The Latest Social Media Beauty Trend is Getting a Professional Scalp Massage

Professional Scalp Massages are all Over Social Media—Here's What to Know

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It’s easy to get caught up in the latest and hottest beauty trends while scrolling TikTok, and I’m as guilty as anybody: videos of drugstore makeup, dupes, and heatless curls stop me in my scroll every time. My latest obsession, chosen for me by the algorithm: professional scalp massages, done at a place called a head spa.

I’ve seen so many videos about head spas that I scrolled through thousands of comments to find a place near me. Here’s what a head spa is, what to expect during your treatment, and what professionals think about the results. 

What is a professional scalp massage?

According to Sayaka Lee, the principal at Blow Me Away, a Los Angeles-based salon and head spa, professional scalp massages originate in the tradition of head spas, which is rooted in Indian and Japanese cultures.

“The origins of head spas can be traced back to Ayurvedic medicine in India, which has a long history of using massage and herbal treatments to promote overall health and well-being,” she says. Lee, who is  Japanese, says that hair is an important part of her culture. “Taking care of the scalp is seen as an integral part of maintaining healthy and beautiful hair,” she says. 

Why are professional scalp massages trending?

It makes sense that professional scalp massages and head spas are gaining traction in the United States — they’ve long been an important part of scalp care in Asian cultures, especially Japanese. There’s a natural curiosity about less familiar beauty treatments, and social media videos can show you the exact process.

Lee suggests that a scalp massage is one way to get a two-for-one—a chance to detoxify and get some self-care time. She also adds that there’s a heightened awareness of your scalp as part of your overall skin health. “Many people are beginning to realize the importance of taking care of the scalp to maintain healthy and beautiful hair,” she says. 

What to expect at a head spa:

At the Mer Head Spa in Johns Creek, Georgia. I booked the Scalp Rejuvenation Experience, which included relaxation, scalp rebalancing and a hydration treatment. I disrobed and entered a low-light, zen communal treatment room and was placed on a low massage table with the head over a basin and a comfortable heated blanket over me. 

After examining my head, my technician got to work. First, there was an exfoliation treatment, where she rubbed an exfoliant into my hair to slough dead skin and stimulate the follicles. Next, there was a shampoo and condition. Finally, there was a hydration treatment that began with a hair steam and finished with a tingly scalp mask and upper body massage.

“Steaming helps by opening up the hair to help the keratine, hydraulic acids, and essential oils we use penetrate. It opens up the follicles to the deepest layers to reconstruct and enhance," explains owner Mythanh Le. "It also helps create shine and protect your hair from recurring dryness. Think of it as a facial for your scalp.” 

Each head spa is different; some have add-ons like extra massage time, and others have fancier treatments like scalp gua sha, oil treatments and carbonated hair baths. Lauren Kunijo, co-owner of Kenna Kunijo, a Charlotte-based salon, says that it’s not just the treatments that vary—head spas aren’t regulated, so you’ll need to do your due diligence in choosing a spa. “Cleanliness is just as important as technique,” she says. “You want the environment to match the service.”

Do professional scalp massages have hair benefits?

According to Dr. Howard Sobel, a clinical attending dermatologic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, there is some evidence that professional scalp massage can impact your scalp health “Massaging, combing, brushing and using a scrub that exfoliates will unclog the hair follicles that are filled with sebum (oil), bacteria, and skin. It’s like exfoliating the skin on your face to remove dead skin cells.” He also notes that massage can increase blood flow to the scalp which can help with hair growth.

A professional head massage at a head spa can help, but Dr. Sobel says you can also use products commonly found in stores and online. “Aloe vera gel breaks down skin cells, and bentonite clay contains oil-zapping materials that are good for pore purifying,” he says. “Salicylic acid could also help remove the sebum deep down in the hair follicle.” 

Jessica Goldstein, the owner of J.Gold Salon in Atlanta, says that massaging the follicles could potentially stimulate hair growth but that she hasn’t seen any hard evidence to prove that this makes a difference. “It can’t hurt in most cases,” she says, “and who doesn’t love a head massage?” What’s intriguing to her is spas offering oil treatment add-ons, as she’s seen anecdotal evidence in her clientele that oil treatments can make a difference in hair growth and hair health. 

Are there any risks from getting a professional scalp massage?

Dr. Sobel does say that anyone who has a sensitive face or scalp should be weary of these treatments, as the products used could irritate your skin easily. Goldstein adds that anyone with hair extensions should steer clear. “If you get a professional scalp massage and have extensions, they would have to work carefully around them,” she says. “Rubbing extensions could tangle them and make a relaxing experience uncomfortable.” 

To me, it was worth the $90 price tag for a one-hour treatment. Even though I couldn’t see what was going on above and behind me, I felt relaxed and my hair looked incredibly shiny afterward. The focus on my head, neck, and shoulders was like an extension of the massage you get when getting your hair washed before a haircut, which is the best part of getting your hair washed.  An hour’s worth of attention to my hair and scalp felt beyond indulgent, and it’s something I’d do again for the relaxation alone. 

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