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14 of the Very Best Hair Masks

“Hair masks are key to healthy hair, no matter the texture.”

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

In this article

Whether your curls are feeling dry or your highlights are looking a little dull, a hair mask can very well be the solution — they restore moisture, softness and even brightness to your locks, often in a matter of minutes. Consider a skin-care analogy: If daily conditioner is akin to your lightweight body lotions, hair masks are more of a body butter, explains Ash Fritzler, master stylist at the Bird House salon. And stylist Danielle Priano, whose clients include Hailey Bieber and Jennifer Lopez, believes “hair masks are key to healthy hair, no matter the texture.”

Although, according to Shirley Hagel, an advanced creative stylist at Parlor Hair Salon, hair type isn’t always the most important guiding factor in this context. “For me, choosing a mask isn’t so much about whether hair is thick or thin,” she says. Rather, her most important consideration is what the hair needs — whether that be hydration, damage repair, or nutrient replenishment. To find the best masks for all kinds of hair types (at all kinds of price points), I talked to 12 experts, including salon owners and stylists. And before we dive into the specific brands that our experts turn to for those varying needs, here is some general advice that emerged from the group: Aim to use a mask about one to two times a week (in place of your usual conditioner), leave it on for about 10 to 15 minutes, and rinse with cold water to enhance shine.

What we’re looking for

Ingredients

The most important thing about hair masks is the active ingredients they are formulated with. Make sure you’re giving your hair what it needs most, whether that’s oils for hydration, bond rebuilders for damage repair, or vitamins and antioxidants for health.

Sulfate-free

Like shampoo and conditioners, some hair masks are formulated with sulfates and others are not. While many hair types can tolerate sulfates, those with sensitive skin or who have hair that is damaged or color-treated should try to steer clear and opt for a sulfate-free option instead.

Size

I’m also keeping an eye on the total ounces of hair mask you’re getting per dollar.

Best overall hair mask

Ingredients: Olaplex, bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 3.3 oz

We first heard about the benefits of Olaplex products when we talked to hairstylists about the best shampoo for color-treated hair. The line’s “repairing treatment” (effectively a mask) is no exception. “If my clients have a color service with me, I’m sending them home with Olaplex No. 3,” Fritzler says. But it’s not only for the color-treated among us: Regardless of hair texture, Fritzler says she’s seen the transformation this formula can bring to her clients with just one use a week.

Maria Elizabeth, founder of Salon deZEN, also appreciates how well it works on a variety of hair types, calling it a versatile product she recommends to anyone with hair that feels compromised (and “even pollution exposure can compromise hair integrity,” Fritzler adds). It also works on “natural textures that tend to feel coarse or dry, and even perfectly healthy hair that is seeing a seasonal change in hair health,” says Jessica O’Keeffe, a stylist at Hawthorne Studio. Developed by chemists, Olaplex uses a patented bond-building technology that is said to help rebuild the damaged parts inside each strand. And while that might sound intense, O’Keeffe notes that it doesn’t have an excessive amount of protein in it, so it’s not aggressive on the hair. Hairstylist Dhiran Mistry recommends the mask as a general powerhouse: “It will help reform shattered hair bonds,” as he puts it. Olaplex No. 3 is a favorite of hairstylist Michelle Cleveland as well, but she emphasized following the directions to get the best results.

Best hair mask for dry hair

Ingredients: Prickly pear seed oil | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 8.4 oz

New look, same mask. Dianna Cohen, founder of hair-care line Crown Affair, says that her “favorite hair mask of all time” is this one from Christophe Robin. She calls it “the most universal hydrating mask” and says that you would just use a dime-size amount if you have finer hair and more if you have thicker or curlier hair. Cohen says she uses it about twice a week, and though the price is still steep, ingredients like the Prickly Pear seed oil, which is rich in vitamin E, make it worth the cost. Vitamin E restores the protein and keratin of your hair, which in turn makes it shinier and silkier without clogging your scalp or causing buildup, explains Cohen (she notes that masks can often cause buildup if you use them too close to your scalp). She leaves the mask on for about 15 minutes and then rinses it out with cold water. If you want to truly luxuriate with your hair mask, Cohen told us the ingredients in the Christophe Robin mask take well to heat — apply it under a shower cap, and then put a hot towel on top.

Best (less expensive) hair mask for dry hair

Ingredients: Shea butter, Moroccan clay | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 12 oz.

This is not only the least expensive mask for dry hair on this list but also the cheapest on the list overall. (And no, it’s not a sample size either.) Myleik Teele, who has tested thousands of products as the founder of CURLBOX, a subscription service for curly hair products, says it “can go toe-to-toe” with any other high-priced mask when it comes to performance because of how moisturizing it is. While Teele loves it for curly hair, it’s a good option for anyone with extremely dry hair. It has shea butter in it to moisturize, while the Moroccan clay helps to clean the hair. It’s also heat activated, so if you have access to a hooded dryer at home, now would be the time to use it — but if you don’t, the shower-cap-plus-hot-towel method will work too.

