One of the perennial pieces of beauty advice that we hand out is to use a hair mask, once a week. At least. This will do more for the condition of your hair – whatever your age – than anything we know. They’re particularly good for ‘the frizzies’, for anyone who’s had chemical treatments and for dry hair of all types – but don’t avoid them if you’ve got an oily scalp; simply work through the ends, instead. But our tip, generally, is to slather on as generously as possible and then leave on for as long as poss, too – perhaps even overnight (with a towel over your pillow) – before rinsing. Welcome to our ‘shining stars’ of 2019, though – do scroll down the page for the rest of the worthy winners.
GOLD, BEAUTY STEAL and BEST NATURAL AWARD SenSpa Lava Clay Hair & Scalp Masque
Hallelujah! Oh, we love it when a complete bargain scoops gold. (Specially when it’s something we use and love ourselves.) A generous tub of nourishment devised by the spa team at Hampshire’s Careys Manor hotel, this showcases an ingredient called lava clay – perhaps better known as rhassoul, from Morocco – which is incredibly rich in minerals like magnesium oxide and silica. So although it’s a treatment mask, boosting health, strength and softness in 10-15 minutes with coconut and Abyssinian oils, it actually cleanses hair at the same time. (We wouldn’t give up our shampoo for this, notwithstanding that – but it’s a great treatment.) Work through towel-dried hair, they recommend.
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
‘Very easy to work through hair and gave good levels of gloss, with increased manageability and very good defrizz factor. It didn't weigh down my hair. I would buy this, particularly as it didn't over promise’ • ‘My hair looked very shiny and sleek after first use and even more so after regular applications once or twice a week. It got rid of any dullness, left my hair softer than usual and easier to style. It really helped combat frizziness and my hair felt nourished. I was concerned I would have to wash my hair more frequently but as it didn't feel heavy at all, I only had to wash it every other day as usual’ • ‘The improvement in softness made my hair look younger and glossier, more like it was during my teens and twenties. It eradicated coarseness and seemed to give my hair more bounce than it has had for a long time’ • ‘Texture is akin to very thick smooth mud, which makes it very easy to apply. It had a lovely exotic fragrance. Very easy to work through hair and my hair was ultra glossy, easier to brush through when I blow-dried it. Since I moved from Scotland to England I have found the hard water very drying to my hair and it had become frizzy and flyaway. This left my hair smoother, thicker and shinier’ • ‘The day after I had used the Masque for the first time, I googled it and was shocked, then stunned, then overjoyed at the price. Not only did it make my hair thicker, more glossy and manageable, but it smelt amazing and make me feel rather wonderful too. A complete bargain in my eyes’ • ‘This is brilliant. Easily worked through my thick curly hair, definitely improved manageability, made my curls easier to handle and they look nicely controlled and tidy! It helped control the frizz and this seemed to get better with continued use’ • ‘I originally used it for the recommended five to ten minutes but then tried leaving it on for 60 minutes and it performed even better, making my hair lovely and soft and beautifully fragranced. I like the fact this product didn't leave my scalp feeling quite itchy as can happen with other products if I leave them on for too long. I need to find some more of this before I run out!!!’ • ‘This fulfilled all the promises: nourished, stronger, more manageable hair, which is silky soft’ • ‘Found this mask a delight to use due to its lovely fragrance and lovely texture. My hair smelled gorgeous all day afterwards and was definitely stronger and smoother over time.’
£6.95 for 300ml - click to buy
SILVER AWARD (JOINT) Coco & Eve Super Nourishing Coconut & Fig Hair Mask
This is a social media sensation (just check out their website for loads of before and after pics and some pretty wowzer videos). And the cult product (the tub packaging is as ‘millennial’ as it gets!) certainly wowed our own testers, too. Coco & Eve describe it as ‘like treating your tresses to a tropical holiday in just 10 minutes’, working to tame frizz, deliver shine and intensely hydrate via raw coconut oil from Bali, fig essence, argan oil and shea butter. It comes with its own ‘tangle tamer’ to distribute the mask to every thirsty strand.
