We know about face masks, largely thanks to Patrick Bateman and every movie makeover montage ever (fluffy robe, bouncy friends and cucumber slices on your eyes = optional). They always seemed rather gimmicky and scary-looking on, though admittedly very satisfying to peel off. But what was I about to put on my head (times six)? Stevie Dance gave us the scoop on her DIY version, and I applaud her naturalistic nature, but I decided to try out a few of the pre-made versions before I started slapping yogurt on my head. For one thing, I like to eat my yogurt. For another, you know, call me a lab rat, but I like trying out new products.
Here’s what we know: hair masks (sometimes “masques”) only want to help. They’re smoothed on after you’ve shampooed, rinsed, and lightly towel-dried your hair. Depending on which kind, you apply anywhere from a few dabs to a palmful of the stuff and wait 2 to 30 minutes (ample time to wonder what the hell is on your head and, if you’re me, whether or not all of these products are going to make your hair fall out, because some of them are for ‘treated’ hair and I haven’t done any such thing) and then rinse it out and reap the benefits of deep conditioning!!!! (enthusiasm varies, and, again, is optional).
Note : I did not try these all at once, nor would I recommend it, because then your hair will be greasy as anything and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.
1) I began my foray into hair mask-ing with Rahua’s new Omega-9 Hair Mask ($58), which, I admit, I chose first mostly due to the kicky Amazonian-inspired label and the fact that it’s vegan (and although I’m not, I like the idea of beauty products that are). The texture feels more like a body balm than a hair product: it’s soft and heavy and not for the short-on-time or the thin-of-hair. Initially, after my hair dried, it felt a little weighed down—not great combined with late-summer humidity. But in the days that followed that first application, my hair felt notably stronger, shinier, softer, healthier: it’s like that feeling when you’ve gotten a cut and it just bounces.
2) Warren Tricomi’s Repair Green Walnut Masque ($34) smells very, very good. I recommend sniffing it, even if you don’t buy it. It’s similar in texture to the Rahua mask, but is peppered throughout with small aquamarine-colored beads, which I initially worried wouldn’t wash out, but did. The packaging directs you to apply one to two dabs of product once a week—a notably light load compared to some of the others—and boasts of a “nano-technology that transports therapeutic ingredients of green walnut and hydrolyzed Protein Polymer [sic],” which will apparently heal your hair long after rinsing. Friends, I believe it. The aftermath was breezy: my hair was shiny, light, soft. I also find it endearing that the tub refers to your hair as your “ultimate accessory,” because they’re not wrong?
3) The Frederic Fekkai PrX Reparatives Intensive Fortifying Mask ($49) and its “rich, luxurious emollients” do not mess around. It’s the thickest of the mask pack and formulated specifically for damaged or color-treated hair, and I imagine if you fall in either of those categories, you might be inclined to use it twice a week, as the tub suggests. It felt sort of like applying thick, whipped (unsalted) butter to my scalp. My hair is not particularly damaged and is not currently color-treated, so, for me, it was a bit too thick, but I think if you need some serious repair, my Bergdorf Blondes, this would be your ticket.
4) Aesop’s packaging is generally fantastic, but I am especially fond of the Rose Hair and Scalp Moisturising Masque ($33). The tube is primrose-red, for one thing, which stands out in the landscape of my shower, and the directions come in English and French (entertaining for those of us who took French class in high school and want something to read while we let it soak in) and are frankly a little pushy. The measurements are exact (two tablespoons, which I eyeballed, because I drew the line at bringing measuring spoons into my bathroom) and the instructions are emphatic, with liberal use of all-caps, italics, and boldface (“CONDITIONING masque,” “ lightly massage,” “ peak condition ”). Also, Aesop wants you to keep it on for ten to thirty (!!) minutes, the promise being if you use it weekly, your scalp and hair will be in the aforementioned “peak condition.” Aesop was the only line to mention the scalp, which I find interesting, because it is literally the root of all this drama, and I’d imagine more often than not (if one takes all the dandruff-shampoo commercials to heart), people’s scalps are dry, and the consistency of the mask itself was a good middle-to-heavy-weight option for those seeking moisture. Also, the rose petal/lavender fragrance combination is killer.
5) Initially, the Molton Brown Mer-Rouge Deep Conditioning Mask ($40) reminded me of Crème de la Mer. Yes, because of the name, but also the fact that it, too, was developed around a special seaweed. Atlantic Ocean “mer-rouge” seaweed, to be precise. The formula is infused with mandarin, jasmine, and ambergris, and I would not mind my hair smelling like this combination all the time. Given its light-to-middle weight, this is a good frequent-use option, and I, for one, am going to use it a few more times without fear of getting greasy hair—a look I’m convinced only works on Pete Doherty. And Kate, while they dated.
6) Like its name implies, Original Mineral’s Seven Day Miracle Moisture Masque ($31.95) is meant to be used over the course of a week. The opaque plastic jug is shaped like a glass milk bottle, and inside is the most edible-smelling of the masks I tried, if you’d like your hair to smell like a cookie (no judgments). Fortified with organic argan and macadamia-nut oils, the creamy solution should stay on for anywhere from two minutes to “longer for a more intense masque.” A friend with great hair had recommended it to me for a holistically restorative experience, and I must say, I did feel rather de-stressed after application—and after experimenting with no fewer than six hair masks, that’s no small feat.
Alessandra Codinha, in a T by Alexander Wang top and Current/Elliott shorts, photographed by Emily Weiss in New York on August 25th, 2012