don't seem clear about how - call the dermatologist and ask them how a patch test should be done.

      Protein every other week or even every week is okay for fine, medium - and even slightly coarse hair if it is porous. If your hair is coarse, it might react to too much protein with *increased shedding* or a stiff feeling. If you're unsure, it's best to use proteins like hydrolyzed keratin or hydrolyzed collagen and avoid larger ones like soy or wheat. The Shescenit product contains keratin and also soy and rice protein. This combination is okay if you know your hair tolerates protein well. But if your hair sometimes reacts badly, you might want a product with just keratin like Shea Moisture Noni & Monoi Smooth & repair Rinse Out Conditioner to limit the protein size to smaller proteins and conditioning proteins. If you use protein and notice shedding afterwards - you might actually need to make a different protein choice or a less concentrated-protein product. Aphogee 2-Step is probably medium-size proteins and very concentrated - a strong treatment. Sometimes breakage requires more than 1 protein treatment to see a difference. But you're talking about shedding, not breakage. So maybe you need to go with proteins that make your hair feel good and hydrated. And if you get that "stiff or tangly" result, back off on the protein. Check the "Managing Porosity and Elasticity" post - it's over on the right side bar as a "popular post" for ideas to manage those things.

      I hope that helps! Good luck.

  10. WS,

    What do you think of Sweet Almond as a pre-poo? I currently mix coconut/avocado/8 drops of rosemary. Its been 4 months since I contacted you and I'm thinking Coconut Oil may be causing my hair to look like hay once its dry (I only use it a as a pre-poo and shampoo after so I'm not sure). I clarified last week and didn't pre-poo but still had the hay like effect, but the leave in I use, As I Am, has coconut as an ingredient.

    Also, which oil do you think is best for sealing fine/thin hair? Grapseed, Jojoba or Sweet Almond? To refresh your memory, I am transitioning from major heat damage so my ends (basically fried/damaged is how I can describe them) are dry as a desert. I know I will have to cut them off but I still want to seal.

    Last question: We previously spoke about shedding. I went to my Doctor and did ALOT of tests. Everything came back fine. Not medically related. She did prescribe the Ketoconozale 2% for the itching (which I still think is due to an allergy--nobody can figure out what though) and I've been using it on my scalp for 4 months. I read it helps with hair loss (shedding). Is that true? My shedding is still alot in my opinion. I went to a Carol's Daughter store and the lady there told me its the Heat Damaged hair "leaving my head because its dead" and I shouldn't worry because it will stop. What is your take on this? Can this be true and the reason for my shedding?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Sorry about the coconut oil problem! It's not common - but it's not uncommon either - to have coconut oil cause dry hair or brittle hair or stiff, crunchy hair.
      For sealing fine, thin hair I think grapeseed or sweet almond are both good choices. Jojoba can be a little tricky if your hair is picky about oils. It might work, but if it were me, it wouldn't be my first choice. Grapeseed oil is a little "lighter" than sweet almond oil - it flows easily, it doesn't have an especially oily feel. Some people call it a "drying" or astringent oil - when you rub a drop on your skin, it doesn't stay oily for long. That could be a good thing or not, depending on what result you want.

      I have known a couple people who had a lot of shedding because of coconut oil use! Friction between hairs such as from heat damage, from product use, from inadequate lubrication or even (for some people) from using more protein than is good for hair, can cause whole-hair shedding instead of or in addition to breakage. A good plan might be to avoid coconut oil and give your hair whatever it responds well to as often as it seems to need it and see what happens with the shedding. If it is reduced - the coconut oil may have been a big problem.

      Sweet almond oil and sunflower oils are good oils to use for penetration and good lubrication and your hair probably needs plenty of that as pre-poo treatments and in sealing.

      As for the dead hair comment - all hair is non-living tissue. But I think the woman at Carol's Daughter was saying the same thing that I'm saying - the heat damage may be causing hairs to come out or breakage. But I think if a person wants that to stop, they need to lubricate their hair well, make sure they're keeping it hydrated with some good moisturizers like aloe or flax or protein for those whose hair gets along with protein.

      "Allergy scalp" is a problem. It can itch for no visible reason. Topical hydrocortisone helps. Sometimes sulfur helps - or high-sulfur clays for clay washes. Sulfur is a mild anti-inflammatory. If the scalp is irritated, hair will shed more than usual. People with airborne allergies (pollen, mold spores, dust mites) tend to need to wash their hair more often to remove allergens. But a allergen-proof pillow cover doesn't hurt. Searching for products that correlate with less itching is a chore - but worth it. For some sensitive scalps - conditioning ingredients (including pearly shampoos) can be an irritant.
      Good luck!

  11. Hi there. My hair is: Coarse-Medium Texture with Normal to low Porosity. It is also highlighted. Do you suggest that I use an overnight coconut oil treatment the evening before I get the highlights?

