The first time I experimented with a hair mask, I raked a thick, luxe cream through my damp strands, only to discover that my thin hair didn’t need (and couldn’t handle) such a rich formula. After suffering through five days of greasy hair, I figured out that no hair mask is created equal. And if you’re hoping to reap any benefits from a mask, you have to use the right formula for your texture’s needs.
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Before you shell out any money on a mask though, you need to know what you’re buying, and which ingredients are going to be most beneficial for your hair. “Masks are a great way to detangle your hair, seal split ends, add shine, and even protect it from heat damage and environmental stressors,” says hairstylist Justine Marjan, whose client roster includes the Kardashians, Chrissy Teigen, and Jenna Dewan, to name a few.
In short: If you’ve got hair, you can and will benefit from a mask. But how do you figure out which one is right for you? You don’t—we did it for you. Ahead,walks us through her favorite hair mask ingredients, along with the best products to try for each hair type.
For Dry Hair
“Anyone with dry hair should look for a mask with oil-based ingredients, which work to replenish moisture that your strands desperately need,” says Marjan. Lightweight oils, like jojoba and sesame, are ideal for finer hair types, while coconut and shea oils are rich enough to revive thicker, coarser hair textures.
For really intense hydration, slather the mask on dry hair, rather than wet, about 30 minutes before you hop in the shower. “When your hair strand is saturated with water, it can’t soak up as much of the mask as it could if you applied it to dry hair,” says Mona Gohara, M.D. dermatologist at Yale University.
For Thin Hair
Thin hair is easily weighed down by thick moisturizers, but that doesn’t mean hair masks are totally off limits—you just need to find the right one. “Christophe Robin’s Wheat Germ Mask is great for thin hair, because it balances the hair’s pH levels without adding heavy moisturizers,” says Marjan.
In general, look for masks filled with lightweight hydrators, like jojoba oil and honey extract, along with a bunch of strand-strengthening ingredients, like biotin and rice protein, and stick to masking only once a week. Don’t feel like scrutinizing a bunch of labels? Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with these four, below.
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For Curly Hair
“Curly hair is naturally drier than straight hair types, so I opt for masks with richly hydrating oils, like coconut, castor, olive, and marula,” says Marjan. “You’ll want to use oils that are heavy enough to shape and define your curls, but will also protect and strengthen them at the same time.”
Marjan’s favorite formula for curlier types is Ouai’s Treatment Masque, which conditions your curls with a blend of coconut water, shea butter, and artichoke leaf extract for a soft, ultra-hydrated texture. Want some other options? Check out these other curly-hair favorites.
For Oily Hair
Using a thick, rich mask on oily hair is a guaranteed way to make your hair even greasier, which is why Marjan recommends oilier types skip the heavy masks and instead try a formula with powerful clarifiers, like clay or apple cider vinegar.
“Apple cider vinegar is one of my favorite ingredients to balance pH levels, which can lead to excess oil production,” she explains. “It also hydrates and adds shine to the hair without weighing it down.” Clay, on the other hand, helps soak up scalp oils, like a sponge, to keep roots clean and voluminous. Whichever you choose, make sure to use sparingly—no more than once a week.
For Color-Treated Hair
Color-treated hair is, by nature, incredibly dry, making it the perfect candidate for masks. The only catch? Finding one that’ll keep your color bright and shiny. “Any mask with linseed extract will be great for color-treated hair, because it preserves melanin content,” says Marjan. “I also suggest using something with rice protein, since it protects and repairs hair from oxidative damage—which means no more brassiness.”
One of Marjan’s favorite masks for color-treated hair is Rita Hazan’s Weekly Remedy, a two-step formula that combines rice protein and linseed extract with a powerful, super-hydrating blend of jojoba, plum, olive, and moringa seed oils. Luckily, there are tons of other excellent options, as well, and you can slather them on every day of the week, if you want. Moisturized hair is happy hair.