Take it from someone who has recovered from a bleaching job gone awry: I very intimately know the frustration of dealing with (and trying to heal) brittle, damaged hair. Although I'm sure we'd all like to think we're above feeling crappy about the condition of our hair (there are more important worries in the grand scheme of things, after all), the way our hair looks and feels can have a major impact on how we feel. A fleeting bad hair day here and there is one thing, but being self-conscious about your hair (trust me, I've been there) can feel heavy. And hey, there's no shame in that! We're only human and our hair is a huge part of our identity. So obviously, we want to feel proud of it and take care of it to the best of our ability.
I don't have to tell you that overprocessing and abusing our hair with color, chemical treatments, extension, and hot tools can do a fiery number on the integrity of our strands. And while in some cases a drastic hair measure (like a mega chop) might really turn the health of your hair around, strategic, high-quality hair products—like an über-reparative mask—can work wonders. (Especially if you're consistent—consistency is key!) Since my Who What Wear Beauty partner in crime Courtney Higgs and I have both had our fair share of triumphs and torture where our hair is concerned, we're sharing some of our favorite hair masks for damaged hair below. But we're not stopping there! I also asked two top hair experts—Redken brand ambassador Matt Rez and expert hairstylist Alessandra Saman—for a few of their top picks as well. The 14 best hair masks for damaged hair are just ahead. Keep scrolling!
Redken Extreme Mega Mask
"I love this mask because you can truly feel the difference right after you use it, and the feeling lasts for up to three washes—that's huge for me to feel the repair with just a single use! This hair mask makes hair up to 15 times stronger, so it's a great solution for hair that's weakened and damaged. The soy protein is a key ingredient within this formula because it rebuilds the structure of your strands and locks in moisture." — Rez
How to use: Shampoo hair, towel dry, and apply the mask from your roots to your tips. Leave it on for up to five minutes. Rez recommends using this prescribed regimen every third wash to get your hair back to a healthier state.
"Throughout my years as a stylist, I have found that the Inphenom treatment mask is the best for all hair textures when treating damage. Creamy to the touch, while also lightweight in its consistency, the formula leaves hair feeling extra nourished. Personally, on my virgin hair, I use this treatment about twice a month to revive my curls. It is the perfect product for EVERYONE!" — Saman
(Editor's note: My colorist, Cassondra Kaeding, always uses this mask on my hair right after she bleaches it.)
How to use: You can use the Inphenom treatment as a mask all over damp hair or, as Saman says, even just as a quick rinse through your ponytail to get the mid-lengths and ends, where damage really likes to set in.
Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3
Nothing can compete with this at-home treatment mask from Olaplex if you're concerned about damage. It's been my saving grace ever since I started bleaching my hair, and I swear it's the reason I only lose about three strands when I carefully comb through my fragile blonde strands. That said, it's great for every hair texture and every level of damage. It's one of those products every being with hair on their head needs in their arsenal.
How to use: Apply a healthy amount of product on damp, towel-dried hair from your scalp to your ends. Carefully comb through and let it sit for at least 10 minutes—although, I like to leave it on for a few hours if possible—before rinsing, shampooing, and conditioning as you normally would. I like to use this once per week, or before every other wash, but you can use it as often as you need.
Davines Nourishing Hair Building Pak
I had a celebrity hairstylist recommend this no-nonsense hair mask to me right after he highlighted my entire head and was dealing with some damage. After just one use, I was hooked, and I've proceeded to recommend it to anyone who ever needs some help in the hair repair department. (And for the record, they're always obsessed with the results.) This is an intense restructuring mask that uses vegetal keratin and a Biacidic Bond Complex to nourish and rebuild weakened strands from the scalp to ends. I promise your hair will feel softer and far more resilient after just one use!
How to use: Because it is so intense, a little goes a long way with this hair mask, and you shouldn't use it too often or keep it on too long. That said, apply it to towel-dried hair right after you've shampooed, and concentrate your application to the parts of your hair that are most damaged—likely the lengths and ends. After 10 to 15 minutes, rinse and condition as you normally would. The brand recommends incorporating every two to three shampoos.
Redken Extreme Play Safe Heat Protection and Damage Repair Treatment
"This is a great leave-in product to use prior to heat styling. It's a specialized treatment that actually reduces damage and strengthens the hair fiber as you use your hot tools. It's a great masking solution to help manage and prevent split ends, and you are covered for up to 450º of heat. It's treatment and prevention all in one!" — Rez
How to use: Apply a dime-size amount to clean, towel-dried hair and work the formula into the mid-lengths and the ends. Carry on with the rest of your styling routine and feel the effects immediately. According to Matt, your hair will feel super-soft and healthy right after styling!
Gloss Moderne Clean Luxury Masque
This hair mask is a bit of an investment, but the results are so worth it. First and foremost, you only need a tiny bit, so the tub will last you forever. Also, it's clean and smells like it was sent from the heavens—such a treat after a long day or if you're trying to stave off the Sunday Scaries. Although people with non-damaged hair can also benefit from this mask due to its luxe, super-creamy consistency, it's an especially great antidote for damaged hair and might veer a little heavy for those without problem areas. It's enriched with cocoa butter and strategically hydrates and fortifies the hair (and your scalp) to feel healthier and fuller. My 73-year-old mom is also a huge fan.
How to use: Massage this mask into damp hair right after you shampoo, and let it sit for about five minutes (or a few hours) before rinsing with cool or cold water. No need to add conditioner afterward. For a deep overnight treatment, I like to wrap my mask-drenched hair with an Aquis Lisse Luxe Hair Turban ($30) before bed and simply wash it out with a cool rinse in the morning.