    1. Hello Leigh,
      Have you used coconut oil before? I'm asking because sometimes people have not-so-good reactions to coconut oil and I had never used it before, I'd be hesitant to try it for the first time right before doing highlights.

      If you're familiar with how your hair responds to coconut oil - then yes - go for it! A coconut oil treatment the evening before getting highlights should help balance out the porosity in your hair and prevent the more-porous areas from taking up the bleach more than the rest of your hair. It may buffer your hair against the bleach - and that's a good thing.

      If you're not familiar with how your hair responds to coconut oil, try the same treatment plan on an evening when you're not going to do highlights so you can be sure you don't get brittle or stiff hair from the coconut oil.

      Highlights with heat tend to make hair more porous - so you can also use coconut oil treatments (or sunflower or avocado oil) as maintenance to keep the highlighted hair from becoming dry or less elastic or losing its wave pattern (it looks like you have waves or curls).

      With some medium texture in the coarse hair-protein may also be helpful before highlighting or for maintenance after highlighting to keep elasticity and hydration at their best.
      Good luck!

  12. Thank you for your quick reply.

    Yes I have used coconut oil before with good results. When you say protein, so you mean a strong treatment like Apogee 2-step; or do you mean proteins in products like conditioners?

    1. Probably something more like protein in conditioners. Aphogee 2-step can actually be modified to be less strong by not using high heat (not blow-drying it until it's stiff like the directions indicate), and instead just leaving it on for a few minutes with gentle heat.
      But usually it's safer to use something like a conditioner with protein unless you're certain you get good results from strong protein treatments like Aphogee 2-step.

  13. Wow, what an amazing blog! I love how your articles are so detailed and your answers to your readers' questions are so thorough! You give many great ideas. Keep up the good work!

  14. There are a lot of great benefits to using coconut oil on the hair. However, it could have a drying effect on my hair if I use too much of it. And I try to avoid using it during the summer. The summer heat will bake the coconut oil into my hair. If I do use it, I dilute it with another oil. I do use it on my skin everyday. It makes my skin look amazing!

  15. Just found this blog and all I can say for now is thank you for sharing your research and knowledge with us!

  16. Hi!! I am loosing a lot of hair daily, by the handfuls. I just started using Coconut Oil and Olive Oil together. How long do I leave on the coconut and olive oil before washing them off?? Or which oils r best for my hair loss??

    1. I have several posts you might want to read about some causes of hair loss: Iron and Vitamin D related hair loss, product-related or friction-related hair loss and seasonal hair loss (which should be slowing down now, by late December). They are here (copy and paste the URL)
      Other causes of hair loss can be sudden, severe physical stress (illness, surgery), post-partum hair loss, taking new medications or stopping old medications, thyroid disease, autoimmune disease (including alopecia). So those things need to be ruled out and I imagine you're working on that already.
      Coconut oil can sometimes promote breakage - some people's hair will get stiff or crunchy or brittle when using coconut oil, so watch out for that. I think it may be more common in low porosity hair (chemically un-treated, un-damaged hair).
      So all that aside, if your hair is damaged or very dry, leave your coconut/olive oil mixture on for at least 6-8 hours or longer so there is plenty of time to soak in. It will continue to soak in as long as you leave it on - i.e. 12 hours or longer.
      If you're unsure about coconut oil, you might try sunflower oil, which also penetrates the hair quite well, but may not cause any odd reactions. All liquid oils give hair good lubrication which is helpful for reducing friction-related shedding. Good luck!

  17. Hello, just found your blog and I'm really enjoying how informative your posts are! Question: I'd like to try sunflower oil as a pre-wash treatment as I am one of those for whom coconut oil works horribly. Does it matter what kind of sunflower oil I use for this purpose? I have both high-linoleic and high-oleic sunflower oils in my stash because I use the former for makeup removal. But I wonder if the latter would be better for the hair since it's supposedly richer?

    1. Hello Shayo,
      I would definitely try both sunflower oils that you already have. I suspect the high-oleic oil might penetrate a little bit better, but I don't know how much higher it is in oleic acid than usual - maybe not. Be sure to leave it on for plenty of time so it can penetrate (8-12 hours or longer if you can). For lower-porosity hair, the result usually isn't very remarkable but when hair is somewhat porous (even if just the ends are), it should be noticeable. Sunflower oil is one of my favorite treatments

      Background: I have 2 articles with conflicting information - one says sunflower oil does not penetrate hair although their results show that bleached hair (damaged hair, porous hair) certainly did lose less protein when treated with both coconut oil and sunflower oil. Protein loss in water is one way to measure whether too much water is getting into hair too quickly. Penetrating oils reduce protein loss, which means porous hair isn't taking on too much water, too quickly - thus penetrating oils manage porosity.
      The other article which says sunflower oil does penetrate the hair measured the reflectivity of oils on the surface of hair. As the oil soaks in, it reflects less light - something you can see when you first apply oil and it looks shiny, but hours later, it looks dull. They also measured the force required to extract the oils and for sunflower and coconut oil, it becomes more difficult to extract the oil (after 24 hours in this case) because it soaks in.
      So really, the more damaged the hair or the more porous it is, the greater effect oils like sunflower have on your hair. Good luck!

