Oil Pre-Shampoo: Why It Works And How To Do It

by Gio

oil cleansing method

A bottle of olive oil is something that is never missing in an Italian kitchen. We Italians use it in sauces, salad dressings, grilling, and we just generously splash it over most dishes that grace our tables. And if you’re in the mood for a healthy snack, try bruschetta. It’s easy. Just toast some bread, pour some olive oil on it, and add chopped fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. Delicious!

But olive oil doesn’t just make foods taste delicious. It also saved my hair when, all those years back in high school, I used to dye it. Although I loved being a blonde, the treatment really damaged my hair, leaving it dry, brittle, and unmanageable. That’s when someone recommend I try olive oil as a pre-shampoo treatment.

The science behind oil pre-shampoo treatment

Shampoos contain surfactants that remove dirt, impurities, and oils from your hair, leaving it clean. But when hair is too clean, problems arise. Sebum, the oil produced by sebaceous glands, is hair’s natural moisturizer. It creates a protective coat on hair that prevents water from evaporating, thus helping to keep it hydrated, soft, and healthy.

This protective barrier also keeps water out of our hair. When water comes into contact with hair, it swells it up. Once dry, hair contracts again. This is called hydral fatigue and it is no good for hair. It can cause it to become weak, dry, and prone to breakage.

A pre-shampoo treatment with oil makes hair greasy, which, in this case, is a good thing. The extra oil reduces the amount of water your hair soaks up during washing, and ensures that, after shampooing, some of it is still left on hair to keep it naturally soft and hydrated. Some oils, like coconut oil, can also “reduce the protein loss remarkably for both undamaged and damaged hair”. This is great news, as these proteins help hair be strong and healthy.

How to do an oil pre-shampoo treatment

Which oil to use?

If you want to reap all the benefits from a pre-shampoo treatment, you can’t just use any oil. You have to choose one that’s able to penetrate hair, such as olive oil or coconut oil. Because they take time to do so, it is best to apply them 4 to 8 hours before washing your hair. If you wash it first thing in the morning, apply some coconut or olive oil on your locks before going to bed.

How much oil should you use?

How much oil should you use depends on the length of your hair and on how oily it is. If you have oily hair, you may need only a few drops and, even then, you may not like the greasy feel of extra oil on your hair. If you have dry hair, instead, it will readily soak the oil up, so you may need to apply quite a bit. Just experiment until you find the amount that works best for you.

Should you heat the oil up?

With heat, oils become less fluid and so spread throughout hair more easily and evenly. But heat can also dry out hair. So how do you heat oil up without damaging your locks? Just wrapping your hair with a plastic cap or a warmed wet towel is usually enough. Some people like to heat up the oil before application. In that case, make sure the oil is only slightly warm, never hot.

How often should you do a pre-shampoo treatment?

Again, that depends on your hair type and how damaged it is. My hair is oily but, back when I dyed it, I’d use it every time I washed my hair. Now, I’ve cut back to once every 10 days. You should also do an oil pre-wash treatment every time your hair start misbehaving, becoming too dry, too difficult to detangle, or gets too many flyaways. An oil pre-wash treatment can help fix all these problems.

Do you do an oil pre-wash treatment? If so, how?

Take The Guesswork Out Of Skincare Shopping

Screenshot from 2017 04 30 11 51 35

Get access to the “Pro Skincare Library” for exclusive skincare routine “cheat sheets” and tricks to help you navigate the beauty aisles jungle like a pro and immediately know what to pick off the shelves to achieve the gorgeous skin of your dreams - even when you’re drowning in an endless sea of skincare products.


Powered by ConvertKit

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

32 comments

Laurie August 22, 2014 - 4:52 pm

Wow, thanks for the info! I’ve heard that Italian ladies swear by olive oil for all kinds of beauty uses. I have two questions:
1. My hair is fine. Will oiling still work with my texture?
2. Do you have an opinion about argan oil as a pre-shampoo treatment?

Reply
Gio August 22, 2014 - 7:45 pm

Laurie, we swear by olive oil for anything, cooking, beauty.. it’s a staple in every household. 🙂

My hair is fine too, and oiling works well for me. It just depends on how much you use. I only apply a few drops, otherwise my hair gets too oily.

You know, I have a bottle of argan oil and I hadn’t thought about using that as a pre-shampoo treatment! I’m just so used to doing anything with olive oil lol. I know, though, that it can penetrate hair, even though not as well as other types of oil such as coconut oil, so it should work well as a pre-shampoo treatment too.

