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9 best hair masks that bring your dry locks back to life

Split ends? Regular colouring? Soothe dry, frizzy hair with these revitalising creams

We were looking for something that didn't weigh hair down or make it lank or lacklustre ( iStock/ The Independent )

Environmental factors wreak havoc on our hair, from saltwater, sunshine and sand in summer to central heating and icy temperatures in winter. 

Too much heat styling, colouring and over-processing will deplete your hair of any natural shine and moisture.

But it’s not all doom and gloom as a good hair mask can restore that much needed hydration.

We tested more than 35 masks and sought out products that gave excellent shine, bounce, elasticity, suppleness, silkiness, softness and strength. 

We didn’t want hair to be weighed down, lank or lacklustre and we looked for any interesting extras, like removing brassy tones from blonde, or saving time by leaving the mask on overnight. 

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Philip Kingsley elasticizer, 150ml: £33, Philip Kingsley

A cult classic with an illustrious heritage, created by Phillip for Audrey Hepburn whose hair had been ruined by over styling and over colouring on film sets. Audrey asked Philip to create a conditioner that would suit her fine hair without weighing it down. He formulated Elasticizer, she loved it and requested pots be sent to her home in Switzerland. Since its launch in 1974, Elasticizer has won more than 100 prestigious awards.

This hair mask is actually a pre-shampoo treatment and, as Anabel Kingsley, director of communications and trichologist at the brand, explains, the "elasticizer plumps the hair shaft with moisture, leaving strands stronger and bouncier. Leave a pre-shampoo conditioner on for at least 20 minutes, preferably an hour, and then shampoo and condition as usual."

We did just that, but it is a bit awkward if you wash your hair in the morning and are short on time. So we also tried leaving it on overnight and sleeping on a towel, which worked perfectly and is great for severely dried-out, damaged hair. When we tested it overnight, we did find we had to double shampoo fine hair in the morning to remove it all. Anabel recommends using it once or twice a week and we found after just a couple of weeks, hair was significantly shinier and felt more elastic and supple.

Finding the balance between leaving hair nourished and moisturised and crossing the line into limp territory, is tricky if your hair is fine. But we found this was the best we tested for not leaving fine hair lacklustre or lifeless. It also comes in an Extreme version if you do have thick, curly, coarse, or very porous or processed hair.

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Aveda dry remedy moisturizing masque, 150ml: £30, Aveda

The hair hero ingredient responsible for rescuing parched brittle hair in this mask is Buriti Oil, one of nature’s most powerful hydrators. The oil is harvested from the fruit of the moriche palm, which flourishes in Brazil’s wettest areas. If your locks suffer with feeling rough, we found this delivers some serious softness after just one use. It saturates the hair with intense moisture, but doesn’t leave finer hair limp. And the gorgeous floral scent is the iconic Aveda blend comprising organic lavender, bergamot and ginger lily. Aside from Aveada’s holistic approach to beauty using pure flower and plant essences it is a pioneer when it comes to sustainability. For this mask it's combined post consumer recycled (PCR) and bioplastic packaging – the bioplastic is made primarily from sugarcane ethanol, which is a renewable sustainable resource.

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3 More Inches lifesaver hair mask, 500ml: £35, Must Have

This mask is a real game-changer if you’re trying to grow your hair or struggling to keep the ends of your hair in great condition. It’s a pre-wash treatment and should be left on dry hair for 45 minutes – you need to really soak the hair and coat and comb every strand. Then rinse really well once and follow with a conditioner to seal and protect the cuticle. If time is not on your side, you can leave it on overnight, or apply before you leave home when you know you’re going to be washing your hair (gym class, swimming, salon blow dry etc). Or even on holiday, apply in the morning for protection and then shampoo and condition after swimming. High concentration cashmere proteins are the life-saving ingredients here and they’re almost identical to the molecular size and shape of human hair, so can penetrate deeply and repair broken bonds in the hair shaft – which is what causes thinning and breakage. With regular use you can expect thicker, smoother hair with more swing and shine. We tested it for just a few weeks and found it definitely started to deliver results.

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Redken color extend blondage express anti-brass, 250ml: £18.49, Look Fantastic

For anyone with highlights, this should without a doubt be your go-to mask for shiny bright blonde. Of all the purple hair products we’ve tested and it’s a lot, Redken Blondage is the absolute best for keeping brassy blonde at bay. If cooler, brighter blonde is your holy grail, this colour depositing mask only takes five minutes to neutralise and correct unwanted warmer tones and add much needed nourishment to bleached hair. We found you do need to wear gloves (or rinse immediately!) with this mask as it can stain skin and nails a pale lilac colour and we tried to avoid the scalp where possible for the same reason. During testing, we found six minutes did the job perfectly, but you can leave it on for up to 10 minutes if your blonde is really warm. It leaves hair silky smooth and nourished and no yellow tones in sight.

