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From heat styling to bleaching, there are many contributing factors when it comes to dry hair. It’s a condition that also comes with a bunch of not-so-fun side effects: frizz, flyaways, color fade, breakage… all things we’d much rather avoid where possible. Shampoo and conditioner aside, a hard-working hair mask that’s rich in nourishing ingredients is one of the best ways to mitigate said dryness. Trichologist Lisa Caddy tells us that dry hair has lost water, and basically craves rehydration and that the best way to do this is through oils as they work to lock water inside the hair shaft (just like a face oil or occlusive moisturizer).
The best-selling (and Team Byrdie fave) Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3 is, hands down, our top choice for its ability to truly repair broken, dry, and damaged strands. For something more affordrable, the SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque is great for providing deep nourishment via shea butter and other plant oils.
So with this advice in mind, along with Caddy’s recommendations and our own product testing results and research, we’ve compiled an edit of the top options—fast-working treatments that will hydrate, repair, and protect.
Whether your hair is colored, fine, thick or coiled, keep reading to find the best hair mask for dry, damaged hair that’s right for you.
Best Overall: Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3
Repairs hair structure internally
Reduces hair loss
The Olaplex Hair Perfector is hands-down one of the best hair masks we’ve ever used and is our number one choice for addressing hair that’s dry, damaged, and generally lackluster. The innovative formula works by repairing and rebuilding the disulfide bonds that have been broken in your hair—most commonly due to coloring and bleaching. Try using it regularly to reverse signs of damage and restore hydration levels.
Byrdie contributor Ashley Rubell tried out Olaplex’s Bond Maintenance System Kit (which includes the Hair Perfector along with the Bond Maintenance Shampoo and Conditioner) and gave it a perfect five-star rating, noting that the Hair Perfector felt like “a magic hair potion.” Not only did she find her hair was left silkier and stronger overall, but it felt healthier and softer even as it was air drying.
Active Ingredients: Bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate | Hair Type: Color-treated | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone | Size: 3.3 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Thick Hair: Christophe Robin Regenerating Mask with Rare Prickly Pear Oil
Rich in prickly pear, an extract that is packed with nourishing bioactive compounds, this mask works to increase hair hydration without weighing it down. There are also plant-based ceramides to support strong, resistant hair fibres while the melting texture absorbs quickly and rinses well (so you get moisture without heaviness).
Active Ingredients: Prickly pear seed oil, inula extract | Hair Type: All | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone | Size: 8.3 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Drugstore: SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque
Rich in shea butter
Could weigh down fine hair
This drugstore gem is rich in shea butter, a fatty compound that’s known to possess potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Because of this, it’s deeply nourishing and retains water in the hair, making it a great pick for those who find their hair coarse, frizzy or dry. There’s also argan oil, avocado oil, and panthenol—not bad for a drugstore buy that comes in at under $15.
Either slather it on and leave it in as a treatment or work through dry hair as a styling cream.
Active Ingredients: Shea butter, argan oil, sea kelp extract | Hair Type: Dry, damaged | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone, alcohol | Size: 12 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Color-Treated Hair: Biolage Matrix ColorLast Deep Treatment Pack
Is your hair feeling dry, broken, and dull from excessive coloring? You need a fast-working treatment like this one from Biologae that will dial up shine and replenish lost moisture. According to the brand, one use will leave your hair three times stronger—talk about instantly gratifying results. We love the easy pouch format, too (it’s great for travel).
Active Ingredients: Amodimethicone, candelilla wax | Hair Type: Color-treated | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens | Size: 3.4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Textured Hair: Pattern Beauty Intensive Conditioner
Rich in shea butter
Could weigh down fine hair
The inclusion of shea butter in this conditioning treatment works to protect and nourish each individual hair strand, preventing water loss and the associated dryness. The texture is rich and buttery, so it really coats each curl, helping to add definition and bounce.
Active Ingredients: Avocado oil, shea butter | Hair Type: Curly, coily | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone | Size: 13 or 29 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Splurge: Crown Affair The Renewal Mask
The hero ingredient in this super-luxe formula is tsubaki seed oil (or camellia seed oil), a plant extract that boasts both antioxidant and moisturizing properties. Combined with yuzu fruit extract, it’s a deeply repairing, nourishing treatment that will transform dull, dry hair. And if you’re into luxury beauty, the slick monochrome packaging and beautiful scent are a nice touch.
Active Ingredients: Tsubaki seed oil, dimethicone | Hair Type: Dry, damaged | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens | Size: 6.8 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Overnight: Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Night Cap Overnight Perfector
Works while you sleep
Could weigh down fine hair
This innovative treatment works while you snooze to smooth, hydrate and restore shine. The key ingredient is Living Proof’s patented healthy hair molecule (OFPMA), a blend of amino acids and fatty compounds that work to condition and protect. It has a very light texture, so won’t make a mess of your linen, but fine hair might feel the need to shampoo out the morning after. But either way, the glossy, smooth, commercial-worthy hair is worth the effort.
Active Ingredients: Octafluoropentyl methacrylate, hydrogenated castor oil, rice seed protein | Hair Type: All | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens | Size: 4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Frizz: Leonor Greyl Masque a L'Orchidee Nourishing Mask
Expensive yes, but Caddy tells us that the jojoba oil and shea butter found in this formula are important when it comes to moisturizing dry, damaged hair. It’s very rich and buttery but works like a charm to recondition hair and impart a lustrous sheen. Because it’s so heavy, it will weigh down frizz and flyaways, too. Try it as a once-weekly treatment after a steamy shower so the ingredients can really penetrate.
