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12 best hair masks for dry hair

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

These revitalising creams are suitable for those with thin and thick hair alike ( iStockphoto )

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Sunshine, sea salt and chlorine wreak havoc in the summer, while central heating and cold winds create chaos in the winter. Year-round blow-drying and colour treatments added on top and no wonder our thirsty locks need a drink.

We tested lightweight creams for fine hair, heavy rich ones for thicker hair, masks you leave in overnight and ones you rinse out, to find the best for delivering strong, shiny tresses.

ESPA Pink Hair and Scalp Mud: £34 for 180ml or 200ml, espaskincare.com

This mud mask is a cult classic in the beauty world and feels like a spa treatment. Choose from a 180ml glass pot (best for the bath) or the easy, squeezy shower-friendly plastic tube (200ml).

Mineral-rich red clays, vitamin C-packed watercress and apricot oil soothe and nourish the scalp and hair, stimulate the circulation and improve overall condition and manageability.

This one is designed to help chemically treated hair, but isn’t a quick fix – you need to leave on for at least 20 minutes or overnight, if possible. We tried both. It’s messy if you leave it in while you sleep, so we’d advise putting a towel down to protect your pillow. However, it was perfect for using in a long hot soak in the tub.

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Aveda Dry Remedy Moisturizing Treatment Masque: £30 for 150ml, aveda.co.uk  

Dry hair can be ultra-brittle and by the end summer, breaks further up the hair shaft are common, leading to frizzy, out-of-control, flyaway locks. Give your thirsty hair a boost with this deeply hydrating, fast-acting mask. 

Use it with caution if you have fine hair and rinse thoroughly as we found it can leave it limp. Better suited to thicker hair, it packs in buriti, pomegranate and olive oils for the ultimate nourishment for soft, supple, shiny locks.

You only need to leave it in for two to three minutes, comb it through and then rinse. 

Aveda recommends a cool rinse to smooth and calm the cuticle – a smooth cuticle is able to reflect light better and hence look shiny and glossy.

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Bumble and bumble While You Sleep Overnight Damage Repair Masque: £40 for 190ml, lookfantastic.com

This beautiful, camellia-scented mask was by far the most expensive one we tested, but delivered such good results, we had to include it.

If you colour your hair frequently or use heat styling tools (tongs, hair dryers or straighteners) regularly, then this mask, with its rich lipid blend of camellia oil and evening primrose, should be in your bathroom cabinet.

It targets past damage (split ends, dry ends and styling damage) and strengthens the hair to protect against future harm.

We tried it as a 20-minute mask, but also left it on overnight – both produced incredible shiny, swingy, frizz-free results.

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Josh Wood Colour Everything Mask: £15 for 140ml, Boots

Advanced UV filters in this mask gives it powerful anti-fade properties.

The label advises you to use it on freshly coloured hair to lock in the colour pigment molecules and prevent fading from the start of your new colour. Then to slow down fade and boost the longevity of your colour, use it as a deep conditioner once or twice a week.

We found it gave a really glossy finish and seemed to boost the brightness of the colour of our hair.

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Lee Stafford Cactus Crush Mucho Moisture Mask: £8.99 for 200ml, boots.com 

Under £10 and yet this one holds its own against pots three or four times the price. Nice work Mr Stafford, you’ve produced another corker to get our locks looking their absolute loveliest for minimal bank balance damage.

Antioxidant and vitamin-packed cactus, wild lime and melon oil give this a high-level holiday vibe scent, and drenches thirsty hair in moisture.

We found it worked equally well on thick, strong hair as it did on finer locks.

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Phyto Phytodensia Fluid Plumping Mask: £29.50 for 175ml, allbeauty.com 

Expensive, but worth every penny if your hair is looking lacklustre with age, this mask is great for mature locks that need a boost of youthfulness.

Just as our skin shows our age, hair looks finer and loses radiance and suppleness as the cuticle breaks down over time.

Much like a high-tech skincare product, it’s packed with hyaluronic acid and acacia collagen (all youth-enhancers), to put back into the hair shaft what ageing is taking out.

