by Blake Herzog
Japanese head spa treatments started infiltrating the U.S. a few years ago by mixing the art of high touch with high tech, overrunning TikTok with vignettes using phrases like “heaven in a chair” and autonomous sensory meridian response, sometimes referred to as ASMR, soundtracks.
Available in both dedicated “J-Beauty” centers and as a service in salons and spas, these treatments are described as a “facial for your scalp,” extending the pampering beyond your forehead in the name of keeping the top of your head happy and the hair it grows gorgeous.
They can alleviate both dry and oily scalps and promote hair growth by unclogging follicles taken out of service by sticky sebum, dirt and other occlusives.
Most scalp treatments start out with what can be a rude awakening as a trained practitioner uses an electronic wand to show you all the gunk that has collected on it over time, at 200x scale.
But then you’re rewarded with a soothing steam bath delivered through a shower cap-like bonnet over a customized sink, followed by an extended shampoo and scalp massage that can send you to previously unknown heights of delighted relaxation.
Your provider gently kneads and exfoliates your scalp, reinvigorating your spirit and rejuvenating your skin. Excess dirt and skin cells are removed, unclogging follicles and promoting hair growth, while increased blood flow nourishes your follicles from within.
This massage is usually followed with a suction-based deep cleanse, customized to your scalp’s needs, to remove any remaining residue, and often a hair mask. Most spas will offer you a blowout, as your hair will obviously be wet afterward.
Then you get to see your scalp close-up once again while it’s still tingling from all the pampering. Most appointments last 30 to 60 minutes, though some for as long as 90 minutes.
As wonderful and luxurious as Japanese head spas are, there still aren’t too many of them beyond the coastal cities, with a Google search revealing only a couple of locations in the Phoenix area offering these services.
That doesn’t mean you must wait until your next vacation to experience their benefits, as you can recreate much of the process at home as a gratifying self-care ritual.
You can buy hand-held scalp massagers along with the cage-like old-school versions, but all you really need is your fingers and a gentle shampoo that won’t cause irritation as you massage it in.
Many scalp scrubs are too harsh or abrasive to be used during this process, though some with gentle, all-natural ingredients can bring benefits if you apply them before shampooing.
The massage is the main attraction, and it’s delightfully easy to adjust it to your preferences when you’re the one doing it. Do remember that applying too much pressure can tangle or break hair, disturb resting follicles and even cause headaches.
Pay particular attention to your hairline, behind your ears and the nape of your neck to maximize blood flow.