When our lengths are looking particularly frazzled as a result of bleach, heated styling tools and the weather (winter is coming), many of us might supplement our hair washing routine with a nourishing conditioner to give it an extra boost of shine. But what if we told you that it might be more beneficial for your hair if you were to ditch the conditioner altogether?
It sounds odd but hear us out. Sophia Hilton, hairstylist and founder of Not Another Salon, suggests that hair conditioners are essentially a waste of time, having recently told R29 that after a shampoo, she swaps the conditioner for an intense hair mask instead. So is the humble conditioner now redundant?
"I don’t see the point of conditioners when there’s a product available out there that’s better and stronger," she pointed out. "Conditioners can only nourish so much, whereas hair masks typically have smaller particles, so the product absorbs better, and your hair stays conditioned for longer." It makes sense, especially if your hair is porous, but Sophia isn't the only one championing deeper treatments. KERLUXE celebrity stylist, Earl Simms agrees that masks are vital for damaged hair. "Most of the time, your hair is stripped of its natural oils due to things like colouring, heat and chlorine," he said. "Masks help to restore the hair shaft and work to fix some of that damage."
Sophia adds that if you’re constantly colouring your hair, swapping out conditioner for masks will make all the difference. "In the salon we deal with a lot of hair that’s been bleached and processed – it needs all the help it can get! If your hair is like this, I'd suggest using a mask every time you wash it. I love Pureology’s Superfood Mask, £26.50, as it's specifically formulated for coloured hair." We also like L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Vitamino Colour Masque, £16.50. Simply squeeze the excess water out of your hair, apply the product to the mid-lengths and ends, and rake through with your fingers.
That said, Earl doesn’t think we should all start binning our conditioners. "It really does depend on your hair type," he explained. "For fine hair, using a mask instead of conditioner could be far too heavy but if your hair is in very poor condition, a mask will help repair it." This is something Sophia seconds: "If you have virgin hair and don’t use a lot of heated styling tools, then you probably don’t need masks as much." In that case, try something nourishing but lightweight, like Mazuri's Shea Butter Fresh Start Conditioner, £6.99.
Hair types that will benefit from substituting conditioner for a mask post-shampoo include Afro and mixed hair types especially, as they are prone to dehydration. For Loretta de Feo, founder of haircare brand Dizziak, 'normal' conditioner never really did anything for her half Nigerian, half Italian hair. "For me, there was zero point," she said. "I tried them all and I can only think of one or two where I saw a noticeable change," which is exactly why she formulated the Dizziak Deep Conditioner/Mask, £22. En route to becoming a cult classic, it employs a megamix of scalp-friendly oils, from coconut to argan, babassu and inca inchi, to nourish and strengthen strands from the inside out.
And if you can't afford to use a luxe mask as often as a high street conditioner? "My advice is to buy and use quality products less frequently," said Loretta. "They're more expensive at the time, but will save you money in the long run." R29's beauty writer, Georgia thinks BLEACH London's Reincarnation Mask, £6, is just as fantastic as any high end product, especially if you've bleached your hair.
For some of us, time is an issue, too, as most masks require to be left on for up to 20 minutes, but according to Sophia, if it's a decent purchase, you shouldn't need to leave it on longer than five minutes. "And don’t bother leaving it on overnight," she concluded. "Your hair can only absorb so much!"