Shampoo and conditioner are great, but if we’re being totally honest, they don’t exactly work wonders on hair. Whether yours is dry, oily or super damaged, that’s where hydrating hair masks come to the rescue, with the ability to take your strands to salon levels after just one rinse. However, experts agree that while most hair masks promise pretty much all of the same things — healthier, more manageable hair — they’re not all created equal. “Many times hair masks can be packed with harsh chemicals and unnecessary filler ingredients that may make it feel better, but do not actually nourish the hair,” warns Kali Ferrara, senior colorist at Roy Teeluck Salon in New York City.
When looking for a hair mask, consider this your permission to splurge a little; with high-quality masks, a little goes a long way. You also want to be sure you’re selecting the right one to achieve your desired results. “If you have thin or fine hair, for example, you probably shouldn’t pick a deep conditioning mask loaded with proteins, as it’ll weigh down your hair and make it look really limp,” explains celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons. Some of it is testing and learning, he adds, as everyone’s preferences will differ.
To give you a head start on discovering which hydrating hair masks will actually work hard for your hair, we asked top hairstylists to share the ones they refuse to work without.
Every time one of Fitzsimons’ clients goes super blonde (which has been happening quite a bit in the last year), he recommends that they use this mask because of its nourishing properties. It helps smooth the cuticle and repair the damage done from processing. “They recently reformulated it with improved technology, too, so it performs even better!” he adds.
Megan Graham, owner of eponymous salon in Boston, Mass, recommends her clients use this plant-based mask once weekly to add back moisture, shine, and strength. “I love the natural scents of lavender and eucalyptus, as well as the sunflower seed oil, which adds hydration.”
When it comes to top-shelf hair masks, Oribe Gold Lust is up there, and it’s a staple in hairstylist Ally Myette’s salon, The Designory Hair And Makeup Studio. “You get softness, body, and restored strength, which is what you want and need, especially after a color treatment,” she says.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly treatment that delivers impressive results, Fitzsimons recommends this repairing mask from NatureLab. “It is formulated with bamboo stem cells and keratin to smooth and strengthen hair, plus it’s cruelty-free!”
While this product isn’t necessarily labeled a “mask” but rather a treatment, it goes above and beyond what your average product can do. It’s one of Tina Malhotra’s, a stylist at L’Appartement NYC, favorites for color-treated and damaged hair. “I’m a brunette and when I went ‘bronde,’ Olaplex was my savior,” she says. “With ingredients that include vitamins C and E, along with almond and jojoba oils, it really made my hair feel healed.”
“Amino acids in this mask not only make hair feel softer, smoother, and more manageable with each use, but they also strengthen and rebuild the hair to stop breakage,” says Graham. It’s ideal for processed, weakened strands, but works well on all hair types.
Malhotra has clients who swear by this mask. “With a unique blend of ingredients, a few of which include almond oil, algae extract, and Vitamin B, it’s totally worth the price,” she says. “My clients use it in between appointments to reverse dry and damaged ends, helping the hair feel soft and silky longer.”