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Kerastase nutritive masquintense, 200ml: £21.80, All Beauty

If you struggle to find a mask that doesn’t weigh down limp locks, or alternatively has enough oomph to really inject some moisture into coarser hair, then this cult classic is worth a look as it comes in two options – one for thick hair and one for fine. Incredibly concentrated, you don’t need very much product at all to get good results so the pot lasted ages. We tested the fine hair option and impressively it really does manage to deliver moisture to the hair shaft, but without leaving any weight at all. Hair looked shinier and glossier after a few weeks’ use. Only use this on the mid lengths and ends though, because we found when applied very near the scalp it’s too much for fine hair roots that like to lie flat to the head at the best of times. Masquintense is a long-term solution for dry damaged hair, as it works on improving and boosting the nutrition that goes directly into the hair fibre. Results aren’t instant, but we found hair really improved over time.

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IGK antisocial overnight bond building dry hair mask, 187ml: £30, Space NK

An overnight hair mask that doesn’t need to be washed in the morning? This is every busy girls’ dream. If time is precious and a pre-shampoo hair mask, or a leave-in for 10 mins in the shower, isn’t an option for you, then this is your go-to hair saver. It’s a weightless dry oil spray in a can – certainly not your usual mask in a pot – that uses plant-derived silk proteins to nourish and strengthen the hair’s structure from the inside. Simply spray on at bedtime, comb through immediately and go to sleep – it’s literally as easy as that. We found after just one use hair felt softer, less frizzy and it didn’t tangle overnight. Unbelievably you just brush your hair in the morning and go – no restyling or washing required. The coconut, pineapple and eucalyptus holiday scented blend is also satisfyingly soporific. For natural beauty fans, all IGK products are vegan, cruelty free and gluten, paraben and sulphate free.

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Redken frizz dismiss mask intense smoothing treatment, 250ml: £18.38, Look Fantastic

If autumn rain is the bane of your hair life and you need to weatherproof your locks, then this mask is a very good place to start. Our tester has naturally wavy hair that will frizz up if there’s any moisture in the air. But using this hair mask in place of her usual conditioner, meant she didn’t have to even blow dry her hair straight, it dried naturally with more weight to it and stayed straighter for much longer. The babassu oil content tames flyaways, reduces puffiness and increases manageability and shine and you only need to leave this one on for 3-5 minutes to deliver effective results. Used two or three times a week in place of conditioner will help keep frizz at bay.

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Garnier ultimate blends nourishing hair food banana and shea, 390ml: £6.99, Boots

If your beauty budget won’t stretch to some of the more expensive options, then this excellent value mask is one of the best we tested from the high street. Not only is it about a quarter of the price of many high-end masks, but at 390ml it’s almost double the volume too. . The range comes in pots that look like ice-cream or creamy yoghurt, and smell just as delicious. This one can be used as a 3-in-1 as a conditioner, a mask or a leave-in. It delivers good shiny results however you choose to use it. There are also papaya, coconut and aloe vera options for other hair types. The ingredients are 98 per cent natural origin, it’s a vegan formula and Garnier has excellent sustainability credentials: the actory is committed to 60 per cnet less CO2 emissions and 60 per cent water consumption reduction per finished product by 2020, 100 per cent recyclable packaging and it has partnered with TerraCycle to keep beauty packaging out of landfill. It’s reassuring to see a global company like L’Oreal making big steps in the right direction.

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Lee Stafford cactus crush mucho moisture mask, 200ml: £8.99, Boots

Cactus oil in this mask, blended with wild lime and Kalahari melon seed oil is used to drench dry, damaged, thirsty hair. It’s simple to use and easy on the wallet – you only have to leave it on for five minutes between your shampoo and conditioner and we found it revives and replenishes dehydrated locks in just a week or so.

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The verdict: Hair masks for dry hair

For longevity in the industry and an award-winning cult classic product that has survived the test of time and is now available in options for thick and fine hair, Elasticizer wins the Indy Best mask for dry hair.

For the long-term health of long hair, you can’t beat 3 More Inches Life Saver, Aveda was working hard at their sustainability programme long before it was fashionable and have always produced kind-to-hair, kind-to-the-planet products, while Redken Blondage is a must for all blondes looking to keep their tones cool and creamy.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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