As if your hair wasn’t enough of a science project pre-kids, now you’re lucky if you can scrap together 2 minutes each day to run a hairbrush and maybe some dry shampoo through it. And, if you’re like the rest of us, you probably color your hair, blow dry it and even hot-iron it on a big day/night out. This means you’re guilty of over-processing, overdoing it with heat styling tools and applying hair-disrupting chemicals to your tresses.
The bad news: This seemingly inevitable behavior leads to lackluster, dry and/or brittle locks, according to New York City-based master hair colorist Stephanie Brown at IGK Salon. The good news: There are products out there formulated to help hydrate and smooth the cuticle of even near-dead hair. They’re called hair masks and they are literally a godsend, especially for new moms struggling with postpartum hair loss and those dreaded baby hairs sprouting out (and sticking up) from every corner of your ever-loving, exhausted forehead.
To score the best results from using hair masks, Brown recommends leaving them on for a minimum of five minutes underneath a shower cap or warm towel to keep the moisture in. “Doing this will help hydrate and strengthen hair, add shine and smooth out frizz,” she says. If you’re a mom, you probably don’t have five minutes a day to designate this hair masking ritual—and that’s perfectly OK. Just doing a mask once weekly, or even every two weeks, is gold.
The best ingredients to search for in a hair mask? Oils and butters, including coconut oil, argan oil, jojoba, shea butter, murumuru butter and linseed extract (which comes from flaxseed) are all great ingredients that help moisturize and protect color, according to Brown. In addition, trimming your hair every 8-12 weeks is also a must to ensure your hair stays healthy.
Not all hair masks are created equal, of course, so we’re sharing the ones that actually do the work to score you smoother, shinier, silkier and healthier hair overall.
Weekly hair rescue with Honey & Hibiscus sound too luxurious for you, mama? No way! These organic ingredients work together to restore shine and moisturize over-processed hair. This rich and decadent silicone-free hair mask puts hair into rehab. Let’s dig deeper— organic honey coats hair in essential nutrients and draws in needed moisture, organic hibiscus flower extract contains amino acids to repair and strengthen strands and Bacuri butter intensely softens and nourishes hair. Sign us up.
From YouTube sensation and mom of 6, Mindy McKnight, comes this clean, wallet-friendly hair-care mask that’s formulated for every hair texture and type (yes, seriously). It’s free of harsh and harmful ingredients (free of sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone, and mineral oil) at a fraction of the cost of its competitors. One of its best perks is that you don’t have to leave it on longer than 5 minutes to start seeing results—more shine and hydration and less frizz and split ends. She’s a busy mama, she knows what we need, and created a product line that works for our families as well as hers.
Ask any hairstylist in the world about Olaplex, and they will all come back at you with a resounding “it’s amazing”—because, well, it is! That’s why the company can sell a tiny 3-ounce container of it for a whopping $28 and still earn themselves more than 12,000 4.5-star reviews on Amazon. “It is a hair colorist’s dream come true,” says Lauren Paglionico, hair colorist and owner of LRN BEAUTY. “It repairs broken bonds and is designed to protect and prevent damage.” The secret is in Olaplex’s patented technology—it actually relinks broken strands, leaving it stronger than ever. Even chronic hair bleachers agree that this treatment revives extreme damage. With its ultra strength, it’s comforting to know that it’s also paraben-free, vegan, sulfate-free and phthalate-free. Quick note: Unlike other masks, this one is meant to be used before shampooing and left on for at least 10 minutes.
If you’re an in-and-out-of-the-shower kind of gal who doesn’t have time to don a hair cap for minutes in the morning or evening, there is still hope for your hair—in the form of this overnight mask that puts in work while you sleep. It helps build back the bonds in each strand of hair in a time-release process that’s designed to work while you’re sound asleep on your pillow. It’s easy to use: you simply spray it on dry hair and comb it through. Next to its addicting smell, one of its best perks is that you don’t have to wash it out in the a.m.—just brush your strands and go (or add some curl to it if you have an extra 10 minutes to string together). It’s great for pretty much every hair type from straight and wavy to curly and coily.
