“A pre-shampoo treatment is designed to address a specific hair goal to boost your results prior to cleansing,” says Huffnagle. “Treatments are typically applied on either wet or dry hair and can be an oil, a hair or scalp mask, or a heavier conditioner, etc. These can soften, detangle, deeply hydrate, address scalp concerns, or even repair hair with repeated use. They’re a great way to really elevate your wash routine.”
By targeting the hair before shampooing, Huffnagle says the hair has the opportunity to absorb all of the nutrients and/or active ingredients from the pre-shampoo mask without disruption.
“Once [the mask has] processed, the corresponding shampoo and conditioner will be pH balanced to cleanse any excess residue from the mask and seal in all of its goodness,” she says. “With a post-shampoo mask, hair is typically cleansed beforehand, then we apply the mask and rinse, [meaning you might still] feel a lot of the residue still on your hair when shampooing [when you rinse it out].”
Everyone is different, and whether you prefer pre-shampoo treatments or post-shampoo treatments is up to you and the needs of your hair.
“I prefer a pre-shampoo mask because I know my hair concerns have been targeted and my hair is thoroughly cleansed and conditioned,” says Huffnagle. “And jumping back into the shower to rinse my hair again is never my thing!”
Shop different pre-shampoo treatments below.
Pre-shampoo treatments for scalp care
This scalp scrub uses an AHA-BHA acid blend that breaks down and dissolves dead skin cells and product buildup, while biodegradable exfoliating beads sweep them away. Watch What the Wellness host Ella Dove test it out:
Shop now: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub, $36
This intensive pre-wash treatment helps restore balance to your scalp, based on your individual scalps needs.
Shop now: Prose Custom Pre-Shampoo Scalp Mask, $38
This scalp oil invigorates, clarifies, and exfoliates your scalp while absorbing dirt and buildup. This helps give your hair a silky feel and smooth look.
Shop now: Amika Reset Charcoal Detoxifying Scalp Cleansing Oil, $25
Pre-shampoo treatments for deep cleaning
While many love this bentonite clay mask for skin, it’s great to use occasionally on textured hair. “I’m a huge fan of the bentonite clay mask for hair,” says Huffnagle. “It’s just how I detox and clarify more so than using a very stripping shampoo.” When mixed with apple cider vinegar (and potentially water, honey, or oil—depends on what recipe you like) it becomes a great hair mask. You know it’s time to clarify, she says, when you feel like the product you put on your hair isn’t really penetrating.
Shop now: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, $15
If you’ve got a really oily scalp, consider using this L’Oreal mask. It absorbs oil at the roots to get your hair super clean.
Shop now: L’Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Clay Pre-Shampoo Mask, $7
Pre-shampoo treatments for strengthening
Enriched with a nourishing blend of oils, butters, and extracts, this reparative hair mask strengthens and deep conditions damaged hair.
Shop now: R+Co Palm Springs Pre-Shampoo Treatment Masque, $32
Vernon François, celebrity hairstylist and founder of his eponymous haircare line, loves this treatment. “Philip Kingsley’s Elasticizer has always been a favorite of mine because it’s great for adding elasticity, bounce, and shine to kinks and curls,” says François. Use this product before you shampoo to improve your hair’s tensile strength and moisture retention.
Shop now: Philip Kingsley Elasticizer, $49
Olaplex No. 3, $28
Stylists everywhere love this treatment from Olaplex. The weekly treatment strengthens hair from within and reduces breakage. Apply to damp hair and let it sit for at least 10 minutes, then shampoo and condition. Pair with the Olaplex No. 4 Shampoo ($28) and No. 5 Conditioner ($28) for the full effect.
Shop now: Olaplex No. 3, $28
This pre-shampoo, fiber-renewing conditioner helps to strengthen fine and medium hair by forming a protective film to shield hair fibers from further damage.
Shop now: Kérastase Resistance Pre-Shampoo Conditioner, $42
Pre-shampoo treatments for moisturizing
Packed with Australian kakadu plum oil and safflower oil, this multitasking oil makes a great pre-shampoo treatment. Just apply it for at least two hours before you shampoo. Founder Maeva Heim says when she uses it as a pre-wash, she’s usually able to cleanse and then skip her deep conditioning mask.
Shop now: Bread Beauty Supply Hair Oil Everyday Gloss, $24
Since this mask, like all Prose products, is 100-percent customizable to your needs, it could really fit under any of these categories. But, I put it here because my personal Prose mask contains the moisture fix formula.
Shop now: Prose Custom Pre-Shampoo Hair Mask, $38
This mask deeply nourishes your hair while strengthening the cuticle from the inside out. It also provides deep hydration to strengthen your hair without weighing it down.
Shop now: Oribe Gold Lust Pre-Shampoo Moisture Treatment, $68
This mask is my go-to for detangling my curly wig from Coco Bliss and Beauty. It contains coconut water and aloe vera to help soften your hair and make detangling 100 times easier.
Shop now: African Pride Pre-Shampoo, $5
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