Many people think of getting a massage as a luxury or something they simply don’t have time to do. Not everyone has the ability to book a weekly Shiatzu with their favorite masseuse. For many of us, the only masseuse we know is the person who shampoos our hair, and it’s one of life’s simple pleasures when they massage our scalp. But what if you didn’t have to wait until a trip to the salon to get that massage? Giving yourself a head massage isn’t as hard or time-consuming as it seems. Here’s how to get started.
What are the benefits of a head massage?
We carry stress in many different parts of our bodies. Imagine how you feel at the end of a full-body massage, how your muscles feel less tense. Even at the end of a quick shoulder massage from a partner, we just feel a little looser. The day might even feel easier.
Just like with any muscles in your body, the muscles in your scalp can tense in times of stress. One of the biggest muscles, the temporalis muscle, runs behind your ear, around your head, and to the back. During times of high stress, you may find yourself clenching your jaw or squeezing your shoulders. Without realizing it, you may also be holding your temporalis tightly. When this muscle becomes overworked and tired, you may feel symptoms of a tension headache or migraine, but the pain also doesn’t stop at the head. It can also spread to your neck and shoulders.
Massaging these muscles can help with overall stress relief, making the body healthier.
One 2016 study on female office workers showed that stress hormones were lowered through 15 and 25-minute head massages conducted twice per week for 10 weeks. The subjects also had lower blood pressure and heart rates. High blood pressure can cause an increased risk for many health complications, including heart attacks, stroke, and dementia. An elevated heart rate is not always a cause for concern, but some forms of tachycardia, the medical term for when your heart rate increases to over 100 beats per minute, may result in serious health problems like heart failure. Lowering stress can help prevent these complications from developing.
Stress relief is just one of the benefits of a head massage. But those who are more concerned about hair loss also may experience some relief by trying a massage regimen. It may sound like an old wives’ tale that massaging the scalp can help stimulate hair growth, but a 2016 study revealed that four minutes of a standardized scalp massage every day for 24 weeks could result in increased thickness in hair.
While you may not get a luscious mane after one day of doing a quick head massage, introducing a regimen of a daily scalp massage may cause thicker hair. As with any massage, you’re increasing blood flow. In the case of a head massage, that blood flow brings oxygen and other nutrients to the scalp, which help promote hair growth. When you carry too much stress in your scalp, that blood flow gets restricted.
It’s also worth considering the benefits of massage overall. Massage has been linked to better immune system functionality, defending the body from disease. You may also find yourself sleeping better thanks to a daily massage regimen, as was discovered by a 2015 study that saw caregivers of cancer patients undergo a 15-minute daily back massage. But one of the biggest benefits of a head massage specifically is that it’s one of the few types of massages where you don’t require the help of another person.
How do you give a head massage?
1. Create the right environment.
The first step to any massage is finding a place where you can allow yourself to relax. Put your phone on silent, lower the lights, and turn off any other distracting noises, like a television. You may want to play some relaxing music or light soothing candles to further set the mood. Find yourself a comfortable but supportive place to sit.
2. Prepare your hair.
Your massage won’t be very helpful for your stress levels if you spend it yanking out knots. Before you start your massage, comb or brush your hair clear of any tangles. If your hair is more coarse, you may want to start with damp hair and gently use your fingers to detangle the knots. If you wear your hair in locs or braids, you may also want to start with damp hair, though you can simply spritz it with water if you don’t want to do a full wash.
3. Push your hands through your hair.
Start your massage by running your hands through your hair from front to back. Apply gentle pressure, but be careful not to push too hard on your scalp or pull too much on any remaining knots. If you have locs or braids, you can skip to Step 4 if running your fingers through your hair disrupts your hairstyle or causes unnecessary tension.
4. Begin making small circles.
Continuing to move from front to back, run your hands in small circles with the tips of your fingers. This is sometimes referred to as “shampoo circles,” as it resembles the movement you make when lathering shampoo on your scalp. Keep the gentle but firm pressure you used in the previous step.
5. Reverse the direction.
Repeat Steps 3 and 4, but this time move from back to front. Start at the nape of your neck and slowly move upward until you reach the start of your scalp. Again, skip Step 3 if running your fingers through your hair is difficult. Just spend more time on the shampoo circles instead.
What can you use to help your head massage?
Many people enjoy the feeling and aroma of using essential oils as they perform their massage. Just remember to put a towel around your neck to catch any drips before you begin. One option is to use lavender oil, which not only can reduce stress but also promotes hair growth. Through its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, it can also improve scalp health. Another popular choice is peppermint oil. This oil supports circulation, which helps hair grow. Those with dandruff may want to try tea tree or lemongrass oil.
When you purchase these oils, they may be packaged in different concentrations, but diluting them is generally a good idea. Mix the essential oil with a carrier oil, like coconut oil, before applying the mixture to anywhere on your body. Before applying these oils to your head, you should always do a patch test to see how your skin reacts. To do a patch test, wash your forearm with unscented soap and pat dry. Apply a few drops of the diluted mixture to your forearm. Then, cover the spot with a bandage. If a reaction occurs within those 24 hours, remove the bandage immediately and wash your arm. If there’s no reaction, you’re likely safe to use this mixture for your massage.
If you’d rather use a tool to massage, you can also consider using a scalp massager. These brushes can help soothe your scalp, but they also make your hair cleaner and healthier. They can loosen scalp buildup and help your hair care products penetrate your scalp. Just remember to go for smaller circles when you massage, or you may create knots. Some scalp massagers are also electric, which makes your job easier.
A daily scalp massage is a small luxury that can make a big difference. Just five minutes per day may or may not result in the Fabio-like mane of your dreams. But whether or not your hair reaches such voluptuous levels, you’ll still get the benefits of having a lower stress level, which is good for your whole body.