Best hair mask for aging hair

$40

Ingredients: Orchid flower extract, hydrolyzed quinoa protein | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 6.7 oz

If you want to help stop the effects of aging, Elizabeth suggests using a hair mask one to three times a week. Young Again has specific ingredients she says work to restore and replenish the hair to more youthful-looking locks. It’s packed with vitamins and antioxidants from natural ingredients like orchid flower extract, which is rich in nourishing proteins that help to strengthen the hair “while also providing intense hydration, elasticity, and silkiness, she says. It also has hydrolyzed quinoa protein, which Elizabeth says will leave the hair feeling rejuvenated. You won’t have to wait long for these results either — she says you’ll notice a difference after just one use.

Best hair mask for fine hair

Ingredients: Glycerin, deep-sea water | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 6 oz.

Those with fine hair may not need to use a mask at all if they get enough nourishment from their conditioner. (If that’s you, Fritzler advises talking to your hairstylist about the results you’re hoping to achieve before using a mask.) That said, we did hear about this Shu Uemura mask created specifically to give fine hair some lift, recommended by Mistry. The mask’s ingredient list includes deep-sea water, which is rich in nutrients and minerals that help keep hair hydrated and weightless. The formula is also meant to rebalance natural hair oils — another step toward keeping fine hair from falling flat on an oily scalp. Mark DeBolt, co-owner of Mark Ryan Salon, seconds Mistry’s recommendation, calling it the “absolute best” mask for finer hair types because it offers “lightweight and long-lasting volume,” he says.

Best hair mask for color-treated hair

Ingredients: K18Peptide | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 1.7 oz

K18 was originally a salon-only treatment but was launched in 2021 for at-home use and quickly became a new favorite among beauty writers and editors. “Basically, K18 works by delivering a patented amino-acid chain to the inner structure of your hair, replacing missing amino acids and regenerating the bond to repair your hair,” explains Strategist beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton, who says that after using it every other week, she noticed “a big difference in the texture, softness, and general health” of her bleached hair. Both myself and Strategist writer Tembe Denton-Hurst also swear by it. I particularly like how much simpler it is to apply versus traditional hair masks. After shampooing your hair (and skipping your conditioner), you apply a few pumps depending on your length and thickness and work it through your hair. Then you just wait four minutes for the product to soak in and style as usual.

Best color-depositing hair mask

Ingredients: Almond and buriti oil | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 8 oz.

If you’d like your hair mask to also give your color a boost, Rio recommends this color-depositing mask from Christophe Robin, which she promises will “give your hair a color boost that’s as close to salon color as you can humanly get from home.” When Rio’s hair was bleach blonde, she used the Baby Blonde mask, but the brand also has shades like chestnut, cool brown, golden blonde, and copper. “Magical color-fixing properties aside, it’s one of the most wonderfully hydrating hair masks I’ve ever used,” she says.

Best hair mask for heat-damaged hair

Ingredients: Sweet almond oil, oat kernel extract, apricot kernel oil, and linseed extract | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 8 oz.

One product that will help bring some life back to heat-treated hair is this mask from It’s a 10, which Stephanie Louis, founder of Stylebox Salon in Prospect Heights, says is ideal for those who often use heat tools on their hair. The mask’s restorative properties come from ingredients like antioxidant-packed oat-kernel extract, apricot kernel oil, which adds moisturizing vitamins A and E to the mix, and linseed extract, which calms the scalp and gives hair a softer, silkier feeling. Louis says you should notice your hair looking less dull almost immediately and that over time, as the mask repairs your hair, you’ll notice more volume as well.

Best hair mask for curly hair

Ingredients: Avocado, tea tree oil | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 4 oz

“This is indisputably the very best deep-conditioner-type mask ever created on this planet for tightly curled or tightly coiled hair. Period,” says Louis, who personally uses the product on her own hair. Of all the products she’s ever recommended, she says this is the one she’s most passionate about. The mask comes in three formulas — for dry hair, damaged hair, and dull hair — and is all-natural, which Louis says does mean it is perishable and best stored in the freezer between uses. The main ingredient in each formula is avocados, which Louis says are chock full of vitamins B and E and work to repair any scalp damage that may be causing dry hair at the root, while also locking in moisture along the actual hair shaft, leaving hair softer and easier to detangle. Another ingredient is tea-tree oil, which, it’s worth noting, can have a tingly sensation on the scalp but is effective at keeping the scalp free from irritation and can also reduce flakiness and cleanse product buildup. Since the mask is so moisturizing, Louis acknowledges that it may be too heavy for certain textures. But again, for those with tight curls, it’s a good bet: Hair can become softer and more manageable after just a few uses (Louis says to apply it “religiously” every two weeks).