Davines The Spotlight Circle
"This mask is one of my favorites at the moment for a number of reasons. Not only does it smell like a slice of heaven, but it leaves my hair sealed and glossy without weighing it down. Since I only wash my hair once a week or so, it takes a while for me to get a sense of what my hair really likes, but this mask was an instant hit from the very first use. I use it whenever my hair needs an extra shine boost, once a month or so." — Higgs
How to use: Apply the mask to your towel-dried hair right after shampooing. Leave it on for roughly 10 minutes, comb through, and then rinse.
Ouai Treatment Masque
This is another hair mask that's great for damaged hair. It's formulated for all hair types, and it's another option that Cass sometimes coats my hair with post-bleach. It features Ouai's signature Melrose Place scent (think rich rose accented with bergamot, lychee, cedarwood, and white musk), repairs existing damage, strengthens hair to prevent future damage, and mends split and broken ends.
How to use: If your hair is extremely damaged, feel free to use this hair mask in lieu of your normal conditioner after you shampoo. But to mask, simply work it through damp strands, gently using fingers to evenly incorporate and comb through. Let it sit and works its magic for at least 10 minutes before rinsing with cool water.
Amika Soulfood Nourishing Mask
The name of this hair mask does not lie. It's truly been the transformative food for the damaged soul of my tortured strands. It's one of the few masks I've tried that have a super-creamy texture and seem like they would weigh my fine hair down but—miraculously—do not. Instead, it thoroughly restores the look, texture, shine, and resilience of my hair when its been feeling piqued from too much heat and color abuse.
How to use: This is another hair mask that can totally be used instead of your normal conditioner if your hair's damage warrants a more aggressive rescue protocol. Or you can use it as a weekly treatment after you shampoo. Just leave it on for five (or more) minutes, and then rinse it out.
SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Masque
"This is the mask I reach for when my hair is really in trouble. Whether it's breaking, dull, brittle, or just overly frizzy, this mask can get me back on track quickly. I love how thick and luxurious the formula is and how I don't have to use half the container to get each and every strand of hair coated. It's probably not suitable for those with thinner hair, but its intense moisturizing ability is perfect for me and mine." — Higgs
How to use: Start by sectioning wet, freshly shampooed hair. Distribute and generously comb through a generous amount. Let it sit for at least five minutes or honestly however long you're able to keep it in.
Aveda Damage Remedy Daily Hair Repair
Years ago, I experienced an epic bleaching catastrophe that nearly warranted chopping off all my hair. However, I was able to rescue my hair with the help of a few key products, and this OG formula from Aveda was one of them. (Psst! I've also spotted it within so many celeb hairstylists' kits.) It might be made with 98% naturally derived ingredients, but that doesn't mean it doesn't pack a serious punch where repair is concerned. It's a leave-in treatment that, when used regularly, can reduce breakage by just 90% in one week while also staving off future damage and protecting fragile strands against heat damage. The secret ingredient? Quinoa protein.
How to use: Apply a small amount of this leave-in mask through damp hair and gently comb through to make sure it's evenly distributed. Leave it in, and style as you normally would—no need to rinse until your next scheduled wash day.
It's a 10 Miracle Hair Mask
This is, along with the above hair mask from Aveda, one of the only beauty products that have literally been staples inside my shower since college. Yep, this hair mask is so amazing and so effective that I have had zero reasons to discard it from my regimen. This is a hair mask that will truly transform your hair after just one use. It's specifically designed to treat and reverse damage (be it from color, heat styling, anything) and immediately turns hair soft, velvety, and shiny. When I was going through my aforementioned hair disaster, I used it regularly as a conditioner in addition to sleeping with it in as an overnight deep treatment. The key MVPs include oat kernel extract, apricot kernel oil, sweet almond oil, and linseed extract—all of which are bountiful in moisturizing and fortifying vitamins and antioxidants damaged hair craves.
How to use: For daily use, apply a quarter(ish)-size amount into hair, focusing on the ends before extending any excess to the mid-lengths and scalp. Let it do its thing for two to three minutes and then rinse with cool water. If you're doing a deep treatment, apply a medium, palm-size amount all over damp hair, comb through, wrap with plastic and a warm towel, and blow your hair dryer around your head for three to five minutes. Rinse completely with warm water and finish with a cold rinse.
Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Gold Masque
I know. I know: $225 is an insane amount of money to spend on any kind of beauty product, but it seems extraordinarily erroneous for something you're washing out of your hair. But hear me out. This is not an ordinary hair mask. Philip B (yes, there's a real-life man, and I've had the wonderful pleasure of meeting him) has been in the industry for decades and is regarded as one of the best hairstylists of all time. Thus, when he created his own line of botanical-based haircare, it was bound to be gold. This luxe mask does it all—restructures, revitalizes, revives, and regenerates all hair types and all damage concerns. It also prevents breakage and keeps pesky split ends at bay. My hair feels like silk immediately after each use, and it lasts through several washes and styling sessions.
How to use: Shampoo and apply a big dollop of the mask to wet hair, massaging it downward from root to end. Carefully comb through and leave it on for however long your needs. The brand recommends anywhere from three to 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and you're done! No need to condition afterward.
Carol's Daughter Monoi Repairing Mask
"This mask is everything to me. I've used it for at least 10 years at this point because it really gets the job done in terms of repairing my hair when I've gone overboard on the heat styling. Although there's nothing like a good trim to get rid of split ends and stop my hair from breaking, this nourishing mask sends my hair in the right direction." — Higgs
How to use: Massage this mask into clean, wet hair, concentrating on your ends. Let it soak in for five to seven minutes before rinsing thoroughly, or put on a plastic shower cap and sit under a dryer (or just halo your hair with a hair dryer) for 10 minutes.
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated.