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You’ve probably heard of, or perhaps tried, a face mask. Just as a face mask works to nourish and hydrate your skin, a hair mask works in a similar way to boost the condition and health of your hair.

Hair masks may also be referred to as deep conditioning treatments or intensive hair conditioners.

What makes them different to instant conditioners is that the ingredients are usually more concentrated, and the mask is left on your hair for longer — anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours.

Many types of hair masks can be made at home from ingredients you may already have in your kitchen, like bananas, honey, or even egg yolk. Or, if you don’t want to fuss with making one yourself, there are many types of pre-made hair masks you can buy at the store.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits of hair masks, how to use them, and the types of masks that may work best for your hair type.

There are many benefits to using a hair mask, and the advantages vary depending on the ingredients and your hair type. Generally speaking, the benefits of using a hair mask include:

  • shinier, softer hair
  • added moisture
  • reduced hair breakage and damage
  • less frizz
  • a healthier scalp
  • stronger hair
  • less environmental and product damage

Hair masks run the gamut when it comes to ingredients that can give your hair some TLC. The ingredients that may work best for you will depend on your hair type and the condition of your hair and scalp.

Here are some of the most popular ingredients to look for in a store-bought mask or to experiment with when making your own:

  • Bananas. If you want to reduce frizz, bananas are a good ingredient to include in a hair mask. The silica in bananas may also help make your hair softer and shinier. According to a 2011 study, bananas also have antimicrobial properties. This may help reduce dryness and dandruff.
  • Eggs. The nutrients in egg yolks, including vitamins A and E, biotin, and folate, may help promote hair growth, while the protein in egg whites may help strengthen your hair.
  • Avocado oil. The minerals in avocado oil, such as folic acid, iron, and magnesium, may help seal the hair cuticle. This can help make your hair more resistant to damage and breakage.
  • Honey. Honey is considered a humectant, which means it can help your hair pull in and retain more moisture. It can also stimulate the growth of skin cells, which may help promote stronger hair follicles.
  • Coconut oil. Due to its low molecular weight, coconut oil can penetrate the hair shaft for deep conditioning. This can help reduce dryness and frizz. Research from 2015 has also shown that coconut oil can reduce protein loss when used on the hair.
  • Olive oil. Want intense moisture? Olive oil contains squalene, which is produced naturally by the body but declines as we age. Squalene is essential for moisturized hair and skin.
  • Aloe vera. If you want to calm and soothe your scalp, consider a hair mask with aloe vera, which has anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains vitamins C, E, and B-12, folic acid, and choline, which may help strengthen and nourish your hair.

Making your own hair mask is pretty easy and can be fun, too. If you haven’t tried a hair mask before, you may want to experiment with a few different recipes and ingredients until you find the one that’s best suited to your hair.

You’ll know it’s a good fit if your hair feels soft and moisturized without looking or feeling greasy or limp.

To get started, you may want to try one of these basic yet effective DIY hair mask recipes. You can increase the quantity of the ingredients, depending on the length of your hair.

For frizzy or damaged hair

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. organic raw honey
  • 1 tbsp. organic coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. Heat the honey and coconut oil together in a saucepan. Stir until blended.
  2. Allow the mixture to cool, then apply it to your hair.
  3. Let it sit for 40 minutes, then shampoo and condition as normal.

For dry hair or dandruff

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 tbsp. of aloe vera gel
  • 1 tsp. of coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. Blend the 3 ingredients together, then apply to wet or dry hair from root to tip.
  2. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.

For fine, thinning hair

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. Whisk the egg whites and oil together until blended.
  2. Apply from root to tip to damp hair, and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Shampoo with cool water. This is especially important for masks that contain egg, as hot water can cause the egg to cook in the hair.

If you don’t have time to make a DIY hair mask, or don’t want to fuss with measuring and mixing up the ingredients, there are plenty of ready-made options to choose from. You can buy hair masks at beauty supply stores, drugstores, or online.

If you buy a ready-made hair mask, look for products that contain natural ingredients like oils, butters, and plant extracts, without chemicals and preservatives.

Most hair masks work best when applied to clean, towel-dried hair that’s still damp.

However, if you’re using a hair mask made primarily of oil, like coconut or olive oil, it may be best to apply the mask to dry hair. Because oil can repel water, some hair care experts believe that dry hair is able to absorb oil better than wet hair.

Once the hair mask is ready to apply, follow these steps:

  1. To protect your clothing, drape an old towel over your shoulders or wear an old T-shirt.
  2. If your hair is long or thick, it may help to divide it into sections with hair clips.
  3. You can apply the mask with your fingers, or you can use a small paintbrush to dab the hair mask mixture onto your hair.
  4. If your hair is dry, begin the hair mask application near your scalp and work toward the ends. Once the mask has been worked into the ends of your hair, you can go back and gently apply to your scalp.
  5. If you’re specifically applying the mask to treat dandruff, you’ll want to start at your scalp.
  6. If your hair is oily, begin the hair mask application at mid-shaft and work toward the ends.
  7. Once you’re done applying the mask, run a wide-tooth comb through your hair to help ensure the mask is evenly spread.
  8. Cover your hair with a shower cap or plastic wrap. Then wrap a towel around your head. This helps protect the mask from dripping, but it also helps add some heat, which can help the ingredients absorb into your hair.
  9. Leave the mask on for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on the ingredients, some masks can be left on for hours or even overnight.
  10. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm or cool water. Avoid hot water. Cooler water can help seal the hair cuticle and help your hair retain more moisture.
  11. After rinsing out the mask — it may take two or more rinses to get it fully out — you can add products and air-dry or heat-style your hair as usual.
  12. For dry, frizzy, or damaged hair, you can apply a hair ask once a week. If your hair tends to be oilier, try using one every couple of weeks.

Hair masks can help moisturize and nourish your hair. They’re especially beneficial for dry, damaged, or frizzy hair. Some hair masks may even improve the health of your scalp and boost the strength of your hair.

Unlike instant conditioners that only stay on your hair for a few minutes, hair masks remain on your hair for at least 20 minutes. Some masks can stay on your hair for several hours, depending on your hair type and the ingredients.

There are many different types of DIY hair masks you can make at home using natural ingredients like coconut oil, eggs, honey, or bananas.

If you buy a ready-made mask, look for one that’s well suited to your hair type and contains as few preservatives and chemicals as possible.