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How Often You Should Actually Do A Hair Mask, According To Experts

Hannah Frye
March 29, 2022
Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
By Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
Image by Studio Firma / Stocksy
March 29, 2022
Every beauty professional has their non-negotiable steps. In our series, Like A Pro, we tap experts for the top three techniques they absolutely swear by. Here, you'll hear from a variety of industry insiders on the fail-safe tricks they always keep in their back pockets. We're all about simplifying your beauty regimen wherever you can, and sometimes the best routines are as easy as 1, 2, 3.

If you prioritize hair care, you've likely thought about adding a regular hair mask to your repertoire. These products work to hydrate hair, increase shine, smooth texture, and support overall hair health—and you can easily find a formula tailored to your strand pattern, lifestyle, and specific hair goals. 

But how often should you be coating your strands with these nourishing treatments? Especially if you limit your shampooing to once or twice a week, you might be wondering if you should be doing a hair mask weekly, biweekly, or monthly…what's the correct cadence? Wonder no more: We asked the pros to break down a typical masking schedule, so you can be on your way to happy, healthy hair.

Why should you use a hair mask? 

"Hair masks are necessary to assist with retaining hair strength and elasticity. They also provide cosmetic assistance by reducing frizz and elongating and stretching curl patterns," says Bridgette Hill, certified trichologist, inventive colorist, and founder of Root Cause Scalp Analysis. "Unlike conditioners—which temporarily and topically provide detangling, smoothness, and shine by keeping the cuticle flat by superficially coating the hair fiber—masks are designed to penetrate the hair's cuticle and bind fatty acids and amino acids to hydrate the hair fiber from the inside out."

And if you're wondering whether hair masks are right for you, the answer is probably yes. As Hill continues, "Hair masks work for any person that heat styles, performs any chemical service, has curly to tightly coiled hair, or generally feels that their hair is depleted as a result of health, genetics, age, or lifestyle factors."

That being said, hair masks are a worthy addition to any hair care routine, and there are many different ways to make it your own. To name a few: You can make your own at home, DIY style, add it to your self-care Sunday routine, or apply it right before a workout

How often should you do a hair mask?

Unfortunately, hair masks are not a one-size-fits-all venture. In fact, how often you should use them varies greatly depending on the health of your hair and what specific hair mask you're using. 

"Hair mask use can vary based on hair type, texture, hair condition, and frequency of shampooing," Hill says. For bimonthly color-painted hair, masks can be used monthly, she says, whereas tightly coiled, dry hair could benefit from weekly masks.

In terms of formulas, there are a few standout ingredients you'll want to look for: Hill recommends hunting down a product that has, "fatty acids, such as shea, avocado, coconut, and glycerin hydrolyzed protein." Additionally, she says, "certain clay-based masks are excellent and are filled with additional minerals and vitamins that are beneficial to healthy hair and scalp." You'll likely find clays in clarifying options, which come with their own schedule

Now you want to be sure that you aren't overwhelming your hair with too many protein-rich products as that can lead to dry, brittle strands (it's a delicate balance; read up on protein overload here), so be sure to check your other products before adding a protein hair mask—if you see buzzwords like keratin, biotin, hydrolyzed quinoa, amino acids, bond-building, or silk protein on your hair care labels, that's a pretty good sign you're dealing with a protein treatment. 

To sum it all up: If your hair is generally healthy and you're looking for routine maintenance, go ahead and stick to monthly hair mask use. If you are on a healthy hair journey and want to keep your parched strands hydrated and strong, weekly use is great. You can also shake it up and switch off which hair masks you're using, as they all have different benefits—clarifying, protein repair, hydration, the list goes on. If you're not sure where to start, here's a list of 11 of our go-to hair masks for dull, dry strands

The takeaway.

If you're looking to add some next-level hair care products to your routine, hair masks are a great way to elevate your lineup. Bonus points if you put on a shower cap and let the heat from the shower steam open up the hair cuticles—this makes it easier for the mask's moisturizing ingredients to seep in. 

As a general rule: If you have generally healthy hair, perhaps color-treated every other month, then using a hair mask monthly is the best practice; on the flip side, if you're looking to make some significant changes to your hair health or find that you have dry, brittle strands, then weekly use is the way to go. There are many ways to get healthy hair, but adding a hair mask to your routine is certainly one step in the right direction. 

Hannah Frye author page.
Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including skin care, women’s health, mental health, sustainability, social media trends, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends and innovations, women’s health research, brain health news, and plenty more.