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Fight Client Stress With Scalp Massage

By: Annet King
Posted: May 31, 2012, from the June 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

One of the most under-utilized techniques in the spectrum of touch therapies is the massage of the scalp. Health practitioners of every discipline agree that stress is the No. 1 enemy of wellness and well-being, and that chronic stress—ongoing, long-term anxiety—has never been more of a societal ill than it is right now. Scalp massage offers an immediate, low-tech, extremely accessible solution that may be seamlessly integrated into your service menu.

One of the key benefits of scalp massage is the simplicity and modesty of the technique. The client does not need to disrobe, and it can be offered in an open, unisex space, making it exceptionally marketable and well-suited to walk-ins and people in a hurry. In the United States, it is common for scalp massage to be offered simply as a dry service, unlike in India where the practice may involve oils selected according to the ayurvedic calendar, dosha—a client’s energy and body type—and tradition. Providing a scalp massage without oil, of course, vastly increases the appeal of the treatment in modern, urban settings, where freshly shampooed and styled hair is the cultural preference.

The roots of scalp massage

The roots of this method date back nearly 4,000 years to a type of ayurvedic technique native to the East Indian culture. The modern version hails from India via the United Kingdom, also known as Indian head massage. In India, the practice, involving the use of oils, is said to keep long hair strong, lustrous and in beautiful condition, and it is even claimed to prevent graying and thinning of the hair. However, it is now known that innate hair qualities, including color, coarseness, density, distribution and wave pattern, are determined primarily by genetics. Still, the intimacy of head and scalp massage speaks to a healing, life-affirming experience that helps enhance well-being. Will it make the hair more beautiful? Well, it couldn’t hurt!

The practice poses few, if any contraindications—just be sure to complete a thorough written consultation and skin analysis with your client, and refrain from performing scalp massage on anyone with obvious neck injuries or recent facial surgeries. Also, allow three days before performing scalp massage after injectable procedures.

Scalp massage may be offered as a stand-alone touch therapy and also may be incorporated into skin, hair, spa and body treatments. It’s an ideal value-added service when a mask, body wrap or deep-conditioning treatment is processing on the client, or as the final step to bodywork. Keep in mind that some state boards are picky about what areas of the body a skin care professional, massage therapist and cosmetologist may officially touch, so be sure to carefully check specific local rulings before offering or advertising this service. (Editor’s note: Log on to for a complete list of state board contact information for each state.)