Reply
Laurie August 23, 2014 - 8:21 pm

Thanks, Gio. I actually learned about argan oil as a pre-shampoo treatment from a French woman! Maybe we should all have an international beauty summit. 😉

Reply
Gio August 24, 2014 - 7:53 am

Laurie, my pleasure. And that would be great! 😉

Reply
Chic Readings August 22, 2014 - 5:14 pm

This sounds great, I have to try that out:)

Reply
Gio August 22, 2014 - 7:35 pm

Helena, let me know how it works for you. 🙂

Reply
Allison August 22, 2014 - 7:14 pm

While it is a good idea, in practice, I know I won’t do it. I have a ton of thick, coarse hair that takes a long time to wash & dry & flat iron so I hate adding extra steps. Plus I try to wash about every 4-5 days since I have red color-treated hair and I’m afraid that oil will make it get dirty faster even if applied before rather than after. Lazy, I guess!

Reply
Gio August 22, 2014 - 7:48 pm

Allison, I’m pretty lazy too. It helps if you apply it before going to bed. That way, you can wash your hair first thing in the morning and just proceed with your usual routine. And during the night, it won’t attract too much dirt either. You could also only use a few drops only on the outer layer of your hair or on the cuticles, which are the areas that get damaged the most. :)(

Reply
kuri August 23, 2014 - 4:50 pm

I moisturize my hair with coconut oil at times since Cosmetic Candy mentioned it was good as a hair treatment, but I didn’t realize it could be good as a pre-shower treatment too. Now I can do this even when I don’t have time for a full deep treatment!

Reply
Gio August 23, 2014 - 7:09 pm

Kuri, coconut oil is wonderful, isn’t it? So versatile!

Reply
ciembi August 25, 2014 - 2:34 pm

Thanks for the info! I would like to try this, but I usually color my hair with a semi-permanent dye and I have heard that olive oil strips the color away, especially semi-permanent color. Do you know whether there is any truth to that or whether it is just another beauty myth?

Reply
Gio August 28, 2014 - 3:04 pm

Ciembi, unfortunately olive oil does strip some of the colour, making the dye fade faster. I found that for me, because my hair was so damaged after years of dying, it was worth having to redye it more often. If your hair isn’t in such bad shape though, you could try doing it every 10/14 days and leave it for a shorter period of time.

Reply
Janessa September 3, 2014 - 12:28 am

I HAVE to try this! I’ve been using hair masks about once a week but this is much more affordable and my hair needs shine!

Reply
Gio September 3, 2014 - 6:45 am

Janessa, this will make it very shiny! Let me know how it works for you.

Reply
Janessa September 3, 2014 - 7:15 am

I couldn’t resist. I put about 2T coconut oil from my scalp to the ends and some honey because I have tons of honey at home. I left it in a bun sitting on my head for three and a half hours and then shampooed and conditioned. I just blew dry my hair and usually, it gets a bit frizzy even with some dry oil I apply onto it. Now, there’s no frizz and my hair is much glossier though not shiny enough yet! I will have to keep this up.
:]

Reply
Gio September 3, 2014 - 2:06 pm

Janessa, it’s wonderful, isn’t it? For even more shine, try keeping it on your hair for longer than three hours, if you can. I like to apply the oil right before going to bed and then I wash my hair first thing in the morning. Works a treat. 🙂

Reply
Janessa September 3, 2014 - 7:33 pm

I’ll leave it in overnight next time and let you know how that goes!

Gio September 3, 2014 - 8:01 pm

Great! I’m sure you’ll love it even more. 🙂

Alita November 22, 2017 - 1:24 am

Hi Gio.. After applying the coconut oil to you hair for 4-8 hrs. What kind of shampoo should be used. Sulfate free or not? I was told sulfate free shampoo doesn’t get all the out the coconut oil because it’s a heavy oil and it blocks your hair from getting the moisture and hydration it needs. Is this true?

Reply
Gio November 26, 2017 - 2:03 pm

Alita, I’m not a big fan of sulcate-free shampoos because they’re too gentle to remove excess oil (if you have oily hair) or buildup from styling products. A shampoo with gentle detergents like cocamidopropyl Betaine works best.