    2. Thank you for this blog and all the time it must take. It's rare to run into some much undiluted knowledge in the beauty world. I haven''t cracked my own personal hair code yet, but the information you present has already changed my purchases (seeking non glycerin leave ins or stylers for fine, thin, curly hair.)

      I know it's time consuming, bur I hope you continue with the blog.

  18. Hello! Discovered your fantastic blog today! I'm just getting to grips with understanding the science and feel that the answer to my very sad hair could be in here.

    A description of my hair: It's naturally straight(ish!) with some frizz, very long, down to my belly button, and has become super thin, full of split ends and dry. I have very lengthy (10inches) 'baby' hairs at the nap of my neck, not sure if that is an indicator of anything. My scalp does get a little itchy and flaky. Probably encouraged by using dry shampoo on day three onwards after a wash.

    I have recently switched to this sulphate/parabin free shampoo:

    And this conditioner recommended for not being loaded with too many sulphates and parabens -

    It has been unmanageable for awhile now and probably just needs a good cut....which I don't want to do. I find it difficult to style and switched to these products to try to stop it being so lank and getting greasy so quickly. I would love to get some bounce back.

    I wash it maybe once a week, occasionally twice. I rarely blow dry or use heat, but it has been coloured in the past. Since switching to these products is has become less greasy, but is super static and the ends feel even dryer than before.

    In trying to digest some of the science, I think my ends are porous and may do well with a penetrating oil treatment. I have coconut oil (currently solid, because it's so cold in the UK right now!) so am thinking to rub a tiny amount into the bottom 6 - 8inches, leave for a few hours and then wash out.

    Am I on the right track? Let me know if you need any more info!
    Very much appreciative of any feedback, and thank you for such an informative blog :)

  19. I just wanted to thank you for doing all of this research to demystify the whole curly hair care thing. Any time I'm wondering what might work or not work on my hair, I check your blog for an article about it. I tried pre-pooing with coconut oil after reading this and it made such a huge difference. My hair is so much bouncier after washing it now. I had heard of it before, but your post is what made me understand that my porous hair in particular would need this and what it does. Thanks!

    1. Hello Alyssa, I'm glad to hear this post was helpful to you! If your February is anything like our February (cold and dry and icy) - it's definitely "oil treatment weather!" Best wishes!

  20. Hello! I just wanted to know what all oils are suitable for ny type of hair?

    My hair description: i am basically an Indian, i have black hair which is highlighted and they turn really dry. I occasionally go for blow dry/hair ironing when needed, else i pretty much air dry my hair. My hairs become really really frizzt after drying up and i have this dandruff problem which gets aggravates due to sweating (my scalp sweats due to kind of weather in India)

    I have used coconut oil in the past, but I havent seen any noticeable change in my hair texture. I prefer to use a concoction of oil before shampooing, like I use a mixture of coconut-olive- rosemary- and few drops of castor oil. I generally keep it overnight, but at times i go for an hour or so. I use Schwarzkopf products for my hair as advised by my hairstylist, and my hair fall has reduced a lot, but I dont know what to do with this itchy scalp and flakiness. Even after shampooing my scalp feels irritated and itchy. Please suggest me something. Thanks in advance :)

  21. Hello!

    First of all, thanks for writing such informative stuffs and helping troubled people like us.

    Now, I am an Indian, and the water provided is hard. I have medical conditions too like hypothyroidism & PCOD. I am facing a lot of trouble with my hair recently. I always oil my hair with a concoction of coconut-olive-castor-rosemary and leave it overnight and wash off in the morning. Sometimes i'll keep the oils in my hair for an hour or so and wash off. I have a really itchy scalp and flakiness. But no significant hairfall is seen. Yes, i do have hair loss but it doesnt freak me out much.

    Description abt my hair: Its till my shoulder, frizzy, highlighted, looks dry, lacks lustre n sheen. Its basically frizzy and this causes hairfall. I have tried using silk pillow cover but it didnt help much. I am actually much more concerned about gettinf rid of this itchiness, because my scalp remains irritated even after washing.

    I use Schwarzkopf shampoo and conditioner as suggested by my hairdresser, and these have reduced my hairfall to an extent. But still itchiness persists. Once a week I go for argan oil hair pack by organix, but that makes my hair more frizzy and it flies in the air. I can never ever leave my hair open, not even in my wildeat dreams. Please, suggest me something. It'll be really kind of u. Thanks. :)

    1. Hello Indrani,
      If coconut oil does not work, you might try sunflower oil or olive oil instead. I like to mix oils too, but if I use a single oil, it is sunflower oil.
      For your itchy scalp, you might have an allergy to a shampoo or conditioner or a sensitivity to a product. Or you may have a skin condition like eczema or seborrheic dermatitis. There is a tab at the top of this page "Products for Itchy, Flaky or Bumpy Scalps" which lists products available in the US for itchy scalps, the active ingredients (the medicine) should be the same where you live, even if the products you can buy are different. Schwartzkopf makes some dandruff treatments which might help your itchy scalp.

