Air pollution, hard water, hot tools—we put our hair through a handful. But many women are still hesitant about applying hair masks on a regular basis, in part because it's hard to know why we need them. You might think that your regular conditioner fix can suffice, but a mask—in all its creamy, goopy glory—is essential to your routine. Think of a hair mask like a conditioner on steroids: a conditioner covers the hair cuticle with a protective coating, but a mask goes deeper to nourish the cuticle and target specific hair concerns at the scalp. “I think people forget that the scalp is an extension of the skin on their face,” says Dr. Rita Linkner of Spring Street Dermatology. “Since it’s usually covered completely with hair, they tend to neglect this area and only treat the hair itself. A healthy scalp is the key to healthy hair.”
And you don’t have to be a licensed trichologist or kitchen beautician to get in on the action—the beauty market has come a long way since the days when you’d have to whip up a concoction yourself. If you have a hair concern, there’s a mask for it. Lackluster color? Hair mask. Flaky scalp? Hair mask. Thinning strands? Hair. Mask. The right ingredients can do all this—revive brassy tones, purify an oily scalp, or fortify fried ends—all within a matter of minutes. We’ve made finding the perfect formula a bit easier by breaking down the best masks for your biggest hair woes.
Slather on Virtue’s treatment to tackle split ends without the scissors. The creamy keratin-infused mask binds to damaged areas and helps smooth frayed ends from the inside out.
Apply this on damp hair before shampooing to moisturize your dry, itchy scalp and remove buildup, so your hair isn’t weighed down. Once rinsed off, the refreshing zinc-based formula will keep flakes at bay.
This leave-on treatment (for damp or dry hair) moisturizes your parched ends with sugarcane extract and includes gentle exfoliating acid and calming chamomile to help soothe your irritated scalp.
Dry or damaged hair tends to oxidize (read: fade) more quickly than healthy hair, but this mask, enriched with orchid extract and apricot-seed oil, hydrates and protects to keep your color bright.
Living Proof ’s do-everything treatment is the ultimate hair hero: It restores moisture levels, strengthens strands so they’re less prone to breakage, and repels dirt so you can shampoo and style less often.
Thinning hair needs hydration that’s not heavy and ingredients to improve scalp health. This mask has thickening proteins as well as argan oil, which help boost circulation for optimal growth.
This treatment is formulated to reconnect broken bonds in the hair with olaplex, a “bond multiplier” that limits damage to hair during or after coloring.
Suitable for all hair types, the new line from Sam Brocato is your one-stop-shop for sleeker, smoother strands. Featuring mongongo oil, this concentrated mask leaves your hair touchably soft.
Perfect for blond, bleached, or grey hair, this anti-brass mask helps neutralize hair color that's turned so you can stay salon-fresh for longer.
This curly hair formulation features 98 percent naturally derived ingredients, enhancing your style with clean moisture and defining your curls for that perfect bounce.
Loaded with vitamin B, rosehip oil, and collagen, this intense treatment is a 5-minute miracle for restoring hair's natural strength, resilience, and sheen.
Kiehl's restorative mask is formulated with organic oils and lemon fruit extract to prevent future damage from external sources while providing moisture for under-nourished hair.
This story originally appeared in the July 2019 issue of Marie Claire.