These GH Beauty Lab top-tested treatments really work to deeply soften and nourish hair.
When regular conditioner just won’t do for your parched, split, broken strands, it’s time to swap in something more hydrating: an intensive hair mask or deep conditioner. Like traditional conditioners, hair masks are used after shampooing and rinsed off, but tend to offer deeper hydration. These products “help coat wet hair so it’s easier to detangle, which can lead to less damage, and softer and more manageable hair,” explains Good Housekeeping Beauty Lab director, Birnur Aral, Ph.D.
Hair masks and deep conditioning treatments tend to have a higher concentration of conditioning ingredients (like silicones and plant oils and butters), which makes for a heavier and thicker product. That texture makes hair masks “best for coarse, thick, or curly hair,” says Aral, “which tend to be drier.” Deep conditioning treatments are also ideal for hair that’s been damaged by chemical treatments (like dying or straightening) or frequent use of hot tools — which, let’s face it, is most of us.
Here, the best hair masks and deep conditioners tested by the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab and chosen by our beauty experts to help spin your hair from straw to silk.
It’s a 10 Miracle Deep Conditioner Plus Keratin
The winner of the GH Beauty Lab’s deep conditioners and hair masks test, the nourishing It’s a 10 formula lived up to its name when it earned a perfect score for its ability to condition hair and prevent damage in the Lab’s wet-combing test on hair samples.
It also rated highly for making hair look smoother without leaving it greasy after application. “This mask definitely made my color-treated and damaged blonde hair softer and more manageable,” a tester said.
Pantene Pro-V Intense Rescue Shots
Pantene’s innovative mask in ampoule form contains concentrated lipids to repair hair for barely more than a dollar a pop. “My dye- and hot tool–damaged hair felt stronger and even looked healthier once dry,” our Beauty Lab expert tester said. Bonus: The small, single-use mask tubes are travel-friendly, too.
Pantene Pro-V 3 Minute Miracle Deep Conditioner
Deep conditioners and masks are famous for their hydrating, repairing superpowers — but also for their heavy, volume-deflating weight. Beauty Lab testing found this breakthrough formula effective, yet light enough to nourish even the finest strands.
One tester raved, “my hair was softer than with any conditioner I’ve used before.” The mask made hair noticeably silky, smooth and sleek without weighing it down, Lab evaluations found.
Head & Shoulders Royal Oils Deep Moisture Masque
This next-level Head & Shoulders mask treats hair and scalp at the same time, softening strands with coconut oil and fighting flakes with active pyrithione zinc. Many Beauty Lab testers praised its scalp-itch relief. “Flakes disappeared” and “hair was softer than it’s ever been,” two said. When we Lab tested on women with textured strands, this hydrating mask scored high for reducing scalp and hair dryness.
Redken All Soft Mega Mega Mask
GH’s beauty director, April Franzino, has tried countless hair masks from drugstore to salon brands on her split, broken strands. This unique deep treatment is among her all-time favorites, for its ability to deliver immediately noticeable results.
It contains dual chambers that dispense hair-softening ingredients like soy and vegetable proteins and botanical extracts simultaneously. The creamy, rich mask leaves strands “the softest they’ve ever been, like newborn baby’s hair, after only one use,” Franzino says.
Get a salon-style deep conditioning treatment at home with Nexxus’s keratin protein formula, which fortifies damaged, split, and breakage-prone hair.
“I get chemical treatments, color my hair, and use hot tools, so I struggle with split ends and an allover fried look,” one Beauty Lab tester said of this GH Beauty Award-winner. “This mask made my hair feel stronger and look less frayed.”
$30 and up
If you’ve got hair problems but can’t figure out the fix, time to call in the big guns with this state-of-the-art personalized in-salon treatment. A stylist zeroes in on your issues with a high-tech hair and scalp camera that can magnify up to 600 times. It uses the data to pinpoint your hair type and concerns, then conjures up a custom mask treatment, combining ingredients to target everything from hydration to shine, smoothing, fullness, color enhancement, strength and repair.
GH Beauty Lab’s expert experienced bouncier and shinier strands than normal, and called it the perfect pick-me-up — like a facial for your hair, which earned it a Beauty Breakthrough Award. “The treatment was very quick, but produced amazing immediate results— in both volume and smoothness,” reported Beauty Lab chemist Danusia Wnek.