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
‘This is a fun product with decorative packaging and quirky words. But underneath all the jollity, it is a serious hair product, which delivers on what it promises. My hair did look more glossy than usual – as if I had been to the hair salon - and the shine lasted until the next wash. It was less tangly and easier to style. I usually have loads of frizz but this product reduced it without making my hair heavy or limp, in fact it was quite bouncy’ • ‘10/10. Very easy to work through my thick curly hair, especially with the accompanying little brush in the box. Gives a fabulous shine and hair is very smooth without the usual halo of flyaways. But it hasn't weighed it down, which is surprising considering the smoothness. I have less split ends and my hair is a lot softer. My perm has lasted much longer than usual too’ • ‘Absolutely lives up to the hype on my crazy thick curly damaged hair. It claims that it restores dry damaged hair, improves hair texture and shine, hydrates and deeply conditions, treats split ends and tames frizz – and transforms your hair in only 10 minutes – and lives up to all that!’ • ‘WOW, just WOW! This is a game- changer for my thick dry hair. I usually go through conditioner and detangler like I don't know what but this STILL has two thirds of the jar left so the value for money is amazing. I would absolutely repurchase this – oh, and the smell is lush!’ • ‘This light mask was really easy to work through the hair and it came with a tangle brush so I let the brush do most of the dispersing. I have greying hair and it is increasingly difficult to get a gloss; this picked out the different highlights and enhanced the natural colours’ • ‘Having very fine hair I was a little worried that this mask would be too heavy and weigh my hair down. Not so: hair was left soft and with more body than it would normally have. I do feel this product has had an anti ageing effect on my hair as it has enhanced the condition and brought the natural colours out. Because of the menopause I have been suffering with dreadful breakage and been unable to colour it. This brightened the natural colours and I have had many compliments. My hairdresser was stunned by the colour and condition and told me people pay to have colour like mine! I’m hooked!’ • ‘My thick dry hair has a beautiful shine, like having a keratin hair treatment. It’s much silkier and smoother, lasting until the next wash three days on and it made blow-drying a lot faster. I have used it both as an overnight masque and a 10-minute condition on the ends only. It keeps my hair looking sleek, shiny, smooth and bouncy’ • ‘I had a constant battle with my 14-year-old daughter for this product! I was impressed with how my hair looked and felt afterwards.’
£34.90 for 212ml - click to buy
SILVER AWARD (JOINT) SACHAJUAN Hair Repair
From a Swedish hairdresser brand that’s become a bit of a global sensation with its Scandi-chic minimalist packaging (in this case, a pump), this sets out to undo damage from the effects of over-styling which can leave hair ‘looking a bit frazzled’. It contains what we’re told is an ‘SOS formula’, to penetrate hair with minerals and proteins that restore hydration, body and volume, boasting something that glories in the name of ‘Ocean Silk Technology’ for high shine and lustre. Just 5-10 minutes is all it takes.
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
‘A wonderful product. Love, LOVE it! This gave my coloured, grey hair lots of gloss and shine, calmed it and made it less frizzy. It made blow-drying lots easier. My hair can look dull and dry but I noticed a real improvement with this and had lots of nice comments’ • ‘It was easy to work two pumps worth of product through my hair. Left hair really shiny, soft and easy to style, and the de-frizz factor was very good. My hair looks well nourished now, not dry and brittle as before. I loved the beautiful fresh fragrance’ • ‘This thick creamy mask seems to speed up blow-drying time quite noticeably and gives a much smoother finish with a slight gloss. I am very impressed with the frizz control. It didn't weigh my hair down. The ends are definitely less brittle and hair softer overall. It seemed to hold the style better’ • ‘Top marks for this mask. I wash my short hair every day and after a month in India in considerable heat, my hair normally needs more conditioning on returning home. But using this mask, it made a rapid return to good condition. I would absolutely buy it’ • ‘This gave my thick curly hair an amazing gloss. The de-frizz factor is fantastic! I’m always looking out for a product that de-frizzes my hair and this really does, leaving it looking a lot healthier. I will definitely buy it’ • ‘I love this! The instructions were to use it once a week, but I would have found that too frequent as the most surprising thing was that hair stayed well conditioned through a number of washes. This is what really made it stand out from all other intensive conditioners I have used previously. It leaves hair smelling great, conditions as well as you could hope and lasts for ages.’
