Hair (general), Hair Challenge, My Evolving Hair Care and Styling Techniques

[ALove4Me EHGC] Defining the What, Why, and How of Prepooing to Set Yourself Up for a Breezy Wash-and-Style Day

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This week Achia, host of the ALove4Me Extreme Hair Growth Challenge, shared why and how she prepoos. She shared a resource to help participants choose tasks and actions they might want to take before applying cleanser to their strands.

Years ago when I first learned of the practice of prepooing, this was my reaction:

I’ll interpret this face for you, LOL:

Sooooooooooo . . . wash day for us naturalistas is already 50-11 hours long, and now we gotta do WHAT?!?? Prepoo? To protect from what now? Hygral fatigue?!?? Is that even really a real THING? Is this EXTRA step going to require additional PRODUCT? ‘Cause, you know . . . Ioknow (I don’t know) . . .

LOL. 😛 Years later, I am now a proponent of prepooing, but not so much to protect from hygral fatigue which I’ve come to believe might not be very common for those of us who are not constantly wetting our hair or are not deep conditioning overnight. I’m a proponent of prepooing-AND-DETANGLING . . . because I lose way less hair on wash day if I prepoo AND DETANGLE before allowing any cleanser to hit my strands. (I explain this in detail below.) If I don’t prepoo, not only do I get more breakage on wash-and-style day, but it introduces an unnecessary amount of stress to wash-and-style day at multiple stages of the day. Wash day goes so much better for me if I prepoo and detangle. So much better.

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What Exactly Is Prepooing?

Because “pre” means before and “poo” refers to shampooing, it stands to reason that prepooing is something that folks do prior to cleansing their hair. Specifically, prepooing is the process of applying oil and/or conditioner to the hair prior to cleansing it.

There are all sorts of ways to prepoo: Some people prefer to use coconut oil or a coconut oil mix as their prepoo, because coconut oil is supposed to reduce breakage and protect the hair’s cuticles. Some people prepoo with a different oil or oil mix. Some people prefer to use rinse-out conditioner or deep conditioner as their prepoo, typically for the conditioner’s detangling properties. Some people use a combination of oil and conditioner. Some people leave their prepoo of choice on their hair overnight, some people leave their prepoo on for 30 minutes to a few hours, and some people steam their prepoo into their hair.

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Why Do People Prepoo (Is Hygral Fatigue Real, Though???)

People prepoo for a variety of reasons. Please check out the article and video linked below in this section. Both are brief yet extremely informative. Basically, some people prepoo so that their hair doesn’t feel stripped from using shampoo. Others prepoo in order to protect their hair from hygral fatigue. (Please see THIS HYGRAL FATIGUE ARTICLE and THIS HYGRAL FATIGUE ARTICLE for a great understanding of hygral — not hydral, but hygral — fatigue and how to prevent or address it.) Others prepoo in order to increase the pliability of their hair before detangling it — in order to prevent breakage during detangling and shampooing.



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Why and How I Prepoo

I’ve tried skipping prepooing. When I do, I sustain more breakage, lose more hair, and struggle during detangling, washing, treating, and styling. For me, prepooing entails more than just applying my choice of prepoo, the Shea Moisture High Porosity Moisture Correct Masque. I use the verb “prepoo” to mean elongating my hair for easy strand separation, applying the prepoo, finger detangling the ends and roots, and steaming in the prepoo. Those are the prepooing steps I take before I detangle my hair with the Felicia Leatherwood detangling brush and then apply cleanser to my sectioned hair.

I prepoo for the following two reasons:

  1. I prepoo in order to drastically reduce damage to my hair during detangling, especially damage to my ends.
  2. I prepoo so that my hair stays detangled and easy to handle at EVERY step of wash-and-style-day. This means that the tension on the hair that comes from detangling is drastically reduced throughout the entire process, because I’m not repeatedly detangling tangly hair. It was detangled at step 1 and stays relatively detangled.

In a nutshell, my goal with prepooing is to avoid having tangly hair after shampooing . . . hair that I then have to brush out while (1) tangly and clingy, (2) wet and thus shrunken, and (3) not the most slippery. That’s a lot undesirable tension to be unnecessarily placing on the hair, and my fine hair doesn’t sustain that type of tension well. It just gradually breaks over time with repeat of that type of handling. I’m glad I discovered prepooing because it makes a huge difference in the amount of hair the ends up in my brush. 😀 I’ve come to realize: With prepooing, my wash day routine is essentially a modified condition-wash-condition routine, which is nothing new and more than worth the effort. 🙂

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Products and Tools I Use for Prepooing

  1. Shea Moisture High Porosity Moisture Correct Masque
  2. Spray bottle of water
  3. Fingers for finger detangling
  4. Hair scissors (for clipping resistant knots)
  5. 8 tiny claw clips
  6. Optional: Hair steamer (not shown; uses distilled water)
  7. Felicia Leatherwood Detangling Brush
  8. Optional: Small Ouchless Goody Updo Barrettes (not shown; to section hair before shampooing)

