The 8 best hair masks for healing dry, stressed-out strands, starting at just $5

Sometimes our hair needs a little bit of extra TLC. From bleaching to heat styling, our fragile strands can take a beating in our day-to-day routines, which is why hair masks are used as a bonus step for replenishing moisture, elasticity, and strength. Unlike your daily conditioner, these products stay on your hair a bit longer and go deeper into each strand. This allows the nourishing ingredients to penetrate the hair shaft and repair dry, damaged, brittle strands to their healthiest, most hydrated form.

As celebrity hairstylist Clariss Rubenstein tells us, “Hair masks are your best friend.” These deep conditioning treatments often contain natural oils, proteins, and lipids and are more concentrated than normal conditioners. They’re specifically designed to heal damaged hair, as opposed to normal conditioners, which are made to improve the feel, appearance, and manageability of hair so that you can get a brush through without pulling and potentially damaging your scalp.

According to Rubenstein, if you’re dedicated to keeping your hair healthy, adding a quality hair mask to your arsenal is a worthy investment. “Masks are an easy way to deliver a big, healthy, nourishing gift to your hair without spending much extra time or effort,” she says.

How to use a hair mask:

Rubenstein replaces her conditioner with a hair mask around every third shampoo, but some hairstylists say these treatments should be used weekly, depending on your hair’s needs.

“Always apply on damp, freshly shampooed hair,” Rubenstein tells us. “Just make sure hair isn’t dripping wet so your mask has something to grab on to.” You’ll want to spread the creamy formula evenly throughout your hair, separating it piece by piece if needed, then massage it in from root to tip and come through with your fingers.

Hair masks are meant to be left on for an extended period, often anywhere from three minutes to overnight.

The eight best hair masks for healing damaged, stressed-out strands

1. The cult-favorite hair mask: Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector


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When most people think of a hair mask, they think of this cult-favorite concentrated treatment that contains the same active ingredients used in professional-grade products. Using patented bond-building technology, it essentially “re-links” dead ends that may have been caused by chemical, thermal, or mechanical (i.e. aggressive brushing) damage. No matter what your hair type, this mask will leave your hair stronger, healthier, and shinier.

2. Best hair mask for dry hair: Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask


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Quench dry, thirsty strands with this oil-rich hair mask. It’s made with argan oil, which restores elasticity and promotes smoothness, along with glycerin, a natural humectant that draws water to the hair and deeply moisturizes it. Leave this one on for five to seven minutes for optimal hydrating results.

3. Best drugstore hair mask: L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Damage-Erasing Balm


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This $6 drugstore buy rivals some of the pricier hair mask options, and since you get a decent amount of product in the 8.5 oz tub, it will last you a while. This balm-like formula contains ceramides—a natural type of lipid found in the hair cuticle—to strengthen hair strands and promote both elasticity and moisture retention. In short, this balm is great at getting rid of several signs of damage—including split ends, weakness, dullness, and dehydration—in just a few minutes.

4. Best luxe hair mask: Kérastase Resistance Masque Thérapiste Treatment Hair Mask


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A personal favorite of Rubenstein’s, this mask heals and protects even the most severely damaged hair—from over-processed, bleached strands to those that have been chemically straightened or permed—with a blend of ingredients that replenish hair fibers from the inside out. Gluco peptides help penetrate the deepest layers of the hair cuticle to strengthen them while wheat proteins repair flexibility and elasticity. Smooth a bit of this on from your mid-length to ends and rinse after five to 10 minutes for soft, bouncy hair.

5. Best hair mask for every hair type: Ouai Treatment Masque


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Turn straw-like hair into super-smooth locks with this silky mask treatment that’s suitable for straight, wavy, curly, or coiled hair types. It contains an ingredient called tamarind seed extract that’s basically the natural equivalent of hyaluronic acid: It draws in moisture and keeps hair healthy and hydrated. For ultra-coarse hair, this formula is light enough to be used daily without weighing strands down.

6. Best hair mask for color-treated hair: Kiehl’s Sunflower Color Preserving Deep Recovery Pak


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Often, due to the chemicals that come in hair dye, color-treated hair needs the most TLC. This mask from Kiehl’s was made with color-treated hair in mind. It contains nourishing ingredients like sunflower and apricot oil along with a UV-protective filter to help fight color fade.

7. Best time-saving hair mask: Garnier Fructis Smoothing Treat 1 Minute Hair Mask


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Short on time? Grab a tub of this affordable treatment that only requires 60 seconds to set in and do its work. Made with avocado extract, this creamy mask helps you get smooth, frizz-free hair in next to no time.

8. Best hair mask for damaged hair: Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Hair Mask


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Made with ultra-nourishing ingredients like rosehip oil, argan oil, collagen, and biotin, this beloved hair mask transforms damaged hair into shiny, healthy, lustrous-looking locks. It works wonders on restoring shape and bounce to wavy or curly hair, too.

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