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Best hair mask 2021: Top conditioning treatments for dry, damaged and bleached hair

Jade Vincent Ruby Martin
24 Aug 2021
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Dry hair? Quench your thirsty locks with the best hydrating hair masks

Whether you need to resuscitate heat-ravaged tresses or give bleached manes a new lease on life, there's little these hero hair masks can't achieve. Unlike conditioner which will seal the hair cuticle and provide surface-level hydration, a hair mask will penetrate deep into the hair shaft to repair and strengthen from the inside out. Stressed out strands are instantly transformed into the strong, healthy hair of your dreams.

Using a hair mask may seem an unnecessary addition to an already intensive hair routine – after all, you may have already shelled out for shampoo, conditioner, hair serum, heat protector and more – but it’s well worth it to restore your dry, straw-like locks to their smooth and glossy selves.

READ NEXT: What is Olaplex and how does it work?

Whether you want a restorative treatment to keep your coloured hair looking fresh, added protection from your daily heat styling, or simply to add extra moisture into dehydrated locks, there will be a hair mask that perfectly suits your needs below. We’ve also included a buying guide to help you make the right buying decision.

Best hair mask: At a glance

  • Best budget hair mask: John Frieda Detox and Repair Hair Mask | Buy now
  • Best hair mask for bleached hair: Olaplex No 3 Hair Perfector | Buy now
  • Best all-round hair mask: Philip Kingsley Elasticizer | Buy now
  • Best hair mask for curly, wavy hair: Davines LOVE Curl Mask | Buy now

How to choose the best hair mask for you

Why use a hair mask?

Our hair gets a rough deal. Colouring and blow-drying take their toll, and exposure to the sun, central heating, dipping in the sea and even tying your hair in a tight bun can leave your hair more prone to snap and split. Unfortunately, once the damage is done, there’s only one fix: trim the dead hair and regrow healthy locks.

To stay one step ahead of the damage a hair mask should be your first port of call. With a blend of proteins and antioxidants, these nourishing treatments will revive your hair and bring it back from breaking point.

What hair mask should I use?

That depends on the texture and condition of your hair. Bleached and overstyled locks tend to lean on the drier side so will require a mask with more active ingredients to target the damage in the hair shaft. Comparatively virgin hair (that means it’s never been dyed or processed) may only require a monthly treatment to perk up limp or dull hair and provide a little extra hydration. It’s also worth mentioning that while super conditioning treatments (with a creamy or balm-like texture) may work wonders on coarse, curly types but you’ll want to steer clear of these if you’ve got fine hair that tends to stick together. The formula will be too rich for your hair and can give a straggly finish. 

READ NEXT: The best hot brushes for getting a salon-style blowout

How do I use a hair mask?

Massage the hair mask into towel-dried hair, paying special attention to your lengths and ends (since that’s where you see the most damage). To make sure you’ve covered all your hair you can comb the treatment through in the shower.

However, each hair mask is different and should be applied at different times; some following shampoo and conditioner and rinsed after ten minutes, while others work best when massaged through damp hair and left overnight. Our advice is to thoroughly read the label before application to really get the most out of your hair mask.

READ NEXT: The best hair oils to buy


The best hair masks for dry, damaged hair

1. John Frieda Detox and Repair Hair Mask: Best budget hair mask

Price: £6.99 (250ml) | Buy now from Boots

Avocado and green tea aren’t just for breakfast: the John Frieda Detox & Repair hair mask uses both to deeply nourish dry strands. Formulated for dull and lifeless hair that needs a pick-me-up, the hair mask uses a blend of antioxidant-rich oils to remove product build up and condition the mid-lengths and ends for a silky do that looks healthier and feels softer.

The Detox & Repair mask can be used on all hair types and textures, but bleached or overstyled hair will benefit from stronger conditioning treatments. With a thick, creamy texture, a little certainly goes a long way. Yet this hair mask doesn’t leave hair looking limp – providing you thoroughly rinse and only use a walnut size blob. For best results, massage the hair mask into wet, clean hair and leave in for 3-5 minutes.

2. Kerastase Resistance Therapiste Masque: Best hair mask for damaged hair

Price: £33 (200ml) | Buy now from Look Fantastic

Ask any hairdresser which treatment works best on damaged hair and most will point you in the direction of this magical balm – it’s a cult classic in the beauty world. Whether you’ve grown too attached to your straighteners or box dye, Kerastase Resistance Therapiste Masque soothes and restores damaged hair that’s reached breaking point. The moisture-boosting formula is enriched with amino acids that work to replenish protein levels in the hair for strands that look stronger and happier.

