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There’s no shortage of factors that can leave your hair dry and dehydrated. We’re talking everything from coloring to heat styling to sun exposure to cold weather…you get the picture. Happily, no matter the cause, the antidote and solution for quenching parched strands is simple—a hydrating hair mask. When your standard conditioner just isn’t cutting it, these deeply moisturizing and reparative formulas come up huge.
If you've got especially thick or curly hair, coating the strands with intensely hydrating oils like shea and olive oil can bring your lengths back to life. Fine hair that's become dull can get benefit from moisture-infusing hyaluronic acid. And for bleached and color-treated hair? Try a tinted mask that will not only hydrate your strands but will keep you from making so many salon appointments for touch-ups.
You can apply a mask a few times per week, letting it soak into strands for several minutes while you’re in the shower (we like to use the time to do something productive, like shave our legs or exfoliate). Then rinse to reveal a softer, smoother mane…it’s that easy.
Ahead, the best hair masks for dry hair to reach for when your tresses need some extra TLC.
Best Overall: Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3
Active Ingredients: Bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate | Hair Type: Color-treated | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone | Size: 3.3 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Byrdie Senior Editor Hallie Gould swears by any and all of the Olaplex products, and this concentrated treatment is no different. Because it works by targeting and rebuilding the specific protein bonds that have been broken down in your hair, it’s an especially good pick for those whose strands are not only dry but also damaged. The instructions suggest leaving it in for at least 10 minutes, but Gould says she leaves it in for 24 hours to let it really work its magic.
Best Drugstore: SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque
Active Ingredients: Shea butter, argan oil, sea kelp extract | Hair Type: Dry, damaged | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone, alcohol | Size: 12 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Nab this mask the next time you’re at the drugstore. As the name suggests, it’s rife with deeply nourishing and moisturizing shea butter, plus argan oil, avocado oil, and more. (It’s a favorite of Byrdie Social Media Editor Star Donaldson, who says it’s her secret for keeping her hair healthy.) In true drugstore fashion, it’s super affordable, and while it works great as a rinse-out mask, it can also pull double-duty as a leave-in styling cream.
Best for Thick Hair: Christophe Robin Regenerating Mask with Rare Prickly Pear Oil
Active Ingredients: Prickly pear seed oil, inula extract | Hair Type: All | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone | Size: 8.3 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
While this works for all textures, it’s especially choice for thick and coarse hair (or any hair that’s really beat up, the formula is intense). The star of the show is prickly pear seed oil packed with protective antioxidants that delivers a hefty dose of hydration. It’s coupled with plant-based ceramides that further help increase strength and shine.
Best for Curly Hair: Bounce Curl Ayurvedic Deep Conditioner
Active Ingredients: Baobab seed oil, sunflower seed oil, shikakai nut powder | Hair Type: Curly | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone | Size: 8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
This strand-saver relies on unique Indian herbs, extracts, and oils to hydrate both the inside and outside of the hair shaft, all while locking out frizz (curls’ arch-nemesis). Still, it’s nice and light so it won’t weigh down your curls—it can even be used daily—and also helps improve their elasticity, warding off breakage in the process.
Best for Color-Treated Hair: Matrix Biolage ColorLast Deep Treatment Pack
Active Ingredients: Amodimethicone, candelilla wax | Hair Type: Color-treated | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens | Size: 3.4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Coloring can do a major number on your hair, particularly if you’re lightening it. A good mask is imperative for not only keeping your mane healthy and hydrated but also ensuring your hue stays shiny and vibrant. We’re partial to this option, a vegan formula that touts plant-based moisturizers and strengthening ingredients to reduce breakage by up to 70% after just one use. Bonus points for the easy-to-use, easy-to-squeeze packs that also makes this a great option for travel.
Best for Textured Hair: Pattern Beauty Intensive Conditioner
Active Ingredients: Avocado oil, shea butter | Hair Type: Curly, coily | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone | Size: 13 / 29 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
For extra-dense curls or tight and coily textures, this formula is choice. It’s the most hydrating conditioner in the line, relying on heavy-hitting hydrators such as avocado oil, shea butter, and more. Not to mention that it’s also a standout detangler and helps maintains the definition and shape of each hair strand after you rinse it out.
