The 15 Best Hair Masks for Smoother, Softer, and More Manageable Hair

·17 min read

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As anyone with curly hair knows, a hair mask is far more than just a nice-to-have addition to your routine. In fact, the best hair masks can offer a variety of benefits for nearly every hair type and concern. “Hair masks add moisture to refresh and strengthen your hair, keep it soft and shiny, and help reverse any damage from heat styling tools, like a hair dryer, or color treatments,” says Rae Ann Coto, colorist at Fekkai Soho.

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Not only is using a hair mask worthwhile for maintenance on a weekly basis — or even more often, if you have the time — but using a hair mask can also be game-changing ahead of a big event, such as a wedding. That’s because the best hair masks can target specific concerns, be it frizz, dryness, or breakage, says Chicago-based celebrity hairstylist Alex Brown. The only hard part? Trying to choose just one. Here’s how to choose the best hair mask for you, plus how to make the most of it.

What is a Hair Mask?

A hair mask is a creamy, leave-in formula that contains more amped-up, nourishing ingredients than your average conditioner. “Masks are made to care for hair, helping to keep hair healthy, smooth, and shiny — so they are thicker in consistency and stay on hair longer than a regular conditioner to help repair strands or give hair a boost of nutrients to keep it healthy looking,” says Brown.

That said, it’s one of those products that requires time and patience. “It’s not a styling product and has to be used when washing hair, but using a mask can help make hair more manageable and easier to style,” she notes. In other words, the small time investment can lead to a significant — and immediate — payoff, especially if you’re on the hunt for extra shine without doing a full-on hair gloss.

Top Hair Masks of 2022

What to Look for in the Best Hair Masks

Your specific hair concerns will determine the right type of hair mask you should use.

  • Dryness: “Those with dry or porous hair should look for reparative, smoothing masks,” says Brown.

  • Fine or flat hair: According to Brown, “finer hair should look for strengthening masks,”  which can be extra powerful if your hair is color- or chemically-treated, since this type of damage can lead to weak, brittle strands over time.

  • Sulfate-free: “The best type of mask is one that is sulfate-, paraben-, and silicone-free,” says Coto. While sulfates can create a satisfying lather — which is why you’ll often find them in shampoo — they can potentially clean too well, stripping the scalp of its natural, moisturizing oils.

  • Silicone-free: Silicones are heavy ingredients that tend to weigh hair down, says Coto. While it’ll give hair a satisfying slip, it can also lead to build-up over time.

With that in mind, scroll on for the best hair masks for every need.

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Ouai Treatment Mask for Fine and Medium Hair

Best Hair Mask for Fine Hair

  • Key ingredients: Shea butter, panthenol, hydrolyzed keratin

  • Size: 8 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

Who better to formulate a hair mask than stylist-to-the-stars, Jen Atkin? This one is specifically designed with finer hair types in mind, as it can often get weighed down beneath too-moisturizing ingredients. Fortunately, shea butter and hydrolyzed keratin (which helps strengthen) work together to smooth and soften hair, while still keeping it bouncy. “During quarantine, my hair suffered breakage and got ‘crunchy’. One application of Ouai softened it; I continued to use of the product and it helped my hair recover and heal,” says one Amason reviewer. “As an added bonus, the scent is lovely!’

Ouai Treatment Mask
Ouai Treatment Mask




Ouai Treatment Mask for Fine and Medium Hair


$38



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Amika Soulfood Nourishing Mask

Best Hair Mask for Dry, Damaged Hair

  • Key ingredients: Jojoba seed oil, sea buckthorn oil

  • Size: 8 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

With over 2000 five-star reviews on Amazon, it’s easy to see why this Amika mask is a winner. It’s also one of Brown’s top picks. “Jojoba seed oil contains powerful antioxidants and is rich in vitamins A, D, and E,” she explains. “[Meanwhile], sea buckthorn is rich in fatty acid omega 7, making it the holy grail for all things hair.” It also offers a lot in terms of value, too. “It’s also well worth the price tag because a little goes a long way with this stuff,” says an Amazon reviewer. “This tub will last AT LEAST six months, but probably much longer than that.”

Amika Soulfood
Amika Soulfood




Amika Soulfood Nourishing Mask


$30



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Gisou Honey Infused Hair Mask

Best Hair Mask for Frizzy Hair

  • Key ingredients: Mirsalehi honey

  • Size: 7.8 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

Powered by MIrsalehi honey — sourced from the founder’s family bee garden, no less — Gisou is all about delivering moisture. Since dryness and frizz go hand-in-hand, supplying hair with nourishing honey can help nix both frizz and flyaways, regardless of the humidity. And the results speak for themselves. “Amazing! I’ve tried countless masks and nothing compares. I have wavy hair that is prone to frizz and I see results right away, my hair is left smoother and more shiny,” writes one Sephora reviewer. 

