Blow-drying, straightening, highlighting, sun exposure – there are many factors that can leave hair looking dry, dull, brittle and riddled with split ends.
Fortunately, using the right treatments can help restore your locks back to their former glory. Enter hair masks. When your conditioner just isn’t cutting it, these deeply hydrating and restorative formulas can help to repair, rehydrate and infuse shine into compromised locks.
“Unlike conditioners, that can only nourish the hair to a certain point, masks are made with smaller conditioning particles that deeply absorb the hair shaft,” explains Denise Arnold, co-founder of Four London salon in Mayfair.
All hair types can benefit from using a hair mask. As well as encouraging shinier and softer locks, they can help to reduce frizz, increase moisture levels and repair and smooth the hair shaft.
When it comes to correct usage, be sure to use hair masks sparingly. “Use once or twice a week after shampooing or before, depending on the product. Concentrate on the driest and most damaged areas and let the mask soak into the hair for around five to ten minutes before washing off,” Arnold adds.
How we tested
We tried a range of masks formulated for different hair types and concerns, looking at how easy they were to use and how they made the hair look and feel.
The best hair masks for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Olaplex no8 bond intense moisture mask: £20.19, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for long hair – L’Oreal elvive dream lengths long hair mask: £6, Boots.com
- Best for curly or frizzy hair – Living Proof intense moisture mask: £33, Cultbeauty.co.uk
- Best for dull hair – Ranavat mighty majesty fortifying hair serum: £70, Cultbeauty.co.uk
- Best hair mask for coloured hair – Moroccanoil color depositing mask: £28.85, Lookfantastic.com
- Best for dry hair – Philip Kingsley elasticizer deep conditioning treatment: £27.77, Feelunique.com
- Best for fine hair – OUAI fine to medium hair treatment mask: £32, Lookfantastic.com
- Best for bleached hair – Bleach London reincarnation mask: £5.99, Superdrug.com
- Best for oily scalps – Kérastase specifique masque réhydratant: £25.45, Lookfantastic.com
Olaplex no8 bond intense moisture mask
A salon favourite, this mask is loaded with some seriously impressive ingredients to help repair damage caused by factors such as hair colouring, heated styling tools and every day wear and tear.
The star ingredient is bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate, which is said to add twice as much shine, four times more hydration and six times more smoothness – after just one use. It also contains a nourishing trio of hyaluronic acid, avocado oil and ceramides. Recommended for use once a week, we applied it on mid-lengths and ends after shampooing and left it to get to work for ten minutes. Just two pumps were needed on shoulderlength hair – so a little goes a long way.
The ingredients work by coating and absorbing into damp hair to repair broken bonds from within. Dry ends were revived and there was a distinct difference in texture – hair felt silky soft and stronger when blow-drying.
L’Oreal elvive dream lengths long hair mask
Best: For long hair
Enriched with a hair-loving cocktail of strengthening keratin, protective castor oil plus vitamin B5 to boost growth, this mask will envelop your strands in goodness. The creamy formula spreads through hair seamlessly. It only needs to be applied to the lengths and ends for two to three minutes, where it works fast to feed locks with intense hydration. It also made hair softer and easier to detangle. Although it’s marketed to those with long locks, we feel it can work on all hair lengths. This mask is proof that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to see great results.
Living Proof intense moisture mask
Best: For curly or frizzy hair
Unruly locks can be tamed with the help of this deeply conditioning, silicone-free mask that comes enriched with softening ingredients like shea butter and lactic acid.
We found this to be incredibly hydrating. Since it is specifically designed for thick, coarse and curly hair, those with finer hair may find it too rich. You need to apply this mask from roots to ends – on washed hair. Just a small amount of the lightweight formula was enough to saturate our tester’s frizz-prone locks. Flyaways were noticeably tamed and hair felt softer. It has a cumulative effect too – we noticed that hair texture improved each time the mask was used.
