When I was in uni, I used to swim a lot – like, at one point I was going every day. And while I enjoyed it, it was also a Bad Time for my hair. Why? Because I washed it every day – every single day.

Here’s the thing, though: after I stopped swimming regularly, I never broke the cycle of washing my hair so often even though I knew it was doing awful things to it.

Turns out, if you wash your hair every day, your oil glands produce more oil to compensate for your shampoo stripping it away.

I spoke to my hairdresser about it once, and she told me I’d have to stop washing my hair for a week to help it return to normal. I told myself I’d eventually put aside some time to do just that, but I never did… until we were plunged into lockdown.

My otherwise straight hair had become oily, brittle, and knotty. I’d brush my hair in the morning, run into a knot, tug a little, and strands would snap. It wasn’t pretty, so it was time to fix it.

I literally spent Melbourne’s lockdown last year trialling out different hair masks because I was so desperately sick of washing my hair so often. Happy to report, we have some winners.

 Olaplex

Hair Perfector No. 3, $49.95.

Let us begin with the humdinger: the No. 3 Hair Perfector from Olaplex. This is the good stuff you use when you need to fix your hair.

Its reputation precedes it, etc.

After my third use, my hair looked visibly better and it was stronger. Also, less strands of hair would fall out when I brushed it. Heaven.

If you don’t have damaged hair and just want some oomph, use it once a week. Otherwise, use this baby 2-3 times a week.

Honestly, the only negative thing I have to say about Olaplex is that it comes in a small 100ml bottle. The instructions tell you to apply a generous amount from scalp to ends, so it’s very easy to get through a bottle in a short amount of time.

Apart from that, it smells great! It’s not too strong, which is ideal when you need to leave it in for 10 minutes.

Goldwell

Dualsenses Rich Repair 60sec Treatment 200ml, $30.50.

Goldwell’s Rich Repair treatment is a 60 second hair mask. Need I say more? All you have to do is work it through wet or towel-dried hair for 60 seconds, wash it out, and then you’re good to go.

This hair mask has a thin consistency – similar to moisturiser – and it comes in a 200ml pot. It also smells perfectly splendid (said in the Haunting of Bly Manor girl’s / Peppa Pig voice). 

This is probably the easiest one to use out of the lot, if you’re looking for a time-saver.

I’d recommend this product for dry hair, by the way. I asked my mum to try it because she hadn’t used a hair mask before and was very attracted to the 60-second treatment. Her usually dry hair looked super lush and shiny after two uses.

Eleven Australia

3 Minute Repair Rinse Out Treatment, $27.95. 

Eleven Australia – thank you so much – sent me a whole slew of goodies, including its 3 Minute Repair Rinse Out Treatment, Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner.

I used the shampoo and conditioner as the base for all the hair masks I trialled, and I honestly can’t fault them. They smell great, they last a long time, and I’ve genuinely seen a change in my hair quality. Sometimes I took a break from the hair masks (because it was cold and I couldn’t be bothered) and the shampoo and conditioner combo still held up. I noticed my hair wasn’t as oily anymore and I could go three full days without washing it. That might not sound like a lot to you, but again – I used to have to wash my hair every second day.

The treatment is another winner for me too. It’s just great value, to be honest. My hair felt smooth and soft afterwards, like I kept playing with my ponytail ‘cos it just felt so lush.

The consistency is more similar to moisturiser than conditioner, so apply generously.

ALSO, it smells so good. This is probably my favourite scent of the bunch.

Mane Club

5-in-1 Deep Conditioner, $4.99.

This deep conditioner comes in a little satchel – it’s different, it’s unusual, it’s five bucks! It’s actually great if you’re just joining the hair mask scene, ‘cos it’s so affordable and convenient.

Like other masks, you apply this one to clean, wet hair and wait a solid five minutes before washing it off. Five minutes!

You can use it once or twice or week, or whenever you feel like you need to. One package should last you 2-3 uses, but I somehow got five uses out of it.

There are three main things I noticed after using this mask: my hair smelled amazing, it was so soft, and it shined bright like a diamond.

If you’re a bit unsure about hair masks and don’t know where to begin, start here. It’s only 50g, so if you hate it, at least you’re not wasting a lot of product.

Also, it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and junk free.

Moroccan Oil

Restorative Hair Mask 250ml, $55.95.

This stuff is good, like really good. After one use, it really improved my hair’s shine. It has a thick consistency though, so be generous when you’re scooping some out of the tub. One little dollop isn’t going to cut it here. It also smells so lovely, so I didn’t mind waiting for it to set.

To use this baby, apply a handful to towel-dried hair and comb through. Leave it on for about five to seven minutes and then rinse it out.

You only need to use this mask once a fortnight, if you have really damaged hair.

Bondi Boost

Growth Miracle Mask, $39.95.

If you’re looking for something to repair damaged ends then absolutely give Bondi Boost a go. This was one of the first hair masks I tried, and it made my hair so much easier to handle. I could brush my hair, fully, without damaged ends getting in the way.

Also, I felt the difference after just one use.

The consistency isn’t too thick either, so you don’t need to use too much. Smells great, stores great, isn’t messy – tick, tick, tick.

The Miracle Mask is a weekly treatment, which you can use in place of a conditioner. Leave it in for about 15 minutes and then rinse it out thoroughly.

Bumble and bumble

While You Sleep Damage repair Masque, $78.

I was really excited to try this mask, because I am LAZY. So the fact that I could just pop this on dry hair and wash it out 20 minutes later appealed to me greatly.

Or, you can leave it in overnight for deep nourishment and then wash it out the next morning. .

I applied the mask from mid-length right down to the tips, then I waited the 20 minutes.

After washing it out, my hair was so bloody soft and silky. Like, this mask really works. And it has a superb floral scent that’s very gentle on the ol’ schnozz.

However, based on my hair length and how much I used after two goes (I tried once a fortnight), I don’t see this pot lasting long in my bathroom. I just thought I’d mention that because it is on the pricier side.