£23 for 250ml - click to buy
BRONZE (JOINT) AWARD Molton Brown Deep Conditioning Mask
You could be forgiven for not knowing that Molton Brown – best known for fragrance and the most gorgeous bath and bodycare – also have a collection of hair products tucked away in their range. There’s a whole portfolio of conditioners, as it happens, but this is the star of the show: a very generous (and really rather glam) tub of decadent, deep conditioning ingredients including Atlantic red dulse and vegetable proteins to smooth and detangle. Unsurprisingly in the circs, testers loved the fragrance.
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
‘My fine hair definitely felt and looked smoother straight after towel drying and consequently needed less heat styling. It felt as if it behaved better, the volume was increased rather than feeling lank, and it took slightly less touching up during the day. I also suffered slightly less from the dreaded 'bed-head'‘ • ‘A very noticeable improvement in frizzing, especially at the ends of my (fairly long) hair. I've also had issues with the front sides of my hair frizzing due to colouring and this also improved - so noticeably that even my hairdresser commented’ • ‘The smell made it a relaxing treat to use (and an extra ten minutes of relaxation is always welcome). As well as my hairdresser, several other people have commented on how healthy my hair is looking. I usually use a hair mask once a week or so anyway but this was clearly an improvement on many of the others I've tried. I only used the product once a week, which gave excellent results - any more frequently and it did feel a little heavy’ • ‘Very easy and practical to use and the fragrance is lovely. It leaves my hair very glossy and more hydrated, easier to style and the de-frizz element is very good – hair definitely more sleek and smooth’ • ‘After using the treatment for a period of time, I definitely felt that my hair was shinier and certainly smoother than it usually is, which made it look glossier than usual’ • ‘Results are SO good for my long hair. I found it easier to brush as it tangled less than usual. The product conditioned my hair, making it shinier and smoother but without making it feel like it was heavy or weighed down with product. (Other products I have used made my hair feel a bit claggy.) Softness and manageability has really been positively altered by using this mask’ • ‘Without a doubt I would buy this product! It gave an amazing gloss, made my hair softer, fuller, more manageable, less frizzy and in better condition generally.’
£23 for 200ml - click to buy
BRONZE (JOINT) AWARD Toni&Guy Damage Repair Mask
The tag-line on this very affordable deep treat from the London-born hairdresser brand describes it as ‘for intense reconstruction’ – so it’s one for seriously thirsty, trashed hair. There’s not much natural about it, looking at the ingredients list, (lots of silicones and mineral oil, among other high-tech ingredients) but our testers certainly enjoyed the results from a quick 3-5 minute slather, before rinsing.
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
‘Top marks! This gave a good gloss, which is hard on grey hair. The first time I used it my hair went limp but that was because I used too much. My hair was better when I used less and then I didn't need to wash it any more than twice a week. My hair looks shinier and healthier overall’ • ‘This hair mask had a nice fresh scent and was easy to use.... my hair felt softer and the mask slightly reduced frizz’ • ‘It is very easy to apply, thick enough not to run everywhere, but thin enough to spread through the hair without pulling. It made my fine straight hair beautifully glossy, more manageable and definitely less brittle. It didn't weigh my hair down at all and instead the improved condition of my hair gave it a much fuller feel and more bounce. NB The hair mask comes in a tub with a screw lid. As I use it on towel dried hair (it has a waiting time of 3-5 minutes) this is a practical solution, but would not be ideal for use in the shower’ • ‘My daughter, who has curly hair with lots of frizz potential, noticed a definitely improvement in the texture and in the definition of her waves’ • ‘I generally prefer to use natural products but this mask worked so well on my damaged hair that I will be buying it again when it runs out, which won’t be any time soon as a little goes a long way. With this mask and a tweak with straighteners there is an impressive difference to the condition and appearance of my hair’ • ‘This is classed as a reconstruction mask to nourish the hair and it definitely does nourish my short coloured hair and give it some structure’ • ‘This product really worked on my thick but fine hair and I liked the subtle fresh fragrance. I left it on for three minutes and after rinsing and drying it had a lovely shine and was smooth to the touch, plus it was more manageable.;
£7.19 for 200ml - click to buy