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15 products that actually work on dry hair, from $10 — plus expert tips to keep it hydrated

If you were looking for a comprehensive dry hair guide, you found it.
Woman putting oil in her hair
Kara Birnbaum/ TODAY

Is your hair feeling a little parched?

Maybe dry winter months are to blame, or maybe your dehydrated hair is — thanks to chemicals, dyes and hot tools getting just a little too chummy in your hair routine.

Whatever it is that has your hair screaming for moisture, there are plenty of ways to get healthy hydration back in the picture.

We sorted through top-rated products for dry hair, tested plenty of dry hair treatments ourselves, and chatted with experts about handling dry hair for different hair types. This way, you can skip the dry hair treatments that leave you greasy, wanting more, or worse — leaving your hair even drier than before.

There’s something for everyone — fine hair, color-treated hair, textured hair and so on. Use the links below to shop by category or hair type, or keep scrolling to see everything about the best of the best, along with sage advice from our hair gurus.

What causes dry hair? | Best leave-in conditioners | Best dry hair styling product | Best dry hair shampoos | Best dry hair masks | Best primers for dry hair | What we also considered | How we chose | What to look for | Dry hair do's and don'ts | Tips for extremely dry hair | Tips for flaky scalps | FAQs | Meet our experts

What causes dry hair?

Finding the culprit behind your dry hair may take some elbow grease — there are plenty of causes to consider.

Dr. Kseniya Kobets, Director of Cosmetic Dermatology at Montefiore Einstein Advanced Care, gives us a short list of reasons we may see some crispy locks in the mirror:

  • Chemical processing. Think bleach and dye. Whether you DIY at home or visit the salon, chemicals can drum up some hair damage.
  • Heat processing. Think straighteners, curlers and blow dryers; Kobets tell us all of these can heat up the hair cuticle (protective outer layer of the hair), damage it, and strip natural oils that protect the hair.
  • Diet. When evaluating hair loss and brittle hair, Kobets says it’s essential that we check that blood levels of essential vitamins and nutrients are optimized, like iron, vitamin D, zinc, folic acid, biotin and B12. Who knew hydrated hair could start with blood work?
  • Scalp health. Kobets says it’s important to note the difference between dry hair and dry scalp. “Dry scalp can be related to scalp conditions like sensitive scalp with eczema, seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), or psoriasis flaking or plaques,” she says. Dry hair, on the other hand, “can be a separate or concomitant problem which can be dry, brittle, or frizzy cuticle of the hair strands themselves.”

Best leave-in conditioners for dry hair

As you’re shopping, you’ll notice a slew of leave-in options for treating dry hair. Richards tells us leave-ins are perfect for blow drying, heat styling or air drying. (Want to DIY it? Jump to our FAQs for her tips.) Our top picks are below.

SheaMoisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Leave-In Treatment

BEST FOR: curly hair, frizz, heat protectant, deep conditioning

Spray options are beyond convenient for quick application and less mess. This spray leave-in treatment from SheaMoisture is easy on the wallet and easy to apply (spray it on damp hair, starting midway down to detangle and address frizz).

According to the brand, the nourishing formula includes a blend of extra virgin coconut and shea oils. If you peruse this pick’s Google reviews, you’ll see it’s a hit with its curly hair buyers in particular, who say it helps keep frizz out of the picture.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Fine hair folks may not appreciate this leave-in as much as those with curly hair. Keep in mind this one is best for those who love a coconut fragrance.

Hair Dance Ultra-Light Conditioning Spray

BEST FOR: scent, natural ingredients, detangling

I love when a hair product smells as good as it works. Hair Dance, a woman-owned, eco-conscious brand, uses grapefruit essential oil in its ultra-light conditioning spray — and it honestly smells a lot like candy.

Upon trying out this leave-in conditioner, I was thrilled with how quickly I could run a brush through my pretty tangled, post-shower hair. I appreciate that the mist is fine instead of thick (no one wants globs of conditioner shooting out at them).

Plus, the brand is pretty proud of what it leaves out of its products. You won’t find any of these unsavory ingredients in this spray: Paraben, sulfates, silicones, drying alcohols, talc, aluminum, mineral oil and artificial dyes.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Some users say the smell is too sweet for their taste; others with thicker or wavier hair say they need to use a bit more to adequately detangle their locks.

