If you’re like most naturals, you’ve probably heard about pre-poo treatments but aren’t quite sure what it is or why you should do it.
Many naturalistas swear by a pre poo routine for natural 4c hair, but what does this actually mean and why do they love it?
In this blog post, we will discuss what pre-poo for 4 c hair is, how it works, and why 4c natural hair needs it!
What Does It Mean To Pre Poo Natural Hair?
The term Pre-poo refers to a technique used by natural hair care enthusiasts for years to help retain moisture and promote healthy hair growth.
Typical pre poo for 4c hair treatments involve applying some form of oil or conditioner as a pre shampoo treatment.
Naturals use oil pre poo products like avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, argan oil, and/or coconut oil as a hair mask prior to the shampoo process.
I’ve even heard of some using butters, and other oils, to pre poo hair like mango butter, shea butter or castor oil as part of their wash day routine!
Whatever your pre poo oil of choice, the idea is to help add moisture to the hair, reduce and repair split ends, and help your regular conditioner work it’s magic.
The goal for most naturals, 4c in particular, is any treatment that promotes less breakage.
Our hair requires extra care and I, for one, am all in on a little trial that increases moisture.
What makes 4c Natural Hair Different?
Coily natural hair is very unique in that it is the most tightly curled hair strand on the curly hair spectrum.
The curl patterns for this type of natural hair can vary greatly, from cottony zig-zags to spring-like coils and everything in between.
4c hair, especially, is considered the most zig-zaggy and tightly packed of the bunch.
Coily hair is also susceptible to a variety of issues, such as dryness, frizz, and breakage making strands seem brittle.
Issues with type 4 curly hair retaining moisture can also cause hair loss.
It is essential to restore moisture to promote healthy hair growth and retain any length.
Coil come from hair follicles, which live in the scalp and grow our hair.
One of the reasons why coily natural hair is so prone to dryness and hair loss is due to the many twists and turns on coily hair strands.
Sebaceous glands, that produce sebum, surround hair follicles in the scalp.
Sebum is the natural hair oil that helps coat hair strands, protecting the scalp and hair from moisture loss.
The many coils and zig-zags make it difficult for this natural oil (sebum) to coat the hair and seal in moisture.
Fun Fact: Peer reviewed studies have also determined that excess sebum production contributes to the condition of acne vulgaris.
Science doesn’t know precisely what sebum’s main function is, but it is generally accepted that it has an important role in maintaining healthy hair and scalp.
Split ends are a common culprit when hair becomes dry and is one of the reasons we are unable to retain length.
When the hair shaft splits far enough, brittle hair ensues, causing tangling and hair damage.
If you have low porosity 4c hair, there is an extra struggle, to keep your coils hydrated by the scalp’s natural oil alone. (I know, it’s just not fair!).
A looser curl pattern allows for sebum to slide down easier from the scalp to the ends.
It that’s not enough, there is another factor to consider when discussing keeping 4c hair moisturized and that’s… porosity.
Hair porosity is an important factor to consider with any hair type, but it is particularly key to consider when talking about type 4’s and the struggles with keeping extra moisture in.
But what is is and how do you know what kind you have?
Hair Porosity and Why It Matters
All healthy hair has a natural protective barrier called the cuticle.
The hair cuticle is made up of overlapping scales that protect the inner cortex of the hair and look a lot like shingles on a roof or scales on a fish.
The cuticle helps to keep our hair strands adequately moisturized by sealing in water and preventing it from escaping.
A healthy cuticle layer lays somewhat flat against the strand and lifts when the pH is raised or heat is applied.
Lifting the cuticle layer from its flattened state can be a desired effect when shampooing and conditioning the hair.
It can also be intended when applying chemical treatments, like dyes or relaxers, to deposit the color, or alter the curl pattern.
When the cuticle is tightly flattened, products cannot get into the strand and can sit on top.
This makes it difficult for water or moisturizing agents to penetrate the hair, which can lead to product build-up on the strand.
Once products accumulate, they can further weigh down the hair cuticle, making it even harder for them to lift and allow moisture back in.
This vicious cycle continues and hair strands become dryer and dryer.
It is a common notion that coils on the kinkier curly spectrum are stronger than other hair types but this doesn’t appear to hold true.
This is evidenced by the common difficulties that we have with breakage and retaining length.
Other peer reviewed studies addressed the issue of hair breakage in patients of African descent and found the following:
“The physical and chemical properties of all human hair types are similar. However, there are distinct biological and structural differences in relation to Afro-textured hair. These include an elliptically shaped hair shaft, situated eccentrically within the follicular epithelium. It differs from the circular or slightly oval-shaped hair shaft of Caucasian hair. Also, there is the retrocurvature of the hair follicle, which is different from the straight shape of Caucasian follicles. Knot formation due to intertwined hair fibers makes combing difficult and predisposes the African hair to breakage during normal grooming. In addition, the African hair has a slower hair growth rate compared with Caucasian and Asian hair, and there is a reduced total hair density. As a result, African descent hair is more prone to develop knots, longitudinal fissures and splits along the hair shaft compared with the hair of Caucasian and Asian populations.”
(Source: Hair Breakage in Patients of African Descent: Role of Dermoscopy. Skin Appendage Disord. 2015 Sep; 1(2): 99–104. Maria Victória Quaresma,* María Abril Martinez Velasco, and Antonella Tosti; Published online 2015 Aug 18. doi: 10.1159/000436981)
As discussed in the article, coily hair types don’t tend to see the noticeable length retention as other hair textures due to physiological and genetic differences.
