Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/26/2021
Nothing helps us unwind more than leaning back into the barber’s chair to enjoy a relaxing scalp massage. On top of relieving stress and easing tension, scalp massage may also benefit our hair. We’ve even seen people say it stimulates hair growth
But what does science have to say about scalp massage and its effects on hair growth?
Below, we’ve explained what a scalp massage is and how to do it yourself. We’ve also delved into the scientific research supporting scalp massage for hair growth.
A scalp massage is exactly what it sounds like — a massage focused on the scalp area. You’ve undoubtedly had your fair share of these, even if you’ve never had a professional massage. Just think back to the last time you had your hair cut!
A standard scalp massage is delivered using the fingertips only, though you can also use a massaging device to mimic the effect.
There are several different ways to administer scalp massage. Here are three different options.
To perform a traditional scalp massage, you need nothing more than your own fingers. If you want, however, you can also apply essential oils as you massage your scalp. To use essential oils, simply mix one to two drops of essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba or sweet almond oil then apply the mixture directly to your scalp using the following technique:
With clean hands, apply the fingertips of both hands to your scalp, overlapping them slightly.
Apply light to medium pressure, moving your fingertips in small circles.
Gradually, work your way across the scalp from your hairline to the nape of your neck.
Aim for a total of at least five minutes of massage at a time, lingering for several seconds in each position.
When administering scalp massage with essential oils, you can use whatever oil you choose, as long as you don’t have any skin reaction or irritation to the particular oil.
If you have never used the oil before, it is advisable to first apply it to a small part of your skin, e.g. the back of your hand, to ensure it doesn’t irritate your skin or cause any kind of adverse reaction.
If you're looking for an oil to help promote hair growth, however, try lavender or peppermint oil. Though human research is limited, animal studies have shown that both of these oils promote hair growth in mice.
If you’re looking to save time, you can perform scalp massage in the shower. Start by wetting your hair then apply a small amount of shampoo or conditioner and follow the basic scalp massage method outlined above. Again, aim for 5 minutes of massage then rinse well.
Another way to administer an in-shower scalp massage is to use a tool called a shampoo brush.
Look for a shampoo brush with thick silicone bristles — the bristles should be firm enough to deliver the desired level of pressure without causing pain or damaging the scalp.
As an added bonus shampoo brushes may help reduce dandruff and scalp buildup by loosening dead skin cells and accumulated product so they can be rinsed away.
Though scalp massage is easy enough to do with just your hands, electric scalp massagers exist as well. These devices are usually modestly priced, but they aren’t supported by any significant scientific research.
To determine whether scalp massage really promotes hair growth, we dug deep into the scientific literature. Here’s what we found:
Research regarding scalp massage for hair growth is very limited. What studies we did find had very small sample sizes (one had just nine men).
The research with the largest sample size was not a double blinded randomized controlled study, but a collection of self-assessments completed by men with androgenic alopecia using standardized scalp massage (SSM).
In a 2016 Japanese study, nine healthy men received four minutes daily of standardized scalp massage using a scalp massage device for 24 weeks. The results showed an increase in hair thickness which was attributed to stretching forces exerted on the hair follicles.
A 2019 review shows the results of a retrospective survey study assessing the efficacy of standardized scalp massage to improve hair thickness in non-balding men. Out of 340 respondents who completed the survey, the majority reported attempting SSMs and 68.9 percent of those reported “hair loss stabilization or regrowth.”
Though there may not be sufficient volume of evidence to say whether scalp massage promotes hair growth, we did find several other science-supported benefits including improvements in blood pressure, lowered heart rate, and reduced stress levels.
Though there are several studies that show promising results for hair growth through scalp massage, more research is required to come to any solid conclusions.
If you’re struggling with hair thinning or hair loss, you’ll be glad to know there are several science-backed treatments for hair loss available. Topical medications like finasteride (brand name Propecia®) and minoxidil (brand name Rogaine®) are both FDA-approved and have been shown to help treat various forms of hair loss.
For more information about treating hair loss, talk to your doctor or complete a free online consultation to find the best option for you.
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