Hair masks: What you need to know about this mane essential

Emily | 05 January 2017

Clear a permanent space on your shelves for this one.

No longer considered an extra step by most vigilant hair care advocates (ourselves included), hair masks have been part of many of our routines since our first forays into hair colour. Often brought to our awareness by salon professionals as our first line of defence after colour processing, hair masks have now evolved to host a myriad of hair issues. They’ve now become a household staple, targeting everything from dryness and damage to split ends and even curl enhancement.

So, if you’re looking to try out a hair mask in your tresses, keep on reading and discover all you need to know about these unique hair care products!

Hair masks: Your mane essentials 101


hair masks: All Things Hair - IMAGE - wet hair washing
Hair masks are integral to a wash and care routine.

Hair masks and your hair’s condition

Hair masks can greatly improve the condition of your hair by providing strands with an intense shot of moisture and nutrients that may not be within the scope of a regular rinse-off conditioner. Depending on its formula and benefits, a mask (or ‘masque’, if your product likes to Franglais) is usually left to sit on the strands for a specific amount of time to properly penetrate into your locks.

Heavier and more concentrated than rinse-off products, hair masks are best used as a weekly (or twice a week) supplement to a normal wash-and-care routine. They’re used primarily to provide an extra dose of moisture, hydration and, in some cases, strand-strengthening ingredients for hair that’s looking (and feeling) particularly parched. Don’t go overkill on hair masks if your hair doesn’t really need it, though, as these potent formulations can cause product build-up and leave fine hair limp when used too liberally.

Are you a more-is-more girl? Whether you’re looking for more slip, strength, or shine, there’s a mask that tailors to your needs. Not all masks are created equal, and some formulas are lighter in feel than others and may lend themselves to more frequent use.

hair masks: All Things Hair - IMAGE - wet hair washing
What’s the difference between hair masks, deep conditioners and treatments?

Hair masks, deep conditioners and treatments

The average consumer might just chalk things up to ordinary semantics, but is there really a difference between the three? Short answer: no. Similar to how masks work in skincare — non-aggressive, just loads of extra TLC that can move in and out of your routine as needed — all three are mostly tailored as restorative products for hair with particular needs.

Though used interchangeably by a lot of people, there are some nuances in their formulations — as in all products, because not all shampoos are the same either — but the most obvious variance is in the feel and suggested frequency of use.

Deep conditioners

These are simple, straightforward, wet cream products commonly marketed in tubs. They generally provide that shot of silkiness to your hair that smooths down any leftover roughness after you’ve rinsed off your everyday conditioner. Those who have reasonably healthy locks and merely need a weekly product to soothe wear and tear from heat styling usually see improvements with a once-a-week deep conditioner indulgence.

Try: TRESemmé Platinum Strength Deep Conditioning Treatment.

Hair treatments

The phrase itself has its roots in the salon industry and was typically used as a one-shot deal to target an acute problem. To wit: a lot of hairstylists and colourists include a moisturising hair treatment after a colouring or bleaching session.

By the same token, some straightening and chemical procedures, like keratin straightening, are usually referred to as a hair treatment (and not a hair mask or deep conditioner) because of their problem-solving properties. A lot of ’emergency’ conditioning products are positioned as treatments as well, and may be marketed as liquids in twist-off tubes (like a syringe, but for your scalp!) or come in little vials.

Hair masks

True-blue hair masks are thicker and tackier in feel than a deep conditioner and may require a longer time before you can rinse them off. Unlike issue-targeted hair treatments, hair masks deal with more chronic build-up of hair damage and dryness from heat or over-processing, and, curiously, can have ingredients that give an even deeper conditioning experience than normal deep conditioners. Usually scooped out of tubs and patted onto strands, some fans report more efficient absorption when the mask is left to set in a shower cap with some steam from a hot shower.

Try: Toni&Guy Damage Repair Mask and Dove Advanced Hair Series Pure Care Dry Oil Treatment Balm.

Low risk, high reward

Some may need just one, and hair aficionados (us included) may have all kinds of hair masks on their shelves, as hair needs can change on a day-to-day basis. Choose which specific verbiage appeals to your hair needs at the moment, and don’t be afraid to test out different formulas.


If you have really dry, rough hair, then you’ll want to check out our round-up of the very best hair masks to help add some much needed moisture to your locks. Trust us, bad hair days will be a thing of the past with one of the nifty little products!