Best hair mask for coarse hair

Ingredients: Euterpe oleracea fruit extract, Myrciaria dubia fruit extract | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 8 oz.

Mirjam Bayoumi, whose namesake Upper East Side salon is known for its hair-coloring services, says that her own thick and wavy hair has damaged ends. To combat some of the damage, she uses Brazilian Blowout’s mask, which she recommends to anyone with coarse hair because it has a moisturizing formula that helps with detangling. The mask contains the brand’s signature “Brazilian Super-Nutrient Complex,” which includes Euterpe Oleracea fruit extract, known for its antioxidant properties. And its berry-derived Myrciaria dubia fruit extract is packed with vitamin C. Together, the ingredients condition the hair cuticle and cut down on frizz without weighing down the curl or waviness of hair. As far as the application goes, just as Cohen suggested with the Christophe Robin mask, Bayoumi says the Brazilian Blowout does well with heat.

Best hair mask for wavy hair

Ingredients: Macadamia oil, wild mango butter, keratin, and sunflower seed extract | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 5.92 oz.

Priano says anyone with thick, coarse, curly, dry, or damaged hair should look for a mask with oils like macadamia, jojoba, coconut, Moroccan, or argan. This mask, which she loves for her wavy- to curly-haired clients, contains macadamia and jojoba oils, as well as protective keratin and hydrating Japanese bamboo to deliver plenty of moisture without weighing the hair down. The macadamia nut oil in the mask smooths while the sunflower seed extract adds shine, Priano tells us. And while you may be tempted to keep a mask on overnight, Priano advises against it, since leaving a keratin-infused mask on for too long can lead to breakage as well as dry or brittle hair. Instead, she recommends getting the most out of your mask by combing it through while in the shower, which helps the product penetrate deeper into the hair shaft and seal the cuticle.

Best hair mask for breakage-prone hair

Ingredients: Fiaschetto tomato extract | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 8.45 oz

This Davines mask’s moisturizing quality comes from Fiaschetto tomato extract, which is packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. Fritzler uses it for all kinds of issues — chemical processing, sun damage — but especially recommends it for those who are dealing with brittle and breakage-prone hair due to medical conditions. Fritzler has gotten rave reviews from clients undergoing cancer treatment or autoimmune disease after recommending this mask. She notes that if you are having breakage because of a medical issue, the mask won’t return your hair completely to its original state, but it does restore nutrients back into the hair, which in turn makes it feel healthier and look shinier.

Best moisturizing hair mask

Ingredients: Rose-hip and argan oils, algae, and biotin | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 8 oz.

If your hair needs some serious moisture, try this deep-conditioning mask that Rio relied on when her hair was bleach blonde. “This mask has a great consistency — not too thick or rich, not too light,” she says. Plus, it’s formulated with rose-hip and argan oils, as well as biotin, “all of which replenish, rejuvenate, and deeply condition your hair,” she explains. “It will leave your hair looking beautiful and bouncy and feeling extremely silky and conditioned for days,” she says. Rio recommends using it approximately every other wash and leaving it on for at least 20 minutes for best results.

Best hair mask for scalp treatment

Ingredients: Castor oil, pomegranate oil, buriti oil | Sulfate-free: Yes | Size: 5 oz.

If your scalp needs a boost — meaning it’s been feeling a little dry, flaky, or sensitive — Hagel recommends this mask from Aveda, which is made with organic castor oil and Aveda’s “deep moisture complex,” including organic pomegranate oil, which helps stimulate scalp circulation and can reduce dandruff. Pomegranate oil contains antioxidant vitamin C, which encourages collagen production, fights free radicals that can damage the hair follicle, and combats potentially scalp-irritating buildup on the hair. Other ingredients include organic buriti oil, a deeply moisturizing oil used for treating dry hair as well as dry and sensitive skin on your scalp, and organic olive oil. The mask is also safe to use with color-treated hair and “leaves the hair soft, supple, and shiny,” says Hagel.

Some more hair masks we've written about

Our experts

•Mirjam Bayoumi, founder of Mirjam Bayoumi Salon
Michelle Cleveland, hairstylist
•Dianna Cohen, founder of hair-care line Crown Affair
Mark DeBolt, co-owner of Mark Ryan Salon
Maria Elizabeth, founder of Salon deZEN
•Ash Fritzler, master stylist at the Bird House salon
•Shirley Hagel, advanced creative stylist at Parlor Hair Salon
•Stephanie Louis, founder of Stylebox Salon
Dhiran Mistry, hair stylist
Jessica O’Keeffe, stylist at Hawthorne Studio
•Myleik Teele, founder of CURLBOX
Danielle Priano, stylist
Tembe Denton-Hurst, Strategist beauty writer
Dominique Pariso, Strategist writer
Rio Viera-Newton, Strategist contributor

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14 of the Very Best Hair Masks