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Should you be using a hair mask? A stylist weighs in — plus 14 to shop

Because masking is one of the easiest — and fastest — ways to get your hair back into shape.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

There’s a reason experts recommend regular trims — as I learned when my hair quickly became overly dry and brittle during the years spent at home during the beginning of the pandemic. This was due in part to my reliance on a super-hot flat iron (the only thing that gets my hair looking halfway decent during Zoom calls), and hair-pinching ponytail elastics (for when I don’t have the time to style).

Needing some professional advice, I shared my distressed hair status with my longtime stylist — Juan Carlos Maciques of Oscar Blandi Salon in New York City. As someone who deals with celebrities on a regular basis, Maciques has seen his share of hair abuse, and his advice was simple: incorporate a once-a-week hair treatment into my shower routine.

Why use them | What to look for | Hair masks to try | Meet the stylist

Why should you use hair masks?

“Masks are a great option for anyone who has dehydrated, brittle or over-processed hair that has been depleted of moisture, which is often the case with hair that’s been around too long,” says Maciques. “Masking is one of the easiest things you can do at home to make your hair look healthier.”

What to look for in hair masks

Maciques suggests scanning labels for ingredients such as proteins and keratin to strengthen hair, lipids like coconut or olive oil to create shine and moisturizing ingredients including vitamin E, avocado and argan oil.

He also shares a few quick tips: “Hair that’s overly wet won’t absorb nutrients, so be sure to gently towel dry after shampooing and before applying a mask. And consider wrapping your hair in a warm towel fresh out of the dryer to help the formula penetrate more quickly and deeply.”

Over the course of a few months, I tried several hair masks and my hair has never looked healthier or felt so soft — the results are no doubt worth five minutes of my time each week. Here are my favorites, plus a few our Shop TODAY editors can't get enough of.

Moisturizing hair masks to fix dry, damaged hair

Kristin Ess Strand Strengthening Reconstructive Moisture Mask

A favorite of Shop TODAY editorial assistant Shannon Garlin, she applauds this mask for how moisturizing it is. "My hair has been blonde, red and brown so it's suffered a lot of damage and dryness. This mask is really moisturizing and makes my hair look shiny after using!" she says.

According to the brand, it can be used on all hair types and is color- and keratin-safe.

Eva NYC Therapy Session Hair Mask

Shop TODAY associate SEO editor Kamari Stewart has been using this mask for the past few months and says she's sees a huge difference in how soft and defined her curls are. She also likes to use it as a leave-in to help make refreshing her curls later in the week even easier.

According to the brand, it delivers "48-hour smoothness" and contains ingredients like argan oil and vitamins A, C and E. Not only is the mask good for your hair but the packaging is good for the earth! It's made from 97 percent recycled plastic and can be recycled after use through TerraCycle.

Virtue Restorative Treatment Mask

This mask has an intoxicating mix of coconut and woody scents, similar to what you would experience after walking through the door of a spa. It contains ingredients like alpha keratin 60ku (a funny sounding name for a protein that fills in damage), brown algae (which is loaded with vitamins like niacin to protect hair against heat damage) and amaranthus caudatus seed (an extract filled with moisture-restoring peptides and polysaccharides).

The mask’s silky texture will leave your hair feeling pretty much the same way. The product’s only drawback is its 1.7-ounce size — you’ll love it so much, you’ll go through it quickly! It's also a Shop TODAY editor favorite for color-treated hair.

Kerastase Resistance Strengthening Mask

Another favorite of Shop TODAY staffers for color-treated hair, this mask is infused with amino acids to restore damaged length, seal split ends and prevent future breakage, according to the brand.

Commerce editor Vivien Moon calls this a "holy grail" product. "There are some products you use sparingly because you love them so much and this mask falls into that category. I rationed it because I didn't want it to end," she raves.

Christophe Robin Color Shield Mask

Shop TODAY market assistant Audrey Ekman is a fan of the Shade Variation Mask in chic copper for non-natural redheads from Christophe Robin, but she also called out this non-color depositing option for those embracing their natural color. It's designed to leave any hue you're rocking looking vibrant and glossy.

Kérastase Chronologiste Masque

This formula includes three unique moisturizing ingredients: abyssine, a nourishing molecule produced by micro-algae found on the Pacific Ocean floor; hyaluronic acid, which acts like a sponge soaking up moisture; and caviar pearls that when crushed, convert into a creamy, moisturizing emulsion.

“I find this mask makes blow drying faster and easier, plus styles seem to last longer after use,” says Maciques. Its sleek black packaging will fancy up any shower and the scent — which smells a bit like cologne — will have the men in the house reaching for it, too.

