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Best hair mask 2023: Top conditioning treatments for dry, damaged and bleached hair

Jade Vincent Ruby Martin Kat de Naoum
6 Feb 2023

Is your hair looking dull and dry? 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 of life, these hero hair masks will work a treat. Unlike conditioner, which seals the hair cuticle and delivers 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 the extra effort to restore dry, straw-like locks to their smooth and glossy best. In addition to repairing damaged hair, some hair masks can also help to tame curly hair, ease sore scalps and help hair grow, too.

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Whether you want a restorative treatment to keep coloured hair looking fresh, added protection from daily heat styling, or simply something to add extra moisture to dehydrated locks, you’ll find a hair mask that perfectly suits your needs below. First, read our guide on how to choose the best hair mask for your hair.

Best hair mask: At a glance

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, swimming in the sea and even tying up your hair in a tight bun can leave your hair more prone to snapping and splitting. Unfortunately, once the damage is done, there’s only one fix: trim dead hair and allow regrowth of healthy locks.

However, to strengthen locks and prevent damage, a hair mask should be your first port of call. Comprising a blend of proteins and antioxidants, these nourishing treatments will revive your hair and bring it back from breaking point, helping it grow healthier, too

What hair mask should I use?

Which type of hair mask you choose will depend on the texture and condition of your hair. Bleached and overstyled tresses tend to be on the dry side, so will benefit from a mask containing active ingredients to target the damage in the hair shaft. Comparatively, virgin hair (hair that’s never been dyed or processed) may require only a monthly treatment to perk up limp or dull hair and to boost hydration.

It’s also worth mentioning that while super-conditioning treatments that have a creamy or balm-like texture may work wonders on coarse, curly hair types, those with fine or limp hair will want to steer clear. Such masks are designed for thick hair and will prove too rich for flyaway hair, resulting in a straggly finish.

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How do I use a hair mask?

Each hair mask will come with its own set of instructions for use. Some require leaving in for just two minutes, while others will need 10 or more minutes to work their magic. Typically, you’ll need to massage the hair mask into towel-dried hair, paying particular attention to the lengths and ends of hair; this is where you see the most damage. To ensure proper coverage, you could comb through the treatment through to the ends. Those with curly hair will need to comb the product through, regardless.

In addition, different masks will recommend applying the product at different points in your hair-care routine. For example, most will need to be applied following shampoo and conditioner, and rinsed out after the stated time, while others work best if applied before shampooing. For optimum results, some types of mask will require massaging into damp hair and left in overnight. Our advice is to read the instructions carefully before application to really get the most out of your hair mask.

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The best hair masks to buy in 2023

1. Christophe Robin Hydrating Melting Mask with Aloe Vera: Best hair mask overall

Price: £28 | Buy now from Lookfantastic

Delivering salon-grade results, with a spa-like scent to boot, the Christophe Robin Hydrating Melting Mask with Aloe Vera is one item you need in your shower caddy if your hair has seen better days. Unlike many other masks that should only be applied to the ends of your hair, this mask can be applied directly onto the scalp – and won’t leave hair limp or greasy. The hair mask is made from 95% natural origin ingredients that leave the hair soft, smooth and delightfully manageable.

Texture-wise, this mask is extremely light and applies easily onto the whole head. After drying, our hair was super-luminous and felt fuller and healthier. Not the cheapest hair mask on the market, but you’ll need only a tiny dollop of the stuff to cover your hair from roots to tips. Plus, there’s no waiting around for it to work: two minutes is sufficient to still get an intense, moisturising treatment.

Key details – Size: 200ml; Key ingredients: Aloe vera, flaxseed oil; Hair type: Dehydrated, dull; Application: Massage into scalp and hair, leave on for 2 minutes, rinse

Buy now from Lookfantastic

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

Price: £7.99 | Buy now from Boots

Avocado and green tea aren’t just for breakfast: the John Frieda Detox & Repair hair mask uses both of these super ingredients to deliver maximum nourishment to dry locks. Formulated for dull and lifeless hair that needs a pick-me-up, this hair mask uses a blend of antioxidant-rich oils to remove product build up and condition the mid-lengths and ends for a silky barnet that not only looks healthier, but feels softer, too.

Suitable for all hair types and textures, it will be of particular benefit to those with bleached or over-styled hair. Thick and creamy in texture, a little of this affordable hair mask certainly goes a long way. It won’t leave hair looking limp, provided you apply only a walnut-sized amount and rinse it out thoroughly. For best results, massage the mask into wet, clean hair and leave it in for 3–5 minutes.

Key details – Size: 250ml; Key ingredients: Green tea, avocado oil, cannabis sativa seed oil; Hair type: Dry, stressed, damaged; Application: Leave in for 3–5 minutes, rinse

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

Price: £40 | Buy now from Lookfantastic

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, using box dye regularly, or simply haven’t been taking care of your hair as much as you should, Kérastase’s Resistance Therapiste Masque will soothe and restore 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 healthier.

