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Here’s How Long You Should Leave a Hair Mask on Depending on Your Hair Type

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Whether you’ve got long flowing locks or a short pixie crop, everyone can benefit from using a hair mask

And the good news is that there’s one for every hair type. Got dry hair? A hair mask can remedy that. Or perhaps you’re in the healthy hair camp. A hair mask can keep it that way. 

But once you’ve found ‘the one’, how do you know how long to leave it on for? Keep scrolling to find out the answer, along with a few more tips, from experts Dr Jodi LoGerfo, Kristin Speakman and Kerry Yates


Hair masks: The benefits

A hair mask is like a conditioner but on a really energetic and productive day. Whilst a regular conditioner helps to maintain the day-to-day condition of your hair, a hair mask is more intense and is applied less frequently. 

However because it is left on for longer and is usually thicker in texture, it delivers a super-healthy shot of hydration, keeping the hair nourished and split ends hopefully banished.

Masks are designed to offer additional hydration depending on the formula and can provide support to help manage strand damage,” explains Yates. “Like with your skin, your hair needs extra loving care occasionally, therefore adding a hair mask to your care routine is the answer.”


Image – Irina/Adobe

How long should you leave a hair mask on for?

A hair mask can be left on for anything between 3 and 10 minutes, sometimes longer. But hold your horses – it all depends on your hair type! Here’s a breakdown:


Healthy hair

Read the instructions as some formulas are stronger than others. But for healthy hair, you can usually leave a hair mask on for around five minutes, without overloading it. 

Be careful if you’ve got coloured hair though. “Masks with a lot of oils will start stripping away at the colour,” warns Speakman


Dry or damaged hair

Leave your mask on for up to 10 minutes if you have dry or damaged hair. Remember to focus it on the mid-lengths and ends, not your roots as a hair mask can make them greasy. “For a more in-depth result, then use it overnight on damp hair,” adds Yates.


Oily/fine hair

Because of the heaviness of a hair mask, you wouldn’t want to leave it on for too long if you have oily or fine hair. This is because it could weigh it down even more than it is already. 3-5 minutes would be sufficient, applied only to the ends of your hair to keep them free of split ends.


Severely dry or damaged hair

“If your hair is very damaged or dry, you can leave [a hair mask] on for longer, maybe 10-20 minutes,” suggests Dr LoGerfo. This will ensure your hair type gets all the nourishment and care it needs. 


What happens if you leave a hair mask on too long?

It’s important to read the instructions on your hair mask so that you don’t go over – or under – the allocated time. 

“Leaving on too long could lead to scalp skin irritation and masks with protein can overproteinise the hair and cause damage, leaving the hair feeling more brittle,” warns Speakman. Equally, “if you take it off too quickly, its intended effect will not be felt,” says Dr LoGerfo


The takeaway

A hair mask is usually left on for around 5 minutes but consider your hair type. If it’s super dry and needs some extra TLC then up to 20 minutes might give it the drink it needs. 

If it’s at the other end of the spectrum and super oily, then you’ll need to shorten your application time. The most important guidance though is in the instructions. These will give you the accuracy you need to ensure you don’t go over or under. Happy hydrating!


Meet the experts

Dr Jodi LoGerfo is a skincare expert, Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Family Nurse Practitioner certified in Family Medicine and Dermatology.


Kristin Speakman is a hair stylist and the owner of Bella Red Salons, which leads the market as the premier destination for Bumble & Bumble haircare. With expertise in advanced colouring and precision haircutting, Kristin sets the standard for excellence in great hair and client experience. Her leadership of over 30 stylists showcases innovation and finesse, crafting unforgettable transformations everyday.


Kerry Yates is a trichologist, beauty expert, and the founder of Colour Collective, a collaboration of experts, influencers and industry professionals from the beauty, business and creative worlds to create new beauty products.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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