Here's what experts say about this simple beauty trick.

Mackenzie Dunn
August 05, 2020
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Despite what you may have heard, people with dark skin need to wear sunscreen, and shaving your hair won’t make it grow back thicker. In Myth Busters, we debunk common beauty misconceptions and set the record straight.

We all have tried-and-true haircare routines, but have you ever thought about the kind of care you’re giving to your scalp? It’s no secret that healthy, shiny hair starts there, but we too often let products, dead skin cells, and dandruff remain on its surface, causing flaking, itchiness, and even hair thinning or loss. The reality is that your scalp needs TLC, and scalp massages are one way to show your hair a little extra love. Stimulating the scalp can be done with just your fingertips or, as we’ve been seeing more recently, with tools like silicone scalp brushes. Either way, scalp massages feel amazing.

But are they really doing anything to help your hair grow? We talked to experts who broke down whether or not there's truth to this common beauty idea.  

What is a scalp massage?

A scalp massage is exactly what it sounds like. Pressure is applied to the scalp using fingertips—not fingernails, as they can scratch or agitate sensitive scalps—in circular motions to encourage circulation as well as stimulate and exfoliate the scalp. Most hairstylists give you a mini scalp massage when they wash your hair during a haircut or blowout.

Do scalp massages help with hair growth?

Shab Reslan—a trichologist, member of the American Hair Loss Council, and hair growth expert for HairClub—tells us that a scalp massage just might be the single most underrated yet effective hair growth hack. "A relaxing scalp massage will not only release tension in your head and feel great, but it will stimulate the scalp and encourage blood circulation to the hair follicle (the pocket your hair grows out of)," she tells us. "This boost of stimulation will increase the nutrient intake of each follicle and promote stronger and healthier hair growth."

That said, a few extra seconds of massaging in your shampoo won't necessarily lead to immediate results. Reslan explains that while scalp stimulation is definitely beneficial, it needs to be done regularly to see a noticeable difference.

"Consistency is the key to amazing hair," says Reslan. "When you give your hair special attention every day, you'll notice stronger, thicker, and longer hair." But be aware that, according to her, it could take six to 12 months for that to come to fruition.

Although research on the efficacy of scalp massages is still limited, one 2016 study did show promising results. When the participants received a four-minute scalp massage each day for 24 weeks, it was reported that their hair appeared thicker than before due to the stretching of the hair follicles caused by the massages. Another 2019 study found that twice-daily scalp massages improved hair loss among those with alopecia.

What about scalp massaging tools? 

Recently, tons of haircare brands have come out with scalp brushes and other similar tools—but are they effective? According to Reslan, they are.

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"So long as the device is gentle on the scalp, a scalp massager can be more effective than using your hands," she says. Not only do scalp massagers feel great (and make your scalp massaging process a little bit easier) but Reslan says they can be really effective at gently stimulating those hair follicles and ridding the scalp of buildup. This is important because a clean scalp will help your hair better absorb products and nutrients that are necessary for healthy growth.

Queenwill Electric Handheld Hair Massager
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However, if you experience frequent scalp irritation, like dandruff or psoriasis, these tools may actually cause irritation and inflammation, so stick to very gently using your fingertips instead.

The bottom line: Whether you're using a device or not, giving your scalp an extra 30 seconds of TLC in the shower will help make a difference in your hair growth over time, just as long as you keep at it.