We don’t usually think of paying attention to the tops of our noggins as a way to have shinier hair, better sleep, and possibly improve our skin—but the rising trend of Japanese head spas is aiming to change that. The scalp-centered beauty treatment is big in Japan, and recently on the rise in the US with head spas popping up in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.
“It’s like a facial for your head,” says Keiko Uehara, the co-owner of Los Angeles’ Blow Me Away salon. The two-story salon specializes in head spas, and has had the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow circle through its doors. “We believe a healthy scalp helps hair growth. It’s like a plant in the soil—you have to have good soil—if you have a closed follicle in the scalp the hair won’t grow. So, we really need to cleanse the follicles to promote the hair growth,” she adds.
I recently took my own scalp for a scrub down. The biggest surprise? My stylist immediately inserted a wand-like camera with a microscope (enlarged by 200x) atop my head to get an extreme close-up of my scalp. This pictures, displayed on a giant Apple computer, were not pretty: clogged follicles, oily scalp, and angry red irritated skin.
She assured me her mission was to clean and detox my scalp with the help of a steaming bonnet and a relaxing combination of acupuncture-focused head massage and organic oils and shampoo, the “detoxification” she said, can help with shampoo build-up, ridding flakes, and even hair loss.
“The ‘detoxification’ helps with shampoo build-up, ridding flakes, and even hair loss”
My stylist performed her magic in a dark spa-like room. The tools for her hair magic? Essential oils, jojoba oil (meant to promote hair growth and strength), and a hair mask for even stronger strands.
“Ten minutes of head massage is like a one-hour body massage,” Uehara told me later. “Especially in this digital age you are always looking at your phone or computer and it really helps you relax and promote blood circulation, and all kinds of good stuff. We have a lot of people come in with migraines, and it promotes better sleep.” Regulars also tout that it de-puffs their faces, which makes sense if you think about how massage can increase blood flow and boost lymphatic fluid drainage.
The massage didn’t feel like it lasted an hour but it did leave me feeling so relaxed I felt half-asleep. So when my stylist asked, “Do you want to see something?” while she wrinkled up her nose I couldn’t held but nod “yes.”
She proudly showed off all the grey water gunk that came off my hair during the rinse. I actually loved seeing the treatment’s pay-off. But there was more. As part of the head spa’s final act, she took the camera-wand and captured more images of my scalp. This time it looked less inflamed, dirty, and markably better (or at least the images convinced me this was the case).
I blow dried my hair at the salon (for an additional fee they will do it for you). I hadn’t seen my hair this shiny and soft in years. It also dried quicker and barely needed any styling. The entire treatment cost $75 (although some cities have cheaper options).
It’s a steep price to pay for squeaky clean hair but several weeks later my scalp—and my body—was already tingling at the thought of another appointment.