Moisture is the one thing that natural curls can’t get enough of. For most naturally curly girls, regular conditioners, even if you skip shampoo on most wash days, still might not be enough to raise your hydration levels to their full potential.
If you don’t already have one among your go-to curly hair products, what you’ll need to incorporate into your regimen are hair masks. It may feel like a luxurious bonus treat that you only do when you have some extra time on your hands, but in reality, masking is a hydrating necessity that’ll keep your curls thriving. Make pampering a regular part of your hair care routine and stock your shower with the best hair masks for curly hair. Below, we’re breaking down curly hair mask benefits and sharing our favorite masks.

What Are the Benefits of a Hair Mask?
First things first, why should you be using a hair mask? The purpose of a mask is to give hair a more potent dose of hydration and nutrients than what a traditional conditioner offers. Depending on the ingredients, a hair mask can also repair and fill in damaged spots that, if untreated, leave hair in a fragile state that can eventually break. Hair masks usually have high concentrations of moisturizing ingredients that give strands a power shot of nourishment in a short period of time.

What Are the Best Hair Masks for Curly Hair?
Much like every other natural hair product, you have to find what works for your specific curl pattern. While one person may have thick hair but fewer strands overall, which can withstand heavier oils and curl creams, someone else may have a head full of finer and denser hair. The good news is that no matter where on the curl chart you lie, moisture is the universal language, and a mask or deep treatment can help give hair the hydration it craves.

Ideally, the best hair masks for curly hair are ones that are rich in penetrating hydrators or sealing agents. Even better if they include both, the combination of these two elements will help restore and hold in moisture. Need a few recommendations?

Coco Crème Curl Quenching Deep Moisture Mask: Formulated with coconut oil, this velvet cream hair mask gives hair a dose of replenishing hydration and instant, intense moisture. It’s perfect for those with very dry, curly to coily hair.

Almond Milk Ultra Nourishing Hair Mask: When hair is extremely damaged and over-processed, reach for this ultra-nourishing mask. Formulated with almond milk and shea butter, the curly hair mask reverses damage that’s already taken a toll on your hair and prevents future damage.

Monoi Repairing Hair Mask: Infused with monoi oil and hydrolyzed silk, you can count on this hair treatment to nourish from roots to ends while helping fight back against breakage.

How to Identify Curly Hair-Friendly Hair Mask Ingredients
You can also pick out the best hair masks by paying attention to their ingredients. Look for formulas with hydrating ingredients like jojoba, olive, and coconut oils that are small enough to actually settle into the hair cuticle. Regular use of ingredients like the potent monoi oil can also benefit hair.

It’s also wise to soak up the conditioning benefits that come from fatty acids, strengthening protein, and humectants (like avocado and aloe vera) to help attract.

In addition to knowing which nutrients your hair does need, take note of the ones that it doesn’t. Additives like parabens, mineral oils, phthalates, silicones, and in some cases even sulfates, are all ingredients that may not do your hair any favors. Consider skipping curly hair mask formulas that feature these ingredients to play it safe.

Do You Use a Hair Mask Before or After Shampooing?
For a long time, masks were typically the step done in lieu of regular conditioner, after using shampoo. As natural hair maintenance and styling have evolved and become more personalized, so have the steps in a curl care regimen. This means you aren’t tied to using hair masks for curly hair at just one point in your routine. There are plenty of benefits to applying a mask before you shampoo, but it really depends on the ingredients in the one that you’re using.

It’s best to use a pre-shampoo mask when you’re going to do a steam treatment to help open up the hair shaft so that water and other moisturizers can absorb better. You can rinse out any excess when you wash. However, if the treatment you choose is rich in sealing ingredients like castor oil, it will be counterproductive to use it before shampooing. It will only close off the hair from actually getting clean and soaking up the much-needed moisture.

A good rule of thumb is to follow the instructions on the mask you’re using. If your go-to hair mask says it can be used as a pre-shampoo treatment—go for it. If it’s recommended that you only use it at the end of your shower routine, stick with that application order.

How Long Should You Leave Hair Masks on Your Hair?
Although moisture is forever your friend, you can reach the point of overdoing it. Too much of a good thing is never really good. One of our biggest curly hair tips is that you don’t want to over wash or condition your hair. There may seem to be little harm in slapping on a mask and then going about your day, running errands until you finally get a moment to rinse it out. The thing is, this could be a lot more than your hair can handle, especially if it’s already in a compromised state from other damage.

You’ll be able to tell if hair is overly conditioned by how limp or flat your curly hairstyles look. Your hair may also be more greasy than usual, and you may even notice a stretched out curl pattern. To ensure that your hair mask isn’t doing your natural hairstyles more harm than good, it’s best to follow the recommended usage and time on the packaging. If a mask says to rinse after 15 minutes, it’s probably not a good idea to sleep with it on your hair overnight. If you feel like you need more than what a 15-minute mask can give you, look for an overnight hair mask or one that at least has a slightly longer setting time.

How Often Should I Do a Hair Mask for Curly Hair?
How often you use hair masks will depend on your hair. Thirstier curls are going to need to do a mask more often than others. This applies to those with denser and tighter natural curls in the 4A to 4C range that tend to get drier more often. Even though many curly folks don’t wash weekly, for masking, once a week is ideal for helping hair maintain optimal moisture levels. For hair that is less dry on a regular basis, a once a month deep treatment with a hair mask should be sufficient.

If you’re finding that you’re already masking frequently and your hair still isn’t absorbing or holding in the moisture, you may want to do a porosity test on your strands. Knowing how your hair retains moisture will not only help you figure out which curly hair mask to use but also what the most effective styling products are for your hair type. Keep in mind that you can actually change your hair porosity, and with that shift, you may need to tweak the type of mask you use.

Once you have your masking plan in place, round out your regimen with these 20 Natural Hair Products to Try in 2020.

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