DIY Hair Masks: 7 Hydrating Treatments You Can Make At Home
Given we're all extending the time between our in-salon trims (here's our guide to a DIY haircut, if you decide to go that route), it's become even more important that we keep our strands healthy and hydrated: Dry hair is breakage-prone hair.
And much like there's plenty of good-for-skin ingredients you might already have in your pantry, you can whip up a kitchen-made DIY hair mask quite effortlessly too. In fact, in many cases, it's just one ingredient! After you let the nutrients soak into the strand, simply wash it out to reveal shiny, healthy hair. And while you're at it, give air-drying a go after.
Soothing aloe scalp mask
Aloe vera is known primarily as a skin healer, but we love it for its scalp and hair benefits too. Notably, it's great for treating an inflamed, itchy scalp (in the same way it's great for treating inflamed skin on your face and body) due to its anti-inflammatory properties1. But it does so much more than soothe irritation: Because of its high water content, the gel is moisturizing. It's also been shown in this older, double-blind placebo-controlled study to be an effective way to clear up cases2 of seborrheic dermatitis, a common skin condition that's often behind dandruff.
To create your own mask, follow our simple aloe vera mask instructions here: Essentially you just need to apply fresh gel to your strands, let it sit for 20 minutes, and rinse.
Strengthening egg white mask
Your hair is made of a protein called keratin. Keratin is made up of amino acids. When you apply amino-acid-rich egg whites to the hair, their amino acids help smooth the follicle, nourish your scalp, moisturize the strand, and counteract damaging sun exposure, environmental pollution, and other stressors.
To make this mask, combine the egg whites of one to three eggs and add a few drops of essential oils (to mask the scent). Whisk together until frothy, and apply to hair using your fingers. Cover with a shower cap—so you don't cause a mess—and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then rinse with cool water. Emphasis on cool: If you wash with hot water, the eggs will bake in your hair. Read this guide for more information on the egg white mask.
We should note that when applied topically, amino acids cannot aid your hair at the structural level. They can only help strengthen superficially or temporarily soothe tired, dry hair. To really support hair health, you need to ingest amino acids, like through a hydrolyzed collagen supplement.* These supplements provide your body with the building blocks for hair growth from the inside out.*
Softening hot oil treatment
An age-old tradition, hot oil treatments have been used by women of all hair types to deeply condition hair. The thought is that since heat and steam lift the hair cuticle, the oil can penetrate deeper into the shaft. There's been little research to draw a conclusion on whether it actually works, but theoretically there might be something there. First, we do know that heat and steam help lift the hair's cuticle3 (the outermost protective layer of the strand). We also know that some types of oils with smaller molecule size are able to penetrate hair. In fact, research has shown that coconut oil and sunflower seed oil is able to penetrate the hair4 shaft easier than many others, like mineral oils.
If you want to try this at home, read our full hot oil treatment explainer as it will help you find an oil that works for you, tips, and a detailed step-by-step guide.
Pre-shampoo coconut oil mask
Coconut oil is a beloved pantry staple for its many, many uses. Beauty fans love it for its healthy hair benefits. One easy way to use reap its plethora of nutrients is to use it as a pre-shampoo mask. One study showed that applying an oil as a prewash product helps protect hair from physical damage5 and friction. Physical damage occurs when you work the hair too aggressively without any sort of lubricant—essentially the oil creates a protective physical barrier around the strands, limiting friction. (It's why if you try to brush your hair without applying a detangler beforehand, you'll often see more breakage.)
And it's so easy to do: Take a dollop of coconut oil and warm it between your palms, then apply directly onto your hair. Start at the ends, and work your way up to the root, applying less as you work your way up the shaft (as the root doesn't need as much oil as the ends might.) Let it sit for upward of 30 minutes, and then thoroughly rinse out.
Manuka honey has been shown to have many cosmetic benefits6. When used as a mask, Manuka honey can act as an anti-inflammatory7 for the scalp, reducing redness and irritation. And it also has humectant properties (i.e., its ability to attract water to the surface of the skin and hair as well as deliver hydration to the deeper layers), so applying Manuka honey topically can also help your hair and scalp retain moisture6, making it a perfect addition to your beauty routine. Using it as a hair conditioner or mask is simple, too. Mix about a quarter of a cup of Manuka honey with just enough water to turn it into a hair-conditioner-like consistency. Then, after you've washed your hair, apply it just like you would a conditioner—but let it sit for 30 minutes. Rinse out with warm water after that, and your hair will feel extra luxurious.
Not too long ago there was a trend of banana-infused hair products. The thought was that bananas are rich in silica8, a natural molecule that closely resembles silicone. Silicones are often used in hair masks and leave-ins as they help smooth frizz by seal down the cuticle. So by swapping silicones for the banana-derived silica, you'd get similar benefits. Not to mention, bananas have significant antioxidant properties9, too. There are no studies about banana and hair specifically, but if you have some banana around (that didn't make it into the banana bread, perhaps), consider turning it into this hair mask, for fun. Simply mash together whatever banana you have available and a few drizzles of honey. Then coat your hair, root to shaft, and let it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing out.
Nutrient-rich pumpkin puree mask
This one might be a stretch right now, but in the event you're looking for a more complex hair mask recipe, this is loaded with healthy hair actives. (And who knows, perhaps you have a can of pumpkin puree in the pantry!) This takes a blend of pumpkin, coconut oil, and molasses. Read the full instructions for this pumpkin mask here, as it will offer a more thorough step-by-step guide. The pumpkin is high in beta-carotenes to neutralize free-radical damage in the hair strand, the molasses offers minerals, and the coconut oil offers conditioning.
DIY hair masks are a great thing to add to your hair routine – but if you fancy the store-bought variety, check out our favorite masks for damaged hair.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.