This further supports the argument for increasing levels of moisture and the state of your hair’s cuticle layer helps to play a big role in that.
Why Do Naturals Have Dry Hair?
As discussed previously, our hair’s unique pattern contributes to it being challenged with not retaining moisture.
If you also have low porosity hair, this can make it even more difficult.
The cuticles on low porosity hair are tightly closed, or lay very flat against the hair shaft, keeping moisture in (which is good) but also making it harder for moisture to penetrate (which is bad).
The key is to lift the cuticles to allow hydration in and then allow them to close so that the hair strand stays moisturized.
A good pre-poo treatment helps combat this issue by applying a light layer of oil or conditioner to the hair before shampooing.
Oils create a barrier between harsh cleansing agents in shampoo and your delicate strands.
Applying conditioner before your shampoo, followed by a plastic cap, can help the cuticles lift enough for the conditioner to penetrate the strands.
It also helps to add much-needed moisture to low porosity hair, which can be difficult to do otherwise.
If you want to know what type of porosity you have, you can try these methods:
Comb hair and use shed hair strands to test. Drop them into some water and see if they stay floating at the top. If they do, this means the water is not getting into the strand and, therefore, cannot sink to the bottom of the glass
Pay attention to how quickly your hair dries after shampoo. If your hair dries quickly, you may have low porosity hair. Damp hair, that lasts long after the shower or shampoo, typically indicates a high porosity state.
Pre Poo Treatment For 4c Hair
Now that we know what a pre poo treatment is, we can talk about how to do them.
If you have low porosity 4c hair, you know that a deep conditioner is an absolute must!
A good deep conditioner helps nourish, strengthen and moisturize your hair, improving elasticity, which can help reduce breakage.
Your conditioner not only helps combat dryness and promote less breakage, but it can also be used as your pre-poo.
Earlier in the post, I provided some examples of popular pre poos that many naturals swear by, but there are other treatments that can be added to the best pre poo list.
We will look at how to get the most out of a pre poo treatment, how to develop your best pre poo routine and which pre shampoo product would be right for you.
Start your pre poo treatments off right
Your pre poo routine doesn’t need to be complicated or take a long time.
Pre-poos should be simple and only take 15-20 minutes of your wash day activity.
If you have dry hair, you may need to try different pre poo products to find which ones work best for you.
Start with damp hair and apply light oils, like Jojoba or Sweet Almond, to your hair on wash day.
Mist your hair with water and apply a plastic cap for 10-20 minutes pre shampoo.
The extra moisture from the water spritz will be locked in by the oil treatment and will work as a light hair mask that won’t weigh down your hair.
Gently massage the oil into your hair before applying the cap and do other things while your hair soaks in all of the goodness.
Another alternative is to do a pre shampoo hot oil treatment. Warm your oil before applying to your hydrated strands and massage into the hair.
Use warm water when spritzing your coils as this will help lift the cuticles.
Coconut milk, olive oil, coconut oil and/or avocado oil all make for good treatment. I use a combination of avocado oil, jojoba oil and coconut oil in my pre poo and my hair soaks it up.
Allow the oils to sit long enough to get into the hair and then shampoo.
If your hair is dry because your scalp doesn’t produce enough sebum, applying oils can help give your natural oils a much needed boost.
I personally wouldn’t recommend using heavier butters on low porosity hair.
Butters like mango butter can weigh the cuticles down which goes against what we are trying to do.
Butters are oils that are solid at room temperature, but the heaviness of the butters can be counterproductive to our goal.
You’ll want to choose an oil that is light. The goal of pre pooing is to prepare your hair for shampoo.
You’re not looking to try and lock in moisture if you are using an oil for pre pooing.
What is the goal of pre pooing?
Your goal with an oil pre poo is to protect the hair strands from the harsh detergent effects of shampoo when your hair tends to be really dry.
Jojoba oil is a good choice as it is most closely like our natural oils, sebum.
It is also light enough to massage into your scalp without the added risk of clogging the hair follicles.
Olive oil is a natural hair fave pre poo but is heavier than jojoba so use with caution.
Really heavy oils, like castor oil, is not something I would personally recommend for low porosity 4c hair. I
t may be a good one to try if you have dry hair due high porosity.
Some have love/hate relationships with coconut oil and I tend to skew more on the side of caution.
Coconut oil smells amazing and has many benefits for hair.
It is full of fatty acids that hair loves and some say it is great for adding luster, taming frizz, relieving dandruff, and as a heat protectant.
Coconut oil is a go-to for naturals as a pre poo or conditioning mask. Try it for a few weeks as your pre poo and see how your hair responds.
You can also use your conditioner as a pre poo agent.
In similar treatment, you would apply your conditioner to your hair before the shampoo process.
Check your conditioner’s directions to see how long you should leave on the hair before rinsing out.
Letting your conditioner sit on your coils as your pre poo, longer than recommended, does not yield any added benefit and in some cases, damages your hair if done all the time.
When using a conditioner as your pre poo treatments, the goal is for moisturizing.
You should wet hair when applying your conditioner and allow to sit as recommended on the instructions.
Pre pooing can be an easy and beneficial addition to your wash day routine.
4c hair can especially benefit from pre pooing to protect from the harshness of shampoos or to add extra moisture before the shampoo.
Choosing the right products for pre pooing will depend on how your hair responds to different oils or conditioners.
A little trial and error is sometimes necessary to find out what our coils really like and need to flourish.
So what are you waiting for? Give pre-pooing a try today!
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