The best hair mask
We do a lot of damage to our hair in the name of making it look good. We style with hot tools. We bleach or dye our hair. We straighten and perm it. At a certain point, our hair can't take any more abuse, and our regular conditioner can't counteract the damage. A hair mask steps in where a conditioner falls short to deeply nourish, hydrate, and strengthen damaged or dry hair. They are designed for weekly use.
Considerations when choosing hair masks
A hair mask's main function is to add moisture to the hair. The product is heavier than regular or even deep conditioners. Hair masks are designed to be left on the hair for several minutes to deeply penetrate the hair with hydration, then washed out. Although no hair mask can fix split ends, these products can strengthen hair using proteins to prevent further breakage. Some can even help control dandruff or soothe irritated scalps.
Select a hair mask that's formulated for your hair type:
Dry or curly hair types should select a mask that focuses on hydration. Coarser hair textures need a lot of nourishment to tame frizz and add shine, so select a hair mask that offers intense hydration.
Oily hair types can still benefit from the nourishing element of hair masks, but they should select a more lightweight mask or just apply it to the ends where hair is more prone to damage. We wouldn't recommend applying a mask at your roots.
Color-treated hair types should select a mask that's color-safe for dyed hair. If you have blonde, silver, or platinum-colored hair, consider a "purple" mask that'll keep your hair from turning brassy.
Fine hair types want to select a lightweight hair mask that's designed to be left on for only a few minutes to avoid weighing down hair and taking away volume.
Depending on what you're using a hair mask for, select a mask containing one or more of the following ingredients:
Moisturizing ingredients include oils like argan (also called Morrocan oil), coconut, olive, jojoba, avocado, and almond oil. Other nourishing ingredients are shea butter and panthenol, which belong to the Vitamin B family.
Strengthening ingredients include proteins like keratin or wheat proteins.
Scalp-soothing ingredients to look for include jojoba oil, tea tree oil, and coconut oil.
Tips for using a hair mask
Use a hair mask once or twice per week consistently for best results. Using a hair mask more than this can result in product buildup.
Don't use a lot of the product -- a little goes a long way. Using too much can result in greasy hair.
Hair masks generally are left on between five and 20 minutes. Select a product that suits your lifestyle. If you're always on the go, select a hair mask that only requires a few minutes of your life.
Comb hair masks through with a comb to evenly distribute the product throughout your hair.
Hair mask prices
Hair masks range widely in price, starting at less than $5 and costing upward of $50. For a quality hair mask, expect to pay between $25 and $30.
Q. Are hair masks applied to dry or wet hair?
A. Hair masks work best when applied to damp freshly cleansed hair. However, some also work on dry hair, especially oil-based ones.
Q. How long should I leave a hair mask on for?
A. It's always best to follow the manufacturer's instructions as to the duration and frequency of use. However, if you have severely dry hair, you may benefit from leaving a mask on overnight.
Hair masks we recommend
Our take: A Morrocan oil hair treatment from the brand synonymous with the nourishing oil.
What we like: Offers intense hydration for the driest most damaged hair. Effective at smoothing hair. Leaves hair soft and manageable.
What we dislike: Morrocan oil's scent is too strong for some users.
Best bang for your buck: Macadamia Deep Repair Masque
Our take: A deeply restorative hair mask packed with macadamia oil and omega-3s.
What we like: Can be used on color-treated hair. Works on nearly all hair types. Light pleasant scent. Near-instant results.
What we dislike: May weigh down fine hair.
Choice 3: Fekkai Technician Color Care Hair Mask
Our take: The perfect hair mask for color-treated hair.
What we like: Affordable for a quality mask. Formula protects hair color. Also helps detangle hair. Light floral scent.
What we dislike: For some, it leaves behind a residue.
Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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