Pre-Poo Before Shampoo: Technically Speaking

Our post today will address a question from “Ask the Chemist.” J. D. asked the following question:

Hi Joe,
I have been do hot oil pre-poos most of the summer using castor, olive, and coconut oil combination sitting under dryer with plastic for 30-45 minutes. I have noticed lately when I wet hair to shampoo, my hair feels straw-like. A moisturizing sulfate-free shampoo does not coat hair enough. Once I apply conditioner, my hair seems fine. Should I start looking for another shampoo? Please advise.

This is an excellent question that, especially since it allows me to address pre-pooing.


All About Pre-Pooing

Let’s start with the pre poo.  The purpose of a pre-poo is to give your hair elasticity and suppleness.  When you apply oils to the hair and add heat (remember to use low to medium heat), you are doing two things: (1) lifting the cuticle, and (2) making the oils less viscous.  This allows the oils to penetrate the cortex of the hair.  Now when you follow up with shampooing your hair, you will cool the hair back down and consequently, seal the cuticles and trap the moisture from the pre-poo and the water from washing your hair.

Now having said that, olive and coconut oils are great for pre-pooing because they are rich in oleic acid, which will give your hair elasticity and suppleness.   Elasticity and suppleness prevents breakage and drives healthy hair.


About Castor Oil

You should limit the amount of castor oil.  Remember oils are composed of essential fatty acids.  Castor oil is rich in a ricinoleic acid, which will coat the hair and give it softness and sheen; however soft, shiny hair is not indicative of healthy hair.  To give you and example, think silicone-it makes the hair soft and shiny, but it does not make the hair healthy. Therefore, castor oil is not the best choice for a pre-pooing; however it is an excellent styling agent.


All About Shampoo

Continue using non SLS shampoos.  They are far less aggressive at removing your hair’s natural lipids (oils) than a traditional SLS shampoo.  Using a SLS shampoo will defeat the purpose of pre pooing your hair because SLS is a harsh de-greasing detergent that is actually used at car washes to get rid of oil. So you definitely would not want to get rid of all the oil in your hair.

To address your question about how the shampoo will condition and moisturize your hair- when formulating, I tend to stay away from coco betaine due to conflicting studies on skin irritation and toxicity.   Look for shampoos with decyl glucoside. It is a great surfactant that will cleanse without stripping the hair.   In our Hydration Supreme Moisturizing Shampoo, we use a blend of decyl glucoside and sodium lauroyl lactylate.  This blend has an Eco cert.  It also has superior foaming and moisturizing/conditioning properties.

Finally, look out for excessive amounts of protein.  The comment about your hair feeling like straw might indicate that your hair has too much protein.  Proteins are found in oils, shampoos and conditioners so please read your labels.

Hope this helps,


Email Hoax or the Truth- Does Your Liptstick Contain Lead?

As of May 2003, an email hoax has been circulating through cyber world and claiming that lipsticks contain harmful amounts of lead. However, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, this rumor is anything but an urban legend. The campaign for safe cosmetics tested 33 popular brands of lipsticks in 2007 and the results were frighteningly conclusive-61% of the lipsticks had lead levels of .65 parts per million. To put this in perspective, there is no safe lead level for anyone-especially when it comes to children. When children are exposed to very low levels of lead, there is an association with neurodevelopmental deficits. Unfortunately, girls are exposed to this harmful heavy metal when they begin to experiment with makeup, and young toddlers are exposed when they innocently play with their mother’s lipstick. Even unborn children are at risk of being exposed to lead in lipstick because when pregnant women wear lead contaminated lipstick, it crosses the placenta. ABC news featured an article two years ago that suggested that pregnant women should be extra aware of lead contaminated products. The article goes on to say that pregnant women should actually consult with their doctors when deciding which cosmetic products to use. Why is there so much hype about lead?

Have we been Lead Astray?

Lead, a proven neurotoxin, builds up in the body over time and causes learning disorders, language and behavioral problems, a lower IQ, and it increases aggression. In pregnant women, it can lead to a miscarriage and future infertility. Cosmetic companies are aware of these toxicology reports, so why do they continue to add lead to their lipsticks?

Colorants used in lipsticks could contain lead or lead can enter into the product during the manufacturing process. Sometimes when products are made, the raw materials can combine with each other and produce a harmful by product such as lead. With regards to lipstick, zinc, titanium dioxide, mineral wax and paraffin’s, and mineral oil, when mixed together, could produce a byproduct such as lead. While this situation looks dire, there is hope.