Aveda Damage Remedy Daily Hair Repair

BEST FOR: split ends, adding shine, daily use

I’ve been using this leave–in treatment by Aveda for years. It’s lightweight and uses naturally-derived ingredients. Like the Rahua leave-in treatment at the top of our list, this product also protects against heat, making it an excellent choice before using hot tools. I find that using this in damp hair before a blow dry eliminates the look of dry, dead ends (you know, the ones that need to be trimmed off!).

It’s also worth mentioning that this formula is cruelty-free, vegan and free from the following: parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum, formaldehyde and synthetic fragrances.

Aveda says you can use this one daily if you’d like — I use it when I want a quick boost of shine.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: This particular Aveda product contains silicones. Some reviewers say it does a better job strengthening hair than it does tackling fly-aways or split ends.

It’s A 10 Miracle Leave-in

BEST FOR: budget-friendly, travel-friendly

This more affordable pick has a cult following (and nearly 30,000 Google reviews), with some reviewers calling it the holy grail.

The formula — made with natural ingredients like green tea leaf extract and silk amino acids — is designed to help prevent split ends and protect your hair from heat, all while adding some shine and nourishment.

The spray bottle seems pretty easy to take with you (we love a travel-friendly product) and is available in three sizes.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: People who prefer more natural scents say this one has more of a salon smell.

Best expert-approved styling product for dry hair

Rahua Leave-In Treatment Light

BEST FOR: fine hair, heat protectant, split ends

Of all the dry hair treatments I trialed, this one takes the crown. Tiffanie Richards, Master Colorist at Louise O’Conner Salon in New York City, tells us it's a game-changer and that she carries it everywhere with her.

Richards adds that it works wonders on dry hair ends, and trying the treatment out myself very much confirmed this.

The first thing to love about it is that it’s a multitasker: a styling product, leave-in treatment and heat protectant that tackles frizz before it starts. The brand says it includes omega-9-rich Rahua oil, formulated to help prevent split ends. Though it's on the pricier side, if you use it right, it should last you a long time.

Richards adds, “This can be used on wet or dry hair. Used on dry, it makes the hair super smooth and hydrated without weighing it down. ... Less is more when using this styling product.”

I prefer using it on towel-damp hair — after blow-drying, my hair comes out smooth, shiny and no frizz to be found.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: The brand offers a regular-strength and a light version for those with finer hair. The only drawback is its earthy scent, but it seems to dissipate pretty quickly, especially when blow drying.

Best shampoos for dry hair

Biolage Strength Recovery Shampoo

BEST FOR: damaged hair

I’m calling this shampoo out specifically for how well it works on straw-like dry hair. But it’s definitely best when used as part of a system of its sister products.

Biolage’s Strength Recovery collection is best for dry and damaged hair and, in addition to the shampoo, includes a conditioning cream, deep treatment pack and repairing spray.

If you think you don’t land in the damaged hair category, the brand also has two other collections to consider for dry hair (but keep in mind that I only tested the Strength Recovery system):

The Strength Recovery Shampoo uses vegan squalane (sourced from olives) for moisturizing and smoothing. The brand also says it’s suitable for color-treated hair, so you don’t have to worry about your color washing down the drain.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Those who prefer a more scented shampoo say the smell is too subtle.

Rahua Hydration Shampoo

BEST FOR: all hair types

Rahua makes our list a couple of times, and we promise we’re not playing favorites.

When it comes to a hydrating shampoo, this one was my favorite in testing. I noticed that my hair was shiny and silky after using it just once. The scent is a light, fruity tropical fragrance, which is much different (in a good way) from the earthier aroma of the brand’s beloved leave-in treatment above (which I also love).

The formula includes essential fatty acids, and vitamins A, C and E. The company says this one is good for use on all hair types, too.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Some users say this shampoo doesn't lather much, and that the scent may be too subtle for those who prefer fragranced options.

Best masks for dry hair

Applying your mask should be a breeze, but make sure you follow directions closely; each product can vary a bit when it comes to application time. Saviano suggests combing your mask through your hair using a wide-tooth comb and applying a warm towel to intensify results. I like to apply mine while in the shower, capping it off with a shower cap to keep everything in place.