      If products make your hair more frizzy - your hair is not getting along with those products. It might need protein (or to avoid protein), or the conditioning ingredients might be making your hair a little too soft and light-weight. I hope that helps!

    2. Thanks a lot for replying! I'd really want to know about some protein based masque or conditioner that might reduce the frizziness. And I'd really appreciate a light weight oil for application and which will reduce my dandruff. I actually remembered that post my hair spa I started getting this severe dandruff, before this my hair and scalp was okay and had very less dandruff. Can u also suggest me something which can help me with scalp build up? Thanks :)

    3. Search this blog for "Itchy scalp" and you will find some recipes for using essential oils mixed with other oils for treating dandruff - the essential oils can have a mild anti-fungal or anti-bacterial effect. Usually oils make dandruff worse unless you are using a treatment to manage the dandruff.
      Hair cleansers (shampoo, cleansing conditioners) help remove scalp build up (oils, dead skin). If shampoo makes your hair or scalp dry, use a few drops of shampoo diluted in some water to make it less strong.
      I don't know what protein products are available to you. There is a recipe on this blog for a gelatin protein treatment, as well as a beer protein rinse. On the page with "Products by Ingredient Category" there is a list of products which contain protein.

  22. I have fine curly/wavy hair and oily skin and scalp. I saw this thing on pinterest about rubbing oil into your face once a week (for oily skin, 25% olive to 75% castor oil) and to use a gentle soap (castile mixed with chamomile tea, olive, lavender and vitamin E oil is what I made), and since I've been doing that for the last couple months, my skin has felt balanced and I don't break out anymore. Anyway, I thought, why not use this oil mixture as a prepoo too? I added about 8 drops of lavender EO to it for scent and other benefits, massaged it into my scalp for about 5 minutes, then saturated my hair, let it sit under a satin sleeping cap for about an hour, then shampooed. Burts bees very volumizing has some wheat protein in it for thickening. My hair was so shiny, soft, bouncy and curly that day, can't wait for my next "spa day"! Just wanted to share my experience, maybe others can benefit from it too. :)

  23. Something to watch out for though is acne. Conditioners and oil treatments that may be wonderful for your hair may also aggravate acne if you're prone to it - coconut oil is the most notorious for this.

    Always wrap or pin your hair up during any treatments or masks; I find that a soft cotton headband is enough to catch any runoff. Washing your body after your hair will remove any oil or conditioner that ran off or splattered as well.

  24. I am a English woman who had a black father. my hair colour is natural auburn, and european plus mixed race,so very frizzy, its very dry with kinks, I have been using coconut oil every week pre wash for about 18 months, but has now become very crunchy, brittle, so I stopped using the coconut oil as I read I may have protein overload, Iv been washing with protein free shampoo, deep conditioning weekly with protein free conditioner, and using the hot head heat cap but it doesn't seem to make any difference, my hair is still very dry, and the conditioner just seems to sit on the top. would you recommend trying a different pre wash oil, but Im not sure if all the protein is out yet....Help

    1. A belated hello,
      That does sound like a bad reaction to coconut oil. Coconut oil does not contain protein, although it does prevent porous hair from losing protein when it gets wet, that is not the same chemically or physically as using a product with hydrolyzed protein. Some hair that does not tolerate coconut oil actually does well with proteins.
      A different pre-wash oil sounds like a good idea - sunflower or avocado or olive oil are good choices. Try different treatment times for the oil also. Some hair (i.e. lower porosity hair) needs only 4 or 5 hours to get an optimal result, other hair needs 8 to 12 hours to show a benefit.
      If that does not work, if you can find a rinse-out conditioner with some amino acids or hydrolyzed silk protein or hydrolyzed keratin protein, you might try that for hydration. Don't leave it on too long, just a few minutes to begin with. Sometimes those smaller proteins work when nothing else is working. Not every wash day - but when all else fails.
      If you have hard water, it might help to use a treatment to reduce mineral residue, which can also cause a brittle, rigid feeling which compounds the problem you're having with the coconut oil. Products are listed here and there is a recipe for a citric acid rinse:
      I hope that helps!

  25. Hi!
    I have very very very very baby fine hair. My ends get very 'floaty' and just sort of mist around the end of my hair but my roots go greasy very quickly. Anything can weigh my hair down, the finest mist of hairspray. I think my problem is not helped by the fact that I have some growing out bleach highlights at the last 3 inches so the idea of a solution by way of an oil pre-shampoo is attractive but I am hesitant to try as I don't believe it will help the overall body of my hair. Can you suggest an oil I could try, how I might apply it, how long I might leave it in and how I should remove it without undoing the process?

