These 5 Intensive Treatments Can Save Your Hair — If You Use Them Correctly

Photographed by Christelle DeCastro.
The hair mask is, easily, one of the most polarizing beauty products around. On one side, you have loyal fans who spend Sunday nights masking. And on the other? Everyone else, who can't be bothered to do much more than shampoo and condition.

If you find yourself in the latter camp, you should know that using hair treatments is, indeed, a powerful and effective way to boost your hair health — and modern advances mean there's a formula for everyone. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. If you use them too often or leave them on for too long, you could actually wind up doing damage to your strands. (As they say, too much of a good thing...)

So, how do you know exactly which masks to use and how to use them? We chatted with Garrett Markenson, hairstylist and creator of the product line Reverie, about how to navigate the sometimes tricky world of intensive hair treatments and masks. With his tips and tricks, you'll be well on your way to switching teams for good — and you might just end up with better hair in the process.
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The Formula: Oil
Great For: All hair types, especially fine

Remember in-shower, hot-oil treatments from the '90s? Consider this technique to be the next wave. Oil masks are incredibly versatile, which makes them ideal for just about every hair type — but they also pack serious benefits for those with fine locks.

"You can use an oil mask as a night mask, a pre-shampoo treatment, cocktail it into a cream-based mask, or use it as a lightweight conditioner," Markenson says. They're especially fantastic for those with lightweight hair, as they condition, but can be washed out so as not to weigh down the hair. Markenson's latest oil mask is made without silicones, so it's even more lightweight than formulas you may have tried in the past.

GM Reverie Ever Recovery Hair Oil, $52, available at GM Reverie.
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The Formula: Bond-builders
Great For: Chemical processes and those who love their hot tools

You've probably heard about Olaplex — the miracle bond-building treatment that's great for chemically damaged hair. It's the leader in the field, but there are other options from brands like Brazilian Bond Builder that work similarly.

This type of product helps your hair by repairing the bonds, Markenson says. You can only pick up the at-home version of Olaplex in-salon, but he says you should defer to your stylist when it comes to how long to keep it on. "If your hair has too can actually become brittle," he says. "Your stylist will be able to tell you how much you should use."

Olaplex No. 3 Bond Perfector, prices vary, see Olaplex for salon locations.
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The Formula: Color-preserving and depositing masks
Great For: Colored and highlighted hair

If you're someone whose hair color is more salon-given than god-given, you probably already know the benefit of a color-preserving mask. They can lengthen the time between glosses and touch-ups by depositing a small amount of color onto your strands or negating any brassiness that can occur through oxidation.

The most important thing to know about these, according to Markenson, is that they work best when combed through. "That ensures [the formula] is coating all of the hair," he says. Try not to leave them on for more than 10 minutes at the most, Markenson says. "This ensures you don't deposit too much color to the hair," he explains.

You can use them once or twice a week without fear of fussing with your color. "For some ladies, like those with platinum hair, that could mean you're using it every time you wash," Markenson says. Translation: Talk to your colorist, and ease in to see how it works for you.

BLNDN Tone You Toning Rinse, $42, available at BLNDN.
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The Formula: Protein masks
Great For: Damaged hair

A protein mask is a great way to aid hair that's damaged or prone to breakage in a pinch — more so than hydrating masks. In fact, Markenson says your hair actually needs less moisture than you may think. "Hair doesn't really need moisture," he says. "There's probably only about 4 to 7% moisture in the hair. What it actually needs is protein."

Fair warning: Always stick to the recommended time frame and usage. Similar to Olaplex, over-using a mask like this can leave the hair brittle over time — causing more breakage and damage. "A lot of people think that because it's cream-based, you should sleep in it or something dramatic like that," says Markenson. "But the manufacturer determines the amount of time based on the amount of protein in the formula."

Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Wild Ginger Keratin Intensive Treatment, $27.25, available at Loxa Beauty.
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The Formula: Exfoliating masks
Great For:
Athletes and those who use a lot of dry shampoo

These masks are picking up major buzz in the hair-care industry, and for good reason. "They help to remove dead skin attached to the scalp and invigorate the follicles," Markenson says.

You can incorporate them into your routine around once a week. "Women who work out a lot or don't wash their hair often can use it more often," Markenson says. There are many scalp masks on the market, some of which come in grainy textures, while others are the consistency of shampoo or conditioner — but either way, be gentle. Use a light touch when you're applying, just like you would with your face exfoliant; no need to scrub roughly, Markenson says.

Philip Kingsley Stimulating Scalp Mask, $30, available at Philip Kingsley.
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