What Are Pre-Wash Hair Oils?
Unlike regular hair oils that you apply after washing, pre-wash hair oils are specially designed to be applied before you shampoo your hair. As the name suggests, “pre-wash” hair oil is an oil-based product you massage into your locks before heading into the shower. The oil coats and penetrates the hair shaft and helps provide extra moisture, smoothness and protection when washing. Pre-wash oils usually contain a blend of nourishing oils like argan, coconut or almond that get absorbed better on dirty hair before cleansing.
Benefits of Using Pre-Wash Hair Oils
Pre-wash hair oils provide a multitude of benefits that make them worth incorporating into your hair care routine. Some of the major benefits include:
- Reduced Breakage – The oil lubricates and reinforces the hair cuticle, minimizing friction and breakage when washing, combing and styling. Using pre-wash hair oil makes hair up to 3 times stronger.
- Added Shine – The oils seal in moisture and create a smooth, glossy surface on each strand, leaving hair looking healthy and shiny.
- Detangling – Pre-wash oils help loosen and soften tangles, allowing combs and brushes to glide through smoothly without snagging.
- Color Protection – For color-treated hair, pre-wash oils form a protective barrier around hair strands to lock in color and prevent fading.
- Smoother Styling – Hair is left more manageable, supple and easy to style after pre-washing with oil. Styling products also apply more evenly.
When to Use Pre-Wash Hair Oils
- If you have dry, damaged or color-treated hair, using pre-wash hair oil before every wash will help strengthen strands and maintain vibrancy.
- For those with normal to oily hair, using pre-wash oil once or twice a week is sufficient to get the benefits without weighing hair down.
- Using it 1-2 times a week is ideal for most hair types and concerns like frizz, dryness or styling issues.
- You can use it more frequently in drier winter months when hair needs extra moisture and protection.
Choosing the Right Pre-Wash Oil for Your Hair
With so many pre-wash oils available, it’s important to pick one formulated for your specific hair type and needs:
- Normal to Oily Hair – Choose lightweight oils like grapeseed or sweet almond. Avoid oils high in oleic acid.
- Dry/Damaged Hair – Opt for more intensive oils like argan, coconut or olive oil which will nourish without clogging pores.
- Color Protection – Look for oils rich in antioxidants like pomegranate, jojoba or macadamia oil to lock in color.
- Curly Hair – For defined curls, use a blend with oils that increase elasticity like marula or baobab oil.
- Seeking Volume – Grapeseed or squalane oil won’t leave hair limp or flat like many natural oils.
- Sensitive Scalp – Stick to pure, organic oils and avoid fragrance or chemicals that may cause reaction.
How to Properly Use Pre-Wash Oils
- Start with clean, dry hair – Pre-wash oils work best on hair that hasn’t been freshly washed.
- Apply to mid-lengths and ends – Concentrate application from mid-shaft down to the tips to limit oiliness at the roots.
- Warm the oil – For easier application, warm the oil slightly between your palms before massaging in.
- Let it soak – Leave the pre-wash hair oil on for at least 30 minutes for best penetration before washing out.
- Shampoo thoroughly – Be sure to shampoo multiple times to fully remove excess oil from hair and scalp.
- Don’t overload – Using pre-wash oil too frequently or in excess can lead to limp, greasy hair.
DIY Pre-Wash Hair Oil Recipes
If you want to make your own customized pre-wash hair oil at home, here are a couple easy DIY recipes to try:
- For Dry/Damaged Hair – Mix 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp coconut oil and 5 drops each lavender and ylang ylang essential oils. The olive oil nourishes, coconut oil smooths and essential oils add shine.
- For Color Protection – Combine 1 tbsp argan oil, 1 tsp pomegranate seed oil and 2 drops each rosemary and lemon essential oil to lock in color.
- For Volume – Blend 1 tbsp grapeseed oil, 1 tsp jojoba oil and 3 drops cedarwood essential oil. This lightweight mix gives bounce without weighing hair down.
Pre-Wash Oils vs. Regular Oils
Though they seem similar, there are a few key differences between pre-wash and regular hair oils:
- Pre-wash oils are lighter formulas designed to be rinsed out. Regular oils are heavier to penetrate and be left in.
- Pre-wash oils don’t need heat to absorb. Regular oils work better when heated and soaked in for hours.
- Pre-wash oils are applied to dirty hair. Regular oils work better on freshly washed hair.
- Pre-wash oils mainly coat the hair while regular oils aim to nourish the scalp and roots.
- Pre-wash oils simplify washing. Regular oils require an extra shampoo to avoid greasiness.
Recommended Pre-Wash Oils to Try
Some top-rated pre-wash hair oils to give a try include:
- Moroccanoil Pre-Shampoo Treatment – lightweight formula for all hair types
- Ouai Oil – great for adding shine and softness
- Briogeo Rosarco Pre-Wash Oil – made with nourishing rosehip oil
- Kérastase Elixir Ultime L’Huile Original – provides long-lasting frizz protection
- Oribe Gold Lust Pre-Shampoo Treatment – contains antioxidants to strengthen hair
- IGK Good Behavior Prep Spray – uses spinach extract to protect color-treated hair
Troubleshooting Pre-Wash Oil Issues
While pre-wash oils provide great benefits, some people can experience issues like:
- Oily Roots – Apply oil only to mids and ends and shampoo thoroughly. Use less oil next time.
- Limp Hair – Avoid oils like coconut on fine hair. Opt for lighter oils like grapeseed instead.
- Irritation – Discontinue use if any scalp itching or reaction occurs. Do a clarifying wash.
- Product Build-up – Use a clarifying shampoo once a week if hair starts feeling greasy.
- Oil Stains – Apply oil in a wide tooth comb to minimize drips. Use stain remover and wash as normal.
The Takeaway on Pre-Wash Oils
Incorporating a pre-wash hair oil into your routine 1-2 times per week can give hair some major benefits when it comes to smoothness, shine and breakage reduction. Just be sure to choose the right oil for your hair type and needs. Apply sparingly from mid-shaft down before washing and shampoo thoroughly after. Give your locks a little extra love with the simple addition of pre-wash oil!