Gisou Honey Infused Hair Mask
Gisou Honey Infused Hair Mask




Gisou Honey Infused Hair Mask


$57



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SheaMoisture Strengthen + Restore Treatment Masque

Best Drugstore Hair Mask

  • Key ingredients: Jamaican black castor oil, shea butter

  • Size: 12 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

Healthy hair for under $15? It’s possible with this strengthening mask from SheaMoisture, which aims to restore and fortify weak, brittle hair — and put a stop to breakage and shedding, once and for all. It relies on a combination of nutrient-rich castor oil and shea butter (handcrafted by women in Africa) to support hair elasticity, helping it grow longer and stronger. “I love SheaMoisture’s hair masks, they use great natural ingredients and leave your hair feeling soft and stronger,” writes one superfan. “I’ve tried a lot of masks on both the drugstore and pro hair side and this one is definitely one of my favorites.”

SheaMoisture Treatment Masque
SheaMoisture Treatment Masque




SheaMoisture Strengthen + Restore Treatment Masque


$10.49



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Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Nightcap Overnight Perfector

Best Overnight Hair Mask

  • Key ingredients: Amino acid blend, lipid complex

  • Size: 4 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

Living Proof was created by a team of scientists at MIT, so the entire line is all about performance, including this overnight hair mask. The lightweight, quick-absorbing formula works on dry or damp hair to seal the cuticle and shield hair from future damage while you sleep. The payoff? Instantly smoother, softer, and more manageable hair, but the best part is that the results will last for up to five shampoos, so you reap long-term benefits. “Oh my God! What a terrific product! I have the most dry brittle hair imaginable,” says one Amazon reviewer. “I have dozens and I mean dozens of products that I have purchased to help with this problem and none of them have worked, until now.”

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day®
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day®




Living Proof Perfect Hair Day® Night Cap Overnight Perfector


$29



Buy Now

K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask

Best Hair Mask for Bleached Hair

  • Key ingredients: K18Peptide™

  • Size: 1.7 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

For severe damage, including on hair that is bleached regularly, this award-winning mask from K18 can help. “I’m obsessed with the K18 leave-in hair mask, which helps rebuild broken peptide bonds in color treated hair,” says Brown. “It’s completely rebuilt my bleached ends!” K18 uses a patented peptide that works within hair to reconnect broken protein chains to restore hair’s natural strength, bounce, and softness, while delivering results in just four minutes. “I had bleached highlights and professional color for years, but I had my hairdresser remove all of the color so I can grow grey. The color remover is not as damaging as bleach, but it left my hair pretty fried and extremely dry, with no natural wave…straw,” says an Amazon reviewer. “I saw a huge difference on the first use and have used this same little tube for the 3rd time with even better results each time.”

K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair
K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair




K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask


$79 
$75



Buy Now

Fekkai Shea Butter Intense Mask

Best Hair Mask for Curly Hair

  • Key ingredients: Shea butter, monoi oil, murumuru butter

  • Size: 7.5 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

Fekkai products have a cult following for a reason and this mask is the perfect example why. It’s packed with moisturizing ingredients for a totally transformative result, which is kind of a big deal for curls, as they are naturally dry (since the scalp’s natural oils can’t easily slide down a coiled hair shaft). “This hair mask is great for all hair types — especially curls — and replenishes hydration and shine after one use,” says Coto. It also features an Environmental Protection Complex to defend hair from the elements, keeping it vibrant and healthy. 

Fekkai Shea Butter Mask
Fekkai Shea Butter Mask




Fekkai Shea Butter Mask


$36



Buy Now

Virtue Labs Restorative Treatment Mask

Best Keratin Hair Mask

  • Key ingredients: Alpha Keratin 60ku, aramanthus seed extract, baobab seed oil

  • Size: 5 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens and sulfates

Beauty industry vets were inspired to develop Virtue after bio-scientists discovered a new protein complex identical to the keratin naturally found in hair. This newfound complex went above and beyond to fortify brittle strands and they’ve since put it to work in this lightweight hair mask. “It deeply hydrates the hair without weighing it down,” says Brown. “It’s infused with the Virtue signature Alpha Keratin 60ku, which delivers immediate and intense hydration.” The reviews back it up, too. “My hair has gotten stronger and healthier! I LOVE this product!” says an Amazon reviewer. And, since it works in under three minutes, it’s a great option for anyone short on time.