We used it several times over a couple of weeks for between three to five minutes and found it softened dry, brittle hair, without adding weight to fine hair, and delivered an extraordinarily shiny bounce.

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Kerastase Discipline Maskeratine Smooth-in-Motion Masque: £23.75 for 200ml, feelunique.com 

If over-processed hair is your predicament, and it's medium-to-thick in texture, then this is the mask for you.

Regular chemical and colour treatments, or overusing heat tools will result in notoriously unruly locks, which will misbehave at any opportunity. This mask delivers a huge shot of moisture to smooth out and strengthen the hair.

We found it improved control, and made styling easier on frizzy hair. But be warned: we had to use it very sparingly on fine hair, as it will weigh it down. 

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L'Oreal Paris Hair Expertise Pure Riche Intense Nourishing Mask: £12.14 for 200ml, amazon.co.uk

Sulphates help hair products foam up, they’re cheap to include and they remove the oily build-up feeling in dirty hair.

However, they can strip the hair of oils needed to maintain shine and bounce, leaving it dried out and prone to frizz. They can irritate the scalp too and if you dye your hair, they can speed up colour fade. 

With all this in mind, if you prefer to go sulphate-free, try this smoothing, frizz-controlling mask that uses botanical oils to boost nourishment.

It’s also silicone-free – silicone (a rubbery plastic) gives the hair a fake gloss that over time can leave locks limp and lifeless. What you actually want is a natural light-reflecting shine that comes from a smooth, hydrated cuticle.

This one is easy on the purse strings too.

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John Frieda Full Repair Hydrate + Rescue Deep Conditioner: £5.98 for 150ml, feelunique.com

The original frizz fighter, the John Frieda brand, knows all there is to know about de-frizzing. This mask injects moisture right into the hair shaft to strengthen it, minimise frizz and reduce the chances of breakage.

We found frizz-prone hair was significantly sleeker after using it daily for just a week. And all for just over a fiver. Not bad at all.

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Jo Hansford Expert Colour Care Intensive Masque: £28.50 for 150ml, johansford.com

Highlights, lowlights and full colour is an expensive outlay and wasted if you don’t look after your locks between appointments.

Colour can be quick to fade, so choosing a mask with an anti-fade formula that boosts shine and colour brilliance, will ensure your colour stays salon fresh for longer. 

We found this gave our lack-lustre thirsty locks a really good injection of moisture, but without weighing it down.

It can be used daily or weekly; we found leaving it on for five minutes improved the shine and radiance. 

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Redken All Soft Heavy Cream: £15.70 for 250ml, lookfantastic.com  

Brittle hair doesn’t just lose its vitality and shine, it can suffer from breakage too. And in severe cases, hair will need to be cut off just above where the breakage is happening. 

This can be due to diet, but is often caused by excessive colouring and heat styling. 

All Soft Heavy Cream, designed for severely dry or brittle hair, does what it says on the tin – it turbo-charges the hair cuticle with ultra-moisture to repair the damage and strengthen hair so it can cope with colouring and heat styling more effectively.

Leave it on for five to 15 minutes, or overnight if you need some major repairs.

It’s packed with argan oil, proteins and amino acids and we found it not really suitable for very fine hair (unless you leave on overnight and do a triple shampoo in the morning!), but for thick or curly hair, this works a small miracle.

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Kerastase Nutritive Masque Magistral: £31.70 for 200ml, kerastase.co.uk

The gold standard for treating dry hair since 1979, the cult classic Nutritive range has had a makeover and thanks to new innovations and formulations in the world of haircare, it’s better than ever.

All the products in the range repair and strengthen, but you can choose according to fine or thick hair and from slightly dry to severely dry.

We found the mask feels ultra-rich when applied, but surprisingly on fine hair doesn’t weigh it down after rinsing.

Leave on for just five minutes and the softness you’re left with is astonishing.

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The Verdict: Best hair masks for dry hair

Want maximum bang for your buck? Choose Lee Stafford or John Frieda.

Regular colour on your hair? Josh Wood is the best.

Turbo charge your beauty sleep with Bumble and bumble

But for a results-driven spa experience in your own bathroom, ESPA is a cult classic, award-winner for improving condition and manageability whatever your hair type.

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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