How To Scritch And Preen Your Hair

Have you been wondering how to scritch and preen your hair correctly? If so, make sure you read on to discover some important tips.

Scritching is massaging the scalp in such a manner that your fingers thoroughly loosen dead skin cells and stimulate scalp oils. This also makes removing the dirt and dead skin easier when washing. Preening moves these oils down the hair shaft to moisturise each individual hair. Both actions are necessary parts of a water-only hair wash.

Scritching and preening help to loosen dirt and hair cells. This physical action encourages the scalp to produce more oil so that it can be moved down each hair strand.

The process of scritching and preening helps to nourish the whole hair.

When I first heard about water only hair washing I thought how wonderful it would be to simply jump in the shower, wet my hair and be able to forget about it.

No shampoo bottles to buy and clutter up the bathroom, and no agonising over whether I should buy the shampoo for coloured hair, or the one for dry hair. I naively concluded this was going to save me ages in the supermarket standing aimlessly looking at different products!

Apparently, though, water only hair washing is not quite that simple. I wasn’t going to be able to just stick my head under the tap and expect a miracle to happen. I quickly realise I was actually going to have to make an effort!

Therefore, as an important part of the water only No Poo method, I decided I needed to learn more about how to scritch and preen my hair properly. So, I got investigating!

How To Scritch And Preen Your Hair

The scritch & preen method is used to keep the scalp healthy, loosening dead skin and dirt so that it washes out when the water is used.

Most commonly used in the water only way of hair washing, scritching and preening helps to leave your hair healthy and shiny.

Although the scritching and preening process is the foundation of water only hair washing, it is important to understand that it plays a key role in all No Poo methods.

The process of scritching and preening doesn’t take a long time, but it does need to be carried out properly so that your hair is fully clean, moisturised, and looking its best.

Although it may sound tiresome, in reality, once you have gone through the transitioning period, from traditional shampoo to No Poo, then the requirement for scritching and preening is only necessary once or twice a week, which isn’t really too much time to spend to have a glorious head-full of hair.

Below are the steps involved in scritching and preening your hair:

1. De-Tangle

De-tangle dry hair with your fingers.

2. Massage

Massage all over your scalp using your fingers, just as you would if you were using shampoo.

If you don’t want to use your fingers to massage your scalp, or you’re unable to due to arthritis etc, then there are several different hair and scalp massager tools available to make the scritching process more effective and easier.

3. Circular Movements

Try using small circular movements to make sure you reach all of the follicles.

4. Pull Sebum Down Hair

Taking only a few strands of hair at a time, pinch your hair at the root and gently drag your fingers down the hair.

This is effective at carefully pulling the scalp natural sebum oils down over each hair strand, to moisturize it.

5. Entire Scalp

Do this all over your scalp, just taking a few strands of hair at a time

6. Wash Your Hair!

Your hair should now be untangled, nourished and ready to be washed.

Please do not worry that the hair washing process will dry out your hair, as it will not.

Instead, the preening process will have done a great job at moving the scalp’s natural oil down the hair shaft to keep each hair strand moisturized and shiny.

What is Scritching?

Scritching is massaging the scalp to loosen dead skin and hair.

This process helps stimulate the scalp to produce the oil that keeps our hair shiny and manageable.

By gently scratching our scalp, we increase the blood flow to the scalp which may in itself lead to more abundant hair growth.

What is Preening?

Preening is used to bring the oil from the scalp down from the roots of the hair to the very end.

This means that every hair is covered by natural oil which helps to keep the hair healthy and nourished.

How Long To Scritch And Preen

For water only hair washing, the scritch and preen process is considered very important.

When I first came across this element during my trial of water only hair washing, I had the following questions about the scritch and preen process:

  • How long I should scritch for?
  • How often should I scritch and preen?

I felt the same confusion for preening too:

  • Should I scritch and preen every day?
  • Is it better to leave it a few days between each preen?
  • Should I scritch more than preen, or vice versa?

I honestly felt rather confused as to how to follow the process, so decided to investigate further. Here’s what I discovered.

My Findings

The scalp produces oil, which is promoted by scritching. So, the more you scritch, the more oil you produce.

1. Time

As long as you massage your entire scalp it need not take too long when done on a regular basis.

