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What Happens If You Leave a Rinse-Off Hair Mask on Past Its Suggested Time?

I was at a casual dinner with a girlfriend the other night, when she rightfully showed up with her hair wet in a bun. But it wasn’t because she was too lazy to style her strands. Rather, she figured it was the perfect opportunity to let her weekly hair mask sink in overtime before rinsing. But does leaving a hair mask on too long even make a difference?

I wondered if leaving that concoction on too long was actually beneficial—or, better yet, even harmful, perhaps? Or maybe it meant nothing altogether! To help me get to the bottom of it (and to potentially save my pal some time), I reached out to Linda C. Folis, VP of Research & Development at Function of Beauty.

Pros and Cons of Leaving a Hair Mask on Too Long

When it comes to leaving a hair mask on too long, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is you don’t get any added benefits. The good news, however, is there’s no harm (unless it’s left excessively long on a sensitive scalp).

“Most of the benefit is achieved within the recommended time frame,” Folis explains. “The good news is there’s no downside to leaving the mask on a little longer if you lose track of time. If a consumer feels their hair is a little weighted, they’ll typically rinse a little longer. However, I wouldn’t recommend leaving a mask on overnight if the formulation has not been designed to do so, as it may prove irritating if applied near the scalp.”

Why Different Masks Have Varying Leave-On Times

Based on hair type, damage and formulation, masks have different suggested leave-on times.

Based on Function of Beauty’s hair mask research, for example, “The formulations were designed to provide consumer benefits within 3-5 minutes for straight, wavy and curly hair,” Folis says. “Three minutes is optimal for most hair, and up to five minutes for thermal or chemical stressed hair. For coily hair we recommend up to 30 minutes, depending on level of porosity.”

Should you feel the need for a deeper treatment, instead of taking more time, you “can use a hair steamer to enhance the conditioning process,” Folis suggests. “All formulations have a conditioning system designed for each hair type with conditioning actives that disperse easily through each hair type to replenish lost hair lipids, provide lubricity to damaged cuticles, soften the hair and provide manageability to the hair fiber assembly, resulting in hair shine.”  

Overall Purpose of Rinse-Off Hair Masks

Hair masks are intended to align with other products you’re using for a particular purpose.

“They’re designed to support the consumer’s hair journey,” Folis says. “They can be used to tame unruly hair, calm exposed hair (beach day UV and ocean salt, pool, etc…), provide a solution to over-processed or thermally stressed hair and to maintain healthy hair.”

Eager to hop on the hair mask train, but don’t want to break the bank? Check out THESE single-ingredient DIY discoveries that get the job done!

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