Are Scalp Massages Actually Beneficial?

There is no denying that amidst the sounds of friendly chatter, blaring blow dryers, and the snipping of hair, one of the best parts of going to a hair salon is the peace and solace found while getting your hair washed and conditioned. Those scalp massages have the power of silencing all the surrounding noise and creating momentary bliss. Thus, it's no real surprise that there are actually real health benefits from scalp massages — and you don't even need to leave your house to experience them.

Perhaps the first and most obvious benefit of a scalp massage is its ability to relieve stress and tension (via Healthline). A small 2016 study demonstrated that 15- and 25-minute scalp massages actually decreased the levels of cortisol and norepinephrine, two stress hormones, in the body (via Journal of Physical Therapy Science). Norepinephrine is also a neurotransmitter which can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your "fight-or-flight" response. The study also found that by decreasing norepinephrine, the body can also decrease heart rate and blood pressure.

Additional health benefits of scalp massages

In addition, scalp massages can also help reduce tension headache symptoms. Tension headaches are the most common form of headache, occurring in approximately three-quarters of the general population (via American Migraine Foundation). These types of headaches are thought to be caused by physical and psychological stress and can lead to "vice-like" pain in the head, sensitivity to light or sound, and tenderness of the muscles of the head and neck. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, scalp massages can decrease the intensity, frequency, and duration of tension headaches.

When it comes to the hair benefits of scalp massages, the verdict is still out. It is known that scalp massages are helpful in removing dead skin cells and product build-up from the scalp, which can hinder good hair growth (via Huffington Post). Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, told Health, the basic premise of a scalp massage is to increase and enhance blood circulation to the hair follicles. This in turn can help hair follicles, "function to the best of their ability, which means optimal growth of hair." While scalp massages are promising, Zeichner does throw caution to those with underlying inflammatory scalp conditions, like psoriasis or chronic dandruff, stating "The massage itself can lead to irritation if you have a sensitive scalp, which can make the underlying scalp issue worse."

Scalp massage tips

While you can always choose to see a licensed massage therapist, don't underestimate your own ability to give an effective and relaxing scalp massage at home. Whether you use your fingertips or the wide variety of scalp massagers on the market, the most important tip is to not be too aggressive. It is recommended that you keep light, gentle, and consistent pressure as you massage your way back from the front of the scalp in small, circular motions. Most massages can be done dry, but oils or exfoliating hair masks can also be applied. Be sure not to tangle your hair during the massage, as that can lead to hair breakage and follicular damage.

So the next time you have a few minutes to yourself in the shower, before bed, or literally at anytime, close your eyes, relax, and massage the tension and stress away, a few follicles at a time.