3 minutes of scritching and you should be able to cover your whole scalp to leave it revitalised and ready to face the day.

2. Results Are Not Equal

In reality, there is no one method that suits everyone.

Some people achieve good results scritching and preening once or twice a week. Others with dry hair find that their hair prefers more regular maintenance.

3. How Often Should You Scritch And Preen?

Scritching every few days should be sufficient, although some people like to preen every day so that the oil is thoroughly distributed.

In the beginning, oil will sit on top of the hair.

4. Best Time To Scritch And Preen

Many people scritch and preen at night so that the hair has overnight to soak up the natural oils.

As scritching and preening doesn’t need water, you can scritch and preen at any time….say in front of the morning news, or your favourite TV show in the evening….the world is your oyster!

5. Transition Timescales

When transitioning from traditional shampoos to No Poo washing, lots of people experience a period where their hair becomes very greasy.

This is just the body’s way of finding its equilibrium and once this balance has been found the scalp only makes enough oil for the hair to remain healthy and nourished.

Most people find once the transition phase has passed, that scritching and preening every 3 to 5 days or so is the best way to keep their tresses looking tremendous!

6. Hair Type Matters

When I was looking into how long to scritch and preen I realised that how often was not only determined by your own scalp and how much oil it regularly produced, but also by the type of hair that is being preened.

If you have coarse and especially curly hair, then scritching and preening can and should be done more often to coat the hair.

If your hair is fine and porous then scritching and preening can be less frequently carried out as the hair will soak up the natural oils far more happily than non-porous hair.

Does Scritching And Preening Work?

Scritching and Preening work to loosen the dead skin on the scalp and make it easier to wash away the surface cells and dirt.

When you scritch your scalp and remove the dead skin the blood vessels are stimulated. Removing any barriers may help the hair to grow more quickly.

Preening means moving the oil from the scalp all the way down the end of the hairs. This means that every hair is coated with fresh and natural oils which nourish the hair.

Preening is what stops your hair from becoming dry and brittle.

If the scritching and preening works well your hair will look amazing and voluminous and as an added bonus it will be easier to manage. This means that you could also ditch the styling products, saving time, money, and the environment!

Think of all those plastic bottles of product that are no longer needing to be recycled or sent to a landfill!

Is Preening Good For Your Hair?

Preening your hair brings all the natural oily goodness from your scalp to the very ends of your hair.

Without preening, much of your hair, except the roots, would never benefit from the natural oils that your scalp will produce.

1. Why Is My Hair Dry And Brittle?

When you preen you take small sections of hair and run your hair between your fingers from the scalp to the ends of the hair.

This distributes the oils over all of your hair.

If your sections are too big then every hair will not get the best coating and could end up dry and brittle.

2. My Hair Is All Tangled?

Before starting with preening, de-tangle your hair with your fingers and then scritch by massaging your scalp.

You may find that this makes your hair a bit knotty, but these should come out with preening.

The sections you take will be quite small so that you can be sure that you’ve covered every hair with oil. That way it is easier to remove the knots and the preening makes your hair shiny and more manageable.

Scritching And Preening Curly Hair

Curly hair tends to be coarser and less porous than straight hair.

It turns out that scritching and preening is a brilliant way to keep curly hair looking great and very healthy.

Less products are needed when scritching and preening is used, so win-win for your hair, your time, and your pocket!

Scritching and preening may be needed more regularly on coarse and curly hair as the oil tends to sit on top of the hair rather than being sucked up by the hair. This is because curly hair tends to be less porous and the oil finds it more difficult to travel down the hair shaft.

Scritch And Preen Dandruff

Dandruff isn’t very common when using a No Poo hair wash method except for during the transition phase.

Make sure that you are thoroughly scritching and washing sufficiently to remove the loosened skin cells and built up sebum, otherwise this can look like dandruff at first glance.

