Take one look at any TikTok hair growth tag, and you’ll see influencers swear by certain scalp massaging techniques. While their bouncy and voluminous locks sure do seem too good to be true, it is worthwhile to take a look into what the science behind scalp massage truly is. We’ll dive into what evidence we have today and what is the best way to incorporate it into your self-care routine.
There is limited research to conclusively prove that scalp massages boost hair growth.
Scalp massages may also help to relieve headaches, decrease stress, and maintain a relaxed state.
There is no strict standard that needs to be adhered to for a scalp massage, but following good practices may prevent untoward side effects.
What is scalp massage?
One of the oldest documented forms of massaging the scalp is found in Ayurveda (translated as the "science of life"), the Indian form of alternative medicine. Also known as Champi, the Indian head massage is a technique that involves massaging the acupressure points along the head, neck, and shoulders. Along similar lines, a scalp massage is the practice of stimulating the scalp through a series of circular motions using the fingertips or certain massaging devices.
Can scalp massage boost hair growth?
There is only one study in the literature that actually studied the effects of a scalp massage. It was conducted on nine healthy Japanese men who received 4 minutes of scalp massage per day for 6 months using a scalp massage device. An increase in hair thickness was identified at the end of the study. Researchers believe that the stress caused by massaging the scalp can alter the genetic expression of hair growth genes and decrease those associated with hair loss.
Another survey-based study was conducted on 340 patients with different forms of hair loss. They were asked to perform two 20-minute scalp massages daily for at least 10 months. While there were a lot of variability in this study, this research highlighted that there could be a potential for using scalp massage for those experiencing hair loss.
The proposed mechanisms, by which a scalp massage has been reported to be useful including, dilatation of the blood vessels and increased blood flow to the area. This leads to an increased supply of oxygen and nutrients required for hair growth. Scalp massages can also increase the thickness of hair by stimulating the growth pathway and relaxing the muscles that surround the hair follicle.
In spite of limited research, the literature available is definitely encouraging and holds the potential for scalp massages to be a useful tool to boost hair growth.
The additional benefits of a scalp massage
Apart from its influence on hair growth, research has shown the ability of scalp massages to lower stress hormones like cortisol, thereby increasing coping mechanisms to stress and aiding in an overall feeling of relaxation. A study performed on 34 female office workers showed a significant decrease in blood pressure, especially in those who were prehypertension.
Additionally, a 56-year-old woman reported lesser migraines after she was treated with a series of scalp massage sessions that targeted the forehead as well. While more research is warranted in these areas, it is worthy of consideration.
Types of scalp massage
A massage can be as short as 5 minutes to as long as 20 minutes. It all depends on the availability of time and resources. Here are 4 simple ways of incorporating a scalp massage into your routine:
- The traditional massage. This is the most cost-effective way and makes use of your fingertips only. Massage the scalp slowly, making circular motions while applying soft-medium firm pressure throughout the scalp. Make sure your hair is completely dry and that you do not add excessive pressure whilst performing the massage
- The oil massage. This is the kind of luxurious massage you’ll receive at a salon, but it’s relatively easy to do it yourself as well. Warm the oil of your choice (good options include coconut oil, almond oil, sesame oil, and castor oil). Apply a few drops of the oil to your fingertips and to different areas of the scalp. Then continue to massage your scalp the same way you would in the traditional method.
- Massage while washing your hair. This is for those times when you are pressed on time and want to get some benefit while in the shower. After you have shampooed your hair, massage the lathered hair slowly for 3–5 minutes.
- Massage tools and devices. Scalp massage devices include brushes and handheld rubber massage devices, which essentially take away the effort of using your fingertips but work similarly.
Tips for massaging your scalp
While there is no strict standard that needs to be adhered to for a scalp massage, it will be helpful to employ the practice at least once a day. The best part is that you can do them anytime and anywhere. Here are a few points to keep in mind before you massage your scalp the next time:
- Try to follow and maintain a pattern. You can choose to start your massage from the front of your head, moving sideways and then covering the back.
- Apply medium pressure. Massage gently using your fingertips or palms.
- Do not use your nails. Your nails can introduce bacteria to your scalp.
- Do not massage while your hair is wet. Your hair is more fragile when wet, so massaging while wet could increase breakage.
What are the risks of a scalp massage?
Keep in mind that while there are numerous benefits related to a scalp massage, being very aggressive on the scalp can aggravate dryness or lead to an increase in the amount of hair fall.
A scalp massage is not only soothing but provides the ability to boost hair growth, lower stress hormones, and promote a relaxed feeling. While there is limited research to provide any definite conclusions, this ancient practice has withstood the test of time and can be a wonderful addition to your beauty regimen.
- Eplasty. Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue.
- Dermatology and Therapy. Assessments of Standardized Scalp Massages for Androgenic Alopecia: Survey Results.
- Journal of Physical Therapy Science. The effect of a scalp massage on stress hormone, blood pressure, and heart rate of healthy female.
- International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. The Effects of Massage Therapy on a Patient with Migraines and Cervical Spondylosis: a Case Report.