There's nothing like the best hair mask to breathe life back into locks that are looking a little worse for wear. And whilst bond repair treatments are having quite the moment, they tend to come with a slightly heftier price tag and aren’t actually what all hair types need. This is where traditional hair masks come in as there really is one for every hair type and hair issue.
And we’re probably all guilty of not using a hair mask enough but it really is important to make time for them. “Masking is the best way to ensure your hair stays hydrated,” says hair colonist supremo, Josh Wood. “Make it a weekly rule to use a hair mask it will keep your hair looking healthy and also enhance the tone and make your colour shine.”
Masks are also essential if you haven't had a trim for a while to keep the ends looking as smooth as possible, if you use heat regularly or have spent a lot of time in the sun or sea (lucky you!) because, unlike regular conditioners, the best hair masks have a richer, more unctuous texture which will deliver more hydration and nourishment. And because they are designed to be left in the hair for longer than standard conditioner, they have a bit more time to sink in and get to work on the structure of the inside of the hair instead of just coating the outside.
Weather plays a part too. “You often find that a change in the weather, turning the heating on and using more heat tools can have an effect on the condition of our hair. This can cause hair to dry out and as a result, can become brittle," says Redken and Pureology senior educator Jimmy Green.
Looking to refresh, recharge and rehydrate your locks back to super swishiness? These are our picks for the best hair masks for dry, damaged hair, the best hair mask for bleached hair and everything in between and there's one for every shopping budget.
14 of the best hair masks
This is the Rolls Royce of hair masks (hence the price tag). Loved by Hollywood celebs it contains the most luxe of ingredients such as amber and the signature Oribe complex, which is a combination of ingredients that maintain hair's keratin levels, which keep it looking shiny and healthy. It has a buttery rich texture that seems to sink into hair magically. And it smells so decadent and gorgeous - as though you're putting a high-end perfume on your hair. It feels slightly wrong to rinse it away, but you must - although we left it on for half a day when working from home just to enjoy the scent for as long as possible - and it leaves hair super silky and soft. If money is no object, then this is an utter delight.
You will be hard pushed to find a more effective hair treatment with a more price-conscious price tag than this. It works on all hair types and has a lovely light scent and quite a unique bouncy gel-like texture. Whilst it packs a serious hydration hit to the hair it doesn't feel heavy when you put it on and you may even decide to swap out your regular conditioner and use this in its place instead. It only needs to be left in the hair for 2-3 minutes which makes this a mask that even the busiest of schedules can allow for.
With its unique clear gel texture, you might be worried this will feel quite sticky on your coils, curls or kinks but never fear it almost melts on application and that’s when you can feel the coconut oil and shea butter being set free to get to work on nourishing and de-frizzing. It has been specifically formulated for all curl patterns and is particularly efficient at reducing frizz You only have to leave it on for 2 minutes if that’s all you have time for but it can be left on for longer if you want.
John Frieda created the Hydrate and Recharge range (there's a shampoo and conditioner too) in response to real women’s brittle hair woes, pumping it full of ingredients such as monoi oil (though this isn't heavy or oily) to help restore the hair's lipid barrier. GTG's editorial director Victoria is a big fan of this, saying that it added movability to her dehydrated, brittle hair. It also didn't weigh down her fine curls.
This Curly Girl Method approved mask offers root-to-tip hydration without weighing the hair down. Brown algae extract and baobab seed oil are the hydrating heroes but this hair mask for damaged hair repairs too. Virtue’s signature protein blend Alpha Keratin 60ku is identical to the one found in hair and works by filling in any damaged parts of the hair to rebuild strands back stronger and prevent further fraying. It's an intense mask so perfect for thick hair that needs maintenance. GTG designer Jemma buys this on repeat for her textured Afro hair. She reports that it makes it softer and more manageable and hydrated. You don't need a lot, she says, so for the price, it goes further than you think.
This is an absolute gold-standard hair mask for bleached damaged hair. It helps keep salon-treated hair shiny and brassiness-free. Full disclosure, it does leave a purple mess ALL over the shower (and in the ears) but when used weekly, it keeps blonde locks looking light and shiny and protected against the dullness caused by pollution. Ingredients include hyaluronic acid and edelweiss flower to deliver soothing moisture, rebuilding weak hair fibres and infusing strands with a healthy, salon-worthy gloss.
