Brittany Burhop Fallon
You probably think of your hair salon as the place you go when your color needs refreshing or your split ends need chopping. But one treatment on the menu that often gets overlooked is a scalp facial, and although it's not "new" per se, it's now being offered in more salons because the benefits are robust and women are taking notice.
"Scalp facials were originally developed in Japan and influenced by Indian Ayurveda practices," says hairstylist Yoshie Sakuma of New York's Pierre Michel Salon, who performs them regularly. "The treatment includes four steps that can help fix scalp issues such as itchiness, dandruff, dryness, oiliness and odor, as well as promote relaxation."
First, the hair is shampooed to remove unwanted fatty acids from the scalp and hair. "I use a gel shampoo that physically attaches to the fatty acid buildup left behind by products to lift it away," says Sakuma.
Next, a scalp massage is performed with a cleansing gel, which deeply exfoliates the scalp and continues to remove any lingering residue that is clogging the hair follicles. "Massaging the large muscles around the head helps promote blood circulation as well," adds Sakuma.
The third step involves conditioning the scalp and hair with a lightweight hydrating treatment to replenish moisture and oil so the scalp is not left dry or irritated. And lastly, a weightless soothing moisturizer is applied to normalize the scalp and continue delivering moisture and nourishment.
"In reality, there are debris and residue that accumulate each day on the scalp," says New York facial plastic surgeon Benjamin Paul, MD, who is also the surgeon director at Hair Care MD, a hair restoration treatment center.
"If a person is prone to dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis) or has a skin condition (eczema, psoriasis, etc.), the scalp may be improved via a scalp facial. Additionally, there are patients who do not use enough water to wash out their shampoo and conditioner, which leaves residue behind on the scalp that can clog hair follicles."
Although there are no medical studies on the benefits of scalp facials, Dr. Paul says that when hair follicles are congested in this manner, hair growth can be stunted. "I have seen with my trichoscope (hair microscope), residual debris and rings (concretions) that can interfere with hair growth and are improved with improved scalp hygiene."
To give you a better idea, Dr. Paul says he likes to view hair like a garden. "The scalp acts as the soil, the hair is the plant and the follicle is the seed. If there is a problem with the soil that prevents the plant from growing, this can be very significant. A scalp facial can 'rake the leaves' and make way for a healthy garden."
Sakuma says his clients who are experiencing scalp issues such as dandruff or oiliness will come in as often as twice a week for the treatment-clients looking for the stress relief and relaxation benefits visit more often as well. However, Dr. Paul says that like a facial for your skin, the results of a scalp facial can last for a few weeks, and therefore his patients typically only go once a month.
Check with your local salon to see if they offer the service. The price may seem steep, but if you can get stress relief, R&R and better hair-possibly even boosted hair growth-in one treatment, it seems well worth it.
The writer is a senior editor at
New Beauty Magazine
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