The Secret To Stunning Hair: Everything You Need To Know About Pre-Shampoo Treatments

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Written by Georgia Gould

Updated: April 6, 2024

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image via @hairstorystudio

Just when you thought you’d nailed your hair care routine with the perfect shampoo and conditioner combo, weekly hair mask and some choice styling must-haves, along comes another hair product to add to your line-up of shine-inducing, moisture-quenching hair favorites. Say hello to pre-shampoo treatments. 

Now, if the thought of adding something else to your hair regime fills you with very little joy, bear with us because pre-shampoos can make or break the look, feel and health of your locks. Just ask anyone with Afro or extremely textured hair—they’ve likely been enjoying their moisturizing benefits for many years.

Pre-shampoo treatments, or pre-poos if you prefer, come in various guises – serums, oils, sprays and creams – and they’re applied to your hair before shampooing (yeah, no kidding!). So what’s the point, we hear you ask?

Well, pre-poos can be formulated to do many things but the most common treatments work to protect and hydrate the hair, deep clean, exfoliate your scalp, or inject shine into sad locks. Think about those times after a sweaty session at the gym or when you’ve stretched out your second-day hair to fourth day hair and it really needs a dang good wash. A deep cleansing, clarifying pre-poo is great for such occasions.

They’re also ideal for super dry hair that needs major help in the moisturizing department. And they’re way easier than conditioning hair masks which often require you to jump out of the shower for 10 minutes and then back in again. Yawn.

Convinced and feel like adding a little pre-poo to your weekly routine? Then read on for our favorite formulations for all hair types and concerns.

#1. The Rootist Pre-Shampoo AHA-ACV Pre-Shampoo Scalp Clarifying Rinse

Great For: Removing Product Build-Up

We’re big fans of The Rootist for its vegan, cruelty-free range of hair saviors. And this pre-shampoo scalp treatment is a true gem for sweeping away all traces of dirt, oil and styling product build-up without screwing up the balance or integrity of your delicate scalp.

Awesome for all hair types, it’s gentle, but packs a real punch thanks to glycolic and lactic acids, apple cider vinegar (ACV) and the brand’s proprietary Rootbiomic Ferment, a multivitamin superfood that works hard to strengthen the roots of your hair. 

#2. Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Deep Conditioning Treatment

Great For: Dry, Lackluster Hair

An award-winning cult classic, this pre-shampoo treatment has been around longer than we can remember and it’s probably what most of the newer generation formulations base themselves upon. If not, it should be!


The dos and don’ts of using a pre-shampoo mask’ ❌✅ This should be one of the main focuses in your weekly routine & the Elasticizer Deep Conditioning Pre-Shampoo Treatment from @Philip Kingsley has just the right pre-shampoo mask to define your curls and reduce frizz🔥 Use my code DAVIANA15 to shop yours at #philipkingsleypartner #preshampoopower #lifechanginghair #fyp #prepoo #haircare #haircareroutine #healthyhairtips #hairtutorial #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlyhairroutine

♬ HOT & SPICY SALSA – Jaycee Mante

Created by world-renowned trichologist, Philip Kingsley, it’s the perfect antidote to crispy, straw-like hair and has been clinically proven to reduce breakage by 46% after just one use thanks to hair-loving ingredients like olive oil, castor oil and hydrolyzed elastin. So, that’s why one of these bad boys sells every minute. Penny drops.

#3. Prose Custom Pre-Shampoo Hair Mask

Great For: Whatever You Desire!

Ten years ago the thought of custom-creating your own personalized hair and beauty routine was crazy talk. Now, thanks to forward-thinking companies like Prose, you can pretty much get any product built to suit your exact needs.

And one such product is this pre-shampoo mask which, depending on your hair type, habits, goals and even your zip code, can be blended with everything from hyaluronic acid and jojoba oils through to mango butter and silk proteins. Say hello to healthier hair, with zero trial and error required.