Jonathan Van Ness, the man with the swishiest hair on the planet and the beloved grooming guru from makeover TV show Queer Eye, l aunched his very own range of hair help on Space NK earlier this month and we’re almost as obsessed with it as we are with him. All ten of the JVN Hair products are silicone and sulphate-free, vegan and housed in recyclable aluminium or glass. This floral scented hair moisturiser takes just five minutes to work its magic. Massage it into the hair at the beginning of your shower and then wash it out at the end. The ingredients are as fabulous as you’d expect from the flamboyant TV star, this one shares an ingredient with Chanel’s latest launch, the camellia flower, which is touted for its moisturising ability. Hemisqualene and rice proteins help to strengthen hair too. The result? Soft, smooth, shiny hair that JVN himself would be proud of.
You can almost feel your hair breathing a sigh of relief when you apply this thick product through the scalp and lengths - it penetrates deep into the hair shaft to give a new lease of life to damaged, over processed hair thanks to the shea butter formulation. Made with invigorating peppermint (your scalp will tingle slightly) and without sulphates and parabens this is a godsend for processed hair. It repairs and restores with castor oil and keratin, while shea butter and apple cider vinegar work to add mirror-worthy shine.
MORE GLOSS: How to use Castor Oil for hair and eyelash growth
9. Best hair mask for processed or chemically straightened hair: Dizziak Deep Conditioner, £22
Beauty journalist Loretta De Feo created Dizziak to “push multicultural hair products into the 21st century” and beauty editors have gone wild for this mask. The ingredients list includes inca inchi, babassu and argan oils for smoothing, quinoa for protein and aloe vera for hydration making quite the powerful combination. Just five minutes with this is enough for a hit of hydration, or leave on for 30 minutes to really tackle the frazzled lengths of your hair. It's silicone-free making it a spot-on hair mask for relaxed and chemically-treated hair.
Arkive is the new Headcare range from hair stylist, and co-founder of Percy & Reed, Adam Reed. It’s about more than just a good shampoo though, Reed calls the 11-strong range Headcare, not hair care because he wants to democratise beauty and make it accessible for all. Everything in the range is designed to give healthy hair to all hair types. It was created after Reed had a breakdown during the lockdown and discovered hair washing as an act of self-care – 'Headcare' as he calls it. What better beauty ritual than applying a hair mask? With baobab oil, shea butter and coconut oil this is a delicious treat for your hair and leaves it looking luxe and mega healthy.
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11. Best hair mask for creating smooth hair: Fable and Mane Holiroots Mask, £30 for 237ml
Fable and Mane is inspired by centuries-old beauty rituals and fables from India, dreamt up by sibling duo Akash Mehta, (former digital director for Dior) and Nikita Mehta, who wanted to bring ayurvedic wisdom to western beauty. Smelling deliciously of banana, it's free from silicone, parabens and sulphates and was streets ahead of the competition at our Get The Gloss Beauty and Wellness Awards in 2020 where it scooped Gold in the Health Hair category. Judge Dr Tara Swart called it "a beautiful mask that goes one step further as a self-care destress ritual. It smells beautiful and makes hair feel soft, silky and hydrated and as a bonus, it supports tiger conservation."
If you’ve ever looked at a picture of Kourtney Kardashian or Jennifer Lopez and wondered how they get their hair to look so good, chances are the answer is Andrew Fitzsimons. The celebrity hairstylist has created good hair days for everyone from Megan Fox to the entire Kardashian klan. And last month he let the rest of us mere mortals into his great hair secrets with the launch of his eponymous hair care line, Andrew Fitzsimons into Boots . This restructuring hair masks deeply conditions your hair for impressive shine with ingredients you'd normally find in skincare such as ceramides to smooth and moisturise, giving your hair a shiny finish and protecting it from future damage. The scent is everything!
We're yet to find a Maria Nila product we don't like but this one is our favourite from the range. Its anti-inflammatory, calming dandruff with aloe vera and claims to stimulate hair growth thanks to vitamin E which stimulates the hair follicles to encourage growth, while aloe vera extract treats and prevents dandruff and scalp issues. Oleanolic acid helps with prevention of hair loss too, so your hair looks fuller. The brand support conservation and animal charities too.
Pureology was created specifically to keep coloured hair looking salon-fresh, with sulphate free, silicone-free vegan formulas. The Hydrate shampoo and conditioner make up one of our forever ever haircare lineups (enjoy the minty fresh tingle it gives your scalp) and the Hydrate Superfood Mask is just as good. It nourishes dry and damaged hair with coconut oil and avocado oil and has the brand's anti-fade colour complex to keep it rich and vibrant for as long as possible.
MORE GLOSS: How to make your hair colour last longer at home