Fortunately, there are lipstick brands on the market that do not contain lead. However, you will not find this information on the ingredients list. So before you buy a particular lipstick, it would be wise to call the lipstick company’s customer service line and ask if lead is in that product. In addition, it would be beneficial to tell the company’s rep that you would like a lead free lipstick and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Companies might start out on the wrong foot, but a jolt of negative consumer feedback, tends to put them back on the right track.

Discovering Your Skin: Its Purpose and the Four Different Skin Types

Did you know that your skin is the largest organ on your body?  People often think of skin in terms of what it looks or feels like-rarely giving a thought to what it actually does for you.  Believe it or not, your skin is actually a protective barrier that provides the following functions:

  • It is a natural pathway for one of the most important hormones, Vitamin D, to enter your body.  Vitamin D is a necessity for optimal health;
  • It helps to detoxify the body through perspiration;
  • It prevents your internal organs from being exposed to the elements;
  • It prevents viruses and bacteria from entering your body; and
  • It has a high amount of receptors that communicate weather conditions to your brain (which is why you know if you are hot or cold)

These are the things that all healthy skin has in common; however, when it comes to skin types, well that’s where things begin to differ. According to dermatologists, skin can be divided into four basic types: sensitive, under-active, active, and overactive.


  • Sensitive skin is generally a delicate, thin skin that is dry. It is usually a lighter color and tone; and is therefore, more prone to aging due to excessive heat, cold, wind, and ultraviolet light. Because of its thin texture, the capillaries are closer to the skin, which makes this skin easily irritated. Sensitive skin also does not do well with synthetic chemicals in skin care products, such as fragrances, colorants and preservatives.  Therefore, it should be cleansed with a mild cleanser with all natural ingredients.
  • Underactive Skin is similar to sensitive skin in that it is generally fair skin that burns easily. This skin type lacks elasticity and plumpness, and is prone to peeling and flaking because the sebum (natural oil) production is lacking or damaged. One of the best courses of action for this skin type is increased blood circulation through massages. Also hydrate this skin type with a rich moisturizer like squalane both morning and night.
  • Active Skin is not as common as other skin types. It is normally found in pre-adolescents or health oriented adults, i.e. those adults who eat a very healthy plant based diet with very little sugar or simple carbohydrates.  It most often has a firm, supple and smooth appearance, and radiates good health inside and out
  • Overactive Skin is generally hereditary and is prone to high sebum production. This skin type is usually thick in texture with large pores, especially around the nose area.  The appearance of the skin is usually smooth, plumper, and younger looking than underactive skin due to the excessive oil production. In adolescence, this skin is more prone to acne.


To treat all of these skin types, it is important to choose products with ingredients that are botanically based and scented with essential oils. Your skin is a living organism. Therefore, you should choose products with ingredients that are as close to food as possible, so that you can provide the much needed nourishment that all living things need in order to be healthy. CUSH’s Stay Young Anti-Aging Collection would be a great start towards maintaining beautiful skin.

Toxic Chemicals to Avoid when Purchasing Personal Care Products

Studies continue to show that personal care items have a high amount of toxins that can be extremely harmful, if not deadly, to people who use them. It is estimated that each day, women wear about 515 chemicals on their bodies from head to toe. The degenerative diseases that these chemicals are linked to include the following: cancer from eye shadow, kidney damage from synthetic perfumes, hormone disruption from body lotions and shampoos, and premature puberty from nail polish, just to name a few.  Needless to say these findings are disturbing; however, they borderline something more sinister when you consider that they are also found in personal care products that babies use each and every day.  How do these harmful toxins find their way into our personal care products?


Unfortunately, the cosmetics industry is highly unregulated and do not have to list many of the harmful ingredients found in their products. With that said, what can you do to avoid exposure to these toxic chemicals? You should know which harmful chemicals are the most prevalent so that you can avoid them. Below is a handy list of the most frequently used toxic chemicals that you should be aware of:


Chemicals Used as a Preservative


  • methylparaben
  • propylparaben
  • butylparaben
  • Ethylparaben

DMDM Hydantoin

Moisturizing Chemicals

Propylene Glycol
Butylene Glycol


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Sodium Myreth Sulfate


Mineral Oil

Chemicals Used for Sunscreens