Applying a hair care product right before washing your hair may seem counterintuitive, but that’s exactly the point of pre-shampoo. These treatments—which, as the name implies, are used before shampoo—help prep your hair to receive the full benefits of your shampoo and conditioner system. Many formulas also give locks added nourishment and strength for your styling routine.
Ahead, we’ll delve into the benefits of pre-shampoo treatments and explain how to seamlessly integrate them into your existing hair care regimen. Plus, discover 11 pre-shampoo treatments from the L'Oréal portfolio of professional brands worth adding to your cart (and routine).
What is a pre-shampoo treatment?
A pre-shampoo (also cheekily referred to as a pre-poo or pre-wash) is a hair care product applied to your hair or scalp immediately before shampooing. There are many different pre-wash treatments, including strengthening pre-shampoo masks, nourishing pre-shampoo oils, and purifying pre-shampoo scalp scrubs. What they all have in common is that they help set your hair care routine up for success—and provide an opportunity to address specific concerns.
What does pre-shampoo do?
The main purpose of a pre-shampoo treatment is to protect your strands while you cleanse. Hair stretches up to 50 percent when wet, rendering it weaker and more vulnerable to damage during the shampooing process. Pre-poo treatments help form a protective barrier around your strands, shielding your hair from excess friction while you lather up. They also typically contain moisturizing and strengthening ingredients that penetrate into hair’s fiber, allowing you to get a deep clean without making hair feel stripped or dry.
Pre-shampoos can have benefits beyond moisturizing and protecting, too. For instance, if you want to tackle dandruff, you might select a pre-shampoo designed to combat itchy flakes. If you’re concerned about color care or hydration, meanwhile, you may consider a pre-shampoo made specifically to extend your salon hue or address dryness.
Who needs pre-shampoo?
Everyone can use a pre-shampoo treatment, though it’s not always a necessity. Those with textured hair may see the greatest payoff from pre-washes since they help retain much-needed moisture. That said, they’re an excellent—and easy—way for everyone to target specific hair woes, such as dryness, breakage, and dandruff before the shampoo process even begins.
Do you rinse out pre-shampoo?
Some pre-poos can be washed out before shampooing, while others are intended to be rinsed with your shampoo. The timing of this step varies, so be sure to read your product’s label to determine the best usage. Your stylist can guide you in the right direction if you’re still uncertain.
What can I use as a pre-shampoo treatment?
A quick internet search yields hundreds of DIY pre-wash recipes, but these can do more harm than good. Many at-home solutions require slathering an oil (like coconut or olive) onto your hair before shampooing. However, these oils can be extremely heavy, making removing residue from your hair difficult. We always recommend professionally formulated pre-shampoo treatments. They contain just the right ratio of ingredients to help you reap the rewards without adverse effects on your strands.
Consider what you'd like to address in order to find a pre-shampoo formula that’s right for you. Your chosen product should align with your hair goals. Here, we rounded up 11 of our best pre-shampoo treatments from the L'Oréal professional portfolio of brands to get you started.
Our Best Hydrating and Strengthening Pre-Shampoo Masks
Biolage Professional Bond Therapy Intensive Treatment
Biolage Professional’s Bond Therapy Intensive Treatment is a pre-shampoo mask for overprocessed, damaged hair. The coconut oil and citric acid-infused formula deeply conditions and builds hair bonds from the inside out, restoring hair’s strength. Apply it from the roots to the ends of the hair before rinsing it alongside the complementary shampoo.
Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Intensive Treatment
Combat major hair damage with Redken’s Acidic Bonding Concentrate Intensive Treatment. This reparative treatment is a member of Redken’s Acidic Bonding Concentrate family and is suitable as a pre-shampoo or an as-needed strengthening mask. It's a must if your hair is weakened hair from coloring, lightening, brushing, or heat styling.
