Is a Hair Mask the Same as a Conditioner?

If you’re not too sure about what differentiates a hair mask from a conditioner, you’re not the only one. Many get confused by these two products, either mistaking one for another or mistakenly using the terms “hair mask” and “conditioner” interchangeably. To formulate an effective hair care regimen, you need a deep understanding of hair masks. In this article, we’ll clear things up by giving you the rundown on hair masks and letting you know for sure whether they’re the same as conditioners. 

Hair Masks are Not the Same as Conditioner

Hair masks and conditioners have different names because they are distinctive products with varying uses. Conditioners, specifically rinse-out conditioners, provide the hair with a short-term smoothing and softening effect. The effect of these conditioners is usually short-lived and superficial. On the other hand, hair masks are meant to impart deeper hydration and nourishment to hair. They are typically composed of oils, emollients, fatty alcohols, and more to give your hair a substantial and lasting pick-me-up.

Hair Mask Uses

Hair masks are used on compromised hair to bring it back to life. If you regularly heat-style, color, bleach, perm, or relax your hair, it could end up dry and brittle. This makes your strands more prone to breakage. A good hair mask will be able to strengthen your hair, fill in weak points along the hair shaft, and stop breakage in its tracks. Conditioners are not designed to do all of that. They may make your hair look good in the short term, but they cannot repair your hair in any substantial way.

Deep Conditioners and Hair Masks

The closest thing to a hair mask is a deep conditioner. Deep conditioners are similar to regular conditioners in that they leave your hair looking shinier and smoother. However, just like hair masks, deep conditioners hydrate and nourish on a deeper level. 

Both deep conditioners and hair masks penetrate the hair shaft to improve the health of the inner layers of the hair shaft. But the main difference between the two is their definition. Hair masks are thought to mask imperfections in the hair, while deep conditioners improve the health of your hair both inside and out.

Read the Ingredient List

The truth is that the benefits of a given hair product depend on the ingredients present in the formula. So, just because a product is named “hair mask” doesn’t mean that it won’t strengthen and repair your hair. Likewise, there are some deep conditioners out there that aren’t formulated to deeply condition your hair. That’s why you need to take a good hard look at the ingredient list of any product that you plan on putting in your hair. Ensure that your hair mask or deep conditioner contains the right ingredients to tackle your specific hair issues.

Here are some helpful tips on what to look for in your hair mask or deep conditioner:

  • If your hair is weak after bleaching or coloring it, you need one that has restorative proteins and hydrating emollients to strengthen your hair. 
  • If your hair is constantly dry, choose one that’s got ingredients such as penetrating and sealing oils, glycerin, aloe vera juice/gel, or honey.   

We hope that this article has answered all of your questions about hair masks and conditioners and wish you the best with your hair.



Author: Andrea Reyes

Andrea is a mother, wife, writer, and natural hair enthusiast of 15 years. Currently on her natural hair journey, she’s been trying countless products and techniques to understand and embrace her natural hair. She is the creator of, a new website featuring informative articles that share tips, tricks, and techniques aimed to help others learn to love their hair through proper hair care. She writes with the hope of making hair care easier to understand and implement.