Active Ingredients: Hydrolyzed silk, jojoba oil, shea butter, orchid extract. | Hair Type: Dry, damaged, coarse hair | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicones, mineral oil | Size: 7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Sensitive Scalps: Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Deep Conditioning Treatment
Safe for sensitive scalps
“This is my number one hair mask for addressing dry, damaged hair,” explains Caddy. “It’s fragrance-free, restores suppleness, gloss, and bounce, and increases hair elasticity, thus reducing breakage.” The formula is also made with olive and castor seed oil, two ingredients she says are essential for dry hair.
Active Ingredients: Castor seed oil, olive oil | Hair Type: Dry, damaged | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicones, fragrance | Size: 5.7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Thick Hair: Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask
Works for a variety of hair types
This top-rated mask can be used weekly to recondition the hair and undo the effects of styling, coloring, or environmental damage. It’s rich in amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids to support optimal hair health (think shine, strength, and resilience). And because it’s rich, it works across a range of hair types, including coiled and curly.
Active Ingredients: Rosehip oil, algae, B group vitamins | Hair Type: Dry, damaged, thick | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicones | Size: 8 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Damaged Hair: Shu Uemura Ultimate Reset Mask Treatment
Could weigh down fine hair
If your hair is broken, split, or frazzled to what feels like beyond repair, try applying this ultra-rich treatment and letting it work its magic. The key ingredient—Japanese rice extract—is said to strengthen weak hair and increase shine.
Active Ingredients: Japanese rice extract | Hair Type: Very damaged | Free of: Sulfates, parabens | Size: 6 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Curls: Bread Beauty Supply Hair-Mask Creamy Deep Conditioner
Designed specifically for curly and coiled hair
Comes in a large pouch
Made specifically for coiled hair, this milky treatment mask contains ingredients like shea butter and kakadu plum to support a healthy, conditioned curl pattern. But because the texture is quite thin, it can be used on all hair types craving a moisture boost.
Active Ingredients: Kakadu plum, starflower oil, shea butter | Hair Type: Dry, damaged, curly, and coiled | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens | Size: 12 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
A Team Byrdie favorite, the Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3 is a best-seller for a reason. It truly works to repair broken, dry and damaged hair, which is why we’re calling it out as our top pick. Honorable mention also goes to the Philip Kingsley Elasticizer for its oil-rich formulation. For a wallet-friendly option, you can’t go wrong with the SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque which deeply nourishes with shea butter and plant oils.
Meet the Expert
- Lisa Caddy is a trichologist and hair expert who works as a consultant and education manager at Philip Kingsley. She’s also a member of the Institute of Trichologists.
- Mark DeBolt is a celebrity colorist and co-founder of Mark Ryan Salon. A protégé of celebrity colorist Marie Robinson, his areas of expertise include his signature blend of foil highlighting, balayage, and specialty color placement techniques. Currently, he’s an ambassador, educator, and hair color expert for Wella Professionals.
What to Look For in a Hair Mask for Dry, Damaged Hair
Deep Hydration for Curly and Thick Hair
If your hair is dry, Mark DeBolt, celebrity colorist and co-founder of Mark Ryan Salon, says you’ll need to look for hair masks specifically designed to enrich hair with moisture and hydration—and if your hair is on the curly or coarse side, you’ll want a formula that’s especially thick and nourishing. Look for ingredients like plant-based butters and oils such as shea butter and coconut, olive, and castor oils.
Lightweight Hydration for Fine Hair
If your hair is dry and on the finer side, DeBolt recommends using masks that provide lightweight moisture so that your hair isn’t left greasy or weighed down. Hyaluronic acid, jojoba oil, and sesame oil are great for hydrating the hair without leaving behind a heavy residue.
Tinted or Toning for Color-Treated Hair
For dry hair that's also color-treated, consider opting for a hydrating hair mask that also deposits pigment. Bleached blondes can benefit from the toning effects of blue, purple, and silver tints, while other hair colors should reach for color-depositing conditioning masks (read: they don’t lift or damage the hair), which can help extend your time between visits to the salon. Linseed extract is also an excellent ingredient to look for since it can help to preserve color.
How do you apply a hair mask for dry, damaged hair?
When it comes to application, DeBolt says to spread your mask onto clean, damp hair, and leave it on for five minutes before rinsing out. Some masks may require a longer leave-in time, so be sure to read through any directions first. Those with coarser or curly hair may benefit from leaving the mask on overnight and rinsing out the next morning for an extra dose of moisture.
Why Trust Byrdie
For this round-up, we consulted a trichologist for their thoughts, suggestions, and insights, while also testing a few hair masks ourselves (this writer also happens to have dry, dehydrated hair). Finally, we’ve also included some references to academic journal articles, so you know the information you’re getting about certain ingredients is correct.
Amaya-Cruz DM, Pérez-Ramírez IF, Delgado-García J, Mondragón-Jacobo C, Dector-Espinoza A, Reynoso-Camacho R. An integral profile of bioactive compounds and functional properties of prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica L.) peel with different tonalities. Food Chem. 2019 Apr 25;278:568-578. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.11.031.
Bernard BA, Franbourg A, François AM, Gautier B, Hallegot P. Ceramide binding to African-American hair fibre correlates with resistance to hair breakage. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2002 Feb;24(1):1-12. doi: 10.1046/j.0412-5463.2001.00106.x.
Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070
Chaiyana W, Leelapornpisid P, Jakmunee J, Korsamphan C. Antioxidant and Moisturizing Effect of Camellia assamica Seed Oil and Its Development into Microemulsion. Cosmetics. 2018; 5(3):40. https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics5030040