The Best Way to Process a Hair Mask
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At this point, we’re fully briefed in the magical benefits of the perf hair mask. But…is there a certain way we should be processing our mask, to make it even better? How can we be sure we’re maximizing our mask time? To get the deets on all things hair mask processing and find out the ultimate tips and tricks—we went straight to the professionals. They shared their ultimate mask hacks along with their personal faves. After reading these tips, we’re ready to grab the shower cap and turn on the heat!
Use Under Heat
It’s a 10 Potion 10 Miracle Repair Mask: $38.10
Hair masks come in various strengths for all hair types. Even fine or oily hair can use a mask at least on the ends. Leaving them on for 5-15 minutes really helps them penetrate. A great tip is to add some type of extra heat so it can truly penetrate the shaft and ends. Wrap your head with saran wrap. Apply concentrated heat. If you don’t have a hooded dryer or heat-cap a hot towel is a great option.
Masks can actually aid in your hairs ability to grow longer. It helps prevent the ends from splitting and breaking up the hair shaft so it has the ability to remain healthier, and therefore, grow longer.
– Hairstylist, CEO and Founder of It’s a 10 Haircare, Carolyn Aronson
Conditioning Cleanse BEFORE You Mask
Shea’s Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen and Restore Treatment Masque: $10.79
I start with a conditioning cleanser co-wash followed by a mask with a steam treatment to help open the cuticles for deeper penetration of moisture and nutrients. Apply the mask to damp hair, place hair under a plastic cap and leave under the steam for up to 30 minutes. If you don’t have a steamer, you can wrap a damp warm towel over your plastic cap. For a dry, flakey scalp, gently massage the mask into your scalp in a circular motion with the pads of your fingers for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can use a shampoo brush to gently work the mask through your scalp. Follow by applying the mask through your hair to the ends.
You can customize the usage of the mask to your hair’s needs and lifestyle. You can apply your mask to wet hair in the shower and leave on for 2-5 minutes and shampoo out. Alternatively, you can apply the mask to damp hair, leave it on overnight and rinse it in the morning. If hair is significantly damaged, you can rinse most of the mask out, leaving some in hair to protect and continuously condition.
SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Treatment Masque is my go-to for all hair types – transitioning, textured, chemically treated, heat styled…. It works wonders on damaged, dry hair and is excellent for revitalizing color-treated tresses. Jamaican Black Castor Oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids with reparative benefits and Peppermint Extract aids in stimulating the scalp.
– Celebrity Stylist and SheaMoisture Brand Ambassador, Diane C. Bailey
Apply and Put Under Shower Cap
OUAI Treatment Masque: $32
After you shampoo hair and towel dry, take a generous amount of the mask and apply evenly throughout the hair. Using a plastic shower cap or a warm towel cover the hair and leave for 10-20 mins. Using the shower cap or towel allows the mask to penetrate the hair, delivering moisture and nutrients to the hair shaft, straightening the hair and promoting elasticity. Rinse and style hair as desired.
I often put a mask on my hair while in a steam room or sauna. The steam helps to open the cuticle of the hair and deliver moisture faster. Be sure to read the instructions of your mask, and if it’s a protein mask, don’t leave on any longer than instructed—this is because the protein can make the hair feel harder and you wont feel the desired effect.
– Celeb and Editorial Stylist, Helen Reavey
Never Apply Mask to Fully Wet Hair, Always Towel Dry
Eufora Beautifying Elixirs Moisture Masque: $39.97
Never apply a hair mask to soaking wet hair, it will absorb less of the benefits the mask has to offer if the hair of full of water! Take one-inch sections starting from the bottom of the neck and use a wide tooth comb to saturate through to the ends. Be sure the hair mask is evenly distributed for best results!
Use a plastic cap (or shower cap) while processing the hair mask. The natural body heat from the scalp will allow the mask to work a little deeper in to the hair. Be sure to do some research on whether the hair mask is protein or moisture based. A lot of times I recommend to follow up a protein mask with an additional conditioner to balance moisture as well! Eufora Moisture Mask is amazing for restoring moisture and leaving hair soft and shiny.
