“People get facials all the time, but why stop at the forehead?” said Keiko Uehara, co-owner of West Hollywood’s Blow Me Away.
The organic hair salon, which counts Gwyneth Paltrow as a client, specializes in scalp revitalization.
“It’s a detox,” said the Japanese native. “We deep-cleanse follicles. A lot of people have clogged follicles, and it prevents healthy hair growth.”
The treatment typically consists of a scalp exfoliation and massage. At Blow Me Away, the process involves an analysis, which utilizes a magnifier to study the condition of the scalp, followed by an exfoliation using a steaming bonnet and organic products by Oway, as well as an ayurveda-influenced massage. The price for the standard “botanical deep scalp spa” service ranges from $75 for 30 minutes to $125 for an hour.
“The head has a lot of pressure points, so massaging really activates stimulation for blood circulation, better sleep, stress release, anti-aging,” said Uehara. “It’s the hidden benefits of head spa… It’s routine in Japan.”
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The head spa — as it’s known — is, in fact, a standard option in hair salons across Japan and it’s now catching on in L.A. and other major U.S. cities. Of late, the U.S. market has been booming with scalp-care products and services. And thanks to U.S. chain Aveda, which released its ayurveda-inspired scalp treatment line in 2017, scalp massage treatments are now available at select locations nationwide.
In L.A., from Koji Toyoda Salon in West Hollywood to Headspa EN in Beverly Hills, salons have been offering their own versions of the treatment.
“Some people come every week for the head spa, [while others] come once a month,” said Naoko Tamada of her clients at Taka Hair Salon near L.A.’s Sawtelle Japantown. She has been in business for 22 years and has been providing scalp treatments since as far back as 2000.
That year, her mother began losing her hair from chemotherapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she said.
“I was looking for products for hair growth, hair thickening and services to help my mom,” shared Tamada, who’s originally from Japan. “She has sensitive skin, so she can’t use anything chemical. We started doing scalp massage and treatment.”
According to Tamada, it helped, and she’s been providing the service ever since. “Her hair grew back,” she continued. Her mother, now 71, is in remission. “She doesn’t have to wear wigs anymore.”
Tamada also offers the “soda spa,” a new approach available in Japan. As she explained it, the hair is washed using a machine with “carbonate spring” — a blend of hot water and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide, which the body considers as waste, penetrates blood vessels, and as a result, more oxygen is released and blood vessels expand. In the end, according to Tamada, it leads to a healthy environment for hair growth.
“With any treatment, as physicians, we want evidence-based clinical studies,” said dermatologist and SkinDC founder Dr. Terrence Keaney, who’s based in Northern Virginia. “We want placebo-controlled studies, and unfortunately, with scalp treatments, we really don’t see much data at all, particularly exfoliation.”
“With exfoliation, you are removing the top, dead layer of skin and some of the excess oils that build up in the scalp,” he continued. “So those treatments can be helpful in keeping a healthy scalp, and in particular, they may be more helpful for reducing dandruff…mild exfoliation on the top layer of the skin, however, is not going to influence the cells that produce hair that are four millimeters below. Data doesn’t support that yet.”
With that said, Keaney brought to light a recent survey result with 340 respondents, published last March by the National Center for Biotechnology Information––part of the National Institutes of Health’s United States National Library of Medicine.
“It suggests that patients who have had scalp massages think that their hair is better,” he said. “Sixty-eight percent reported stabilization of hair loss and some regrowth.”