Redken Blondage High Bright Pre-Treatment
Pollution, product build-up, and hard water can dim even the most shimmering blondes down to a pale yellow. Redken’s Blondage High Bright Pre-Treatment helps brighten up your blonde while clarifying and balancing your hair’s pH level. Apply the pre-shampoo to wet hair, comb through, and leave in 5-10 minutes before rinsing. For best results, follow it up with the Blondage High Bright Shampoo and Blondage High Bright Conditioner.
Mizani Wonder Crown Clarifying Scalp Treatment
Make scalp care a priority with Mizani’s Wonder Crown Clarifying Scalp Treatment. This luxurious foaming pre-cleanser helps refresh and rebalance your scalp with its tea tree, honey, and cannabis sativa oil-powered formula.
L'Oréal Professionnel Absolut Repair Molecular Concentrated Pre-Treatment
Pre-shampoo treatments are an easy way to emulate salon results, but sometimes you just want to sit back and let the pros do the work for you. That’s where L'Oréal Professionnel’s salon-exclusive Absolut Repair Molecular Professionnal Concentrate Pre-Treatment comes in. This pre-shampoo contains patented technology with a 3% peptides bonder and five amino acids to refill damaged hair’s molecular structure. Incorporate the range’s shampoo, rinse-off serum, and leave-in mask into your at-home routine, and then head to the salon when your hair needs extra TLC. Use the L'Oreal Salon Locator to find the Absolut Repair Molecular Concentrated Pre-Treament at a location near you.
*Instrumental test after 5 applications of Absolut Repair Molecular pre-treatment + shampoo + rinse-off serum
Our Best Pre-Shampoo Scalp Scrubs
Kérastase Fusio Scrub Énergisant Purifying Scalp Scrub
You scrub your elbows, knees, and heels—your scalp deserves some love, too. A scalp scrub is especially beneficial for those who use styling products like dry shampoo because it helps buff away residue that regular shampoo may miss. Kérastase’s Fusio Scrub Énergisant Purifying Scalp Scrub is a pre-shampoo hair scrub that cleanses away impurities and hair build-up for six times more shine* and 79% more hair volume 24 hours after application.*
*versus unwashed hair.
Kérastase Fusio Scrub Apaisant Soothing Scalp Scrub
If you love the idea of a scalp scrub but think your scalp may be too sensitive for exfolation, consider Kérastase’s Scrub Apaisant Soothing Scalp Scrub. The soothing gel texture provides a deep but gentle cleanse and helps combat dryness, dandruff, and flakiness.
Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Ashita Supreme Scalp Scrub
Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Ashita Supreme Scalp Scrub is a revitalizing pre-shampoo scalp scrub intended for normal to dry scalp and hair types. The formula has a grainy texture (courtesy of sea salt) that gently but effectively removes product build-up. It even features a cooling sensation that makes it feel especially soothing—a major plus for those with sensitive scalps.
Our Best Nourishing Pre-Shampoo Oils
Redken All Soft Argan-6 Hair Oil
Hair oils don’t have to be heavy, and Redken’s All Soft Argan-6 Hair Oil is proof. The lightweight oil is enriched with omega-6 fatty acids and Redken’s Moisture Complex for concentrated softness, deep conditioning, and lasting suppleness on all hair types. Use the multi-tasking oil as a pre-shampoo, a heat protectant, an overnight serum, or to add shine to dull-looking strands.
Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Essence Absolue Nourishing Soothing Scalp Oil Concentrate
Another excellent pre-shampoo treatment from Shu Uemura Art of Hair is their Essence Absolue Nourishing Soothing Scalp Oil Concentrate. A blend of natural oils soothe and moisturize a dry scalp and lend hair a soft, shiny finish.
Kérastase Curl Manifesto Huile Sublime Repair Hair Oil
Calling all curlies: The Curl Manifesto Huile Sublime Repair Hair Oil from Kérastase awaits you. Nourishing manuka honey and strengthening ceramides in the formula help define, hydrate, and condition your curls. To use it as a pre-shampoo oil, gently work the product through dry hair and allow it to set for about five minutes before rinsing and following up with your shampoo.
Next up in our hair washing series, discover what a pro really thinks about water-only hair cleansing.
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