If your hair is blond, chances are you get that golden hue from more than Mother Nature herself. So if you are heavily highlighting or have gone totally platinum, your hair’s going to need some serious help. This mask was designed for all hair types and colors, but it’s been shown to be particularly beneficial for very damaged and over-processed strands, according to Brown. The key repairing ingredients are a pro-keratin, which mimics the function of actual keratin found in hair to help rebuild it from the inside out, and ceramide which helps with moisture retention and elasticity as well as adding smoothness and shine. For best results, apply this mask to towel-dried hair and leave on for at least 5 minutes (even longer if you can).
Of course, you want to feel comfortable knowing that a product you’re putting on your hair (which can then get into your scalp) is free of harmful chemicals like sulfates, silicones and parabens, but you also want to know that it works. Sometimes masks without these crappy chemicals simply suck. Not this one! It’s 98 percent naturally derived and delivers a blend of transformative nutrients to your tresses including hair-, nail-and skin-enhancing biotin, rosehip oil which is an essential fatty acid that helps maintain hair hydration and keep frizz to a minimum, and both almond and argan oil which helps cut down on split ends and keeps hair shiny and soft. Oh, and it’s both cruelty- and gluten-free (seriously).
The It’s A 10 brand is probably best known for their leave-in conditioner that doesn’t leave hair greasy and weighted down. But their miracle mask is one of their best kept secrets and part of the brand’s Conditioning Collection. It’s a true reviver for hair that’s been color-treated, heat-styled, over-processed or gone through pregnancy, labor and delivery. Like its leave-in conditioner, the formula is relatively light, so you can use this daily in place of your conditioner without overdoing it. Key ingredients include oat and apricot kernels which, little did we know, contain a plethora of antioxidants that nourish and moisturize hair, as well as almond oil and linseed extract, which you already know add that lustrous shine thanks to the infusion of vitamins A, E and B.
First thing first: This mask smells amazing. That’s literally one of its greatest perks next to its impressive ability to hydrate and condition hair. This mask is a bit on the heavier side, so it’s best used on medium-to-thick hair that’s parched, be it from regular environmental factors (sun damage, free radicals what have you) or in-salon chemical processing. In as little as five minutes (but optimally 7) it revives dead strands thanks to an infusion of nourishing ingredients including argan oil, glycerin (a natural humectant) and linseed extract. It is also free of harmful chemicals including both SLS and SLES sulfates, parabens, formaldehydes (yes, that nasty ingredient is found in certain hair care products), phthalates and more.
This top-rated deep conditioning mask with 1,900+ reviews is a price steal for the repairing it can do for your hair. It contains an ultra-rich blend of ingredients including coconut oil, which has been used for decades to enhance scalp health, moisturize dry hair and fight split ends. It also contains vanilla extract, which does more for the hair than make it smell incredible—it also makes it shiny and smooth. It’s organic—if that’s important to you in a hair care product—and is formulated without surfactants like sulfates, which actually break down your hair as opposed to repairing it. Many top reviewers say that the tropical smell of this hair mask is one of its best qualities and that it lingers long after they’ve showered.
Only have 3 minutes to spare and $3 to spend? Meet the hair mask of your dreams. It costs a fraction of most of its competitors and delivers consistently impressive results. That’s why it’s been a top beauty product winner for over a decade. Australian jojoba oil infused with avocado are its main ingredients coupled with sea kelp which work synergistically to help hydrate dry hair after just one use. It’s formulated for all hair types, but it is on the heavier side, so it’s best to use once or twice a week unless you have super dry hair. It’s also free of parabens, so it’s not like you’re sacrificing your health while you save $10-$20 by purchasing this hair mask.