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?
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