Why use a hair mask?
While your conditioner's purpose is to hydrate and condition your hair, adding temporary shine and softness, a hair mask is designed to nourish your hair – a hearty broth versus a cup of tea. It works extra hard by penetrating deep into the hair shaft to deliver much-needed nutrients. Hair masks are not just for crisis situations; rather they should be integrated into your haircare ritual ideally once a week, particularly during the harsher winter months or if you regularly colour or heat-style your hair.
As we outline in our blog on hair masks for damaged hair, selecting the right hair mask is more about your hair condition than hair type. In essence, are you looking to repair damage or to hydrate? In this blog we look specifically at the best hair masks for dry hair, which tend to use intensely hydrating oils and butters to add moisture and retain gloss and shine.
How do you know if your hair is dry rather than damaged?
Hair dehydration is a common problem for those who excessively use heat-styling tools or expose their hair to the elements. Without sufficient moisture, your hair will look dull and feel brittle to touch, and is more likely to become easily knotted or prone to breakage. You may also develop an itchy scalp and dandruff. Dry hair affects people differently – some hair types will become frizzy while others may look flat and lifeless.
A good way to test for dryness or damage is to pluck a single strand of wet hair after a bath or shower, and pull it gently at both ends to test its ability to stretch. If your hair extends without returning to its original length, it is likely to be dry. If it has no stretch at all or stretches slightly before breaking, it is likely to be damaged. Healthy, hydrated hair should be able to expand by around a third before bouncing back to its original size.
For dry hair, what should you look out for in a hair mask?
Dry hair requires moisture and deep hydration, so look for a hair mask that contains butters or oils. For thicker hair types, nourishing oils like coconut are loaded with fatty acids that will penetrate deep within your hair follicle, making your hair shiny and more manageable. Avocado oil contains numerous vitamins and minerals – including potassium and vitamins C and E to promote hair growth – that will moisturise and add shine, while a shea butter extract can help seal in moisture. Other great ingredients include argan, almond, macadamia, olive or sunflower oils, although if you have nut or other allergies you should obviously avoid anything that may cause a reaction.
For fine hair that is dry, lightweight oils such as jojoba and sesame will provide moisture without making your hair too greasy. If you do find that a mask makes your hair limp and flat, it’s better to use more infrequently (monthly rather than weekly) or even just stick to your trusted conditioner.
When and how should you use a hair mask?
In general, we would suggest using a hair mask once or twice a week in place of your usual conditioner – potentially after a clarifying shampoo if you are experiencing product build-up or mineral residue. Make sure you thoroughly read the label before application as hair masks are designed to be used in different ways: some should only be left in for a few minutes while others work best when left in overnight.
For most hair masks, you should towel dry your hair before massaging the product through, paying particular attention to the mid-lengths and ends. With longer hair, use a comb or Tangle Teezer to ensure even distribution, and hold together with a claw clip while the product is in your hair. A mask should generally be left in for 10 to 15 minutes, before rinsing with cold water to help boost shine.