Here’s How Often You Should *Actually* Use a Hair Mask, According to Your Hair Type
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So, you’ve got your hair washing routine down to a tee. Your shampoo’s on point, your conditioner’s doing everything it should, and you’ve found yourself a brush that shows off all your hair’s best angles. Nailing it.
Next up on the amazing hair agenda? Getting your hair mask just right. Because everyone’s hair is different and the advice out there can be a little muddled.
So, how often should you use a hair mask? Which one is right for your hair type? And what even is a hair mask anyway?
Never fear, our pros are here to give you all the hair mask guidance you need. They are hair loss expert Dr Jodi LoGerfo, trichologist Kerry Yates, and hair experts Lisa Abbey and Kristin Speakman.
And I’ll be sharing my own experiences too. Having been a beauty editor for over 16 years I have tried a lot of hair masks (good and bad) on my oily hair type.
So, keep scrolling for all the tips and info on when exactly to apply one according to your hair type. And may you never be confused about hair masks again.
What is a hair mask?
Think of it as a conditioner only stronger. “A hair mask is a more intense conditioning treatment recommended for dry or damaged hair,” says Abbey.
They usually come in big pots or tubes and are slightly thicker in texture than a daily conditioner. If you’re still confused though, we’ve got you covered in our guide to the differences between a conditioner and a hair mask and how to choose for your hair type.
How often should you use a hair mask?
It all depends on your hair type. If it’s super thick or dry and damaged you’ll need to use a hair mask more frequently than on fine or oily, greasy hair types.
The experts say use a hair mask 1-3 times per week accordingly, but keep scrolling to find out the specifics for your own hair type.
For healthy hair:
So, your hair is the epitome of health. Lucky you! “As a minimum, use a mask once a month to give your hair a moisture boost,” advises Yates. “It is especially needed in winter when artificial heat can cause the hair to turn dry.”
For fine hair:
This is where you need to be careful about overloading your hair with product. “Limit mask application to the mid-lengths and ends,” says Yates. “You do not need a mask on your scalp, supported by your scalp’s natural sebum production.” Apply once a week to avoid product build up which can lead to making fine hair limp and flat.
For thick hair:
Thick hair can easily get tangled and matted so you’ll want to apply a hair mask more regularly. “1-2 times a week is ok for thick hair types,” says Dr LoGerfo.
For curly hair:
Ah yes, the sensitive kind. “Coily hair is the most fragile and struggles with maintaining a healthy moisture balance,” explains Yates. “If the mask is not heavily formulated with silicones, feel free to use it as needed – there is no magic time limit.”
For oily hair:
Oily often comes under the same bracket as fine hair so the same rules apply. I find that using only a tiny amount just once a week doesn’t make my oily hair flat or greasy but still maintains moisture.
If I apply it any more frequently than that, it looks limp as soon as it’s dry and I can feel the greasiness on my fingers while I blow-dry it. Not a satisfying hair washing experience!
For dry hair:
Dry hair needs a big dose of hydration – hello hair mask hero! “Dry and dehydrated hair is lacking water,” says Dr LoGerfo. So, “you could use a hair mask 2-3 times a week if needed.” The ends of dry hair need particular attention when it comes to moisture so focus your application there.
For damaged hair:
“If your hair appears dry and unmanageable, or you struggle to control frizzy ends, it is time for some extra hair love in the form of a hydrating mask,” says Yates. So, the same applies for damaged as it does for dry and dehydrated. Apply your hair mask 2-3 times a week for maximum moisture.
What happens if you use a hair mask too often?
“If you use a hair mask too often, you could potentially cause more damage,” warns Speakman.
And apparently, this is particularly true if you have coloured hair. “For example, a moisture mask with oils in it will strip the colour over time if used too often. If you have a vibrant colour and keeping the colour vibrancy is important to you, I would recommend waiting until you’re close to your next colour appointment and then utilise a mask with oils in it to aid in moisture and frizz control.”
Typical! Just as we’re getting into the swing of looking after our hair, we then discover we could harm it if we overdo it? *Face palm*
How to use a hair mask
Use the right amount of hair mask according to your hair length and type. For example, you’ll need a semi-generous scoop if your hair is long and thick but only a small dollop if it’s short and fine.
