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What Are Pre-Shampoo Treatments and How Do You Use Them?

Shampoo shouldn’t always be the first step in your haircare routine.
  • Naydeline Mejia
April 24, 2024

No matter your hair type, chances are good that your number-one priority where haircare is concerned is to maintain a healthy-looking mane. While using a shampoo and conditioner designed for your hair type is one step towards healthier-looking hair, adding a pre-shampoo treatment to your lineup can help give your strands additional TLC.

Pre-poo treatments, as they’re sometimes called, have a ton of benefits for your mane—finding the right one for you ultimately comes down to your hair type and concerns. Here, we’ll give you the scoop on all things pre-shampoo and offer a look at some of our favorite products for giving your scalp and strands some love.

What Is a Pre-Shampoo Treatment?

As the name suggests, a pre-shampoo treatment is a product meant to be applied to the hair (and, often, the scalp) before shampooing. Pre-shampoo hair treatments can come in any number of formulations, including serums, conditioners, hair masks, and hair oils. Depending on the particular product’s instructions, they are applied either to dry hair or wet hair before you cleanse with your normal shampoo and conditioner combo.

What Does Pre-Poo Do for Hair?

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Now that you know what pre-shampoo treatments are, it’s time to explore why they can be so great for your hair. Some hair types, like natural hair and color-treated hair, can be very fragile and prone to breakage—particularly when it’s wet. Pre-shampoo treatments can help reduce the possibility of breakage by strengthening, hydrating, and fortifying your strands before you even step in the shower.

Some pre-poos also help detangle your strands before you start cleansing your mane, further minimizing the risk of breakage from rough washing. There are also pre-poo products that help remove styling product residue, dirt, and oil that can build up on your roots, leaving your scalp and strands feeling fresher. Ultimately, the benefits you’ll reap from using a pre-poo boil down to the specific formula you use (more on that shortly).

Who Should Use a Pre-Shampoo Treatment?

Because of the wide variety of pre-poos available, these haircare treatments can be a helpful addition to nearly any routine. Of course, you’ll want to pick a formula that targets your specific needs or concerns. If your hair is damaged, for example, you might opt for a strengthening pre-shampoo treatment. Those with oily scalps, meanwhile, may benefit from a purifying pre-poo.

How to Choose the Right Pre-Shampoo Treatment for Your Hair

As we mentioned above, the best pre-shampoo treatment for you will depend on your hair type and specific haircare needs. If you have color-treated, bleached, or damaged hair, you’ll want to opt for a strengthening pre-poo that will help rebuild weakened hair bonds and reduce breakage, such as the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Bond Strengthening Pre-Shampoo Treatment. The unique formula helps to fortify hair from the inside out and helps repair damaged hair in a single use.*

On the contrary, if you struggle with scalp buildup from styling products, dirt, or oil, consider reaching for a clarifying pre-poo treatment. We suggest the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Pure Oil Erasing Serum for Oily Hair, which helps remove impurities, leaving the scalp feeling clean and refreshed.

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*When used as part of a system.

What to Use to Pre-Poo

There are quite a few ways to pre-poo. You can find products, like those mentioned above, that are specifically meant to be used as pre-shampoo treatments—these are some of our favorite options. There are also many formulas that serve another primary purpose but can double as a pre-poo. Below, we’re naming some of the different forms pre-poo can come in.

Hair treatment

Liquid and cream hair treatments that are designed to be used pre-shampoo, like our aforementioned EverPure Bond Strengthening Pre-Shampoo Treatment, are a popular option for this haircare step. Sticking with one of these makes shopping for your haircare products simple (look for “pre-shampoo” on the bottle), especially if you pair it with a shampoo and conditioner from the same range.

Hair serum

Many hair serums are meant to be applied to wet or dry strands and left on the hair. But there are some that can be used before shampoo and rinsed out. These can be a great pick if your hair is prone to looking greasy, as they tend to be very lightweight.


If moisture is a top priority, it’s smart to use a product that focuses on just that. This is where using a conditioner before shampoo can come into play. We love that conditioner helps to smooth hair and seal in moisture, and it doesn’t necessarily have to come last in your haircare routine. You can repurpose conditioner as a DIY pre-poo treatment.