    1. Hello,

      You might try some coconut, sunflower, avocado or olive oil but ONLY on the highlighted area on the ends of your hair. A light application - make the hair on the ends feel heavier, smoother and add a little shine. Maybe look a little dirty or like they really need washing. I think I would leave it on for at least 6 hours, longer if the lightened ends are dry or break easily.
      If you got it just right on the first try, any excess oil will wash out using whatever you usually use to wash your hair. Leaving the ends less floaty. It's not easy to get it exactly right on the first try - so if your hair still feels oily on the ends, have a cup ready and dilute some shampoo with water so you have sudsy water and wash the ends again with that.

      Another thought is that Hydrolyzed proteins tend to be great for fine, floaty hair. It can add some weight and support and "substance" to fine hair without weighing it down too much. I think you'd lean towards "protein reconstructors" to get a good dose of protein without an overly heavy conditioning product. Protein is great for highlighted ends too - those would get an extra generous application of a protein treatment.
      Good luck! W

  26. Hi i had two questions i cant seem to find the anser to. Ive been pre oiling my hair and love it but am concerned that im using too much shampoo and it might be damaging? Are you supposed to shampoo until your hair feels oil free in the shower or is that too much? Also sometimes some of my hair will be oily and some will be clean and i struggle to evenly distribute the shampoo. Also i was wondering is it better to just use straight coconut oil because ive been using a mixture of various oils i heard are good for hair growth, should i just use the coconut? Thank you

    1. Hello OrganicScienceBeauty,
      My feeling about using oils before washing is that you should not need to use more shampoo or any other cleanser than you normally use. If you need a lot more shampoo - it means you used a lot of oil. Sometimes it is worthwhile to do a heavy oiling to see if there is a benefit to using a lot of oil - but if you need to spend a lot of time and shampoo washing it out, that doesn't leave you with the same nice effect as if you can just wash as usual. Having to shampoo twice or use lots of extra shampoo increases the chance that you'll dehydrate the hair you just oiled.
      But that's not quite what you asked, even though it's a round-about way of answering your question. You don't necessarily want "squeaky clean" hair after using oils. But you don't want greasy, limp hair either. So we control that by learning how much oil to use so we can wash once, have our hair feeling detangled and smooth and nice (not tangly or squeaky) after washing and looking clean when dry.
      Using a mixture of oils that contains coconut oil is fine! Different oils have different benefits for hair and sometimes a blend is even better than a single oil.
      Best wishes - W

  27. What FANTASTIC resource your blog is (like many others I found it via! Quick question (OK, I actually have soooo many questions for you...but hopefully this is a quick one to start :-)...

    Given coconut oil's proclivity to help hair hold onto proteins, how would you recommend timing a coconut oil pre-poo with a protein treatment? That is, would it be more beneficial to pre-poo immediately *before* the PT to help the hair take in and hold onto the proteins in that Tx? OR save the pre-poo for a day or two after the PT, to prolong the benefits by helping hair hold onto the proteins it recently gained? Or both??

    I don't yet have a sense of how often/frequently one should oil-pre-poo...which I suppose varies tremendously from person to person. I've only *just* tried it once myself so far, for a brief trial, but I think it went well and will try it longer next. I was reluctant at first, since I've never liked using oils on my hair (I go stringy and greasy easily), but your article helped me understand the big-picture benefits beyond the short-term cosmetic. :-) I've also just started to realize that my hair needs protein, have tried some lighter products with good results and am working my way up to a stronger PT. So would love to know how coconut oil can complement these efforts.

    Thank you!

    1. Hello Nina,

      Coconut oil doesn't exactly make hair hold on to protein - but it does stop porous hair from soaking up way too much water - too quickly. When porous hair swells quickly like that, water gets under the cuticles and washes out various things that are supposed to be under cuticles. One of those "things" is very small proteins that help hair retain hydration. So when you use coconut oil on porous hair, you prevent the loss of those little hydrating proteins - and that's a very good thing. But you don't end up with any sort of un-natural protein accumulation. Although coconut oil can sometimes makes hair feel rigid or brittle or dry like a negative reaction to Hydrolyzed protein in hair products can also cause.

      In regards to timing protein and coconut oil use, keeping them separate allows you to judge the effect of each separately. And sometimes both an oil treatment and protein is too much for hair all at once.

