So This Is Why Hairstylists Massage Your Scalp During a Shampoo

With the exception of a head-turning blowout, trendy new cut, and color refresh, getting your scalp massaged during a shampoo is the best thing about visiting a salon. But have you ever wondered why hairstylists do it? It’s not just for the relaxation (though that is a plus!); there are actual benefits of massaging the scalp in between a lather, rinse, repeat.

The Benefits of Scalp Massage

All of that therapeutic rubbing feels fantastic, and it can create pretty fab hair results too. According to Karly Vincent, a hair colorist and salon manager at Suki’s Hair Salon and Academy in Vancouver, Canada, massaging during a shampoo and conditioner invigorates your scalp. Through stimulation, you can create better blood flow and circulation, which leads to hair growth. In addition, giving your scalp a good scrub cleanses and revives strands from roots to ends. (Photo via LightFieldStudios/ Getty)

Hair growth isn’t the only reason hairdressers massage your scalp during a shampoo. The relaxation benefits can also work wonders for your mane. “Stress is among the causes of thinning hair for both men and women, so get a head massage and relax,” says David Adams, a trichologist, Hair Color Director, and co-owner of FOURTNEENJAY salon in New York City. And, much like a good facial massage (another excellent de-stressor), this technique can also help stimulate lymphatic drainage, which is essential for hair follicles to produce healthy hair.

Promoting healthy hair and reducing your overall stress levels is one thing, but the benefits of massaging your scalp can also have a host of upsides. “It can allow for gentle exfoliation, so dead skin cells don’t accumulate and lead to dandruff,” says Carly J. Roman, a board-certified dermatologist at Modern Dermatologist in Seattle, Washington. Also, it can help keep product buildup, pollution, and oils at bay, as well as improve sebum production on dry scalps.

How to Massage Your Scalp Like a Professional

You don’t need a hair salon to experience an invigorating rinse. You can treat yourself to a salon-worthy shampoo in the comfort of your own shower (or bath, if that’s how you roll) too. To massage your head like a professional, Vincent says, “It’s all about pressure and proper motions.” To start, she suggests distributing shampoo evenly with your hands to the top of your head, both sides, crown, and right above the occipital bone (AKA the base of the skull).“Don’t just slap the product on, work [it] in with your fingertips, apply minimal pressure, and [move] in circular motions, starting at your hairline and moving back until you reach your neck,” she explains. (Photo via stock_colors/ Getty)

After you’ve completed these motions, rinse and follow up with a second shampoo (using the same technique). “Most people will need two rounds of shampoo. The first shampoo is meant to remove buildup [and] the second is meant to clean your scalp,” she notes. By the second round, you should notice that your hair is lathered with lots of bubbles. If you don’t, Vincent says you might still have buildup and could benefit from a third wash. All this shampooing might leave you concerned about stripping natural oils. Adams says it’s not about how often you wash, it’s about the quality of the shampoo. To get a good cleanse without stripping your strands, he suggests using a formula for the scalp first (something that will get rid of the gunk) then one for the mid-length and ends.

After you’ve rinsed and repeated, it’s time to condition. “When using your conditioner, squeeze as much water out of your hair as you can,” says Vincent. She suggests adding the product from your mid-lengths down. While you wait for it to work its magic, perform another quick scalp massage. “Start from the top hairline with minimal pressure, working with circular motions to your ears and from your ears to the top and back of your head,” she explains. Once you’ve repeated this motion two more times, Vincent says to rinse the product out of your hair and towel dry.

Things to keep in mind

Stimulating the scalp might seem like a harmless practice, but it can sometimes make certain skin conditions worse. “If you have boils or acne on the scalp, massaging or scrubbing could be bad and worsen inflammation,” notes Jason Emer, a Beverly Hills cosmetic dermatologist. It’s important to be up front and honest with your hairdresser about your scalp. No matter how slight your condition might be, telling your hairdresser so they can make an informed decision on the services offered is best.

Not all skin conditions freak out under stimulation, though. If you have eczema or psoriasis and try the technique at home with a medicated shampoo, you could still benefit. The rubbing sensation coupled with the specially formulated shampoo can help the medicinal ingredients better penetrate the scalp. Roman warns against scrubbing or any other kind of motion that could wreak havoc. The penetration can be beneficial, but it can also cause flare-ups if you aren’t gentle.

On top of skin conditions, your scalp type should also be considered when treating yourself to a salon-worthy shampoo at home — especially if you have an oil-prone noggin. If that’s the case, David Babaii, the chief global creative director at n:p beautiful, says to try the technique every other wash, as you don’t want to promote excess oil production.

Now that your head is all tingly, go give this a try and tell us how it went @BritandCo!