Whether you’re a spokesperson for damaged hair (it’s bleached, it’s curly, it spends too much time around flat irons) or you do everything right, somehow, frizz, flyaways, limp curls, and breakage seem to come out of nowhere. You can wash your hair with hydrating shampoos, smooth on hair oils, and use heat protectant sprays religiously, and yet, a split end will still appear. Damage of some kind is inevitable, but luckily, hair masks are here to save the day.
“Hair masks are more intensive than an everyday conditioner in terms of treating dryness and damage, whether it be from color or chemical treatments, heat styling tools, the environment and climate or water type, or the hair’s natural texture,” explains Howard McLaren, co-founder and creative director of R+Co.
While hair masks are not miracle workers capable of returning your hair to the state it was in before you started manhandling it, these treatments can really do a lot for every hair type. Similar to how a great protein treatment can help strengthen your locks, masks can do everything from reversing some damage to re-hydrating and toning locks. “A good hair mask should provide nourishing nutrients and prolonged protection against environmental factors, and contain at least one oil rich in proteins, such as coconut and green tea oil, to keep your hair completely hydrated and healthy,” adds Aaron Grenia, co-founder of IGK Hair Care.
The hunt to find the perfect formula can feel overwhelming at times—but these hair masks come pretty damn close. Meet the 15 best intensive, hydrating, and transformative hair masks your money can buy.
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Best for Damaged Hair
No. 3 Hair Perfector
Best for Frizzy Hair
Intense Hydrating Mask
Best for Dry Hair
Babassu Oil Mint Deep Conditioner
Best for Damaged Curls
Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Hair Mask
Best for Fine Hair
Treatment Mask for Fine and Medium Hair
Best for Breakage
Thank God It’s Natural
Repairx Curl Protein Reconstructor
Best for Bleached Hair
Leave-in Molecular Repair Mask
Best for Color-Treated Hair
Best for Weak Hair
Restore Repair Mask
Best for Glossy Hair
Soulfood Nourishing Hair Mask
Best for Long Hair
Coco & Eve
Super Nourishing Coconut & Fig Hair Masque
Best for Blondes
Total Results So Silver Triple Power Hair Mask
Best Color-Depositing Mask
Best for Dry Curls
Coco Crème Curl Quenching Deep Moisture Mask
Best for Shine
Television Perfect Hair Masque
Who is a good candidate for a hydrating or repairing hair mask?
“Damage to the hair can come from many sources, including color or chemical treatments, mechanical damage from hot tools, and the environment and climate you live in,” says McLaren. “In addition, just like skin texture can vary from person to person, hair can as well, and some people have a naturally drier hair texture. If you feel like your hair is frizz-prone or dry, or if you feel like your hair isn’t as soft, shiny, or healthy-looking as you would like it to be, you could probably benefit from incorporating a hair mask into your regimen.”
Who is a good candidate for a toning or color-depositing hair mask?
“Color-depositing masks are the perfect way to keep your color fresh in between salon visits while also deeply moisturizing for softer, shinier hair,” says Grenia. “They work even better on highlighted hair: the lighter the hair, the more vibrant the shade will present.” For blondes, using a purple-toning shampoo can reduce brassy tones for a brighter color. “Toning masks that have purple tones are usually good for blondes or anyone that wants to prevent brassiness to maintain a cool-toned hue and keep the warm tones from creeping in,” adds McLaren.
Do you have any tips or tricks for applying hair masks?
“Typically, you can use a mask in place of conditioner once a week,” says McLaren. “After shampooing, it is good to try to gently remove excess water from the hair so it doesn’t dilute the masque and apply it throughout the hair—especially focusing on the mid-shafts to ends—leave it on for the recommended amount of time, and then rinse thoroughly. To get the most out of the mask, it is good to make sure it is evenly distributed through the hair. Combing through your hair gently with a wide-tooth comb or shower comb can help make sure the mask thoroughly coats the hair.”
Nerisha Penrose Beauty Commerce Editor Nerisha is the beauty commerce editor at ELLE.com, covering all things beauty (and fashion and music). Tatjana Freund Beauty Commerce Writer Tatjana Freund is a Beauty Commerce Writer, covering makeup, skincare, and haircare products and trends.
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