Act & Acre Conditioning Hair Mask

BEST FOR: most hair types, day-to-day use, damaged hair

Richards says this mask is amazing for day-to-day use. “This mask provides hydration without weighing down the hair,” she says. The brand says the nourishing, vegan formula includes proteins, vitamins, fatty acids, antioxidants, 2 percent glycerin and 2 percent castor oil.

One of Shop TODAY's writers is currently trying out this product, we'll include her feedback here in the near future. But Amazon reviewers give it high praise, shouting out its “amazing” scent and noting how well it moisturizes.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Some users say this was too heavy for their not-very-damaged or short, virgin hair; this is best for those with moderate to extremely damaged locks.

Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask

BEST FOR: damaged, chemically treated hair

Here’s another cult favorite, formulated with straight, wavy, curly and coily hair types in mind.

The vegan, gluten-free formula includes rosehip oil, B-vitamins, algae extract, almond oil and antioxidants to add shine and moisture to dry, damaged hair. We appreciate that there are no sulfates, parabens or silicones to be found in this formula.

The brand says that this mask, which is their bestseller, by the way, should be used once weekly or every two weeks. The brand suggests leaving it on for five to 10 minutes before rinsing it off. If you want a deeper result, the company says to cover your hair with a plastic cap after application and then sit under a dryer for 30 minutes before rinsing.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: While the majority of users like this product, they say that it's pricey compared with comparable offerings on the market that are slightly cheaper.

Moroccan Oil Intense Hydrating Mask

BEST FOR: heat damage, medium to thick hair

Richards recommends this five-minute mask by Moroccan Oil, saying it's amazing for heat damage. But just because it’s an excellent choice for addressing heat damage, Richards reminds us to still use caution with heat styling in general. “Obviously, try to avoid intense heat styling and invest in a good heat protectant to spray before styling.”

I did not test this product personally, though Amazon reviewers have me a little jealous about it! One Amazon reviewer, in particular, says they simply “cannot do without it.” The brand says on its website that you can use it twice weekly.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: The scent may be too strong for those who prefer subtler notes, and users with oily hair say this was a little too hydrating for them.

Kérastase Masquintense Fine Hair Mask

BEST FOR: fine hair, reducing breakage

I like this mask for its softening effect. I tried out the brand’s formula for fine hair, though they also offer the same mask for thick hair as well. Though the price tag is steeper than many other options on this list, I’ll say the jar is a generous size and should stick around on your shelf for a while.

The formula includes a blend of oils (argan, marula, camellia) to give fine hair a supple feel. While I wasn’t thrilled with the scent (it reminds me of baby powder), I was happy that it was easy to comb through my hair and took just five minutes to soften it.

Pro-tip for fine hair: Saviano suggests using a volumizing spray or mousse at your crown to add volume and dimension.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Others agree that the baby powder scent takes some getting used to.

L'oréal Professionnel Vitamino Color Mask

BEST FOR: color-treated hair, smoothing

I didn’t test this one, but Richards recommends this mask for those looking to take extra care of color-treated hair.

“I use this on most of my blondes after highlights,” she says. “It makes their hair feel like butter.”

The brand says the creamy mask transforms into foam during application, and they advise leaving it on for just two to three minutes before rinsing.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Multiple users say the bottle is small for the price.

L'oréal Professionnel Liss Unlimited

BEST FOR: textured hair, frizzy hair

Richards recommends this smoothing hydrating mask for moisturizing textured hair. The brand mentions this pick also helps protect against humidity, which makes it a good choice for those muggy summer months or for emergency use while on a steamy vacation.

K18 leave-in molecular repair hair mask

BEST FOR: splurge choice, chemically damaged hair

This mask is a splurge choice, we know. The full-size bottle will cost you around $75, though the mini is around $30 (for half an ounce). But there's a good reason it lands on our list of the best despite its unsavory price tag. Its Google rating is an impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars, with fans calling it a “miracle worker” or the “holy grail.”

The vegan, color-safe mask uses the company’s patented peptide formula that promises smoothness, softness and bounce. To use it, the brand says to shampoo your hair first but not to condition it. Then, apply the mask, letting it sit for 4 minutes before rinsing. From there, you’re free to style and add a heat protectant.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: It seems this mask doesn’t include any heat-protecting properties, which is a bit of a downer!

