Learn the Benefits of Scalp Massage to Treat Hair Loss



While much of the evidence involving hair loss, hair regrowth and effects from scalp massage is anecdotal, one study published in the Archives of Dermatology (“Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy: Successful Treatment for Alopecia Areata”) in November 1998 found that 44 percent of alopecia areata patients who performed a two-minute daily scalp massage with a mixture of essential oils of thyme, rosemary, lavender and cedar wood, in a base of jojoba and grape seed oils, noticed thicker hair and new hair growth, including one man who completely regrew hair from an almost completely bald scalp.
Most hairstylists, hair replacement specialists and hair loss sufferers alike agree that scalp massage, done gently, is part of an overall care plan depending on the actual diagnosis of your hair loss condition. “We’ve used a vibrating scalp massage brush, and you can actually see the blood rush to the scalp, to stimulate blood flow to the follicles,” says Diahna Husbands, hair replacement specialist and owner of Diahna Lynn Hair Studios in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Is scalp massage and aromatherapy the right hair loss treatment for me?

  • I want to try nonsurgical, nonpharmaceutical, natural remedies.
  • I believe in the benefits of massage and aromatherapy.
  • I believe in a whole-body approach to my health.
  • I am familiar with essential oils.
  • I rely on alternative therapies for my health issues.
  • I can commit to a daily regimen for several months.

How do scalp massage and aromatherapy work against hair loss?

Scalp massaging with or without the use of natural botanicals is a practice that has been used throughout history by many ancient and modern cultures. In fact, the Indian head massage comes from India, where it is carried out regularly on all family members to keep scalp and hair in good condition, relieve tension and promote health. As Husbands said, the most obvious benefit of scalp massaging is the instantaneous increase in blood flow and circulation in the region, which nourishes hair follicles. Stress and tension, which can restrict blood flow to the follicles, and sebum plugs and excess dead skin, which can block hairs from exiting the follicles, can all be improved by massaging the scalp on a daily basis. Melanie Vonzabuesnig, a certified aromatherapist specializing in formulas for scalp and hair conditions and the author of Hair Loss in Women … Getting to the Root of the Problem, reports that the benefits of scalp massage are greatly increased by adding essential oils to the regimen because of their ease of absorption; antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory properties; and well-known energizing, invigorating effects on both the skin and the underlying cellular regeneration process. Some say essential oils can actually penetrate the cuticle and renew hair from within.
Many hairstylists also have been adding scalp massage to their shampoo regimens for clients, whether or not they are experiencing hair loss. In fact, as New York City hairstylist Xac Cruz explains, “Adding massage techniques to a shampoo session or, as I like to call it, a ‘Hair Bath’ is not only an amazing, relaxing and unexpected treat, but also it improves blood circulation, which delivers nutrients to the hair and scalp. I use acupressure points, called tsubo in Japan.” Tsubo points are weak spots along an energy path and typically occur near joints, in the depressed junctures where muscles meet. Two points are easily found at the natural hollow between the ear and the middle line of the neck at the base of the skull. You can apply gentle pressure to tsubo points and in just a few seconds help relieve tension and open up pathways. Edmondo Blando, owner of Salon Vanity in Philadelphia, has taken it a step further and created soothing rinsing techniques, such as his ”hair waterfall,” and he incorporates his all-time favorite Moroccanoil into his clients’ scalp massage treatments.

What can I expect from scalp massage and aromatherapy?

You can order scalp massage oils, even the one from the study above, from essential oil companies and massage them in for use overnight, or you can slip in some shiatsu and other scalp massage techniques while you shampoo in the shower. A smart way to get great technique tips is from a certified massage therapist (if you know one), or watch and learn from one, such as the one featured on this great free Videojug video (www.videojug.com/film/how-to-do-an-indian-head-massage), which uses a nationally certified massage therapist to demonstrate the steps in an Indian head massage. This way you can adopt the techniques that feel best to you. And remember — be gentle — because the last thing you want to do is create stress on weak hair by rubbing too harshly and pulling hairs out.

  • Once hair is wet or oiled, use your fingertips to perform circles at either side of the base of the neck. This is a good place to hold gentle pressure at the base of the hairline/skull for a few seconds.
  • Fan fingers upward and stroke up into the hair roots. At neckline glide hand up into the hairline. Repeat glide. (If shampooing, however, stylists agree that you should keep the shampoo at the scalp only; do not pile hair up on top of the head or rub throughout hair shaft, because this only distresses the hair cuticle, dries it out and roughs it up.)
  • Bring hands to the side of your hairline in a fan with fingers pointing up. With heel of hands in contact with the scalp use a circular-fingertip motion to massage around hairline. Repeat this motion toward the crown, massaging shampoo/oil gently all around other areas of the scalp.
  • You can also rub vigorously back and forth, using small motions all over for a more intense feeling, if you like it. Keep fingertips in contact with the scalp at all times to minimize roughing of the hair.
  • Slowly reduce rubbing to stroking fingers through the hair and move to the top of the forehead and use the fingertip circles again to move down the hairline, ending with gentle circles at the temples.
  • End the massage by stroking fingers downward over scalp, slower and slower. If shampooing, rinse using a “water-fall” motion.

If you have shampooed, apply conditioner to the ends first, then the midshaft. Use a sweeping motion to distribute conditioner throughout hair, but not so much the scalp, where conditioner does nothing, advises Nicholas Penna, owner of Salon Capri, who has been styling hair in the Boston area for over 40 years.

Complications of scalp massage

Do not use any botanicals that you know you are allergic to and always perform an overnight patch test behind your hair to be sure — you don’t want to exacerbate your condition with any type of allergic reaction. If you are working with a practitioner be sure to tell the individual about any allergies or sensitivities and disclose your full hair loss diagnosis.

The bottom line on scalp massage and aromatherapy as a hair loss treatment

This type of treatment works best for those who have the time and patience to follow the practitioner’s plan exactly and to take a whole-body approach to their hair loss. Also, results may or may not be noticeable in six to eight months, depending on your hair loss diagnosis, so keep doing it as long as it feels good.

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