I Gave Myself A Scalp Massage Every Day For A Week—Here’s What Happened

My brain—and hair—got a science-backed boost!

June 8, 2017
scalp massage
IAN HOOTON/ Getty

Remember when you were a kid and everyone patted your head? Something about your noggin being at hand-height gave adults permission to have at it. Then high school came, and sleepovers where playing with each other’s hair was as common as talking about boys. Then, nada.

As an adult, the only time my head gets any action is at the salon and on the rare occasions I book a massage—so basically never. But here’s the thing: scalp massage is full of benefits. Science says it can de-stress you, stylists say it can help the health of your hair and energy healers say it can restore imbalances in the body.

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So I decided to get back to my roots (literally) and give myself a head massage everyday for a week. Here's what happened when I did.

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I learned some new moves

The first two days I mostly massaged with my thumbs, instinctively maneuvering them around my head based on what felt good—and my temples, the crown of my head, and behind my ears felt really good. No complaints. But I wanted to maximize my experience, so I called on Bliss Prema, an Indian Head Massage practitioner and Reiki Master on Vancouver Island, Canada.

The good news is there’s no wrong way to do a scalp massage: “Anytime anyone puts their hands to their head in a loving way is an act of self love,” explained Bliss, who walked me through “shampooing” (deep pressure circles with your fingertips), “friction” (invigorating sideways strokes) and “tapping” (single and double finger tapping). This expanded my repertoire and took my head massage to the next level.  

I did it everywhere...

Or pretty much anywhere. That’s one of the joys of scalp massage. It doesn’t require props or planning or even a special place—you just need your fingers and five minutes. Over the course of the week I did it at my desk with dry hair, in the shower with wet hair, in front of the TV with a few drops of essential oils. I even did it while I was waiting for my oil change (I got a few strange looks, but nothing major). Like meditation, scalp massage is big on benefits without any downsides, but it’s way easier to master and you feel the gains right away. (Here are the 7 best organic shampoos.)

 

I felt instant ahhhh

Instant gratification doesn’t usually have a healthy connotation. That moment of extreme pleasure is usually followed by guilt or remorse (chocolate, we’re talking about you). Not so with scalp massage. The minute my hands touched my head, my shoulders relaxed, the world slowed down and stress seemed to wash away—and that sweet relief happened whether I massaged for one minute or 20 and lingered long after my fingers had finished their job. Not surprisingly, studies show that scalp massage decreases levels of stress-inducing cortisol and increases the production of mood-boosting serotonin and dopamine. In one study, twice-weekly scalp massages were shown to lower stress hormones, heart rate and blood pressure. (Here are 10 more ways to de-stress in under a minute.)

It’s even better with essential oils

A scalp massage on its own is pure bliss; adding essential oils is just extra icing. (Here's our list of the 5 essential oils you should always have in your medicine cabinet.) A few drops on my fingertips added an oh-la-la dimension, and because I was already in a mindful space, the wafting scent seemed that much more therapeutic. Orange was invigorating, peppermint cooling, and rosemary grounding. Plus, rosemary’s said to boost hair growth and thickness. Keep in mind that essential oils can cause skin irritation, so stick with scents you’ve already tried on your skin. (Here are 6 times you should never use essential oils.) 

It turned up the volume on my hair 

I had a bum color treatment about a year ago that turned my wavy, shoulder-length locks swampy green, and my hair has never been the same. But scalp massage gave my locks back some of their luster. A morning head massage could turn my bedhead to bombshell, adding volume and va-va-voom. Even when I did it wet in the shower, my hair would dry looking thicker and more luscious.

 

Was the hair boost all in my head? No, say the experts. Head massage exfoliates the scalp, stimulates blood flow to the hair follicles, distributes natural oils down the hair shaft, and has even been linked to increased hair thickness. (Here are 8 natural ways to help your hair grow faster.)

It delivered an instant energy boost

I usually think of massage as super relaxing, almost sleep inducing. Head massage had the opposite effect on me. Yes, it certainly dialed down my stress, but moving my fingers across my scalp and getting the blood flow to my head was like an espresso shot of energy. (Check out these 7 foods that wake you up better than coffee.)

“It wakes everything up,” said Bliss, who explained that head massage energetically removes stagnation, activating chakras and energy channels in the body while synchronizing the left and right hemispheres of the brain. But it didn’t just invigorate me, it fired up my creative juices as well, getting me primed for writing, editing, brainstorming—you name it.