– Eufora National Trainer, Dana Cashetta
Wring Out Excess Moisture
Moroccanoil Weightless Hydrating Mask: $41
First shampoo your hair, rinse it really well, wring out the excess moisture, and towel-dry. Apply a generous amount of the Moroccanoil Weightless Hydrating Mask or Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask from mid-length to ends, then up to the roots. Leave on for 5 to 7 minutes, then rinse. Moroccanoil Smoothing Mask can stay on for up to 10 minutes. For the Moroccanoil Restorative Hair Mask follow the same steps, except after rinsing out the mask, follow with a daily conditioner for your hair type. This is necessary because this particular mask is full of protein that helps to repair the hair. Applying conditioner after brings softness back to the hair.
Just make sure that you always rinse your masks really well from the hair. If you leave residue from any conditioner it can dull the hair. Putting the moisture back into your hair after heat styling, chemical treating your hair or just environmental factors, is imperative for maximum health, shine and manageability.
– Celebrity Hairstylist and Moroccanoil Artistic Director, Kevin Hughes
Use Them Regularly
Kevin Murphy’s Hydrate.Me Masque: $35.88
Believe it or not, I get asked all the time what a hair mask is, ‘do I really need to use one?’ and ‘isn’t it the same as a conditioner?’
Hair Masks are essential for hair-nurturing and more specifically, intense hair-hydrating, cuticle-sealing, evening out the hair’s porosity and for giving us that slick “hair-slip” that we all love because it cosmetically (temporarily) gives our hair that flowing Hermes silk scarf effect.
I encourage all of my hair color clients to use a deep conditioning mask once every 10 days. Masks help to deliver a more intense moisture to the hair which is necessary for colored-treated and virgin hair alike. It’s important for my fellow Mane Addicts to remember that Olaplex N°3 is also a big must and can be applied and left-in just LIKE a hair mask BUT in reality it is in a catagory all it’s own—it’s the only patented at-home hair product that truly strengthens hair by rebuilding it permanently. Hair Mask implies hair “hydration” while Olaplex N°3 is the hair “strengthener.” …not mutually exclusive but rather complementary.
It is best to always shampoo & lightly cleanse before masking but do not condition pre-mask, as it will hydrate and seal the cuticle to a much lesser degree than a mask, and will block the mask from the hair. Because hair masks seal the cuticle giving somewhat of a resurfacing effect, they allow light to reflect (aka SHINE) better off of a smooth surface rather than an uneven un-smoothed surface.
My current favorite hair mask is Kevin Murphy’s Hydrate.Me Masque because it’s naturally hydrating and adds elasticity and shine to my client’s hair.
– Celebrity Hair Colorist, Product Creator, Chad Kenyon
Try a Multi-Step Hair Treatment
My go to mask for all hair types is the Milbon three step. It is a layered custom hair conditioning mask for fine, median and course hair. I apply on freshly washed damp hair to let it saturate the cuticle. I apply step one and two and wait the maximum time of 5 minutes before layering step 3. After all three products are layered on the hair I wrap a towel into a turban and let it sit for 15 minutes allowing the scalps natural heat to help penetrate the treatment into the hair. This gives optimum results for my clients.
– Celebrity Stylist, Ramon Garcia
Choose a Mousse
R + Co PALM SPRINGS Pre-Shampoo Treatment Mask: $29
When we decided to make a mask, we wanted to make one with easy application. We didn’t want it to be in a jar or have consumers scooping heavy creams. We created PALM SPRINGS Pre-Shampoo Treatment Mask, which is an easy to apply, mousse mask you use on dry hair. After applying it, leave it on your hair as long as you want, but for at least 30 minutes.
Always identify why you want a mask then look for the one that suits your needs. We have ingredients to not only condition hair, but that are vegan and healthy for your scalp. We did not add anything that is not needed like parabens, sulphates, etc.
– Co-Founder and Creative Director of R+Co, Howard McLaren
Leaving It On Longer Isn’t Always Better
BioSilk Hydrating Thepapy Deep Moisture Mask: $18.98
All the stylists have different ways and beliefs on how to process hair masks. I think the best thing is always to apply on clean and moist hair – remember that each mask has its own system and its technology. For this reason, the treatment will start from the shampoo that prepares the hair to receive the nutrients that the mask will contribute to.
It is wrong to think that more time is better – this is a big mistake. Each mask has its own process time between 5 – 10 – 15 or 20 minutes. It is important to always follow the instructions because sometimes leaving a mask for longer can make hair heavy and opaque. Everything depends on whether the mask is for nourishing, moisturizing, repairing or polishing.
