10 best hair masks for dry hair

Give your locks some TLC this winter with one of these nourishing treatments

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The Independent Online

Central heating, cold winds, blow-drying and colour treatments all wreak havoc with our hair. Give thirsty locks a drink with a hydrating mask to suit your hair type. We tested lightweight creams for fine hair, heavier creams for thicker hair, and oils to suit everyone.

1. ESPA Pink Hair and Scalp Mud: £33 for 180ml or 200ml, John Lewis 

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This mud mask is something of a cult classic in the beauty world and feels like a spa treatment. Choose from an 180ml glass pot (best for the bath) or the easy, squeezy shower-friendly plastic tube (200ml). Mineral-rich red clays, vitamin C-packed watercress and apricot oil soothe and nourish the scalp and hair, stimulate the circulation and improve overall condition and manageability. This one is especially designed to help chemically treated hair, but isn’t a quick fix – you need to leave on for at least 20 minutes or even overnight if possible. We tried both and it’s messy if you leave in while you sleep, but perfect for a long hot soak in the tub.

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2. Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturizing Treatment Masque: £29.50 for 150ml, Aveda

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Dry hair can be ultra-brittle and by the end of winter, breakage up the hair shaft is common and can create frizzy out-of-control, flyaway locks. So give thirsty hair a boost with this deeply hydrating, fast-acting mask – use with caution if you have fine hair and rinse thoroughly as it can leave it limp. Better suited to thicker hair, it packs in buriti, pomegranate and olive oils for the ultimate in soft, supple, shiny locks. It only needs two to three minutes in, comb through and then rinse – Aveda recommends a cool rinse to smooth and calm the cuticle. A smooth cuticle is able to reflect light better and hence look shiny and glossy.

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3. L'Oreal Paris Elvive Smooth & Polish Perfecting Conditioner: £3.99 for 300ml, Chemist Direct 

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Unruly hair isn’t always thick – fine hair can be just as out of control and prone to frizzing up when dehydrated or dry. Creamy and intense – but recommended particularly for fine to normal hair that can look lank with other deep conditioning products – this also sees off static and flyaway strands too. We tested it on fine hair and even at root level it doesn’t weigh it down. It rinses out like a dream, leaving hair smooth and silky, but still with some volume – a significant achievement on fine hair.

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4. Phyto Fluid Plumping Mask: £36 for 175ml, Bath & Unwind 

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Expensive, but worth every penny if your hair is looking lacklustre with age, this mask is great for mature locks that need a boost of youthfulness. Just as our skin shows our age, hair looks finer and loses radiance and suppleness as the cuticle breaks down over time. Almost like a high-tech skincare product, it’s packed with hyaluronic acid and acacia collagen (all youth-enhancers), to put back into the hair shaft what ageing is taking out. We used it several times over a couple of weeks for between three to five minutes and found it softened dry, brittle hair, without adding weight to fine hair, and delivered an extraordinarily shiny bounce.

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5. Kerastase Discipline Maskeratine Smooth-in-Motion Masque: £21.75 for 200ml, Feel Unique

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If over-processing is your hair predicament, and it’s medium-to-thick in texture, then this is the mask for you. Over-processed locks – from colour, or heat tools – are notoriously unruly and will misbehave at any opportunity. This mask delivers a huge shot of moisture to smooth out and strengthen, improve control, and make styling easier on frizzy hair. Use sparingly on finer hair though, as it can weigh it down too much.

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6. L'Oreal Paris Hair Expertise UltraRiche Intense Nourishing Mask: £6.99 for 200ml, Amazon

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Sulphates help hair products foam up, they’re cheap to include and they remove the oily build-up feeling in dirty hair. But they can strip the hair of oils needed to maintain shine and bounce, leaving it dried out and prone to frizz. They can be irritating to the scalp too and if you dye your hair they can speed up colour fade. With all this in mind, if you prefer to go sulphate-free, try this smoothing, frizz-controlling mask that uses botanical oils to boost nourishment. It’s also silicone-free – silicone (a rubbery plastic) gives hair a fake gloss, that over time can leave locks limp and lifeless. What you actually want is a natural light-reflecting shine that comes from a smooth, hydrated cuticle. This one is easy on the purse strings too.

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7. Mauli Grow Strong Oil: £29 for 30ml, Net-a-Porter 

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British beauty brand Mauli uses techniques inspired by Ayurvedic medicine for its organic range. This one is apparently made from a blend of 15 rejuvenating, conditioning and thickening ingredients used in the ancient Indian practice – and it won us over. It’s an easy overnighter, simply add two-three drops to the scalp and roots and massage in. Rinse out and wash as normal in the morning. We used it twice a week for several weeks and dry brittle ends were transformed into weighty, shiny strands. The results also show it’s great to use if you’re growing hair that gets stuck at a certain length and then breaks off, as it encourages longer, stronger locks.

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8. Pureology Hydrate Hydra Whip Masque: £26.50 for 150g, Feel Unique 

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Spending on expensive highlights, low-lights or a full head of colour is all money down the drain if you don’t look after it between appointments. But choosing a mask with a special anti-fade complex that boosts shine and colour brilliance makes the salon prices worthwhile. Colour treated hair (especially blondes) will always look more brittle and dry than dark glossy browns, so this is the mask to go for if lacklustre colour-treated hair is your nemesis. It’s sulphate-free too.

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9. Kerastase Nutritive Masque Magistral: £30.20 for 200ml, Kerastase 

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The gold standard for treating dry hair since 1979, the cult classic Nutritive range has had a makeover and thanks to new innovations and formulations in the world of haircare, it’s now better than ever. All the products in the range repair and strengthen, but you can choose according to fine or thick hair and from slightly dry to severely dry. The mask feels ultra-rich when applied, but surprisingly on fine hair doesn’t weigh it down after rinsing. Leave on for just five minutes, and the softness you’re left with is astonishing.

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10. Redken Heatcure: £18.75, Look Fantastic 

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For those who like a beauty ritual that requires some time to down tools and focus on the treatment, this self-heating mask is perfect. Peel off the sticker from the pouch to start the warm up process - it takes three to four minutes to heat up and you can massage the pouch to help it along – open up and apply all over the hair. Leave on for five to 10 minutes and the heat allows the mask to penetrate deep into the cuticle and deliver nourishment right at the core. Used weekly over a month and hair definitely looks and feels healthier. There’s also an in-salon treatment if you want turbo-charged nourishment to kick-start the programme and then follow up with these weekly at-home masks.

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The Verdict: Hair masks for dry hair 

The innovative Phyto mask is the choice for ageing hair, L’Oreal Elvive is a rare find that doesn’t weigh down fine hair, Aveda’s Dry Remedy is intensely hydrating for thick unruly locks, but the Pink Mud from Espa is a cult classic that works right at the root of the hair shaft to improve condition and manageability on all hair types.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing

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