Best primer for dry hair

Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Primer

BEST FOR: frizzy hair

I use this hair primer all the time and love how fast it works to detangle and add shine. It also takes out the risk of fuzzy frizz that blow-drying is infamous for — and protects from the heat, too (again, we love multitasking!). If the full-size bottle price tag seems steep, the travel size is available at around half the cost (I use this size, and it lasts me quite a long time!). The brand formulated this pick using a six-oil blend that’s said to be suitable for all hair types, densities and textures.

P.S. We appreciate that this one is also cruelty-free.

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Longtime users say that the formula seems to have changed and is not as effective on fine hair.

What we also considered

Authentic Beauty Concept Hydrate Mask ($42): Authentic Beauty Concept is a hair care line focused on sustainability, so we're giving it a honorable mention. The brand’s lightweight hydration mask, formulated for normal, dry or curly hair, includes key ingredients like mango and basil (for hydration) and uses guar extract in place of silicone to soften and shine. It’s worth mentioning that it’s free from microplastics, mineral oil, parabens and silicones. This mask has one of the best scents of all those we tested, by the way, and we love the sustainable packaging.

How we chose the best products for dry hair

Not all dry hair responds to the same treatment products, so we rounded up top-rated options across key categories and hair types. Keeping different hair needs in mind, we found the best-rated products from trusted brands that get the highest praise from customers.

To see for ourselves how well some of these really work, we also rolled up our sleeves and tested a good chunk of these hair treatments (which is more taxing than it sounds!).

Shop TODAY also spoke with experts: a dermatologist to learn about dry hair causes and overall scalp health, as well as a hairstylist and a colorist for dry hair do’s and don’ts. We also asked them for tips on what to look for while shopping and their non-biased recommendations for the best products for treating dry hair.

What to look for in a product if your hair is dry

Kobets suggests looking for products with specific ingredients that include the following:

  • Humectants (glycerin, for example)
  • Proteins
  • Oils (not mineral oil, though, which can lead to product build-up)
  • Fatty acids (like coconut oil)
  • Emollients (like ceramides)

We also asked Richards for shopping tips, starting with what to avoid. One word: Alcohol.

“Not all alcohols are bad for the hair,” she says. “But there are a certain few to look out for.”

Here’s the rest of Richards' breakdown of what's good and bad for dry hair.

Good: lauryl, cetyl, cetearyl, stearyl and behenyl alcohols.

Bad: ethanol, propanol, propyl, isopropyl and SD alcohols (specially denatured)

Dry hair do’s and don’ts

Keeping an eye out for certain ingredients, avoiding others, and making small shifts in your hair routine can make a big difference in keeping moisture in your hair.

Our experts weigh in with these do’s and don’ts for dry hair.

  • Avoid over-using keratin-containing products. Kobets tell us that these can build up on hair and cause hair breakage.
  • Avoid over-using silicones. Ingredients like dimethicones can help hair to feel smooth, silky, and glossy, but Kobets says they should also not be over-used since they can clog up scalp pores and also cause acne on your face if it makes contact. “Patients with highly sensitive skin, especially (sensitive to) propylene glycol, should avoid this ingredient often used in conditioners.”
  • Avoid over-using dry shampoo. “Remember, dry shampoo is intended to strip the hair of all moisture,” Richards reminds us. “If you're reaching for this on the regular, be sure to avoid the ends of your hair at all costs.”
  • Hydrate more than you think you should. Richards suggests investing in a leave-in conditioner and heat protectant for hydration. You’ll find plenty of these on our list in a second.
  • Give your hair a break. If you can skip hot tools and chemicals on certain days, do it. Richards is a big supporter of rocking a sleek bun with apricot oil.

Extremely dry hair? Here are some tips.

Is your hair on the extremely dry side? Nunzio Saviano, hair stylist and owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City, has some tips for dry hair that needs some extra loving:

  • Use a silk pillowcase. These can help you avoid friction that can lead to breakage and frizz.
  • Wrap hair in saran wrap and a warm towel. Doing this can help boost the benefits of your hair mask of choice.
  • Try co-washing (washing with conditioner). Saviano says co-washing can keep hair moisturized and protected from harsh surfactants.
  • Ask your colorist or stylist to use an in-salon hair-bonding treatment. If it’s within your hair budget, a salon service like this can help repair hair and reduce brittleness and breakage.
  • Invest in a quality boar hair brush. Saviano says this tool will help keep hair smooth and static-free. “Brush lightly nightly and apply a light oil to the hair to keep it moisturized and frizz free,” he says.

