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I've been using hair masks wrong my whole life

Cosmopolitan (UK) logo Cosmopolitan (UK) 14/03/2018 Chloe Metzger

Surprise: You’re using your hair mask the wrong way © Hearst Communications, Inc. All rights reserved Surprise: You’re using your hair mask the wrong way Here’s exactly how much I think about my hair mask on a daily basis: I don’t. I slap it on once a week, I shave my legs, I win a few imaginary arguments in my head, and then I rinse it out and move on.

But apparently, everything I know has been a lie, because I - and almost certainly you, too - have been applying hair masks incorrectly my entire goddamn life. Yup.

This revelation came after a chat with my dermatologist friend, who was surprised to find that I apply my deep conditioner to wet hair - you know, like a normal person. “You should be applying it to dry hair to make it more effective,” she said nonchalantly, striking a match and lighting my world on fire. After calling her crazy, I listened as she broke it down for me.

“You don’t want water and conditioner to compete for space in your hair cuticle,” said Mona Gohara, M.D., dermatologist at Yale University and number-one bud at Chloe’s Cohort of Friends.

a close up of Izabel Goulart © Provided by National magazine company ltd (Hearst UK) Basically, when your cuticle is saturated with water, it can’t absorb as much conditioner. That means all the good stuff you slathered on your hair is pretty much just coating the outside of your strands, rather than really moisturising the insides. So, you know, a big waste of time and money. 

“That’s why I prefer applying a hair mask on dry hair, since it’s a no-compete zone, in terms of hydrators penetrating the cuticle,” says Dr. Gohara. Essentially, you want to load your cuticle with all the moisturising, smoothing, and frizz-fighting ingredients from your conditioner first, then let water fill in the rest.

Sure, that all sounds logical, but I was skeptical; I didn’t believe that switching up my application process would make that big of a difference. Still, I tested it out. 

Related: 10 things you're doing wrong when you wash your hair — and they could be causing major damage (provided by INSIDER)


Before I showered - you know, in that weird time frame when you’re just lying on the couch on your phone, procrastinating - I combed through my dry hair, split it in half over each shoulder, and, while standing over my bathroom sink, raked and massaged scoops of hair mask through my hair until it was totally saturated. I then clipped it up, proceeded to procrastinate for 15 minutes, and then showered as usual. And holy hell, my hair was forever changed.

No, really - that’s not hyperbolic. Usually, when I use a deep conditioner or a hair mask in the shower, my hair feels slightly smoother and softer for about one day. But when I started applying the products to dry hair (often leaving them on for an hour out of sheer laziness), my hair looked noticeably shinier, felt crazy smooth, and became way less frizzy as the day went on, which is a huge deal if you have curls like I do.

“It’s a really simple change, but it can make a huge difference,” says Dr. Gohara. Who woulda thunk that a board-certified dermatologist would know more than I, a brilliant beauty editor? Crazy. It’s been a few months since this hair-changing discovery, and I now abide by two rules: 1. Only condition dry hair, and 2. Always listen to your doctor.

Related: Hacks to keep your lipstick on your face (provided by Mamamia)

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