Masque, conditioner and treatment: what’s the difference?

IMG_5605Some time back, someone recommended a mask to me and it got me wondering about the difference between a mask, treatment and conditioner. This is also kind of an addition to my Newly Natural product post, so if you haven’t read that one you may want to just take a glimpse.


A conditioner reduces the PH of hair (shampoo raises it) which results in sealed cuticles and smoother hair.  Regular conditioners are surface acting conditioners in that they work on the surface of your hair only and don’t work on the internal structure of your hair. It is important to always condition after shampooing because it helps replace the moisture your hair lost. It is also advisable to use a shampoo and conditioner from the same brand as they are formulated to work together.

Conditioners do leave residue and a clarifying rinse may be needed once in a while to remove it. If your hair has residue you will be able to tell. It will seem “weighed down”, lifeless and you may even be able to feel it with your fingers or see it.


A treatment works on the internal structure of the hair known as the Cortex. In other words, a treatment is a deep conditioner because it has a lot more nourishment to offer your hair.

There are many kinds of treatments, for example:

  • Reconstructor – makes the hair stronger, usually a protein based treatment.
  • Moisturizing treatment – balances the moisture content in the hair cortex.

A treatment does not work overnight but at the same time do not over treat the hair.

Hair treatment tips:

  • Apply heat: opens cuticles, allows deeper penetration.
  • Follow application instructions: if the recommended time to leave it on is 30 mins, there’s no need to overdo it. An hour at most should be fine unless otherwise stated.
  • Shampoo, treat then condition: treatment needs to penetrate the hair therefore the cuticles need to be open, if you condition before treating, the cuticles will be closed by the conditioner.
  • Apply to damp hair: don’t apply to soaking wet hair or the hair will absorb the water and won’t be able to absorb anything else.
  • Put just enough: drowning your hair in product won’t make a difference, your hair can only soak up so much.


A mask also nourishes hair and is essentially a type of treatment and therefore is also a deep conditioner.


In summary…

Use a basic conditioner regularly and only use a masque/treatment occasionally, to boost the health of your hair. If your hair is very damaged, a masque/treatment should be used regularly to treat your hair’s dry, damaged or fragile condition. I personally aim to treat/masque my hair once or twice a month. The remaining time I will use a regular conditioner.

A general tip: make sure you apply both moisture boosting products and protein products, there must be a balance between the two. More on that later 🙂


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Have you tried the Herbal Essence hair mask? I am really looking forward to trying it out! Really informative article! And thanks for the shout out!!! 🙂

  2. Sushima says:

    Very informative

  3. Abiramie says:

    i have damaged hair and i hav smoothened it… my hair stylist told me to use masque alone once in a week with shampoo…. should i try conditioner also?

  4. kimberly says:

    so when I relax my hair should I use treatment or mask

    1. Brandy says:

      yes, either is fine. And make sure it’s a protein treatment like the ORS mayo or just add an egg to your favorite conditioning treatment.

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