#4. R+Co Gemstone Pre-Shampoo Color Protect Masque

Great For: Color-Processed Hair

There’s no better feeling than freshly colored hair. But the truth is, color-processing is hella bad on your hair, stripping away moisture and making your hair dull, dry, porous and brittle. Of course, there are plenty of products out there that work hard to reduce damage, inject moisture and help your color last.

But if you’re looking for more than a killer shampoo and conditioner double act you’d be smart to try this lightweight, foam-to-cream pre-shampoo masque. Specifically formulated to protect your color and rescue damaged hair, it’s also sulfate-, phthalate- and gluten-free. Very nice. 

#5. Vegamour Gro+ Advanced Scalp Detoxifying Serum

Great For: An Irritated Scalp

Soothing and protecting, this is your go-to pre-poo for injecting moisture back into a stressed, compromised scalp. A favorite of some of the country’s top hairstylists, it cleans, balances and clarifies the scalp with ingredients like zinc PCA and a proprietary vegan silk, while broad-spectrum CBD helps to calm the scalp, eliminate harmful bacteria and reduce inflammation.

What’s more, it only needs to be left on for five minutes, making it a shoo-in for those busy mornings when you barely have time to brush your teeth let alone pre-poo your hair! It also gets extra stars for smelling divine (although not overpowering) and being super easy to apply. 

#6. Kitsch Strengthening Hair & Scalp Oil with Rosemary & Biotin

Great For: Fine or Thinning Hair

Biotin is one of those ingredients that hair people love. And for good reason. A water-soluble B vitamin, biotin is thought to encourage healthy hair growth by improving circulation to the scalp and strengthening your hair follicles.

Thanks to its various antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, rosemary oil has also been linked to healthier, thicker hair. Put them together and what have you got? This fabulous, Leaping Bunny-approved pre-poo oil which nourishes your scalp and amps up your hair without weighing it down.

#7. Kérastase Première Decalcifying System Reparative Pre-Shampoo Treatment

Great For: Weak, Damaged Hair

Kérastase has long been a salon favorite and this concentrated pre-shampoo does not disappoint. Created to remove persistent calcium build-up from your shower water – because, yes, that’s a thing – studies show that the treatment’s super-powered combination of citric acid and glycine works hard to restore up to 99% of your hair’s strength, leaving it with 93% less breakage and 75% more shine.

Now they’re the kind of numbers we can totally get on board with. Full disclosure, this one’s not cheap but, honestly? You won’t begrudge one dollar.

#8. Color Wow Curl Snag-Free Pre-Shampoo Detangler

Great For: Caring For Curls

Anyone with curly hair can relate to the struggle of knotty locks you can barely rake your fingers through… let alone some kind of brush or comb. Sure serums and hair oils can do the trick, helping you to reduce damage as you style your curls, but this pre-shampoo detangler is also kind of a big deal.


I had to try this pre-shampoo from @Color Wow Hair because I’ve never used anything like it! #curlyhairhacks #curlyhairroutine #howtogrowcurlyhair

♬ Hip Hop with impressive piano sound(793766) – Dusty Sky

It blends a veritable menagerie of hair-loving ingredients like coconut oil, pracaxi oil, glycerin and castor oil to add moisture, slip and shine to curly locks, thus helping you style your hair without getting in a tangly old mess. TikTokers can’t seem to get enough of it. Neither can we.

#9. Amika Reset Pink Charcoal Scalp Cleansing Oil

Great For: Oily Hair

This oil-to-foam, weekly treatment is undeniably great for all hair types but we particularly love it for de-gunking a greasy scalp and mopping up unwanted, excess oils. So, if you’re looking to hit that reset button on your oily hair and scalp, this is your guy.

Utilizing the powers of pink clay and charcoal it’s a genius-in-a-bottle for soaking up impurities, sebum, styling product and toxins. And it does all this without stripping all the life from your scalp. Which is no mean feat, let us tell you. The packaging is also super cute which we definitely don’t hate.

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