Reply
Zoha December 14, 2017 - 9:13 am

I have oily scalp and dry ends which oil should i use and should i put oil on my scalp

Reply
Gio December 16, 2017 - 10:40 pm

Zoha, I wouldn’t put oil on your scalp but you can use some on your ends. Coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil work well for dry hair.

Reply
Lucinda March 26, 2018 - 9:36 am

I always oil my hair before I wash it every single time. I had really bad hair at some point, always dry, frizzy and breaking, it was so depressing. Then I heard mayonnaise works so I started applying that in the shower before shampoo (I was desperate), and it actually worked, my hair dramatically improved, but it made me feel sick, the smell etc, urgh yuck, so I thought about the ingredients and why it would work – egg yolk and oil – I didn’t want to use egg yolk so I opted for oil, I’ve never looked back. I can’t believe I used to have so many issues with my hair, now it’s always silky, floaty, soft and clean, and of course shinny. I use organic coconut oil, usually on damp hair. I don’t bother putting it on and leaving it over night or even for an hour, I’m just to lazy. Once in the shower, I use quite alot of oil all through my damp hair and then carry on with my shower, shave etc, after all that is done, I vigerously shampoo my hair twice (one must experiment with this, some shampoos are not strong enough to remove the oil) I use sulphate free from L’Oreal by the way, then I use a heavy treatment conditioner, comb my hair and rince it thoroughly. My hair is amazing and I’ve never been happier with it. Olive oil works just the same way too but I tend to stick with the coconut oil out of laziness. A note though- I tried a processed unscented coconut oil once (something I had been using for massage, since not all people like the smell) and it didn’t work very well, the hair felt bad afterwards, so I only use organic coconut oil, or you know, just unprocessed would probably work too. Just thought I would share my hair story incase it helps someone and my stats- I’m 25, caucasian female with medium thick, wavy, dry brown hair. Already getting greys ( !! ) So dye my hair regularly and yet, it’s in perfect health 😉

Reply
Gio March 31, 2018 - 8:15 am

Lucinda, thanks so much for sharing your experience. I’m sure it will help other people in your same situation. I’m so glad you’ve found something that works so well for you and I agree, the keys is experimenting. 🙂

Reply
Clara August 25, 2018 - 10:41 pm

Hi Gio, I’ve just found this article and I’m gonna try it out soon. I hope it works, may hair is awful. It’s thick, dry, puffy and frizzy at the same time… So thick the only hairstyle I can do is a messy bun. I’m not a fan of heat irons, even though it makes my hair look decent. I remember going to hair salons, they all told me it was damaged, but one told me it is my natural hair pattern, which is hard to believe since I remember having nice hair when I was a kid. My question is, will this also help my hair depuff (if that is a word lol)? Great article, I’m cheering you all the way from Canada 🙂

Reply
Gio September 7, 2018 - 12:18 pm

Clara, what changed since you were a kid? How did you take care of your hair then and did you have any treatments done that could have damaged it? But yes, this will help you depuff your hair too.

Reply
Ellie November 7, 2018 - 2:55 pm

I’ve found olive oil to have saved my hair and scalp. I was suffering from dry scalp and no shampoos made any difference. I massage about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into my hair before I wash it (it’s only left in a few minutes) then shampoo out (with paraben and sulphate-free shampoo). My scalp is so much healthier and I can get away with washing my hair only once a week. I have thick, frizzy hair so would suggest for thinner hair to use less oil. My hair is dyed dark and I’ve not found the oil to make much difference to the duration of the dye.

Reply
Gio November 10, 2018 - 7:05 pm

Ellie, thanks for sharing your experience. Olive oil is one of the few oils that can penetrate hair and nourish it from within. A total hair saver!

Reply
Sonja June 3, 2019 - 2:35 pm

I’ve started using an Argan Oil product in my hair just before washing (as in, a couple of minutes before jumping into the shower), and same as LUCINDA, my hair is in immaculate condition, not dry and frizzy, and no need to cut the flyaway, broken strands! I think it’s even making my hair grow longer, faster!

Reply
Gio June 4, 2019 - 5:48 pm

Sonja, that’s amazing! So glad to hear this is working so well for you. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Reply
Sam July 15, 2019 - 2:48 pm

If you need to wash your hair every day should I apply the oil every night?

Reply
Gio August 8, 2019 - 3:09 pm

Sam, I do it once a week but you can do it more often if your hair is drier and needs more conditioning.

Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.