Like a facial for your scalp.
I’ve always been a lover of head massages. In fact, I’d prefer a head massage over a full-body massage any day. There’s no risk of those uncomfortable moments where you clench and silently scream in pain through the hole in the massage table, trying desperately not to offend the person releasing your knots.
There’s something incredibly relaxing and restoring about a head massage – someone playing with your hair is enough to make you weak in the knees. That’s why when Japanese scalp spas started gaining popularity in Australia, I wanted to find out more.
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Shinichi Nguyen, the manager of Masa Kanai Salon in New York, is a firm believer in the power of head spas. The salon has a treatment specifically designed to support scalp and hair health, with the revolutionary head spa meaning she’s the perfect person to give us the rundown.
What is the Japanese method of scalp care?
A head spa is “essentially a facial,” Shinichi tells Fashion Journal. “The goal is to cleanse the pores, extract impurities, nourish the skin and treat common skin problems, but all on the scalp as opposed to the face! On top of this, head spas often include a head massage to deliver a moment of relaxation.”
Like many of the Eastern practices, the Western world has adopted this holistic beauty treatment. Starting off with a consultation, “[the hair specialist will] observe the scalp and hair with a microscope, displaying the view on a screen”. This “will pinpoint the problem areas” while finding the cause of issues like pore health, build-up, how shiny the hair is, and more irritating issues like “flaking, scaly patches, or lesions.”
A custom treatment approach is then developed to address the client’s hair and scalp needs. The process goes on to include “aromatherapeutic breathing exercises”, “a head-to-shoulder massage” and an “intensive deep cleaning of the scalp.” Sounds divine.
Why are Japanese head spas becoming so popular now outside of Asia?
As with many beauty treatments, social media is the driving force behind the new trend. As Shinichi explains, “It is undoubtedly due to the influence of social media such as Instagram and TikTok. While the head spa is a recent international emergence, the practice has been a staple in the Japanese beauty industry for many years.”
“Akin to the typical ‘cut and colour’ service, a head spa is a common menu item that can be found in practically any Japanese salon.” It’s also the novelty of something new appearing on our feeds. “The service is not well known to the audience outside of Japan, [so] there is a certain level of fascination that is apparent when people discover it online,” Shinichi says.
“The various clips of head spas that circulate over Instagram and TikTok appeal to all the trends that are popular these days: beauty, self-care, ASMR, massages [and] relaxation. Combine this with… influencers often showcasing their spas and highlighting how amazing they look and feel afterwards… more and more people are enticed to experience it themselves.”
Why are Eastern beauty practices held in such high regard in the beauty world?
These days, gua sha, tongue scraping and dry brushing are a mainstay in our beauty routines, and for good reason. “It is clear that the general public is keener on moving towards a more natural route; whether it is with organic products or with traditional beauty treatments. Particularly with Eastern practices, there is a comfort in knowing that there really aren’t any adverse effects that arise from partaking in them,” Shinichi explains.
Is this treatment reserved for those with scalp issues?
“The purpose of a head spa is to act as a scalp treatment. As such, they are ideal for those who are experiencing issues such as dandruff, oiliness, rashes, hair loss, and so forth,” Shinichi says. “Even if you don’t have any immediate scalp problems, it is always good to treat your scalp and keep it in a healthy state to prevent possible concerns in the future.
“The detoxing and head massage processes of a head spa also help stimulate blood flow to the scalp, which is fundamental for healthy hair growth. Overall, a scalp facial helps keep the scalp in its best possible condition, which is essential for luscious, beautiful hair. There is also the relaxation element that comes with a head spa.”
For more on Japanese scalp spas, head here.