Tips for flaky scalps

If you have a sensitive scalp or eczema, Kobets recommends avoiding harsh or irritating ingredients in scalp products, such as fragrances, parabens and sulfates.

She also suggests using a gentle line of products, like Vanicream, which carries shampoo, conditioner and other hair products for sensitive skin.

For people with dandruff or psoriasis, Kobets encourages people to visit a dermatologist who can prescribe a topical steroid solution or oil to calm the scalp itching, irritation and flaking.

Another product option here, she says, is ketoconazole 2 percent shampoo to help control oiliness and a flaky scalp.

Nizoral shampoo is an over-the-counter ketoconazole 1 percent shampoo that can help dandruff,” Kobets tells us. She does caution that ketoconazole shampoo can worsen dry or brittle hair, so this product is best for managing dandruff, but not for treating dry hair.

Questions about dry hair, answered by experts

Can I make my own leave-in conditioner?

Richards says that if you don't have the means to invest in a good leave-in conditioner (or are just feeling crafty), you can always create your own at home using her steps below:

  1. Grab an empty spray bottle and fill it with filtered water.
  2. Take your favorite conditioner and squeeze about a quarter size worth into the bottle.
  3. Shake really, really well until the conditioner is dissolved, and you'll have yourself a handmade leave-in conditioner.
  4. Level it up with a drop or two of essential oil for additional hair perfume.

What should I be doing to rehydrate/moisturize extremely dry hair?

Richards tells her clients to think of their hair as they think about their skin. “If your skin feels dry, you're naturally going to use a thicker, more hydrating moisturizer. The same absolutely applies to your hair,” she says.

She advises reaching for a hair mask or a conditioner labeled for hydration. She adds that while hair masks are usually recommended for occasional use, if you're hair is feeing very dry, “do not be afraid of using a hair mask as you would a regular conditioner (this I happen to do for myself, as well).”

If you're nervous of your hair being weighed down, avoid your roots, Richards says. "Your hair will thank you and [it will] feel better very quickly.”

What causes straw-like hair?

There’s a good range of factors responsible for straw-like hair. Richards points out that natural texture is one possible factor.

“Thick, coarse hair tends to have a natural straw-like feel to it unless it is blown out smooth,” she says. “Gray hair also tends to naturally have a straw-like texture due to the loss of pigment and change in texture.”

The third factor, Richards tells us, is chemical processing. “If your hair is overly processed, your hair will most certainly feel a bit dry and rough. All of the above can be maintained with a hydrating or smoothing hair mask,” she says. “Typically, if you have a straw-like texture, your hair is needing all the moisture it can get. Hydrate it well and treat yourself to a blowout every now and again.”

Do not be afraid of using a hair mask as you would a regular conditioner (this I happen to do for myself).

Tiffanie Richards, Master Colorist, Louise O’Conner Salon

Should I be using more conditioner if my hair is dry?

Kobets says yes, but warns to be careful not to overdo it if your hair is fine, saying it will decrease volume and weigh fine hair down.

Saviano tells us that it’s less about the amount of conditioner used and more about the ingredients and integrity of the conditioner that you’re using.

“Apply enough to coat the hair and comb through with a wide tooth comb to evenly disperse throughout the hair,” he suggests.

How do I fix dry hair ends?

Richards points out that, of course, you can use a hair mask or oils on dry ends. “But if I'm being honest here, the only real solution to dry ends is a shape-up.”

We know you were probably hoping to keep scissors out of this, but Richards adds that if you don't want to cut all of the dryness out, you can just do micro trims or "dustings," as she likes to call them.

“Long story short, it’s said to cut your hair in order for it to grow, because dry ends cause hair to break up [at] the shaft. The hair will keep breaking until you reach the healthy part of the hair. As long as your ends are breaking, your hair will not seem like it's growing," she explain.

Kobets explains that, along with getting routine conservative haircuts (or dusting!), lower your amount of chemical processing and protect your hair before styling and with conditioning hair products. Pro-tip: These are also called heat protectants! Keep in mind some products on our list, like Bumble and Bumble's Hairdresser’s Invisible Primer, help detangle hair, smooth frizz and protect locks from heat all at once.

Meet our experts