The One Thing Your Hair Routine Is Missing

Our favorite stylists share their tips on why hair masks are so essential and which ones will give your hair the biggest boost.

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Why Do I Need a Hair Mask?

Your hair gets pulled and pushed around all the time, so it needs some TLC. Photograph courtesy of Bryan Bedder/Getty Images
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Our hair goes through a lot, from dryness and split ends to color and heat damage, breakage, knotting—the list goes on. But there's one product that can remedy those issues: a hair mask. "Hair masks can strengthen, add shine, soften, and restructure hair fibers to make hair look smooth and less frizzy," says Harper, a hairstylist who's worked on editorials in Glamour, Paper, and InStyle. "They also add bounce, which makes for easier styling."

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How Do I Use Them?

Heat damage is no joke. Photograph courtesy of Colby Blount/Getty Images

Harper suggests following the instructions for your hair mask, but you'll find a sweet spot for how long you should keep your mask on. "It should be in for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the formula," says Jessi Butterfield, a celebrity stylist who's perfected the tresses of Carly Rae Jepsen, Jamie Chung, and Nat Wolff. "Some masks can be left on overnight, particularly for very dry, damaged, or coarse hair."

"Hair masks can strengthen, add shine, soften, and restructure hair fibers to make hair look smooth and less frizzy. They also add bounce, which makes for easier styling."

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In the shower, apply a dime-sized dollop of the formula to your hair post-shampoo (or after not shampooing!), more if you have thicker or longer hair. If you have oily roots, Harper suggests applying the mask to the middle of your strands down to the ends, so your hair can get hydrated without additional oiliness.

Which Ingredients Should I Look For?

The healthier your hair, the more it will shine. Photograph courtesy of Anna Webber/Getty Images

Not all masks are created equal, of course, so there are some ingredients you want and some you should avoid. "The ones with the most luxurious oils are great, such as marula, argan, coconut, and avocado oils," Butterfield says. "Stay away from sulfates, silicone, and parabens," she adds, as those components can strip hair of its essential natural oils.

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Which Ones Do I Use?

There's a hair mask out there for everybody, no matter the hair type or issue.

Identify your hair issue below and shop the masks recommended by experts!

For Dryness

Hydrate-Me.Masque by Kevin Murphy, $38,

"This is infused with oils and packed with vitamins to help restore shine, smooth out the hair follicle, and add moisture to the hair. Apply to freshly washed hair for 5 to 10 minutes," says Blondie, a stylist for Tegan and Sara and Willow Shields.

Masque Quintessence, $145,

"For the driest hair, reach for the gold standard in hair masks," Butterfield says. This Lenor Greyl mask "has super-high quality, natural ingredients that will repair hair, even after intense bleaching, highlighting, and excessive hot tool use. It is a splurge, but it's worth every penny."

For Color Damage

Technician Color Care Luxe Masque by Fekkai, $25,

"After a fresh color treatment, this mask will help lock in color and condition hair that's been altered by the dye—it's my favorite product for color-treated hair," says David Tibolla, an editorial stylist who's done hair for Mila Kunis and Vogue Belleza.

Perfect 4 Platinum Reconstruct Repair Masque by Pureology, $36,
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"This mask improves the hair's elasticity, giving strands strength and shine," Blondie says. "Be careful not to leave it in longer than the recommended time, because bleached hair can be extra sensitive to proteins," she adds. "If you don't start to notice improvement, you could be overfeeding the hair with too much protein, which can cause it to become brittle and break."

For Breakage & Split Ends

Résistance Masque Force Architecte by Kérastase, $63,

"This Kérastase mask does an incredible job of fusing essential oils and emollients to nourish and repair stressed hair, leaving a silky and smooth texture," Tibolla says. Blondie also recommends this one for damaged hair but with one caveat: "Be careful when using anything with a keratin protein—don't overdo it as that can result in breakage. Always be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle," she says.

Restore Mask Treatment, $42,
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"This weekly intensive treatment is packed full of all sorts of nutrients that increase the strength and manageability of hair," Butterfield says. "It creates a protective layer on each strand to completely seal the cuticle."

Caviar Repair Rx Split Ends Mend by Alterna, $35,

"Apply the mask to wet hair, starting at the tips and working your way up, to help restore your hair's shine and give it that smooth, just-cut feeling. If you're in a hurry, you can just blow-dry as usual after application," Butterfield says.

For Thinness

Gold Lust Transformative Masque by Oribe, $65,

"This is a great all-around mask for hair that needs a little breath of life—it works to rebuild each fiber so you get the ultimate softness, body, and super-shine. You can keep this one in for a couple of minutes or overnight," Butterfield says.

Nourishing Mask by Amika, $28,

"For fine hair, avoid anything too heavy with emollient. Go for a mask that's loaded with protein and humectants," Tibolla says. "The humectants will draw moisture to the hair, and the proteins will act as a building agent, infusing the hair with nourishment while making it stronger."

Detox Hair & Scalp Masque, $42,

"The mask will help remove surface impurities, helping to renew, hydrate, and balance the hair and scalp. Perfect for use once a week," Blondie says.

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