Home Hair Masks That Actually Work

woman applying hair mask to red hair

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Everyone has their own hair mask of choice when it comes to treating damage, inducing shine, or just adding a dollop of moisture. But let's be real, most are too expensive to use as frequently as recommended. Thankfully, when you're in between masks, you can make your own with ingredients you probably already have around the house. Homemade hair masks are great for soothing and repairing cuticles damaged from coloring, hot tools, salt water, and even chlorine. Plus, they're customizable to your specific hair type, whether it be coarse, frizzy, dry, oily, fine, or wavy. We wanted to learn all about the best DIY hair masks, so we hit up hair stylist Amy Abramite and trichologist Gretchen Friese to give us all the know-how.

Meet the Expert

Keep scrolling for some of the best at-home hair masks.

01 of 10

Lather on Coconut Oil

spoonful of raw coconut

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"Coconut oil is a natural beauty powerhouse and works best to soften and tame thick dry hair," says Abramite. "It’s easily absorbed into the hair due to its fatty acids, it contains both vitamin E to promote hair growth and a UV filter to stop sun damage, and its moisturizing properties protect hair from drying out."

There are a number of ways to use coconut oil depending on your hair needs. For one, you can try a pre-shampoo application for 10 minutes if you're using it as a treatment to strengthen the hair. Or, for a deep conditioning treatment, use in place of a conditioner and apply from mid-shaft to the ends to moisturize and de-frizz. Finally, Abramite notes that "When rubbed directly on the scalp, coconut oil has an antimicrobial effect, which helps fight dandruff, unclog pores, and promote hair growth." Whatever method you choose, melt the coconut oil by rubbing a small amount in between your hands and using a wide-toothed comb to evenly coat the scalp and strands of hair. Coconut oil is heavy, so use the proper amount for your hair texture. "For fine hair, use a teaspoon, and for thick hair, use a tablespoon," says Abramite.

Friese recommends warming the coconut oil before applying, as this helps with the distribution.

02 of 10

Strengthen Fine Hair With a Milk and Honey Mask

glob of honey on white background

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If you're sporting fine hair and looking for a DIY hair mask to treat damage, you've found it in a mixture of milk and honey. "Honey contains keratin to help strengthen the hair and prevent breakage caused by weak, brittle hair," explains Abramite. "It also encourages cell regeneration for a healthier scalp and has anti-inflammatory properties that can calm irritation." When combined with milk,—which is chock-full of proteins, amino acids, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc—the duo can help soften the hair and support its structure.

Because milk has a thin, liquid-y consistency, Abramite recommends putting one cup of milk along with one tablespoon of honey into a spray bottle and misting it onto the hair. Leave in for 10 to 20 minutes after shampooing (in place of conditioner). Rinse out with warm water for shiny, smooth results.

The thicker the hair, the higher the fat content of milk you should use; for example, if you have coarse hair, use cream, and if you have thin hair, use skim milk.

03 of 10

Blend Banana and Olive Oil For a Restorative Mask

A banana peel laying next to sliced banana

​ Janina Pires / EyeEm / Getty Images

Two ingredients you likely have sitting in your kitchen that can actually work wonders on your hair are bananas and olive oil. "Banana hydrates and moisturizes dull, damaged, dry hair, as it's rich in vitamins and minerals (such as potassium) that can strengthen the hair and balance the pH of the scalp," explains Friese. "Olive oil is rich in healthy fats and vitamin E, which can make the hair look more shiny and sleek. It may also moisturize the hair and heal damage that can cause breakage and split ends."

To make the homemade hair mask, use one ripe banana and one tablespoon of olive oil. Blend or mash the banana until it reaches a lump-free puree. Add the olive oil and continue blending. The result should be a creamy, frothy hair mask. While in the shower, apply the mask throughout the hair and scalp with fingers. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing.

04 of 10

Mask Split Ends With Avocado and Olive Oil

Mashed avocado

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"Split ends are caused by the weakening of the structure of the cuticle, resulting in damaged hair," says Abramite. "Damage is mainly caused by heat styling, harsh chemicals from highlighting or straightening, and free radicals in our environment such as pollution and sun exposure." And while nothing can really mend split ends together (you'll need to get a trim to completely rid them), a hair mask can make them look healthy in the meantime.

"Avocados have minerals that will seal the cuticle, as well as proteins and vitamins to nourish and soften the hair," says Abramite. "A layer of olive oil will add extra shine and sleekness to gloss over the damaged hair." To make, use half of an avocado and a half cup of olive oil. Mash together in a bowl with a fork and apply to the split ends only. This one is best when left on for a half hour, so pull up Netflix for the wait.