Ranavat mighty majesty fortifying hair serum
Best: For dull hair
Organic brand Ranavat combines beauty traditions of Indian heritage with the science of Ayurveda. One of the long-standing traditions of Indian hair care is the practice of weekly hair oil massages. This formula is enriched with a blend of cold-pressed organic sunflower oil to protect against environmental damage, divinely-scented jasmine oil to nourish and mineral-rich amla – a potent herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to soothe the scalp and hydrate the locks. The product’s consistency is a cross between a serum and an oil. To reap the benefits, massage into the scalp and hair and leave it to soak in overnight. Although it takes a couple of shampoos to wash it all off, the payoff is so worth it. It brings strands back to life – reviving dullness and giving hair a healthy sheen. It also doubles up as a frizz-busting hair serum.
Moroccanoil color depositing mask
Best: Hair mask for coloured hair
Available in nine colour options, this unique mask not only conditions the hair, but deposits semi-permanent colour into the strands in order to give locks a pigment boost in between salon visits.
Filled with nourishing ingredients like apricot kernel and argan oils, it has a thick, lotion-like formula that spreads effortlessly through the hair. It worked wonders to revive hair colour that had turned brassy after sun exposure. It added pigment and depth and made greys less obvious. Brittle hair felt slightly softer, but not as conditioned or shiny as it was after using some of the other masks on our list.
Philip Kingsley elasticizer deep conditioning treatment
Best: For dry hair
This iconic, award-winning deep conditioner is suitable for a variety of hair types, from coarse, fine, medium to curly. Unlike most hair masks that need to be used on washed hair, this pre-shampoo treatment works best when applied to wet hair. It takes around 20 minutes for it to get to work. The formula itself is fluffy and creamy – it combs through the tresses with ease. We know that heat-styling, colouring and chlorine exposure can strip the hair of its natural oils, leaving it dry and brittle, and dry hair is more prone to breakage. This protein-packed mask builds hair elasticity – in other words, gives it strength and stretch so it breaks less. After one use, dry tresses felt moisturised, manageable and seriously soft. Despite it containing castor and olive oils, it left hair with natural movement after washing out.
OUAI fine to medium hair treatment mask
Best: For fine hair
If you find that hair masks tend to weigh your hair down, this one is for you. Dryness, split ends and flyaways are tackled with nourishing shea butter, while panthenol strengthens and hydrolyzed keratin repairs. This mask has a luxe and silky consistency that glides beautifully through the hair. We used the recommended fifty-pence piece sized amount onto mid-lengths and ends, allowed it to sit for five minutes before rinsing off. It imparts the hair with moisture, leaving it smoother, with plenty of movement and not the slightest hint of product build-up. The salon worthy smell gets our vote too.
Bleach London reincarnation mask
Best: For bleached hair
Bleaching agents used to make the hair lighter can be harsh on the strands. Not only can this damage the bonds inside the hair, it also raises the outer cuticle, resulting in a loss of moisture and ultimately dry, porous and dull-looking locks. This mask promises to resurrect damaged hair with the help of sunflower seed extract and micro wheat proteins. We followed the brand’s instructions of applying it to shampooed locks before wrapping hair up in warm towel (for ten minutes) to enhance the conditioning effects.
It did a super job at bringing the lustre and moisture back to frazzled ends, while making colour more vibrant. We also liked the easy-to-use squeezy tube design.
Kérastase specifique masque réhydratant
Best: For oily scalps
Even those with greasy hair can get parched lengths and ends. Some hair mask formulas may weigh your hair down, but, this lightweight gel blend is formulated especially for those who suffer from oily roots.
The added amino acids act to condition, strengthen and boost the hair’s ability to hold onto moisture, while biomimetic ceramides repair weak strands and smooth the cuticle in order to enhance shine. This mask needs to be left on towel-dried hair for five minutes. It did a great job at quenching thirsty end, soaking into areas that needed the most hydration and it also kept the scalp feeling fresh.
The verdict: Hair masks
We were impressed with how Olaplex no8 bond intense moisture mask provided a heavy hit of hydration and immediate restoration to dead, brittle and fragile ends. It made hair feel brand new, without weighing it down.
If you want to improve the manageability and overall texture of dry locks, L’Oreal elvive dream lengths long hair mask is a deeply conditioning and purse-friendly option. And for guaranteed shine enhancement, Ranavat mighty majesty fortifying hair serum is a real treat for the tresses.
For the latest discounts on hair tools and other beauty products, try the links below:
Looking for more haircare tips? Read our guide to the best products for maintaining platinum blonde hair
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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