Virtue Labs Restorative Treatment Mask
Virtue Labs Restorative Treatment Mask




Virtue Labs Restorative Treatment Mask


$32



Buy Now

Pureology Hydrate Superfoods Treatment Hair Mask

Best Hair Mask for Color-Treated Hair

  • Key ingredients: Avocado and coconut oils

  • Size: 7 fl. oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

Coconut oil is a standard ingredient in hair masks, so it’s a surprise to no one that the salon brand, Pureology, would include it in their stand-out hair mask. This formula is particularly beneficial for those with color-treated hair, thanks to the brand’s proprietary Antifade Complex to keep color vibrant and long-lasting, as well as sunflower seed, vitamin E, and even an UV filter to help hair resist fading from environmental aggressors. 

Pureology Hydrate Nourishing Superfoods
Pureology Hydrate Nourishing Superfoods




Pureology Hydrate Nourishing Superfoods Treatment Hair Mask


$41



Buy Now

Redken Extreme Length Treatment Mask

Best Hair Mask for Long Hair

  • Key ingredients: Biotin, niacinamide, castor oil

  • Size: 8.5 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens and sulfates

Split ends? Breakage? Whatever’s getting in the way of growing down-to-there hair, Redken’s mask can handle it. “Having what I consider to be long hair is not the easiest thing to keep healthy and I suffer from a lot of breakage. I definitely notice less when using this product and I love the smell as well,” raves an Amazon reviewer. “It leaves no sticky, gross residue on my hair (or hands) and I definitely feel like my hair is healthier when using this and doesn’t leave it feeling weighed down at all.” Not only do the castor oil, biotin, and niacinamide in this hair mask strengthen hair over time, but the formula also contains glycerin and silicones to immediately soften and smooth.

Redken Extreme Length Triple Action Treatment
Redken Extreme Length Triple Action Treatment




Redken Extreme Length Treatment Mask


$29



Buy Now

Crown Affair The Renewal Hydrating Hair Mask

Best Hydrating Hair Mask

  • Key ingredients: Tsubaki seed oil, yuzu fruit extract

  • Size: 6.8 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

Back in the day, Crown Affair founder Diana Cohen used three separate hair masks to get the results she wanted. Not anymore: She invented her own formula to achieve her desired results. Her mask’s lightweight blend of tsubaki seed oil and yuzu fruit extract offer deep hydration at the cuticle. It also features the brand’s light, slightly herbal fragrance and, as a bonus, it can even tackle serious damage, according to one Sephora reviewer: “I bleached my hair 3 times in one week, so it was very frizzy and dry and after using this, my hair was so soft and looked so much better.”

Crown Affair The Renewal Hydrating Hair Mask
Crown Affair The Renewal Hydrating Hair Mask




Crown Affair The Renewal Hydrating Hair Mask


$58



Buy Now

Adwoa Beauty Blue Tansy Reparative Mask

Best Hair Mask for Damaged Hair

  • Key ingredients: Shea butter, castor oil, Moroccan lava clay

  • Size: 16 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

This Black-owned, gender neutral brand has made waves in the beauty industry for delivering products tailored to multicultural hair textures. From the brand’s Blue Tansy collection comes this creamy mask, which seals porous strands with plant proteins, making it ideal for vulnerable hair, whether that’s due to heat, color processes, chemical treatments, or all of the above. “I need more stars to rate this. This is affordable luxury. It’s giving self care in a jar,” one Sephora reviewer writes. “If you have ever abandoned your hair, use this to remind your strands that you do still love them, despite what your past actions may suggest.”

Adwoa Beauty Blue
Adwoa Beauty Blue




Adwoa Beauty Blue Tansy Reparative Mask


$36



Buy Now

Bread Beauty Supply Hair Mask Creamy Deep Conditioner

Best Deep Conditioning Hair Mask

  • Key ingredients: Kakadu plum, starflower oil

  • Size: 12 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

Creamy, but not heavy, this milky formula is a game-changer for thick or curly hair. Bread Beauty Supply’s hair mask is one of the brand’s hero products, which was specifically developed for curl types 3A through 4C. Its cocktail of Australian kakadu plum oil and starflower oil manage to recreate the telltale slip of silicone without actually using any silicone. “It moisturizes your hair and leaves it feeling light! I’m African American with natural hair, but I flat iron it once a week,” says a Sephora reviewer. “This conditioner has me looking like I just stepped out the salon!” Pro tip: Don’t rinse it out all the way — leave just a hint of it on your ends to get the long-lasting effects of a leave-in conditioner.