In my experience, rubbing the product between my fingers and palms and then applying it to my hair helps to distribute it more evenly.
As Yates says, it doesn’t need to be applied to your scalp – that’s what shampoos and scalp products are for. So, apply your hair mask from the middle of your hair downwards then spread it through using a brush or comb.
Wait around 5 to 10 minutes (or whatever the instructions say) before rinsing your hair mask out. This will ensure it can get to work on giving your hair the hydration and nourishment it needs. I wash my face and shave my legs in this time.
What can I say? I pride myself on being an expert time-saver!
PRO TIP: “I recommend gently squeezing excess water from the hair or lightly towel-drying before applying so as not to dilute the mask ingredients,” says Abbey.
Do you use a mask before or after shampoo?
“Typically, a hair mask is applied after shampooing,” Abbey explains. If you have fine hair though, the rules are different. “Using the hair mask prior to shampooing is better,” says Abbey. “You’ll receive all of the repair benefits without weighing down the hair or making it too flat.”
And very dry, damaged hair types, listen up! “Use both prior to and post shampoo for a double dose of repair and moisture,” she adds.
Do you use conditioner too?
Abbey says no. “You do not need to condition the hair after a hair mask.” Especially if you have very dry and damaged hair and you’ve chosen to apply your hair mask twice.
How to choose the right hair mask for your hair type
Speakman says to first know your hair type. “For dry or damaged you want hydrating [masks], same with most curly or coarse hair,” she explains. “Ingredients with oils or shea butter will enhance the curls and tame the frizz.”
For fine hair, “stay away from oils and find something with rice proteins or collagen to add the appearance of volume,” Speakman says. Got colour-treated hair? “Reparative masks are common for the person who tends to do more blonding or lightening on their hair.”
Choose a bond building mask for damaged hair. “They will rebuild the hair follicle,” she adds. “The bond building products can be used over and over again, and it will continue to rebuild broken hair bonds.”
Hero hair masks
As I mentioned, I’ve tried (a lot more than) my fair share of hair masks. Here are the ones I rate the most for different hair types.
- Dry, damaged or dehydrated hair: Olaplex No. 8 Bond Intense Moisture Mask (£28 from Look Fantastic UK /$30 from Look Fantastic US) really sorted my heat damaged hair out a few years ago. It’s thick and intense, so you don’t want to use too much, but it’s got some serious welly.
- Fine or oily hair: Ouai Fine to Medium Hair Treatment Masque (£34 from Ouai UK /$38 from Ouai US) smoothes and de-frizzes without weighing the hair down.
- Curly hair: Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask (£27.85 from Look Fantastic UK /$42 from Moroccanoil US) is packed with thirst-quenching ingredients to protect and douse dry, fragile curls.
- Thick hair: Beauty Pie Super Healthy Hair (£10 member price from Beauty Pie UK) is just the ticket for thick, overflowing hair thanks to argan oil and hyaluronic acid.
So many hair types, so many masks. The moral of the story is that every hair type can use one, it’s just a question of which one you choose and how often you apply it. But hopefully now you’ll have a better understanding of how frequently to use yours.
If your hair is fine, flat and oily, think small so that you don’t overload it and make it flatter and greasier. If it’s dry or damaged, it will need more moisture and repair so you can up your application to a few more times a week.
Healthy hair may be healthy, but it still needs topping up on hydration. And, whatever your hair type, remember not to overdo it with your hair mask. The hair and scalp can overcompensate when they get too much or too little of something, so try to maintain a good balance.
Meet the experts
Dr Jodi LoGerfo is considered an authority on hair loss and her years of research and clinical work on patients with various types of alopecia enable her to diagnose the various patterns of hair loss, identify the causes and offer the latest treatment options.
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.
Lisa Abbey is the founder and CEO of Strength x Beauty, a brand of healthy and plant-based hair and body products that use only clean, luxury ingredients.
Kristin Speakman is a hair stylist and the owner of Bella Red Salon. She specialises in advanced colouring education and advanced precision haircutting education.