I have a confession to make: I am terrible at taking care of my hair.
My split ends are enough to make a hair stylist cringe, and even though I don’t use any heat on my hair and very rarely dye it, my hair still breaks and tangles easily.
Resolving to give my hair the care and tenderness that I know it deserves, I’ve been on a journey to find natural and vegan DIY hair masks that are low-waste and eco-friendly.
Turns out the Internet has no shortage of DIY hair masks touting benefits ranging from hair repair to a glossy sheen, but how effective are these masks, really? After a wide-range of research, I’ve rounded out four vegan hair masks, ranked from best to worst.
Please Note: All types of hair are unique and require very different hair care. I would describe my hair texture as fine and naturally greasy, but ultimately you’ll want to test these DIY hair masks on your own hair to see what works best for you. For best advice, consult a hair stylist to see what products would best protect against damage to your hair.
Least Effective: Banana Olive Oil Mask
Best Used For: Glossening dull, damaged hair
The Method: Mash one ripe banana with a tablespoon of olive oil, until the mask is liquid without lumps. Work the hair mask into the hair starting from the scalp downward, and leave on for 10–15 minutes before rinsing out.
Dana’s Reaction: While my hair did feel smoother after this mask, it’s hard to justify it after spending the next few days washing banana bits out of my hair. If you do decide to try this mask, I would recommend blending it just to avoid the horror of losing chunks of hair to banana tangles.
Why It Works: By combining banana and olive oil, you’re achieving the benefits of the banana’s hydration and moisturizing power along with olive oils’ healthy fats and Vitamin E which helps with the hair’s shine. The potassium in bananas is also said to strengthen hair and decrease breakage.
Somewhat Effective: Rice Water Hair Mask
Best Used For: Hair growth and shine, detangling and smoothing hair, improved scalp health
The Method: Take 1/2 cup of rice and 2 cups of water, and let it sit in a covered plastic container for up to 24 hours or overnight. Strain water into a spray bottle and keep in the fridge until ready for use. After shampooing hair, towel try and then spray the rice water on the hair, allowing it to sit for 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water and dry.
Dana’s Reaction: While I’m all for adding some rice water to my hair, using only shampoo and rice water severely dried out my hair, leaving a frizzy, clumpy mess. Since several articles suggested either mixing with a deep conditioner or using after conditioner, I recommend not skipping the conditioner step for anyone with already damaged and brittle hair.
Why It Works: Rice water is filled with innumerable vitamins including folate, a B-vitamin that treats forms of anemia, promotes hair growth and moisturizes skin. According to certified hair practitioner and scientist, Dr. Gaby Longsworth Ph.D., the amino acids from rice water also penetrate hair strands to strengthen and repair hair from within.
Rating: 5/10 *would rate higher if used with deep conditioner
Effective: Aloe Vera Hair Mask
Best Used For: All types of hair
The Method: Take two tablespoons of aloe vera gel (I used fresh aloe vera and strained prior to use) and combine with one tablespoon of melted coconut oil. Apply using your fingers, starting at your scalp and working toward the ends of your hair. Leave on for 30 minutes or an hour and then rinse out in the shower.
Dana’s Reaction: I tried this mask in the winter and my hair sucked all the coconut oil and aloe vera up without any significant change to the texture of my hair. I would definitely try this again, but felt like the extra step of adding aloe vera didn’t yield any further benefits compared to the traditional coconut oil mask and wasn’t worth the effort.
Why It Works: Aloe vera is a longstanding favorite home remedy, used to heal burns, moisturize skin, and even increase hair growth! Rich in vitamins A, C, and E, aloe vera can help repair and strengthen hair for shiny, luscious locks.
Most Effective: Coconut Oil Hair Mask
Best Used For: Moisturizing dry and dull hair and preventing breakage
The Method: Take two teaspoons of coconut oil and heat in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds. Starting at your scalp, begin to massage the coconut oil down to the end of your hair. Your hair should be unwashed and dry during this process. Leave on for anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, or overnight for maximum results.
Dana’s Reaction: The first time after using a coconut oil mask, my hair felt heavy and extremely greasy, even after a shower with a traditional shampoo and conditioner treatment. However, after an additional wash, my hair seemed much thicker and stronger, with a friend even asking what I did to make my hair so nice. Ever since then, I’ve been using coconut oil on-and-off for better and better results. My hair now looks much healthier and shinier, with coconut oil as the only real change to my hair care routine.
My recommendation? Do a coconut oil mask on a weekend when you don’t need to rush out the door the next day, in case you need to do a second wash. While the coconut oil mask is overall very effective, the initial greasiness may be a turn-off for those looking for a quick and immediate fix.
Why It Works: Coconut oil acts as a deep conditioner, protecting against hair protein loss and adding moisture to your hair. This is due to the unique combination of fatty acids and vitamins within coconut oil, which nourish and strengthen hair follicles for improved hair quality and growth.
Before & After
Unsurprisingly, among all the hair masks, coconut oil reigned supreme as the most effective hair mask, and for good reason, too. Ultra hydrating and moisturizing, coconut oil left my hair shiny and lustrous after every use. After going through all the hair repairs, this one led to the best results and overtime transformed my hair.
Give these masks as try for yourself, and let us know what you think!
Also by Dana: Vegan Strawberry Matcha Dutch Pancakes
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Photo: Dana Drosdick