Steps to My Prepoo Method

  1. Starting out on dry hair (the “old,” previous hairstyle), section off a medium to large section of hair. If the hair is pretty pliable, gently elongate the hair while still dry (this stretches out the hair before shrinkage-causing water or product hits it . . . in such a way as to make strand separation easier, less likely to result in inadvertently tying a knot into the hair, and less likely to cause breakage and damage).
  2. Still as yet to have applied water to the section, apply a liberal amount of your “prepoo” product of choice to the section’s ends, and work the product up to the roots. I let my prepoo hit my strands before plain water does, in order to help prevent hygral fatigue. However, as a masque, my prepoo of choice contains water as its first ingredient. This likely means that it is less a defense against hygral fatigue than a penetrating oil would be.
  3. Spray the product-laden section with warm water, and work the prepoo further into the section’s strands. Add more prepoo to the section’s ends if the ends are not SUPER slippery.
  4. Finger detangle the section’s ends, finger detangle the section’s roots, and then separate the hair generally, in that order. I use the peel-and-shingle method to finger detangle my ends (see video at the end of this post), and it’s been a detangling GAME CHANGER for me. This method entails fully elongating the strands BEFORE pulling them apart. This just makes so much sense: Just like it would be easier to separate 5 (straight) drinking straws from one other than to separate 5 (coily) Slinkies from one another, it’s easier to separate elongated strands from one another.
  5. Because you are using your fingers to separate (detangle) your strands, you can feel knots. Most knots should be detangle-able. However, use dedicated hair sheers (and not plain scissors, no matter how sharp), to cut out any knots that just won’t come out. Snapping off knots by pulling them off or cutting them off with regular scissors results in ends that are ready to tangle again really easily. Cutting knots off with sharp, dedicated hair sheers creates ends that are clean and smooth and way more resistant to tangling.
  6. Once finger detangled and de-knotted, chunky twist up the section and use a tiny claw clip (or bobby pin) to clip or pin the twist to the top of the head in preparation for steaming.
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 for the remaining sections of hair. I usually end up with 7 or 8 sections, but when my hair was shorter, I would typically end up with 10 sections.
  8. Optional: Steam the pinned up twists for 15-30 minutes.
  9. Further detangle each section from the bottom of the section up to the roots (I gently use the Felicia Leatherwood brush held vertically and then horizontally). OPTIONAL: Section of each hair section at the root with a barrette along the way to maintain the separate sections. (NOTE: For me, working in sections throughout wash-and-style day prevents tangles and makes product application easier.)

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The Oft-forgotten Component: Managing Subliminal Messages and Emotions about “SHOULD’s” on Wash-and-Style Day

If you’ve been in the natural hair community for any length of time, chances are you’ve encountered natural hair “Nazis” and the other judgmental natural hair “experts” who “should” and “shame” you to death about every detail of your natural hair and its care. Sometimes it’s almost like you can’t do ANYTHING right. You say you brush your hair? You don’t love yourself. You finger detangle only? Why do you hate your hair so much that you would leave shed hair in your mane to derail your progress like that? I mean, there’s NO WINNING with some of the folks in the natural hair community. Not only do these people feel they are experts on THEIR OWN HAIR or regarding natural hair IN GENERAL, but they are experts on YOUR HAIR without ever having seen or touched your hair, much less managed it for years like you and/or your stylist have.

I say all of that to say this: If you opt to prepoo, your wash day won’t be as concise as demands the “wash-day-must-be-as-simple-and-concise-as-possible” faction of the natural hair “Nazis.” I’d like to interject a couple of sentiments about that. First, if you have very fine hair . . . meaning each individual strand of your hair is (naturally) thin . . . then taking extra time to handle your hair gently might be important for health and retention. You might not be able to brush through your hair as quickly and non-gently as folks with coarser hair can. Sometimes the people advising you really don’t understand what it’s like to NOT HAVE AND HANDLE THEIR type of hair.

Handling my hair extremely gently is really not optional, and I learned that the hard way. I let a stylist loud-talk-judge me into making me feel like I should be able to detangle my hair in the shower under running water in 15 minutes or less. I also let a fairly knowledgeable person’s statement that “people who take a long time to detangle their hair are just doing THE MOST” have me subconsciously RACING the clock while detangling my hair.

Why? Is it a race? I want to be efficient on wash-and-style day, yes. But not at the expense of my hair’s health. I don’t have coarse strands of steel like some folks do. My fine hair is very dense, so it tangles and re-tangles easily. I need to take my time detangling it, and that’s just the way it is.

I take comfort from the video below: This YouTuber spends an hour once a week — JUST ONCE in 7 days — detangling her hair. In this manner, after 3 months she grew back AND RETAINED all of the inches she’d cut. AND THE KEY THING?: Her hair was virtually free of split ends after the three months. She may be “DOING THE MOST” according to some folks, but she’s also retaining the most. I’m just sayin’.

So, if you don’t need to prepoo, godspeed! Please save that time and do something valuable with it. However, if you do benefit from prepooing and/or it takes awhile for you to detangle your hair, please be at peace. It’s okay! You don’t have to handle your hair the way YouTubers or anyone else does. It’s YOUR hair. You know the level of gentleness your hair requires. Please stand confidently in the hard-won knowledge YOU have gained from investing in and caring for your hair.

Peel-and-Shingle Method of Detangling the Hair

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Do You Prepoo, or Nah?

Do you prepoo, or have you found that you can do without it? If you do prepoo, why, how, and what products and tools do you use? Please sound off the comments! I’d love to hear your take.

As always, thank you so much for visiting. I hope this post was informative or helpful in some way.

Until next time . . .

Many blessings,

Yvette ❤


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