However there are several possible causes of dandruff:

  • Not Scritching Enough: If you’re not scritching enough, or you’re treating your scalp like a delicate wall flower, then you may not be lifting off all the loose skin. Try scritching for longer, or using a specially designed scalp massager to loosen the scalp debris
  • Wash Hair More Thoroughly: If you’re only using water to wash your hair then up the number of times each week you scritch and preen, the dandruff could be caused by not sufficiently washing out dead skin cells and leaving a perfect habitat for fungus and bacteria
  • Water Temperature: Some people have found that hot water can cause them to have dandruff. If you are using very warm/hot water, try using cooler water especially in the final rinse to close hair follicles and retain the moisture (source 1).
  • Unbalanced Scalp: When you transition from traditional shampoo to a No Poo life your scalp will be unbalanced to begin with. It’s important to give your scalp time to work out how much oil it needs to produce to keep your locks looking luscious. The dandruff may just be a temporary adjustment whilst more oil is produced to keep the scalp skin supple. Increasing gentle scritching and preening may very well improve your scalp health in very little time.

If none of the above seem to be causing your dandruff, then make sure that you don’t just have a dry scalp. A dry scalp will flake but this can be remedied by increasing scritching and preening or adding and oil treatment to the scalp. Dandruff on the other hand is a yeast infection (source 1).

How To Keep Your Hair Clean Between Washes

When transitioning from traditional shampoo to a No Poo or water only approach many people ask how they are supposed to keep their hair clean between washes.

The simple answer is that with the No Poo approach your hair is just as clean, maybe cleaner, than when using a traditional shampoo.

With traditional shampoo your hair is coated with silicon and stripped by the sulphates in the shampoo which are used to make hair feel ‘clean.’

Clean hair is natural hair, hair that is not contaminated by man-made chemicals and stripped of its natural protection to the elements.

Just rinsing and brushing also helps to rid your hair of built up dirt and oil, although it is best to dry with a cotton t-shirt and brush with a boar bristle brush for best results.

Please keep the following pointers in mind:

  • Make sure that your brushes are clean so that old dirt does not re-cover your hair.
  • Rinse (not wash) your hair to keep it clean between washes. Rinsing removes the dirt whilst washing removes the oils.
  • Your hair may be a little greasy at first, but you shouldn’t consider it to be unclean, it is simply the scalp working out how much sebum it needs to make to keep your hair healthy and shiny without the aid of chemicals. With traditional shampoos that strip the hair your scalp works overtime to produce oils to combat this. Therefore, when you stop traditional shampooing there is a period of time that your scalp needs to adjust to your hair no longer being stripped daily.

Over time your scalp will work out how much sebum to produce. For some people this is a matter of weeks, for others it can take a few months.

It’s definitely worth the wait though as your hair will look more voluminous, silky, and healthier once its not being stripped of its oil on a regular basis!

Clean hair looks healthy with just the right amount of oils. Give your scalp a chance!

Scritching and preening your hair regularly will help. The scritching will loosen the dead skin and allow the water to remove any dirt that has ended up in your hair.

The preening will make the whole hair conditioned and radiant, and will move the oil from the scalp to all the way down the hair shaft.

Scritching, preening, and brushing itself cleans the hair between washes. These actions remove dirt, grease, and loose hair and keep hair clean even without using a No Poo shampoo.

If you need further help to keep the oil at bay then you could try the following (source 1):

  • Talc: Brush this through your hair to soak up excess oil.
  • Arrowroot Powder: Arrowroot powder (with cocoa for dark hair)

Hair Preening Body Language

When we preen our hair we not only draw attention to our hair but also to ourselves, it’s the ultimate sign of self-confidence!

If we’re happy in ourselves and preen in public we’re shouting to the world that we’re happy with ourselves and that our happiness can also be yours!


When people ask how to scritch and preen your hair it’s very easy to give a quick and simplistic answer.

Although it is quite basic, to begin with if we look into how it actually works then matching how long and how often to scritch and preen our hair really depends upon our hair type and the lifestyle we lead…one size definitely does not fit all!!

Related Information

What To Use To Wash Your Hair Without Shampoo

Nowadays many people have moved away from traditional shampoo, preferring the No Poo method; either Water Only washing, or using natural products such as baking soda and apple cider vinegar to rinse.

Katrina Stewardson

Hello! My name is Katrina Stewardson, and I've been obsessed for almost ever with discovering the best natural hair methods for my own hair. For years I longed for one website to tell me everything I needed to know about the amazing No Poo Method movement. I just couldn't find one though, so I decided to create it myself! I dearly hope this website will save all you lovely ladies (and gents!) from wasting hours scrolling the internet looking for natural hair-related information like I did.

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