      Repeat a treatment like an oil pre-cleanse treatment when the effects of the last treatment have faded. If you get a similar good result, your timing was right. If you get a strange result, you repeated the treatment too soon, or you used too much for that frequency.
      I hope that helps! -W

  28. Hi there, I really need your expertise. I am 52 years old and I have ultra fine, extremely thick, naturally curly, dyed (for gray coverage), frizzy hair, which is driving me crazy because all it wants to do now is turn to a thick, frizzy, moppy mess since I have had to start dying for the gray. Before I had to start dying my hair, I could hot roller my hair and I would end up with smooth, non-frizzy curls, with the bulkiness removed and I was good for 2 - 3 days, OR I could wear it naturally curly and it would hold the curl and not turn to frizz. But since having to dye my hair, it doesn't matter what I do it turns to frizz. After I hot roller my hair now, within 30 minutes, the curl falls out and it turns to a thick, frizzy, mop again. Also since dying my hair, I can't even wear it curly because it won't hold the curl without turning to frizz. I feel like I have someone else's hair. Please help with any recommendations you may have for specific products, shampoo,conditioner, hair treatments -protein, moisturizing, specific oils or any other treatments, styling products, techniques, anything that might help. Also, do you think getting a Keratin Treatment or Brazilian Blowout at a salon might help with taming the frizz and eliminating some of the bulk in my hair without completely doing away with my curls and body? Please help me with any recommendations you may have. Right now, I don't really have a hairstyle as my hair always ends up as a thick, frizzy mess and I am going broke trying to find the right products to help with my problem. Please share any recommendations you may have for my thick, ultra-fine, frizzy, mop of hair. Thanks a bunch, Kathy

    1. Hello Kathy,
      It sounds like your hair is more porous now than it was before you began coloring it. It's dehydrating between washes. I think you might look into a good setting lotion, cream or foam - maybe with a bit of Hydrolyzed protein in it - to use with your hot rollers, or one that advertises as a heat protectant. That should help with frizz, add some hold and might help with hydration. Browse beauty supply stores and cosmetics stores.

      I think it's worth trying an oil pre-wash treatment, to play it safe you might try avocado oil or sunflower oil. When it works (the oil is right, the timing is right), you should see less frizz and more defined curl. Oils like argan and jojoba and avocado are good on dry hair to smooth out frizz.

      Hydrolyzed proteins in a rinse-out conditioner on some wash days might be a good way to try protein without over-doing it. If you get a good result, try it again on your next wash, or the one after that.

      For rinse-out conditioners, look for great film-forming humectants like panthenol, flax, hydroxypropyltrimonium honey, marsh mallow extract, aloe, Irish moss. Those help a lot with hydration. If you can have them in a styling product too - that's even better.

      Whatever you used to do to keep your hair healthy, you need to do *more of* when you chemically treat your hair. Dyed hair grabs conditioners and proteins fast - and loses them just as easily. It dries out more quickly. It loses flexibility.

      If it were my hair, I would want to solve some of the problems like frizz and lack of definition first, before considering the possibility of double-processing my hair with a keratin treatment or Brazilian blowout. It sounds like your hair changed a lot with the hair dye and that might mean your hair has already had enough chemical treatment and needs extra tender loving care.

      I think you might also compare hair dyes - that sort of, "Now my hair is unmanageable!" change might mean the dye you used was not a good match for your hair. That sounds like the dye was too strong and may have caused more damage than one would expect. Something that is easy to use, doesn't require lots of time-checks, gets lots of good reviews online is a good pick. If the color you used fits all those requirements, you might switch to a different brand or a different version.

      Before coloring - use a penetrating oil pre-wash (on dry hair - before the last wash before coloring). That can help buffer hair a bit from the chemicals in the dye. Good luck! -W

  29. Hello! So, I'm a big fan of using oils in my hair care, and this article has been of a great help. But I've noticed something interesting on my wavy, bleach damaged hair; when I do an oil treatment, usually overnight and usually coconut, I follow up by covering my hair in conditioner to get it out, CO wash, and condition (I also add honey or other humectants to my rinse out, but not to my leave in), etc. I like the results, soft and healthy, but it can be a bit fussy/time consuming.

    To make things easier, I mixed up some oils, liquid at room temperature (olive, avocado, walnut and castor) with some conditioner (all my conditioners are silicone free), at a ratio of one part oil to two parts conditioner. Put it on my lengths for a few hours, then CO wash and condition etc as usual.

    The results? My hair is soft, lovely, and noticeably much, much curlier! I keep my waves for days, and I love it! I am very happy with this pre wash treatment.

    So, the whole point of this is; why? Why do oil and conditioner mixed give me wavier hair than oil followed by conditioner? Is it the specific oils, some sort of superior lubricantion, or is it sealing in moisture? I'm just curious, is all.

    1. Your hair may do better with a shorter oil treatment, for one thing. Overnight oil treatments can over-soften some people's hair. Your hair might also like the water-based conditioner in addition to the oils for a different feel. Conditioners may or may not penetrate the hair (depends on the ingredients) and your conditioner might have some humectants, which would be helpful. A fraction of your oil+conditioner treatment is capable of penetrating hair, but the conditioner bonds to hair's surface and humectants might move into the hair shaft to hydrate.
      Your oil+conditioner treatment works very differently than an oil-alone treatment. And it sounds like it is working well for you - that's great!

