How To Pre-treat Your Hair
If you have a tough time trying to splice deep-conditioning into your schedule, or feel your hair needs a boost on top of all the time you put in deep conditioning, there's an underused haircare technique that might be the perfect fit. Pretreating, also known as preconditioning, means carrying out the deep-conditioning step before you wash your hair, rather than (or in addition to) afterwards. As pretreatments are usually left on for longer, and are typically applied on dry hair, they are an especially potent way to tackle some of the most persistent hair problems, from growth, to breakage, to scalp issues. Try them if you are pressed for time, but still want to commit to taking care of your hair, or if your routine could do with some added firepower.
Here's how to get started:
Choose your product: Select a product specifically designed for pretreating the hair, or opt for a pure vegetable oil. Test the product beforehand on a small area overnight to get an idea of the effect on your hair before you apply it all over.
Start with dry hair: Applying a pretreatment on dry hair means you avoid the diluting effect which happens every time you do a treatment straight after washing your hair. While the dilution caused by the water still in your wet hair actually enhances moisturizing treatments, and helps some products to be applied more evenly, it can limit the effect of some strengthening treatments. Water also takes up space inside the strand when the hair is wet, space that could be used for conditioning, especially on less-absorbent hair types.
How to Apply a Pretreatment
Because the product is being applied on dry hair, you have to take extra steps to make sure it is distributed thoroughly so every strand of your hair can benefit.
Step 1: Separate your hair gently, using your fingers only, into 8-10 sections. These smallish sections will allow you to get better coverage of your hair, as well as minimising the stress on your strands that would come from trying to apply the product to dry hair in large sections.
Step 2: Smooth the product on and work it into your tresses. Be sure to coat the hair well, from root to tip. Don't be too sparing, especially the first time. Apply the product generously and allow your hair to take what it needs. Use the amount it has taken up at the end of the pretreatment to gauge how much to apply in future.
Step 3: Cover with a satin cap and allow the pretreatment to slowly work its goodness into your hair.
Leave it in overnight:
Many experts point to the fact that most modern conditioners are designed to work quasi-instantly and state that there's no reason to leave it in. However, if you have low porosity, heavily textured hair, then your hair will need added time to soak up the product compared to the “standard” hair used in the efficacy testing carried out on these products. The more textured and the less porous your hair is, the more time it requires to absorb product, so a pretreatment is best left on for as long as possible before rinsing. Leaving the product on the hair for so long has the added advantage of allowing it to circulate through the hair more effectively, making sure every strand is covered. Overnight is ideal, but if you would like a shorter conditioning time, you can also leave it in for as little as 2 hours, depending on how long it takes for the ingredients to soak well into the cuticle.
Rinse it out with warm water: Get the excess out under a flow of warm water. Next, apply shampoo or conditioner to the hair as usual. Since you've already deep conditioned your hair, you can feel free to skip the deep conditioning phase. Or, to maximise conditioning power, you can go on to deep treat and condition.
How often? You can pretreat as often as you wash your hair. To get quicker results over a short period, you can alter your wash routine to accommodate nightly or every-other-nightly pretreatments. Once your hair reaches a satisfactory condition, you can cutback on the treatments, perhaps down to once a week, but don't cut them out completely, especially if you are trying to hold on to hair that has been thermally or chemically traumatised.
How soon will I see results? This will vary according to your hair's unique inherent characteristics and the condition that it is in. The nightly/every other night treatment usually turns out very quick results for breakage issues or shedding, with many reporting improvement after only a few treatments. For longer term goals like length, results should usually be observable over the course of a few months, particularly if you are doing a single weekly pretreatment.
DHA Hair Care Experts