You’d think they’d be a given holy grail, but a lot of us are still nervous about using an overnight hair mask on a regular basis. Masks can bring on a whole host of fears (Will it make my hair greasy? Will it wash out when I try to take it off? Do I have to sit still for five hours if I use one?), so we broke down the top 10 things that no one ever tells you about how to use a hair mask. And considering the amount of torture we put our hair through on a daily basis with heat styling, teasing, and coloring, lord knows we need them.
1. You should use a mask once a week: Even if you think your hair is relatively healthy, the change of seasons can be hard on your strands (Winter winds! Summer sun!) so it’s good to get in the habit of using a mask weekly to make sure you’re giving your hair the moisture it needs.
2. Not all masks are created equal: There are a lot of “masks” on the market today, so be careful to read the directions. Some may be marketed as masks but actually require daily use, while others are heavier and therefore should just be used once or twice a week (depending on your hair type and amount of damage). Others still ask to be left in for 1-2 minutes or 15 and up, so choose which ones you can see yourself sticking to before you make your purchase – the key here is finding one that will realistically work for your routine.
3. You can apply a hair mask to dry hair: If you’re willing to make a time commitment, apply your mask to dry hair and let it absorb for about 20 minutes (this is a great Sunday morning activity before you take a shower).
4. You can sleep in your hair mask: If you think your hair is especially dry, try sleeping in a hair mask. Simply apply the mask at the end of your shower (or apply it to dry hair) and cover with a shower cap of silk scarf that you don’t mind using for this purpose. Rinse out in the morning and you’ll have silky soft hair!
5. Applying a hair mask does not need to take all day: Keep in mind that applying a mask does not need to take hours – you can put in a mask for 2 minutes as you’re shaving in the shower and get the moisture boost that your hair needs.
6. Your hair should not be greasy after: If you find that your hair is greasy after you apply a mask, you are most likely using one that is too heavy for your hair type. Look for one that is specific to your hair (whether it is fine, curly, etc) and that should lead to better results. Also, don’t go overboard with the application – a little goes a long way.
7. You should still shampoo and condition after: You’ll always want to shampoo and condition your hair after you use a mask in order to make sure you won’t have any product build-up leftover, and to make sure your hair is left in top condition.
8. There are tons of DIY recipes out there that work just as well: Since the entire goal of a hair mask is to add moisture to your hair, there are plenty of easy DIY ways to achieve this with the ingredients in your fridge. With ingredients like yogurt, honey and olive oil, you’ll have your strands looking great in no time.
9 . You should comb the mask through your hair: As a reminder, you should always be using a wide tooth comb when handling wet hair – and when you apply a hair mask you should comb it through to the ends to make sure you’ve applied it to every last spot, before you let it sit.
10. Always try to concentrate on the ends of the hair: Lastly, your ends are the most fragile part of your hair (split ends anyone?) so always concentrate your mask to the ends of your hair as they are most likely the part that needs the most loving.
Originally published March 2014. Updated February 2017.