With continued use, you can expect soft, smooth and shiny hair that’s protected from your penchant for blow drying. However, while this miracle mask can help repair over-processed hair that’s brittle and dry, it cannot heal hair that has already split or snapped. Combine the treatment with a good trim and a break from heat styling and colouring for the new hair to regrow healthily.

3. Olaplex No 3 Hair Perfector: Best hair mask for bleached hair

Price: £26 (100ml) | Buy now from Cult Beauty

Stepping out of the salon with freshly coloured hair feels great, but without the right care your locks will suffer. Since the chemicals used in colour treatments weaken the hair, it should come as no surprise to hear that your strands are more likely to split or snap. The solution? Grab a bottle of Olaplex No 3 Hair Perfector.

This miracle mask uses a restorative active ingredient to strengthen weakened hair shafts by seeking out and repairing the broken bonds. All that means no more damage, so you can enjoy a guilt-free trip to the salon. To stay ahead of any damage, apply this lightweight liquid once a week to wet hair and leave on overnight. If you’re short on time, the Olaplex Hair Perfector works well as a 10-minute pre-shampoo treatment as well. The only downside: this dinky bottle doesn’t come cheap, but all good things do come in small packages.

4. Philip Kingsley Elasticizer: Best all-round hair mask

Price: £20 (75ml) | Buy now from Look Fantastic

Those with dry hair should take notice. Audrey Hepburn's overstyled, coloured hair was restored from its weakened state thanks to Philip Kingsley's conditioning treatment. Made especially for the Hollywood starlet, the Elasticizer has remained a holy grail hair saviour ever since.

The nourishing mask is packed full of oils and antioxidants which help to retain moisture levels, improve elasticity and reinforce protein in the hair. All that means healthier, shinier, smoother hair that’s less likely to break or split. Those of us with bleached and highlighted hair might want to take the Elasticizer on holiday too, as the formula protects your strands from UV damage and stops your hair turning brassy or fading.

A word to the wise: while it’s made for hair that undergoes regular thermal and chemical processing, the Philip Kingsley Elasticizer shouldn’t be used three days before or after chemical treatments, as it can affect the results.

5. Garnier Ultimate Blends Sleek Restorer Mask Pot: Best hair mask for thick hair

Price: £3.45 (300ml) | Buy now from Feel Unique

Dry hair? Give it a little extra attention with the Garnier Ultimate Blends Sleek Restorer mask. The smoothing balm is enriched with coconut oil and cocoa butter (which smells delicious) and immediately gets to work nourishing dry, lackluster hair.

There’s no need to slather tonnes of the mask onto your dehydrated locks to get good results since the velvety formula is incredibly rich. In fact, while it’s a great fit for thick and curly manes, we’d advise that people with thin hair choose a lightweight mask instead.

Overall, the results really do speak for themselves: with regular use, your hair will look as good as it feels, and for under a fiver, too. 

6. Davines LOVE Curl Mask: Best hair mask for curly, wavy hair

Price: £23 (250ml) | Buy now from Cult Beauty

Sometimes it feels like you’re fighting a losing battle with curly hair. If you’re unlucky enough to get caught outside during a spot of rain or high humidity, your locks will immediately begin to misbehave. Treat them to the right kind of extra moisture, though, and you’ll be able to restore flawless order – enter the Davines LOVE Curl hair mask.

The conditioning treatment uses a blend of fats and proteins to hydrate and balance your unruly mane for a sleek and bouncy do. It ensures that just enough moisture is delivered into the hair shaft so that your strands aren’t overburdened. It’s super easy to work into your existing hair care regime too, as you simply replace your conditioner with the LOVE Curl Mask.

Our top tip? Be patient. Leave the mask for 10-15 minutes before rinsing and you’ll be rewarded with a frizz-free hair transformation.

7. The Body Shop Banana Truly Nourishing Hair Mask: Best weekly hair mask

Price: £12 | Buy now from The Body Shop

If you’re looking for a hair mask to go bananas for, The Body Shop Banana Truly Nourishing Hair Mask is the one. Its thick consistency means it’s super easy to apply without getting everywhere, and its banana purée formula leaves your hair soft, shiny and smelling nice without using silicone. 

However, if you’re not a fan of the smell of banana but still want the softness for the same price point, The Body Shop also offers a Replenishing Shea Butter mask as well. If you want to feel good as well as look good, both masks are a lot cheaper than a lot of other vegan and cruelty- and silicone-free options. If you need an affordable treatment you can use regularly, The Body Shop is a good way to go.

Buy now from The Body Shop


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