  30. I would like to try jojoba oil on my low porosity 3b type curly hair for a pre-shampoo. Should I heat up this oil (by pouring a few drops into a small bowl over another bowl of hot boiling water instead of in the microwave)? I have read on other blogs that this oil should be heated up before putting it on the hair and covering the hair with a plastic shower cap and a warm towel.

    1. Hello Lena, I am late replying to comments - I've had some technical problems. Heating an oil like jojoba - which is too large to penetrate the hair shaft - can help it become more fluid so it spreads over the hair really well, and seeps in around any little cracks in the cuticle to provide thorough lubrication for hair. Applying more heat to the oil in your hair assists that process of getting hair thoroughly lubricated. The "makeshift double boiler" method of heating you mentioned is ideal for warming oils gently, keeping them stable and not making a mess of the microwave. Best wishes - WS

  31. Hi. How do i do a pre poo with my oily itchy scalp, but dry as hair? Just dosnt make any sence to me. And i just did the big chop so my hair is extreemly short. How do i do hair masks and styling without getting tl much on my scalp. Cause i start to itch very fast. And its really a problem cause i cant moisturise my hair properly when my scalp is Soo super sensetive. So How do i keep my hair moisturised with an oily itchy scalp? And What pree poos can i use?

    1. Hello Sarah,
      If oil makes your scalp itch more - then you are in a difficult spot. I'm right there with you - short hair and all! You might find that an oil like Fractionated coconut oil (aka "MCT oil") could be less itch-provoking. It is less likely to feed any fungal overgrowth and doesn't contain the irritant Oleic acid. *** There is some data to support sunflower oil as having anti-inflammatory and skin-barrier improving - I find it a little itchy, even though it's my favorite treatment oil. *** Some people can tolerate Jojoba oil because of it's unique chemical composition, or Shea butter. *** Some people add tea tree or rosemary or thyme essential oil (just a drop or 2 per tablespoon) to an oil to discourage bacteria and yeasts (fungi) but for super-sensitive skin, that may not be a great idea, you might end up having a sensitivity reaction to that and feeling worse. *** See if there is an oil you can tolerate for a pre-wash treatment. Also consider other things which might help your skin like medicated shampoos or scalp treatments (even dilute vinegar rinses) to find if you can get your scalp to be less irritable. *** With very short hair - you might be able to do a scalp massage and use the oils on your fingers to treat your hair by smoothing them over your hair. Depending on your hairstyle, you can massage daily. This is an important part of hair maintenance in "water-only" hair care - using the scalp's natural oils to lubricate and soften the hair.
      You might also consider using diluted aloe or flax seed gel or Irish Moss as a water-based pre-poo (alone or with some oil added). You might be able to use a deep conditioner which contains some oil as a pre-poo (on dry hair) and and sneak that past your scalp. Sometimes "hiding" the oil in something else allows you to leave the product on a little longer. Good luck! WS

  32. Hello! I have relaxed (African and Indian) hair and i have been experiencing some shedding. This lead me to do some research and it turns out that i have low porosity hair and have been using the wrong products for my hair and i now understand why coconut oil never really worked for me. I plan on experimenting with pre poo oil treatments. Any advice on the type of oil and length of use would be much appreciated. Also, your blog is very informative, i love that. thank you.

    1. Hello Supriya. This is delayed, but I think that sunflower oil is a good oil to try and tends not to behave like coconut oil for those of us whose hair does not "like" coconut oil. Olive or avocado oil are also good ones to try. All 3 of these are hair-penetrating oils to some extent, to help with flexibility on the interior of the hair as well as adding some lubrication. But if you already know your hair does not get along well with 1 or more of those oils, then Broccoli seed oil or Mustard oil might be a good choice. All oils can be kept in the refrigerator to prolong their shelf life - but these last 2 definitely need refrigeration to prevent them from going rancid. Broccoli and mustard oil (both in the same plant family) have some penetrating qualities, but the fatty acid composition is different enough from olive, avocado and sunflower that they may work where those fail. These 2 oils tend to feel licht and fluid. Sweet almond oil is also a good choice - it's somewhere in between. It's a little "thicker" or heavier. So many choices! Be sure to look at products that work well for you to see if any of these oils are in products you already use and like - that may help narrow the field a bit! Best wishes - W

  33. Hello. I have long relaxed African/Indian hair and i have been experiencing more shedding than i am used to. This lead me to do some research and i discovered that i have low porosity hair, which made me understand why coconut oil never really worked for me. I also learnt that i have been using the wrong hair products and i making steps to change that. I would like to try a pre poo oil treatment and any advice on the type of oil and length of use would be much appreciated. Secondly, what is your take on the aphogee hair strengthening kit for someone with my hair type? It does contain proteins but is that something that would be beneficial to me if i used it sparingly, say before or after a relaxer? i have used the 2 step protein treatment before but my research tells me that may not be the right product for me. Thanks for your help!

  34. When I did oil research, many moons ago(over 10 yrs now), at the time, literature stated that coconut oil and olive oil were the only 2 oils on a molecular level that actually penetrated the hair shaft. The reason being is that coconut oil (top) is comprised of the smallest molecules. Olive oil being the next.

