From dry to damaged, frizzy to fried – say goodbye to your bad hair day with our edit of hair masks to solve any mane-related problem
If your hair is feeling thin or your highlights are looking a little dull, consider hair masks as the solution. Like skincare for your hair, they go one step further than the usual lather, rinse, repeat and condition regime that you’re used to. “All hair types can benefit from a mask,” explains Anabel Kingsley, trichologist at Philip Kingsley.
“As soon as hair grows past scalp level, it is exposed to external aggressors, like UV rays, pollution, heated styling tools, brushes, and perhaps chemicals from hair dyes and bleach. All of these things can weaken strands and negatively impact their internal structure and resistance to breakage.
“Masks are able to deliver an intensive treatment as active ingredients are left on the hair for an extended period of time. This allows for maximum penetration.”
The mask, and how often you use it, depends on your hair texture and its condition. Below, Kingsley talks us through her insight into the best hair-mask ingredients to trust for every hair type.
“When lightweight, plant-based oils are formulated into a cream, water-based product they can do wonders for dry hair,” explains Kinglsey. “Water penetrates into the hair to improve elasticity and bounce, while oils coat the hair, locking in moisture and sealing the outermost part of the hair (the cuticle), adding shine.” Intensive masks that actively work on strengthening the bonds that hold your hair together are also great for dry strands.
“Lightweight proteins and moisturisers like hyaluronic acid can give thin hair instant thickness and texture and may also help to fill in gaps in the hair cuticle (the strands’ outer protective layer),” explains Kinglsey. Whether eaten or applied to strands, strengthening biotin is important for the growth of strong, healthy hair without weighing it down. “Hair masks are especially important for thinning hair as any heavy residue is washed away, meaning they won’t weigh down even the finest strands.”
“Curls tend to be naturally dryer than straight strands, meaning it can take a richer mask. It will benefit from a mask that contains a greater concentration of oils,” says Kingsley. Think: coconut oil, castor oil, and olive oil to strengthen, shape and deeply moisturise curls. “Naturally coiled and curly hair is actually quite fine, so you want a formula that is able to penetrate without being too weighty.”
“Tightly coiled curls have a unique structure and are the most vulnerable to breakage out of all hair textures,” explains Kinglsey. “This is because weak points occur along the hair shaft wherever a curl or twist forms.
“Coiled hair also has the tendency to tangle easily. Look for products with nourishing oils such as olive, castor and avocado oil, which help to retain moisture within the hair, increasing their elasticity. Make sure your hair is wet thoroughly before applying your mask, and try to leave it on overnight for maximum penetration,” advises Kingsley. Some masks work better when heated, so putting a shower cap on, sitting under a steamer, or applying your mask before you exercise can improve its effectiveness.
“Clarifying masks can help if you wash your hair infrequently, find your scalp gets greasy quickly or you have an accumulation of oil on your scalp,” says Kingsley. “They can also remove hard-water mineral build-up and break down the water insoluble ingredients found in some styling products.” Look for formulas containing clarifying ingredients, like clay, to balance your hair and scalp's pH levels and prevent excess oil production.
Try: Philip Kingsley Vitamin C Jelly Detoxifying Hair and Scalp Treatment (£23.80)
The antioxidant-rich, powder-to-jelly formula is designed to be applied from root to tip and massaged into your scalp before shampoo. It removes impurities without stripping your skin or drying hair and neutralises damaging free-radicals for a healthier hair and scalp environment.
Colour-treated or bleached hair
“Colour-treated and bleached hair can be both dry and damaged. This means it needs a mask that moisturises, as well as one that strengthens the hair’s inner structure,” says Kinglsey.
“You don’t want to use a mask that claims to do both if your hair is in need of TLC, as the concentration of the active ingredients will be diluted. Instead alternate formulas using each once a week or once every two weeks if your hair is less processed.”
Try: L'Oréal Elvive Colour Protect Anti-Brassiness Purple Mask (£6)
Tinted with purple toners, it instantly neutralises unwanted yellow and orange tones and contains two times more caring agents compared to classic conditioner to provide intense care to bleached and highlighted hair, even on dark bases.
All prices correct on date of publication