-BioSilk Hairstyling Ambassador, Ivan Rodriguez
Use a Comb
IGK PRENUP Instant Spray Hair Mask: $32
For any hair mask, you want to ensure an even application, focusing on the areas that have the most damage. Apply in sections around the hair, combing through to ensure every strand is coated. For traditional hair masks, you can leave on for 5-10 minutes for your hair to absorb all the conditioning agents, or even overnight for an intense, deeper hydration. To get the same results with a quicker solution, I love PRENUP Instant Spray Hair Mask. It was inspired by Korean Splash Masks and designed to work in under a minute to rehydrate and repair even the most damaged hair. It has an aerosol application to ensure even coverage with less mess. Just spray all over the hair in sections, comb through and wash out. The Alma Oil helps nurture and repair the hair while the Cupuacu Butter seals in moisture to rehydrate and add shine.
Most people only need to apply a hair mask to the mid-lengths and ends of the hair, where you have the most breakage and damage. You can avoid applying to the root unless you have thick, coarse hair or dryness at the roots. Hair masks are not only used for repairing your hair, they are also great to use weekly to protect and prevent damage.
– Co-founder of IGK Hair Care, Leo Izquierdo
Mask By Your Hair Type
ColorProof’s DeepQuench® Moisture Masque: $42
Not all masks are created equal. There are many different types of hair masks on the market, from moisture masks to overnight masks. Make sure the mask you are using is right for your hair type and be sure to read the directions to ensure you are applying it correctly, and for the right amount of time and frequency.
Apply masks evenly to clean hair. Dirt, pollution, product buildup, residue and even hard water minerals create a barrier around the hair shaft, keeping it from absorbing active ingredients. We recommend shampooing with a clarifying shampoo such as ColorProof’s ClearItUp Detox Shampoo® to remove impurities first so your mask treatment can be most effective.
Apply hair masks from roots to the tips of your hair. Use a wide tooth comb to help evenly distribute the product all the way through hair to the ends. Concentrate on the ends. Your ends are the most fragile part of your hair and often the driest. Give them the extra attention they need.
The effectiveness of a hair mask can often be boosted by creating a warm environment. Try applying your masque and then wrapping your hair in a hot towel while processing. The heat from the towel lets the cuticle to open, allowing the formula to easily penetrate the hair shaft. For extremely damaged hair, we recommend adding a few drops of treatment oil (such as ColorProof’s CrazySmooth® Extreme Shine Treatment Oil) to your mask of choice prior to applying to hair. This acts as a booster to deliver an extra dose of nourishment, lubricity and shine, which leaves hair incredibly manageable and with extraordinary sheen.
For an intense moisture treatment, I love ColorProof’s DeepQuench® Moisture Masque. This super hydrating masque strengthens and restores hair while evening out hairs’ porosity. Designed exclusively for color-treated hair, this incredible formula dramatically improves hair condition while providing maximum color longevity.
– ColorProof Founder, Jim Markham
Give Your Roots Love Too
CHI Argan Oil Rejuvenating Masque: $21
Masks are great to use once a week, especially during the summer months, or if you process your hair in any way. CHI has an assortment of masks for specific treatments, my favorite being the CHI Argan Oil Rejuvenating Masque . I always apply a hair mask generously throughout the hair from root to tip, then place a plastic cap over the head and warp with a towel. This allows your natural body heat to warm the mask and help it penetrate deep into the hair.
– CHI Global Artist, Rocky Vitelli
Add a Few Drops of Your Fave Hair Oil
Rene Furterer KARITÉ NUTRI Intense Nourishing Mask: $48
Introducing a hair mask once a week to your beauty routine is a great way to quench your dry hair thirst. A hair mask works best when applied to damp/wet hair after a deep cleanse. I recommend adding a few drops of your favorite serum or hair oil to your mask. You can put this combination in the microwave for a few seconds (comfortably warm) and then apply to damp/wet cleansed hair for a deep conditioning treatment.
Remember that a mask is a treatment and is not meant to process for more than 30 minutes. Hair fibers are held in place by bonds, which attribute to the elasticity and strength of hair. A bond can easily be broken by water or heat. Overly hydrating hair (just like excessive heat damage) can result in your hair bonds stretching, breaking, and/or permanent hair loss.
– Celebrity Hairstylist, Joey George