Bread Beauty Supply
Bread Beauty Supply




Bread Beauty Supply Hair Mask Creamy Deep Conditioner


$28



Buy Now

Briogeo Don’t Despair Repair Rice Water Protein + Moisture Strengthening Treatment

Best Protein Hair Mask

  • Key ingredients: Rice water protein complex, castor oil, squalane

  • Size: 5 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

Styling tools and chemical treatments cause hair to get run-down. To bring strands back to neutral, they need a combination of protein and moisture. Hair is made up of protein, which gives it its strength, shape, and elasticity. This bestselling hair mask offers the best of both worlds for stronger hair immediately after rinsing. Its rice protein complex delivers the protein, while squalane and botanical oils replenish moisture. “I really love this product — I have such damaged hair from bleaching and heat and this worked better than Olaplex for me,” says a Sephora reviewer. “After just one use my hair was a lot calmer and after a few, I saw so much less breakage.”

Briogeo Don't Despair Repair Rice Water Protein
Briogeo Don't Despair Repair Rice Water Protein




Briogeo Don't Despair Repair Rice Water Protein + Moisture Strengthening Treatment


$42



Buy Now

Playa Healing Hair Masque

Best Scalp Hair Mask

  • Key ingredients: Kaolin clay, amla oil

  • Size: 8 oz.

  • Free of: Parabens, sulfates, and silicone

Playa founder Shelby Wild wanted to curate a hair line that evoked easygoing, West Coast vibes, but with serious, nature-based ingredients for striking results. This scalp and hair mask uses kaolin clay and amala oil to purify and rebalance a scalp that’s out of whack. That’s a big deal: Most hair masks don’t account for their scalp, but it’s important since a healthy scalp begets healthy hair growth. With this hair mask, it’s luckily not an either/or situation. “I LOVE this deep conditioner! It actually goes on the scalp, which I wasn’t sure about, but I’ve noticed a difference in the amount of times I wash my hair a week,” says one Sephora superfan. 

Playa Healing Hair Masque
Playa Healing Hair Masque




Playa Healing Hair Masque


$38



Buy Now

How to Apply a Hair Mask 

While the exact usage will vary depending on the formula and what it is intended to treat, these steps will give your hair what it needs for the best possible results.

  • After shampooing, squeeze out excess water

  • Apply a quarter-size amount to hair, starting at the ends and working toward the roots

  • Comb it through with a wide tooth hair comb

  • Let it rest on your hair for five to 15 minutes

  • Rinse out the mask and skip conditioner

“I recommend starting at the ends because that’s where you want most of the product to be applied since ends are usually dry, porous or more damaged,” explains Brown. Plus, you’ll have less product on your hands once you reach the roots and your scalp, which typically need it the least. She recommends skipping your scalp altogether if it tends to be oily. Finally, “remember to rinse thoroughly to help ensure hair isn’t weighed down, as masks are thick and take more effort to remove from hair,” she says.

Coto, for her part, occasionally likes to leave hair masks in overnight, where they can work their magic while she sleeps. If that’s the case, wear a hair towel or wrap to protect your pillow and avoid a mess in the morning.

How to Make a DIY Hair Mask at Home

Need a mask in a pinch? The beauty of hair masks is that they’re fairly easy — and low risk — to DIY with ingredients found in your kitchen or pantry. “Avocado, honey, egg and Greek yogurt are all great, either together or on their own,” says Brown. These particular ingredients tend to be rich in either fats or proteins (or both), which can help soften and repair hair. You can experiment with whatever you have on hand, starting with a small amount. Just be sure to rinse well after using your DIY hair mask, since these ingredients can be even more stubborn to remove than your average hair mask.

If you’re seeking lightweight hydration, consider the houseplant instead. “One of my favorite home remedies for a DIY mask that is so easy and effective is aloe vera,” says Coto. “You can get an aloe leaf at your local supermarket and cut a small piece open and apply.” She warns that it will feel slimy — “that’s just the nature of aloe.” Massage the aloe into your hair with your hands, let it sit for up to 15 minutes, and then rinse well in the shower. The major benefit of aloe is that since it’s a plant, you can continue to use it again and again for future hair masks — giving hair all the hydration it could possibly need.

Meet the Experts

  • Alex Brown is a Chicago-based celebrity hairstylist. Prior to relocating to Chicago, Brown spent 3 years as the right hand to renowned hairstylist and Ouai founder, Jen Atkin. With more than 12 years of experience in the beauty industry, Brown has styled hair all across the world from London and Paris to Dubai and Sydney.

  • Rae Ann Cotto is a colorist at Fekkai. Her love of painting and DIY home projects, like reviving worn out furniture, keeps her creative juices flowing. 

Meet the Author

Deanna Pai is a freelance beauty and wellness writer, editor, and copywriter based in New York. With more than a decade of experience testing and writing about beauty products, she’s well-versed in all things hair. Her editorial work has appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, among others, but you can also find her copywriting and consulting for beauty brands like Cocokind and Glow Recipe.

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