I love the art of massage. Truly, absolutely, entirely. The anticipation if I book a professional treat for myself, the amazingly profound sensations during the time with the therapist, and the feeling afterwards – so calm, so serene, such great sleep that night, such realigned bones and muscles. I could go on for hours and I would happily sit or lie receiving a massage for hours. I’m a big fan of self-massage too. If I had to choose a favourite, I would put head and scalp massage firmly at the top of the list; it’s the jewel in the crown of massages in my opinion. Firm, gentle, sensual, or comforting, it provides a plethora of pleasurable sensations and brings with it a multitude of health and beauty benefits.
Obviously the head is a lot harder than the body… so a head massage is different to a body massage, when the muscles and joints are stroked, kneaded, sometimes pummelled to achieve a sensation that also feels amazing and is fantastically full of health benefits. However, there’s something about the energy produced and exchanged during a head massage that keeps this one my treatment of choice.
Head and scalp massage has many benefits, some of which we can feel immediately:
- It’s a stress reliever (the body becomes more relaxed; the mind follows)
- It’s a mood booster (serotonin and dopamine levels are increased)
- It’s a headache reliever (physical pressure relieves pain)
- It’s a hangover reliever (don’t feel guilty for over-indulging now and again, just deal with it in the best way possible!)
- It can improve state of mind just through touch (the physical touch of another human is a well-known mood lifter)
- It promotes sounder, more restorative sleep
- It promotes deep relaxation, therefore putting the body into an ideal state to encourage its own healing
- It improves blood circulation to the head and neck
Regular head massages can assist concentration and memory capacity by increasing blood flow to your nervous system. Studies have also proven that as stress hormones lower due to regular head massages, blood pressure is kept normal rather than too high, thereby reducing risks of heart attacks and strokes.
Research has proven that massage creates a great environment for the promotion of hair growth. Various small-scale studies have shown that the act of daily massage promotes hair growth and can result in increased hair thickness, for example this article in the NCBI, published in 2016. Scalp massage strengthens the hair roots and encourages new hair growth, helps remove product build-up, and rejuvenates dry, damaged hair by releasing the scalp’s natural oils through the sebaceous glands.
It can also ease a dry, itchy scalp, and encourage healing conditions such as dandruff, eczema, seborrhoeic dermatitis and psoriasis. These conditions are also greatly aided (or abetted, so be careful!) by the shampoo and other products we use.
Some essential oils are particularly well-known as being wonderful for hair growth: peppermint essential oil has been proven in this animal study to significantly increase the speed of hair regrowth. This study proved that lavender essential oil was a stimulant in hair growth too. Oh – and please note that ‘animal care and the protocol for this study were in accordance with IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) and OECD guidelines’ for both studies, otherwise I wouldn’t cite them!
Get a professional massage
Cranial-sacral therapy (CST) focuses on the central nervous system of the head, spinal column, and sacrum. It is performed by a professional and used to
- relieve tension
- relieve stress
- promote relaxation
- ease migraine and headache pain
When you book a cranial-sacral massage, you can expect a calming, soothing, thoroughly relaxing 45-60 minutes. The massage therapist will perform delightfully soft, soothing strokes over your entire head and neck, and if you like, you can talk with them throughout the duration of the massage to ensure you are receiving what you were expecting and/or desiring. To be honest though, I have a friend who has fallen asleep while having CST, so proof of its vastly relaxing effect is in the pudding. It relieves the pain and tension of compression through gentle, non-invasive manipulation of bones in the head, the sacrum (a bone at the bottom of your spine) and the spinal column. Your massage therapist will manoeuvre these bones softly, thus ‘normalising’ the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the central nervous system. In turn, this removes any blockages from the body’s ‘normal’ flow, thus enabling it to heal more effectively. CST can also abate symptoms relating to the following conditions:
- disturbed sleep cycles and insomnia
- sinus infections
- recurrent ear infections or colic in infants
- trauma recovery, including trauma from whiplash
- irritable bowel syndrome
This really highlights how remarkable the art of massage can be, and how beneficial light and gentle pressure and manipulation of the head and scalp can be for the entire being.
Give yourself or your partner a massage
Self-care and care for our loved ones is vital in our busy lives. A simple 5-minute massage can revive, invigorate, or calm, relax and prepare us for sleep. If you are using an essential oil, make sure you dilute it with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or jojoba. The smell sensation will be fantastic, and will contribute beautifully to the pleasurable environment. Put some tunes on to make the experience even more enjoyable. When giving a massage to a partner, the connection you’ll feel will reach far beyond the physical fingertips: when giving the sensuous gift of a head massage, the energy between you will flow deeply.
Giving a head massage is not hugely strenuous on either the professional practitioner or the amateur. There are two basic types of scalp massages: effleurage, which is using circular, stroking movements, and petrissage, which is gently kneading and lifting the scalp. It is recommended that you start at the front of the scalp and move towards the back. If you’re hoping to improve hair growth and increase thickness, it’s recommended that you massage 1-3 times a day. If you massage your scalp during a hair wash, probably twice a week would be good. Don’t be vigorous though, because rubbing too hard can break the hair.
For those who like an addition or alternative to the fingertip massage, there is a big selection of tools available on the market – I have one of these cheap and cheerful pieces of whisk-like apparatus and it feels ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Like a hundred-pound treatment if I’m using a scalp mask too…
You could also try one of these, which look somewhat akin to one of those floor-travelling hoover things but I’m certain feel wonderful.
Scalp masks are fabulous too; you can make your own or hop online and treat yourself or send one as a gift: This all-organic, non-GMO, cruelty-free, gluten-free pomade promises to
- Promote hair growth
- Stimulate blood circulation
- Decrease hair shedding
- Prevent hair follicle clogging and inflammation
- Reduce protein loss
- Promote healthy scalp and reduce dandruff and hair loss
- Strengthen hair growth by preventing breakage and split ends
- Stimulate hair growth from the follicles
- Add softness and shine to the hair
So with all of these benefits, along with a sensuous and luxurious scalp massage, you should soon be on your merry way to calm, soothed relaxation central with a set of thick, luscious, shiny locks bouncing in your wake.
And here’s a couple of great recipes to make on your own and save some money! I like making my own because I know exactly what’s gone into it. They would also work beautifully as really personal (short shelf-life!) gifts.
To treat dry hair
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Combine all of the above in a bowl and massage gently onto your scalp. Leave for 30-40 minutes and then rinse off.
To treat a flaky scalp
- 2 tablespoons of raw unrefined coconut oil
- 4 teaspoons of raw sugar
- 5 drops of peppermint oil
- 2 drops of tea tree oil
Combine all of the above in a bowl. Gently apply the mixture to clean, wet hair in the shower and massage for 2-3 minutes, leave in while you shower then rinse out. Step out of the shower and luxuriate a little!
Head off happy
So however busy your life, try make time to include scalp massage. Surely you have a few minutes in the shower or bath… Or perhaps you could pop a head massage voucher on your Christmas list and get all of those wonderful sparkly joyful holiday feelings on tap in a therapy room! Maybe suggest a date night with your partner that involves a mutual massage. Whatever you do, however you choose to practise, remember the simplicity of the art and the numerous health and beauty benefits that are just a few gentle rubs away…
Claire King is a copywriter and translator based in York, the UK. When she’s not reading, writing, or doodling ads, you’ll find her practising Pilates or enjoying some top-notch comedy!