Untrending: Scalp Massages May Be Comforting, But They Won’t Help Hair Grow
In Untrending, we side-eye the latest fads so we know what we’re getting ourselves into — and what (if anything) we’re getting out of them.
A good scalp massage is a treat that Indian grandmothers and mothers have bestowed for ages upon their grateful children’s heads. Popularly known as champi, scalp massage helps soothe stress and increases feelings of relaxation via repeated stimulation of the several nerve cells on the head. It also helps that champi is often performed with fragrant oils like coconut, almond, and jasmine, which also have properties that moisturize and revitalize hair.
But, over the past few years, scalp massages have acquired another, debatable benefit — that they help stimulate hair growth, especially in individuals with pattern baldness. For those who prefer not to get their fingers dirty, brands sell manual and electronic scalp massagers.
The only problem is that there’s no real proof that scalp massages stimulate hair growth. The running theory is that scalp massage increases blood flow to the brain, which stimulates hair follicles to grow more hair. However, research on the actual findings hasn’t been conclusive, with several studies having few participants who self-reported benefits. This does not mean that the results aren’t promising — it means there needs to be far more research before a correlation is established.
In contrast, another study evaluated the effects of mechanical stress on androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness) and saw a significant relationship between stress to hair and increased hair loss. This means that particularly aggressive massages might lead to hair loss.
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Dermatologists and hair specialists are also skeptical about scalp massages and their magic hair-growing capabilities, with several declaring the same a myth and cautioning against applying extra force to prevent hair breakage. They also caution against certain harsh scalp massagers with bristles that scratch and inflame the scalp. Further, scalp massagers might cause more irritation for people who already deal with dandruff and psoriasis, too.
Does this mean you have to absolutely never massage your scalp again? God, no — imagine a world without the joys of a brisk champi. Just make sure you use your fingers only if you have conditions like dandruff and psoriasis, ensure these massages don’t get too vigorous, and don’t harbor any hopes of magical hair growth.