Part beauty solution, part self-care ritual, there's nothing about a decadent hair mask we don't love—except for maybe the luxury price tag that often comes with it. When it comes to treating damage, bringing out the shine, or hydrating thirsty strands, we all have a favorite tub (or tube) we reach for. But where there's a hefty price tag, there's usually also delicate conservation and, frankly, saving a beloved product for best. So, for when you're between masks, prolonging a bottle of your favorite treatment, in a bind, or simply wanting a more minimal beauty cabinet, these homemade options are great for soothing and repairing cuticles damaged from coloring, hot tools, salt water, and even chlorine. And they're all made with ingredients you probably already have in the pantry, so you don't have to be precious about it.
To learn more about the best DIY hair masks and treatments—and how to customize them to specific hair types—we tapped the experts for their insight and their recipes.
Meet the Expert
- Amy Abramite is the creative director, salon educator, and stylist at Chicago's Maxine Salon.
- Gretchen Friese is a Bosley Professional Strength certified trichologist.
Keep scrolling for some of the best at-home hair mask and treatment recipes.
"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 several 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.
Coconut oil, also known as lauric acid, is derived from coconuts. The lauric acid found in coconut oil can have antimicrobial properties, which can help kill bacteria on the skin and reduce inflammation. It is also known to help remove makeup, exfoliate the skin, and lock in moisture.
Milk and Honey
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 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.
Banana and Olive Oil
Two ingredients you likely have sitting in your kitchen that can work wonders to restore 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.
DIY Hair Mask to Treat Damaged or Dry Hair
Avocado and Olive Oil
"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.
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).
Both experts agree that the makeup of yogurt can help keep frizz at bay. "The lactic acid in yogurt hydrates the hair, which will help moisturize damage and prevent frizziness," 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. (Combine with coconut oil to help with hair loss, honey to help hair retain moisture, avocado to help strengthen the hair and add shine, or 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.
Apple Cider Vinegar
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 natural 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 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.
Brown Sugar and Coconut Oil
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, fighting 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 tablespoons of brown sugar and one tablespoon of coconut oil. Work into the hair after shampooing, focusing on the scalp. Rinse and continue with conditioner.
Olive Oil and Coconut Oil
A combination of olive oil and coconut oil can contribute to commercial-ready, high-gloss shine. Abramite explains, "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.
Lemon and Egg
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.
Those with thinning, weakened hair in need of a scalp cleanse and fortification can benefit from a cinnamon mask, as cinnamon is a stimulant that may increase blood flow to the scalp, which can speed up the hair growth process. "Mix a teaspoon of cinnamon with three tablespoons of yogurt for a scalp and hair treatment," says Abramite. "Yogurt will thicken the mixture and help clean the scalp and add protein for strength. Apply with fingers and massage from scalp to ends to fully cover. Leave in for 10 minutes and shampoo out."
According to Abramite, green tea leaves are an antioxidant for the hair and scalp, protecting from free radicals which are pollutant stressors. "Green tea helps to slow the shedding process that occurs during the natural cycle of hair growth and loss," says Abramite, who notes that added benefits are cutting down on oil production and dandruff. Those with dull, fine, or thinning hair or an oily scalp will also benefit from a green tea mask. "Steep tea leaves for five minutes and let it cool. Add a few drops of honey for hydration and shine," she says. "Pour the liquid into a spray bottle and mist onto the scalp and hair. Massage from scalp to ends to fully saturate. Leave in for 10 minutes and rinse."
Rice and Avocado
If stronger, longer tresses are what you're after—especially if you have textured hair—reach for the rice. Rice contains folate which helps with hair growth, strand-strengthening Vitamins C, B, and E, and inositol which helps smooth and repair damage. Combined with the nourishing and frizz-fighting properties of avocado, the pairing is ideal for bringing back luster and bounce to dry curls. However, those with low porosity hair should be mindful not to mix with other protein treatments as rice contains its own proteins.
Don't worry, this recipe doesn't call for slathering handfuls of rice into your mane. Instead, soak one cup of pre-rinsed rice in two cups of water for 24 hours then strain. (You can add this to a spray bottle as a solo treatment.) Mash up the avocado and combine with the rice water before applying to the hair for 20 to 30 minutes. The natural fats from the avocado should counteract any starchy crunch from the rice proteins, but you can leave the mixture on for a shorter period if it persists.
Happy hair starts with a happy scalp, and baking soda is the unsung hero of a healthy scalp. Technically an exfoliator, baking soda removes scalp buildup, strips excess oils, and restores the skin's pH balance. While this may not be a hair mask in the most traditional sense, the results rival those of any creamy concoction: decreased dandruff, soothed irritation, softer strands, and increased shine. To use, mix baking soda with either water or shampoo until a paste is formed. Massage the paste into the roots and scalp. Rinse after a few minutes.