What does a hair mask do?
Hair masks are a quick and effective way to saturate your hair with nutritive ingredients. Fortified with nourishing oils and deeply hydrating ingredients, they basically act like a concentrated, high-powered conditioner, serving to soften, strengthen and rejuvenate your hair while adding shine, richness and gloss.
The right hair mask can transform your hair almost immediately, no matter your hair type, length or texture, and should form a critical part of your broader haircare routine. But first you need to determine exactly what your hair needs. Hair type generally isn't the most important consideration in relation to selecting a hair mask; instead, think about whether your hair needs damage repair, hydration, nutrient replenishment and so on. In this blog we look specifically at the best hair masks for damaged hair, but if your hair needs hydration, our blog on hair masks for dry hair is also worth a read.
How do you know if your hair is damaged?
Damaged hair is often confused with dry hair because they can have similar symptoms. However, they should be treated differently. With damaged hair, the outer layers or cuticles along the hair strands have generally broken or become weakened and started to lift, rather than lying flat. This exposes the core of the hair, making it more vulnerable to breakage or split ends. Damage can happen for numerous reasons: for example, as a result of sun exposure, heated hair tools, over-colouring, pollution or harsh climate conditions.
In addition to dullness and frizz, warning signs that your hair may be damaged are that it becomes easily tangled after washing, it breaks easily when pulled, it has an uneven colour balance, and in more serious cases it has developed split ends. Whilst split ends are best removed with a hair trim, the right mask can go a long way to help revive damaged strands.
For damaged hair, what should you look out for in a hair mask?
Hair masks are usually formulated with a blend of key ingredients aimed at helping to strengthen, protect and nourish your hair. While masks for dry hair may use oils such as argan, coconut or sunflower, for damaged hair look for protein-rich formulas that use keratin and wheat proteins, vitamins A, D, and E, and fatty acids to help reinforce the hair cuticle and add shine.
Depending on your specific concerns, certain formulas will work better than others. For hair damaged by heat or over-colouring, a bond repair mask like Olaplex can work wonders in bringing it back to life. If you have particularly fine hair, you may want to steer clear of creamier ultra-conditioning treatments as these can give you a limp, straggly finish; instead look for a body-boosting formula. And for those who suffer from irritated scalps, a scalp detoxifying mask can provide fast relief and leave your hair feeling bouncy and residue-free.
When and how should you use a hair mask?
Using a hair mask once or twice a week in place of your usual conditioner can help to intensely condition your hair, improving its resilience and making it more manageable. If you are experiencing product build-up or mineral residue, you can use it after a clarifying shampoo.
Towel dry your hair before massaging the product through your hair, paying particular attention to the mid-lengths and ends. With longer hair, a comb or Tangle Teezer can help to ensure even distribution. A claw clip may also come in handy while you leave the product in to work its magic. It should be left in for at least 10 to 15 minutes, before rinsing with cold water to help boost shine. If you're in a hurry, you can use the mask as part of your shower ritual. It is worth noting that some hair masks are designed to be massaged through damp hair and left overnight, so make sure you thoroughly read the label before application.