Simply apply a hydrating conditioner to wet strands and leave on for 10-15 minutes. Afterward, rinse, then shampoo, and condition (again) as usual.

Hair mask

Another moisturizing must-have: a deep conditioning mask treatment. You can use a mask as a pre-poo the same way you would with conditioner, applying it to damp strands and rinsing out after about 15 minutes. Then, shampoo and condition your strands as usual.

Oil treatment

Another type of pre-shampoo treatment that works wonders, especially for fighting frizz, is a hair oil. Just remember: when using any oil-based hair products, even rinse-out ones, a little bit goes a long way.

How to Pre-Poo Your Hair

Now that you know how to choose the right pre-shampoo treatment for your hair needs, it’s time to learn how to add a pre-poo to your haircare routine. Follow our step-by-step tutorial for incorporating pre-shampoo into your regimen for healthy-looking (and feeling) tresses.

1. Reach for your pre-poo treatment

Depending on which pre-shampoo treatment you choose, apply the product to your strands as it’s meant to be used. Whether you should use pre-poo on dry or wet hair will also vary based on the treatment you pick—we suggest reading the directions on your chosen product for accurate usage instructions.

Once your hair is coated, you’ll need to let the pre-shampoo sit on your hair (usually for at least a few minutes, but again, it depends on the product you’re using). Afterward, you should be ready to rinse your strands and move on to the next step.

2. Pick a nourishing shampoo and conditioner

After pre-poo, follow up with a shampoo and conditioner that complements your chosen pre-poo treatment. For example, if you used our the purifying pre-poo, you’ll get the best results pairing it with L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Pure Purifying Shampoo for Oily Hair, and the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Pure Rehydrating Conditioner for Oily Hair to start your washing process. Similarly, the bond-strengthening pre-poo pairs best with the coordinating L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Bond Repair Shampoo with Citric Acid and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Bond Repair Conditioner with Citric Acid.

3. Apply a leave-in conditioner

Once your hair is freshly washed, we encourage you to use a leave-in conditioner. After all, the more moisture, the better. Pop open the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths No Haircut Cream Leave In, which is formulated with castor oil and vitamins B3 and B5 to help strengthen fragile hair and seal split ends.

Work a dime-sized amount evenly through damp strands and style your hair as usual.

Common Pre-Shampoo Mistakes to Avoid

As they say, everything is good in moderation. A common pre-poo mistake people make is overusing pre-shampoo treatments or pre-pooing too often. In general, you should follow the directions of your chosen pre-shampoo to see what amount is recommended per use. A dollop-sized amount or (one to two pumps) often goes a long way. Also make a note of the recommended application method, as some products might not be compatible with an oily scalp and should only be used on your lengths.

How often you should apply a pre-shampoo treatment will depend on your individual haircare needs and the product itself. Something like a hair mask or cream could be used before every shampoo, while a clarifying treatment should be limited to once every week or as needed to help keep your scalp feeling fresh and clean.

And when it comes to pre-wash hair oils, proceed with caution. Heavy butters and oils may be too thick to penetrate the hair shaft and are better suited for use in conditioners. If you do use a hair oil as a pre-shampoo treatment, be sure to properly rinse it thoroughly to avoid an overly-greasy mane.

FAQs About Pre-Shampoo Treatments

You asked, and we answered. Ahead, some insights into some frequently asked questions about pre-poo treatments.

Can pre-shampoo treatments replace regular conditioning?

While pre-poo treatments can offer similar benefits as conditioners, such as moisturizing your mane and detangling knots, they’re not meant to replace your regular conditioner. As mentioned, you can use a hair mask or conditioner as a pre-poo, but after shampooing, you should condition your strands again to lock in that moisture, especially since most shampoos can strip the hair of natural oils, causing dryness and tangles.

Are pre-shampoo treatments suitable for all hair types?

Pre-shampoo treatments can be a great addition to your haircare routine, regardless of your hair type. But while everyone can benefit from a pre-poo treatment, it’s not always necessary. Those with coily, textured hair may receive better payoffs from pre-poos as they help retain much-needed moisture, which this hair type often lacks.

Next Up: What Is Clarifying Shampoo—and Do You Need One in Your Haircare Routine?

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