Hair-Care Tips

Pre-Shampoo Treatments To Help You Get the Most Out of Your Next Wash Day

Kara Jillian Brown

Photo: Getty Images/Moyo Studio
I love a good hair mask. Because I have extremely dry hair, I always turn to deep conditioning masks, sometimes leaving them on overnight. A step that can make my hair even happier? Pre-shampoo treatments. If you feel like you’d just be washing all the goodness down the drain when you shampoo, Faith Huffnagle, director of education at Prose, a custom hair brand, explains that’s not the case.

“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

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub, $36

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub

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

Prose Custom Pre-Shampoo Scalp Mask, $38

Prose Custom Pre-Shampoo Scalp Mask, pre-shampoo treatments

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

Amika Reset Charcoal Detoxifying Scalp Cleansing Oil, $25

Amika Reset Charcoal Detoxifying Scalp Cleansing Oil

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

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, $15

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, pre-shampoo treatments

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

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Clay Pre-Shampoo Mask, $7

L'Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Clay Pre-Shampoo Mask

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

R+Co Palm Springs Pre-Shampoo Treatment Masque, $32

R+Co Palm Springs Pre-Shampoo Treatment Masque

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

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer, $49

Philip Kingsley ElasticizerVernon 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

Olaplex No. 3, pre-shampoo treatmentsStylists 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

Kérastase Resistance Pre-Shampoo Conditioner, $42

Kérastase Resistance Pre-Shampoo Conditioner

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

Bread Beauty Supply Hair Oil Everyday Gloss, $24

Bread Beauty Supply Hair Oil Everyday Gloss, pre-shampoo treatments

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

Prose Custom Pre-Shampoo Hair Mask, $38

Prose Custom Pre-Shampoo Hair Mask

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

Oribe Gold Lust Pre-Shampoo Moisture Treatment, $68

Oribe Gold Lust Pre-Shampoo Moisture Treatment

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

African Pride Pre-Shampoo, $5

African Pride Pre-Shampoo

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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