    Now, crunchy hair with coconut oil is because coconut oil can be over absorbed, swell and cause hair to become brittle and break off. This happened to me with the smallest application of it over a 3 day trial. It was murder. Olive oil, on the other hand, saved my strands.

    More research had me find that coconut oil was deemed for 'strengthening hair', where as olive oil was deemed more for 'moisturizing'. Made sense since I have an oily scalp, but work in a dirty environment. I keep my hair up at work and when I ride (horses), but the length is old. Recently, I noticed my length was looking faded and grumpy, so I did an oiling (on wet hair), and my hair is now shiny and happy. We've had a nasty heat wave in my area, so the barn is dry/dusty or so hot and humid I can't win. I wash my hair and keep it in a bun, to come home to mega pouff because I have wavy hair. The olive oil has been my holy grail of products when my locks look at bit rough.

    I have tried many other options like mayo, ACV etc, and Olive oil works the best for my hair's needs.

  35. Thank you for the well thought out article. I’ve been reading through the comments and am blown away by the time you take to answer people’s questions!

  36. Oil treatments are usually called for before shampooing but I wonder if I can use it more often. I wash my hair about twice a week but my hair is so fine and low density that I have to thoroughly saturate my hair with water in the shower every morning before styling. I use a little conditioner with hydrolyzed plant protein that I rinse out at the end of the shower. After sleeping (even with using silk pillow case and silk hair bonnet with hair in very loose pineapple) my hair will not hold any shape and gets frizzy so a complete redo is necessary. I have not mastered the refresh with product step yet. I worry that I may be losing moisture and protein and otherwise damaging it with wetting my hair so much. I believe my hair is high porosity or it has those characteristics (dries quickly, is box dyed). Can I use this oil treatment every night before I shower the next morning without shampooing it out or would this cause a different problem that I am not foreseeing? Hollywood Beauty Tea Tree Hair Oil- Soybean Oil, Tea Tree Leaf Oil, Safflower Seed Oil, Rose Hips Fruit Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Peanut (Oil, BHT, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Vitamin E, Sunflower Seed Oil (and) Chamomilla (Recutita Matricaria) Extract (and) Arnica Montana Flower Extract (and) Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) Leaf Extract (and) Sage (Salvia Officinalis) Leaf Extract (and) Pinus Palustris Leaf Extract (and) Burdock (Arctium Minus) Root Extract (and) Lemon (Citrus Medica Limonum) Peel Extract (and) Ivy (Hedera Helix) Extract (and) Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract (and) Indian Cress (Tropaeolum Majus) Extract (and) White Hettle (Lamium Album) Flower Extract, Isopropyl Myristate, Fragrance (Parfum), PhenoxyEthanol (and) Methyl Paraben and IsopropulParaben (and) IsobutylParaben (and) ButylParaben, Thanks, Kristy

    1. Hello Kristy, I think you can safely apply a small amount of the oil you mentioned at night. It will provide some lubrication and softening. If your hair becomes too soft or limp, use it less often, or use a smaller amount. Sometimes that helps a great deal for sleeping - where hair has to deal with friction and pressure - troublesome forces that cause frizz. It should also help manage porosity from hair -coloring. I'm not surprised that Fine, low-density hair gets frizzy and flattened overnight. That seems to be pretty common! If you are using a little oil at night, you might see less frizz. A Hydration spray might help in the morning. This isn't so much to completely re-wet your hair, as to add a little moisture and flexibility and some hydrating ingredients so you can do a little re-shaping and smoothing. You can mist some water at the roots and fluff them up (even use a hair-dryer to dry the fluffed roots). Between-wash hair doesn't have to be the same as wash-day hair. It's kind of fun for hair to "evolve" between washes. I have a post for DIY hydration sprays (Type "DIY Hydration Spray" in the search box). --
      If you're using a little oil at night and a little protein in your products, your hair should be fine with a little misting of product in the morning. I understand the concern of stress with re-wetting, but I think of it as adding hydration for more elasticity, flexibility and that's good for hair. Especially if the hydration spray has some hair-health promoting ingredients. -- If a single pineapple doesn't work - how about 2? Lots of room for creativity. Best wishes - W

  37. I know this is an older post. I hope you can still answer my question. Can you do the Oil Pre-Shampoo with different butters (like shea, kokum, murumuru, Sal butters)? Basically, use the butters like you use the oil pre-shampoo. Do butters provide the same benefits for hair health like Hair-penetrating oils do?

    1. Hi Mimi - Butters in general can absolutely be used as pre-shampoo if your hair gets along with them. Butters contain more saturated fats (what keeps them solid), and those can soak into (penetrate) the hair for greater softness and flexibility as well as provide some lubrication. I think with butters we have to use a "less is better" approach - because butters can be a little trickier to cleanse off any excess. -W