Best Splurge: Crown Affair The Renewal Mask
Active Ingredients: Tsubaki seed oil, dimethicone | Hair Type: Dry, damaged | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens | Size: 6.8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
This is a shower staple for Kelly Gallagher, Byrdie Senior Social Media Manager. Yes, it’s a bit on the pricier side, but a little goes a long way, and you only need to use it once a week to reap the benefits. We’re talking smoother, shinier, silkier hair, thanks to the use of hydrating Tsubaki seed oil and yuzu fruit extract. If that’s not enough to hook you, the light and citrusy scent will be.
Best Overnight: Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Night Cap Overnight Perfector
Active Ingredients: Octafluoropentyl methacrylate, hydrogenated castor oil, rice seed protein | Hair Type: All | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens | Size: 4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Think you don’t have the time for a hair mask? You do if you use an overnight formula, like this one. All you have to do is work this through hair (either damp or dry) before you hit the sack and let it do its thing while you snooze. A combo of amino acids, time-released conditioners, and the brand’s own Healthy Hair Molecule add shine, hydration, and manageability in just one night—and deliver results that will last all week, even throughout up to five shampoos. Also nice: You can either wash it out in the morning or leave it in and style as usual.
Best Growth-Boosting: Miss Jessie’s Super Sweetback Treatment
Active Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, shea butter | Hair Type: Curly, coily | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens | Size: 8.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
A hair mask isn’t going to make your hair grow per se, but what it can do is keep your strands strong and hydrated so that they don’t break—and therefore grow out longer. Case in point: This option is a great pick for those seeking to grow out their curls and/or transition to natural hair, thanks to the shea butter and strengthening Centella Asiatica extract in the formula.
Best Treatment: Nexxus Keraphix Gel Treatment for Damaged Hair
Active Ingredients: Collagen amino acids, keratin | Hair Type: Damaged | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone, alcohol | Size: 2 x 0.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Think of this as a hair mask on steroids, a targeted, at-home treatment that riffs on the in-salon version of a full-on reparative system. The protein-packed formula touts keratin, collagen, and elastin to strengthen strands and works equally well on all hair types. Plus, it’s way more affordable than a salon service.
Best Cap: Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Hair Cap System
Active Ingredients: Algae extract, argan oil, matricaria flower extract | Hair Type: All | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens, silicone | Size: 4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
We appreciate both the rejuvenating formula and convenient application of this two-step system. Step one, slather on a pack of the mask, loaded with algae, panthenol, biotin, and more—basically everything you need to both hydrate and strengthen hair in one fell swoop. Then, pop on the included cap. It functions in two ways; the inner lining is infused with reparative ingredients, further amping up the effects of the mask, and it also locks in moisture and steam to open the hair cuticle so that all of the ingredients can better penetrate. It’s the perfect way to score a salon-worthy treatment while you sit on the couch.
Best Budget: L’Oréal Elvive Total Repair 5 Damage-Erasing Balm
Active Ingredients: Amodimethicone, candelilla wax, sweet almond oil | Hair Type: Dry, damaged | Free of: Sulfates, phthalates, parabens | Size: 8.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
You hear a lot about ceramides in skincare, but they can be a great ingredient for strengthening and hydrating hair, too. They’re the standout ingredient in this (crazy affordable) mask, coupled with protective proteins. It packs plenty of moisture and also helps minimize the look of split ends.
When it comes to the best of the best in hair masks, we’re giving top honors to the Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3. A Byrdie-editor favorite, this concentrated treatment rebuilds broken protein bonds in the hair, making it a great pick for hair that’s both dry and damaged. We're also big fans of Crown Affair’s The Renewal Mask, a luxe weekly treatment that leaves the hair smooth, shiny, and silky thanks to Tsubaki seed oil and yuzu fruit extract. (Bonus: It smells heavenly.) And finally, the SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque is a true drugstore gem. It deeply nourishes the hair with shea butter, argan oil , and avocado oil—plus, it doubles as a leave-in styling cream.
What to Look For in a Hair Mask for Dry 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, as it can help to preserve color.
How do you apply a hair mask for dry 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.
Meet the Expert
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.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Her hair is oily at the roots but can also get super dry at the ends, especially during the winter (she lives in Chicago) and after one too many beach days spent in the sun and salt water during the summer. That’s when she reaches for a hydrating hair mask, at least once a week.