Your Scalp Deserves a Massage, Too


Getting a haircut can be a transformative experience. The fortunate among us get our hair cut by someone who is part-hairdresser, part-therapist—a third-party who will listen to you talk about work, friends, and relationship drama and guide you through your bangs phase.

For many, the high-point of a trip to the salon (and the one with the most hidden benefits) is the shampoo and scalp massage. A good one can stimulate hair growth, exfoliate dead skin, release endorphins, raise your credit score, file your taxes early, get it. Georgia Fowler and Josephine Skriver’s hair stylist Helen Reavey starts her day by giving herself rejuvenating scalp massages. ASMR videos featuring the technique are popular across YouTube.

To learn more, we tapped trichologist (that's a derm for your hair and scalp) Lisa Caddy at Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic. Ahead, all of our pressing (itchy, flakey, etc.,) questions, answered.

What really is a scalp massage?

Call it a scalp massage or a scalp treatment, if you’re feeling fancy. It's essentially a facial for your head. (After all, the skin on your head is only an extension of the skin on your face.) “Use a scalp massage to cleanse, hydrate, invigorate, or remove dead skin,” Caddy says. “Using a scalp treatment targeted for your needs or concerns can be a great problem solver and a good way to optimize hair growth.”

I have a flaky, dry scalp? Am I a good candidate for a scalp massage?

The flaky and itchy scalp population benefit the most from regular scalp treatments. Caddy explains that scalp treatments, with the help of the right ingredients, can calm itching, reduce oils, and improve scalp health. However, the benefits of a good scalp detox extend to everyone.

What ingredients pair well with a scalp massage?

Ingredients you should look for in scalp treatments include anti-inflammatory ones like salicylic acid, antioxidants like green tea, exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids, or calming and moisturising ingredients like aloe vera and vitamin E.

Can a scalp treatment help reduce buildup?

“Scalp build up” is often just dead skin cells that shampoo isn’t getting rid of. Caddy first wants those with scalp buildup to address underlying shampooing issues. Scalp buildup could be caused by infrequent shampooing or not shampooing thoroughly enough. “However, skin cells can build up as a result skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, and so targeted exfoliating scalp masks will help to rid the scalp of excessive flakes,” adds Caddy.

How often should I get a scalp massage?

Apart from cleansing your hair regularly, Caddy suggests a weekly scalp treatment. Look at it as a moment for relaxation during your busy schedule.

How does one actually scalp massage?

There are two main techniques when it comes to a scalp massage: An Effleurage massage and an Petrissage massage.

A what and a huh?

Effleurage uses the flats of the hands in a stroking movement. Think of the movement as back and forth oblong movements using your fingers and thumbs. A scalp massage is typically bookended by the Effleurage technique. The motion is used to warm up the scalp muscles before a more thorough massage using petrissage.

Petrissage movements are applied with more pressure which are deep and knead the underlying muscles. It is performed using the pads of the fingers and thumbs in a circular motion on the scalp.

Long story short: start with effleurage massage meaning start at the front of the scalp and work your way backward with consistent pressure (that doesn’t hurt!) and then move to petrissage movements that include added pressure with your fingertips in a circular motion targeting your head muscles.

Can I give myself a scalp massage?

Yes and no. You can definitely give yourself a scalp massage at home but you must make sure you use a product designed to give scalp massages, explains Caddy. “I wouldn’t recommend any DIY remedies, especially not oils—in many cases oils make the scalp condition worse,” says Caddy. “Philip Kingsley’s Exfoliating Scalp Mask deeply cleanses the scalp to unclog pores and keep the skin supple and hydrated. It is enriched with clarifying BHA and balancing Zinc to help clear the scalp and reduce excess sebum. A Stimulating Scalp Mask brings blood flow to the follicles transporting nutrients and oxygen to invigorate the scalp whilst a Soothing Scalp Mask will calm and soothe sore, stressed, or sunburned scalps.”

The human head weighs eight pounds, according to the kid from Jerry McGuire, so make sure you’re giving it some much needed TLC and treat yourself to a scalp massage.

Photo via ITG