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair

The number five in the name stands for this product’s ability to recognize and fight the five universal signs of hair damage: split ends, weak strands, tangles, brittle and fried hair. “And it does so with over 90 grams of protein, an ingredient crucial for repairing damage and preventing future problems,” says Dr. Rocia Rivera, L’Oréal’s Vice President of Scientific Communication.

The formula, which has the consistency of yogurt, can be used three ways: as a leave-in conditioner, as a co-wash booster or as a traditional rinse-off. Tip: If you use it as a leave-in (which will protect your hair up to 450° during heat styling), be sure to apply it a few inches away from your roots to prevent oiliness.

R+Co Bleu De Luxe Reparative Masque

This mask’s thick formula dispenses from the tube almost like toothpaste. Its micro-encapsulated sugar molecules deliver ingredients like tananu and maracuja oil (fatty acids that help seal hair’s damaged cuticles), blood orange and primrose extracts (to soften strands), argan oil (to repair and hydrate) and nettle (to increase shine).

But it’s the fruity scent, with top notes of pineapple, tangerine and cardamom, that will convince you to leave the product on past the allotted five minutes. Bonus: The packaging, made from biodegradable and 100 percent recycled materials, comes with a paper card that’s embedded with wildflower seeds for planting.

Oribe Signature Moisture Masque

This mask is loaded with natural, good-for-your-hair ingredients, including keratin and macadamia nut seed oil (to reduce frizz and tangles), Kaempferia galanga (a ginger that provides UV protection), wild mango butter (for deep moisturizing) and edelweiss, lychee and sunflower seed extracts (to encourage hair growth).

“Unlike regular conditioners, masks are typically concentrated and penetrate the hair more deeply, which is why they’re an important part of your regular hair maintenance,” explains Michele Burgess, executive director of product development at Oribe.

Simply apply this hair mask after shampooing and rinse after five minutes. And yes, this mask contains the fan-favorite Oribe fragrance (Italian bergamot, white peach and cedarwood), which holds its scent even after blow drying.

Drybar Bay Breeze Hydrating Shots

This once-a-week mask wins for best packaging, with its four single-use 1.5-ounce shot bottles. “Filled with moisturizing and shine-enhancing ingredients like apricot kernel oil, sage leaf and candelilla extracts, they’re the ultimate thirst quencher when it comes to hydrating dry hair,” says Anna Kimble, education director at Drybar.

Simply spritz the pink cream throughout your strands (if your hair is short, you can use half and save the rest for later), massage in and rinse after five minutes. “For finer hair types, avoid the root area and concentrate the product on the ends, where hair tends to be drier and more damaged,” Kimble adds.

IGK Offline 3-Minute Hydration Hair Mask

This product had me at three minutes! The stylish gold tube is filled with moisturizing turmeric butter, an ingredient that adds moisture to coarse and curly hair, along with green tea seed oil to smooth hair and add shine.

The twist open tube makes the cream easy to dispense in the shower — just be sure to utilize the excess dollop that dribbles out of the top once the cap is shut closed.

Dove Hair Mask + Minerals

Naturally absorbent white clay has been used in facial masks for years, and now it’s making its way into the hair care category.

“Super fine or oily hair can get weighed down by the conditioning agents in moisturizing masks,” says Michele Garofalo, a principal scientist at Dove. “Yet clay works by removing styling buildup and dead skin cells without stripping natural oils, which is why it’s a good option for this hair group.”

The formula is infused with minerals to add just the right amount of moisture. Simply apply the cream after shampooing from your hair’s mid-length to the ends, then leave it on for three to five minutes before rinsing.

Kiehl’s Olive Fruit Oil Deeply Reparative Hair Pak

This mask was first introduced in 2013, but it remains a bestseller thanks to the three natural ingredients that provide beyond amazing moisturizing benefits: avocado and olive oils (both filled with hydrating fatty acids) and lemon oil (which contains vitamin C to help with scalp dryness and flaking). Stylists have recommended this mask for years to add moisture back into the hair post-chemical treatments like coloring.

Leonor Greyl Paris Masque A L’Orchidee

The affordable little sister to its well-known mask sibling, the Leonor Greyl Paris Masque Quintessence, this nourishing cream tames frizz and conditions hair thanks to an infusion of plant oils, including an orchid extract which makes strands easier to style. Hair strengthening jojoba and colza oils, silk proteins and wheat ceramides round out the five-star ingredient list. Because it’s not super thick, you can use it as your everyday conditioner, or if you’ve got overly dry or coarse hair, apply it weekly as an intensive treatment for twenty minutes before shampooing.

Meet the stylist

  • Juan Carlos Maciques is a celebrity, editorial and runway hairstylist based in New York City at the Oscar Blandi Salon.