Raise your hand if you agree that a scalp massage is one of the best things about getting your hair done at the salon. All of our worries seem to fade away once our stylist or their assistant rubs our scalp with their fingertips in gentle, circular motions. In fact, we get so comfortable that there have been multiple times when we fell asleep at the shampoo bowl only to be awoken by loud hair dryers.
It's pretty obvious that scalp massages help to instantly alleviate stress. Yet, we've heard many times that this simple technique is also great for the overall health of our scalp and hair. We'd believe just about anything after a five-minute massage. So we asked Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist at Philip Kingsley, and Triana Francois, a hairstylist at Haven Spa in New York City, to explain the health and beauty benefits of a scalp massage.
Scalp massages can decrease stress and boost your mood.
Stress prevents the body from functioning properly, according to Francois. "Scalp massages increase the production of serotonin, a chemical in your body that increases your mood," she says.
Scalp massages help to create a good environment for hair growth.
The treatment promotes circulation to the hair follicles. Francois explains, "Blood flow to the hair cells means healthier hair growing out of your scalp."
"The health of the scalp is vital to the health of the hair," says Kingsley. "Scalp massages aid in the removal of dead skin cells from the scalp -- and a flaky scalp is known to worsen hair loss in certain individuals. It can be very beneficial to those who suffer from scalp conditions such as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis."
Effectiveness is highly dependent on the application of the appropriate creams and products prior to the massage. For individuals with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, Kingsley recommends masks containing an exfoliant such as salicylic acid such as the PK Exfoliating Scalp Mask, as well as soothing agents like aloe vera extract. Zinc can be beneficial for those with really oily scalps as it helps to regulate sebum production. The use of steam (moist heat) can also make a scalp massage more powerful.
Scalp massages stimulate blood flow to and from the skin.
As Kingsley notes, this increases oxygen supply, aids in lymphatic drainage and improves the suppleness of the skin. Be sure to look for active ingredients like menthol and peppermint in scalp masks, drops and toners to deeply penetrate into the skin.
Francois prefers to use aromatic and mentholated oils like rosemary and eucalyptus because they help to create a peaceful and calm environment and stimulate the hair follicles. "You should apply a nickel-size amount dispensed equally onto your finger. Rub hands together before applying to the scalp," she says.
Two basic types of scalp massages are effleurage and petrissage.
Effleurage involves circular, stroking movements and petrissage is gentle kneading and lifting of the scalp. These two are the most common types, according to Kingsley. "Scalp massage should start at the front of the scalp and work towards the back. It should be done gently yet firmly with consistent pressure," she says.
Francois believes the best way to perform a scalp massage is using circular motion. To accurately do this, she suggests placing hands in a L-shape form. Use the shape for the hairline. "Be mindful of the amount of pressure used in this area as there are sensitive pressure points," she says. "For the rest of the scalp, use all your fingers with applied pressure in a circular motion."
Take extra precaution not to tangle the hair during massage. Kingsley says, "This can cause breakage and even pull hairs from their follicle. Too much pressure around sensitive areas, such as the temples and nape of the neck, should also be avoided."
Scalp massages should be a regular part of your hair regimen.
While there is not set amount of scalp massage you must give yourself, Kinglsey advises doing the treatment once to twice a week for 5 to 10 minutes.
Francois adds, "By taking deep breaths during your scalp massage, you will enhance the effects of your massage due to the increase of oxygen flow throughout the body." Why does the way you breathe really matter? "This is beneficial because an increased amount of oxygen flow leads to an increased blood flow, allowing the cells to function at their fullest potential," she says.
"It should be stressed that where hair loss and/or hair thinning is an issue, diet, lifestyle and metabolic functions must be looked into," says Kingsley. "Scalp massages using the appropriate products will help encourage and support new growth, but alone it will not be enough to get sufficient results."