With continued use, you can expect soft, smooth and shiny hair. Note, however, that while this miracle mask can help repair over-processed hair that’s brittle and dry, it can’t heal hair that’s already split or snapped. Used in conjunction with a regular trim, and a break from heat styling and colouring, it will support the regrowth of healthy new hair.

Key details – Size: 200ml; Key ingredients: Amino acids; Hair type: Damaged, brittle, split ends; Application: Leave in for 2–3 minutes, rinse

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

Price: £28 | 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 hair, it should come as no surprise to hear that strands are more likely to split or snap as a result of dyeing. The solution? Grab a bottle of Olaplex No 3 Hair Perfector. This miracle mask – which has reached cult status – uses a restorative active ingredient to strengthen weakened hair shafts by repairing the broken bonds.

This means no more damage, so you can enjoy a guilt-free trip to the salon. As a preventative treatment use it weekly; apply the lightweight liquid to wet hair and leave on overnight. For a deeper treatment, Olaplex’s Hair Perfector also works well as a 10-minute pre-shampoo treatment. The only downside: this 100ml bottle doesn’t come cheap; but all good things do come in small packages.

Key details – Size: 100ml; Key ingredients: Bond Building Technology™, bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate; Hair type: Bleached, broken, split ends; Application: Leave on for a minimum of 10 minutes (pre- or post-shampoo), or overnight, then rinse

5. Philip Kingsley Elasticizer: Best splurge-worthy hair mask

Price: £20| Buy now from Lookfantastic

Those with dry hair, who are willing to splurge on a super-restorative hair treatment, should take note of the fact that Audrey Hepburn's overstyled, coloured hair was brought back from its weakened state with this Philip Kingsley conditioning treatment. Made especially for the Hollywood starlet, the Elasticizer has remained a holy grail hair saviour ever since. Packed full of oils and antioxidants to retain moisture levels, improve elasticity and reinforce protein in the hair, this mask will leave your hair healthier, shinier, smoother – and less likely to break or split.

It’s a godsend for holidayers with bleached and highlighted hair, too, since the formula protects locks from UV damage and will stop it turning brassy or fading. In fact, it works wonders on any type of hair that’s suffered its fair share of damage. Note: while this mask is 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, since it can affect the results.

Key details – Size: 75ml; Key ingredients: Castor seed oil, glycerin, olea Europaea (olive) fruit oil; Hair type: Dry, limp; Application: Apply, put on shower cap, leave in for 20–60 minutes (or overnight)

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

Price: £24 | Buy now from Cult Beauty

Sometimes, it can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle with curly hair, which appears to have a mind of its own. 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 order – and for that you need the Davines LOVE Curl hair mask. Using a blend of fats and proteins to hydrate and balance an unruly mane, this conditioning treatment will leave locks looking sleek and bouncy.

Delivering just the right amount of moisture into the hair shaft, your strands won’t be overburdened. The product is super-easy to work into your existing hair care regime, too, since you simply replace your conditioner with the Love Curl Mask. Our top tip? Be patient. Leave the mask in for 10–15 minutes before rinsing and you’ll be rewarded with a frizz-free hair transformation.

Key details – Size: 250ml; Key ingredients: Almond extract, oryza sativa (rice) bran wax; Hair type: Thick, unruly curly/wavy hair; Application: Leave on for 10–15 minutes, comb, rinse

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

Price: £9 | 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, silicone-free formula is easy to apply without making a mess, and on rinsing out, the banana purée conditioner leaves hair soft, shiny and smelling gorgeous. It’s reasonably priced, too.

However, for those who aren’t a fan of the banana fragrance, The Body Shop also offers a Replenishing Shea Butter mask. If you want to feel good as well as look good, note that both masks are cheaper than the majority of other vegan, cruelty- and silicone-free options. If you need an affordable treatment you can use regularly, The Body Shop is the option to go for.

Key details – Size: 250ml; Key ingredients: Banana puree, cocoa butter, shea butter, Brazil nut oil; Hair type: Dry, frizzy; Application: Leave on for 10 minutes, rinse

Buy now from The Body Shop

8. Grow Gorgeous Repair Strengthening Hair and Scalp Mask: Best hair mask for the scalp

Price: £25 | Buy now from Lookfantastic

Hea-styling gadgets don’t only damage your locks, they can leave you with a dry and irritated scalp, too. While most masks are made only for the hair, the Grow Gorgeous Repair Strengthening Hair and Scalp Mask also sets out to treat your follicles. A product that delivers noticeable results after the first use, this mask’s combination of peptides and amino acids will leave hair soft, sleek, shiny and manageable.

Featuring a bio-active blend of ferments that are rich in essential minerals, this hair mask is designed to be rubbed into the scalp to stimulate hair growth while also cleaning and calming. It smells amazing (as do the shampoo and conditioner from the same range with which we’re also obsessed) and only needs to be left in for five minutes, once or twice a week, to work its magic. For a more intense treatment on particularly damaged hair, it can be left in for up to 20 minutes.

Key details – Size: 200ml; Key ingredients: Zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, peptides, amino acids; Hair type: Dry, brittle, heat-damaged; Application: Leave on for 5–20 minutes, rinse

Buy now from Lookfantastic

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