05 of 10

Crack an Egg Yolk

Egg yolk

Emilija Manevska / Getty Images

Your Sunday morning breakfast just got a little more multipurpose. "Egg yolk is rich in vitamins that may make hair more resistant to damage," explains Friese. "Vitamins A and E, biotin, and folate are some of the nutrients that have been linked to hair growth and healthy hair—applying egg yolk to your scalp can infuse the root of your hair with these vitamins." 

To do this mask, start with clean, dry hair. Stir the egg yolk and apply the mask using fingers, making sure to coat the top of the scalp and the ends of the hair. Leave on for one hour and rinse with cold water (hot water may cause the egg to curdle).

06 of 10

Combat Frizzy Hair with a Yogurt Mask

Yogurt

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Both experts agree that the makeup of yogurt can help keep frizzy hair at bay. "The lactic acid in yogurt hydrates the hair, which will help moisturize damage and prevent fizziness," says Friese. "When the yogurt is rinsed out it also helps to clear away dead skin cells that can build up on the hair follicles." Yogurt can be mixed with many other ingredients depending on the desired result. (With coconut oil to help with hair loss, with honey to help hair retain moisture, with avocado to help strengthen the hair and add shine, or with lemon to help balance the pH of the scalp.)

Abramite recommends mixing one cup of yogurt with a tablespoon of olive oil to add more shine and sleekness to the strands. Apply the mixture to the hair for 10 minutes and rinse with warm water. 

07 of 10

Alleviate Oily Scalp with an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

Apple Cider Vinegar

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According to Friese, apple cider vinegar can have benefits for many hair types. "It can be a great detangler for long fine hair. It can help close the cuticle of color-treated hair, thus reducing fadage. It can also help control frizz, making it a popular treatment among those with curly and textured hair. It can even clear the hair follicle from debris and help reduce hair loss." If you have dry hair, be cautious, as using too much can cause further dryness by removing too many oils.

For a lightweight mask, mix one cup of apple cider vinegar with a tablespoon of honey (this is used as a binding agent and to keep the moisture from being stripped from the hair and scalp). Put the mixture into a spray bottle and mist onto the hair. Leave in for 10 minutes before rinsing with warm water.

A good guideline for an apple cider vinegar rinse is one half to four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to every eight ounces of water. That said, you can experiment to find a dilution that works best for you—just know that dry hair needs less apple cider vinegar and oily hair may need more.

08 of 10

Reduce Dandruff with a Brown Sugar and Coconut Oil Mask

Brown sugar coconut oil

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It almost sounds like a base for cookies, but a brown sugar and coconut oil hair mask can offer relief if you're suffering from a dry, itchy scalp. "The granules in the brown sugar will help exfoliate the scalp without being too harsh on your skin—this will clear the scalp of any flakiness and can help reduce dandruff and itchiness," explains Friese. "Coconut oil can stimulate hair growth and slow down hair loss because it penetrates deep into the follicles." Like brown sugar, it also promotes scalp health because it fights against lice and dandruff. What's more, coconut oil moisturizes the hair, adds shine, and helps to prevent hair breakage and split ends, which can inevitably help hair grow longer.

Mix two tablespoon of brown sugar and one tablespoon of coconut oil. Work into the hair after shampooing, focusing on the scalp. Rinse and continue with conditioner.

09 of 10

Add Shine With a Olive Oil and Coconut Oil Mask

Olive oil coconut oil

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A combination of olive oil and coconut oil can contribute to commercial-ready, high-gloss shine. Abramite explains that, "Both are natural emollients that keep hydration in the hair so it can remain smooth, soft, and shiny." And if you have dry ends, olive oil in particular will coat them, making them feel smooth and look polished. Abramite recommends mixing one fourth of a cup of olive oil with one tablespoon of heated coconut oil. "The warmth of the oil will open the hair cuticle for deeper penetration," she says. Leave on the hair for 10 minutes in a shower cap then rinse with warm water.

10 of 10

Remove Buildup with a Lemon and Egg Mask

Olive oil lemon

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If your hair routine consists of loads of dry shampoo, hairspray, and other styling products, you're likely experiencing buildup on the scalp. A clarifying shampoo could help, but a DIY hair mask made up of eggs and lemon may be easier to whip up. "The whites of the eggs are high in protein and vitamins that can strengthen damaged hair. They can also remove build-up, making them great for oily hair and scalp health," says Friese. "Lemon can balance the pH of the scalp, boost hair growth, and help reduce hair loss. It can also add shine and help reduce the 'egg smell' that may linger in the hair." Mix one egg white and the juice of one lemon and apply to clean, dry hair and scalp. Leave on for one hour before rinsing out.

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