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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you did an (extremely informal and not at all scientific) poll of the people you know, you’d probably find most agree that the best part of a haircut is the scalp massage. It certainly beats trying to converse over the whir of the blow dryer or all the tiny, itchy hairs stuck to your neck.
You might have heard that a scalp massage can stimulate hair growth. If you’re experiencing male pattern baldness, you may be looking for easy solutions to slow hair fallout — and scalp massage almost seems too good to be true.
But does massaging your scalp help your hair grow? And if so, how long should you massage your scalp for hair growth?
Read on to learn more about what scalp massage is and how to do it yourself. We’ll also go over what the scientific research says about its effectiveness on hair growth. (Spoiler alert: Not a whole lot, but there are other scalp massage benefits).
There have been studies on whether scalp massage helps hair growth, but they’re not super high-quality.
One 2019 study looked at people who got a daily scalp for about 11 to 20 minutes (which is a pretty long time to massage your head, when you think about it) for approximately six months. They found that, on average, reduced hair loss and potential regrowth occurred after 36.3 hours of scalp massage.
However, this study had some significant limitations. For one, there was no control group to separate those using other hair loss treatments like topical finasteride or minoxidil.
It was also a self-reported study, which is problematic because of confirmation bias. This means the people surveyed may have wrongfully thought their hair was thicker because they expected massage to work.
Another two-part study (on just nine men who, weirdly, were not even experiencing hair loss) looked at the effects of four minutes daily of standardized scalp massage using a scalp massage device for 24 weeks.
The results showed an increase in hair thickness, potentially because of a stretched hair follicle, which increases the diameter of each hair, or due to enhanced blood flow to the area. But there was no significant change in hair growth rate.
The first part of the study was done in-vitro on thawed human dermal papilla cells. It showed changes in gene expression from stretching forces, which may play a role in the hair growth cycle.
In-vitro studies have their merits, but it can be hard to draw definitive conclusions because they’re done externally (i.e., not on a living human with a complex set of cells working together).
You might have heard a rumor swirling around that a scalp massage is equivalent to one-eighth of an orgasm. Questionable logic aside, a head massage does feel excellent.
We’ve established that not much evidence shows that massaging your head will help you hold onto your hair — but there are other (proven) scalp massage benefits. Take a look below.
A 2016 study examined 34 female office workers, some of whom received a 15- or 25-minute daily head and neck massage and others who acted as a control group. (We hereby volunteer to participate in future testing). The study found reduced stress hormones and lowered heart rates in those who got daily massages.
That same 2016 study on female office workers also found that massage improved blood circulation because it brings blood flow to the head. The participants also had reduced blood pressure and lowered cortisol levels, which may have helped them relax their back muscles afterward.
Massaging your scalp can reduce itching and help loosen flaking caused by dandruff, which may be a result of fungus, excess sebum or a dry scalp.
The repeated circular motions loosen dead skin and may help exfoliate the scalp, especially if you use a gritty hair exfoliant while you massage. Plus, when blood flows to the scalp, it delivers nutrients and oxygen to the hair follicle — research shows a loss of blood flow to the scalp is associated with hair loss.
There are several ways to massage your scalp — and it doesn’t necessarily require fancy tools or products. Whether you’re a purist or choose to incorporate oils or scalp massager tools, here’s how to perform an at-home scalp massage.
If you have hands, you can perform a traditional scalp massage, which requires nothing more than your fingers. Here’s how:
With clean hands, place the fingertips of both hands onto your scalp, overlapping them slightly.
Apply light to medium pressure, moving your fingertips in small circles.
Gradually work across the scalp, from your hairline to the nape of your neck.
A scalp massage with essential oils can be especially relaxing, thanks to the spa-like scent. Essential oils are highly concentrated and must be diluted with a carrier oil like jojoba oil, sweet almond or coconut oil so they’re less prone to causing skin irritation.
Mix one to two drops of essential oil with a carrier oil, then apply the mixture directly to your scalp using the above-mentioned technique.
You can use whatever oil you like, though it’s always a good idea to first apply the oil to a small patch of skin like your forearm or the back of your hand to test for any reactions.
If you’re looking for an oil that may help promote hair growth specifically, try lavender or peppermint oil. Though human research is limited, animal studies have shown that both oils encourage hair growth and thickness in mice.
Using oil on your hair will make your hair oily (as you’d probably expect), so you can hop in the shower afterward to rinse off any greasy residue.
The shower can be ideal for your scalp massage, especially if you like to zone out under the warm water.
Start by wetting your hair, then apply a small amount of shampoo or conditioner and follow the basic scalp massage method outlined above. Aim for five or so minutes of massage, then rinse well.
Note that wet hair is far more prone to breakage than dry hair. With this in mind, you’ll want to apply less pressure than you would if your hair were dry to avoid breaking or damaging it.
Some people prefer to use tools for their head massage. One of the main scalp massager benefits is that you’ll spare your hands from having to do the heavy lifting.
One way to administer an in-shower scalp massage is to use a shampoo brush (which you can also use on dry hair if you want). These brushes are typically designed to fit in the palm of your hair and have thick silicone bristles — the bristles should be firm enough to deliver the desired pressure without causing pain or damaging the scalp.
How to use a scalp massager is easy: Lather it up with shampoo, then make little circles around your scalp using the same amount of pressure.
As a bonus, shampoo brushes may help reduce dandruff and flakes by loosening dead skin cells and product buildup so they can be rinsed away. Aside from feeling good, this is a vital part of a healthy haircare routine, and it may help you go longer between washes.
Though regular scalp massages are easy enough to do with your hands, electric scalp massagers also exist. These usually aren’t too expensive, but there isn’t any significant scientific research suggesting they contribute to healthy hair or reduce hair fallout — and they may take up precious real estate on your bathroom counter. Your call.
Then there are those head-scratchers (you know, the ones that look like jellyfish with a handle). These feel nice and will give you that tingly scalp feeling, but the design doesn’t allow much pressure on the head.
Are you still wondering how long you should massage your scalp for hair growth? The answer is basically however long you like.
The times in studies were kind of all over the place, ranging from about four minutes to upwards of 25 minutes. Most studies looked at daily massage, but you should do what works for you.
“I tried several different options before but Hims combined approach of all four methods by far created the best results.”
“Hims has been the greatest confidence boost, no more bald jokes! I look and feel so much younger!”
“When I show my barber my progress, he is always in disbelief. I have to recommend Hims to any guy who’s experiencing thinning.”
“Cost effective and affordable. My hair keeps growing thicker, fuller, and at a fast rate.”
“I noticed a huge change in the overall health and fullness of my hairline.”
“Now after 5 months I’m able to style waves first time in 10 years!”
“I decided to jump right in and I'm so glad I did. I definitely feel ten years younger!”
“In just as little over two and half months, I can really see the difference in thickness and in color.”
“4-months strong and my confidence boosted back up to 100% using Hims, future me really does thank me.”
“I’m a 34-year-old father of two and have been using Hims for over a year now. My hair is back to what it was in my mid-twenties.”
The good news is that there are several proven ways to stimulate hair growth. Trying one of these at-home treatments for hair loss paired with scalp massage will give better results than scalp massage on its own.
Finasteride (the active ingredient in the prescription pill Propecia®) is proven to slow hair loss and maybe even stimulate hair growth. Studies show that finasteride can reduce the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the body by 90 percent.
What’s DHT? Glad you asked. DHT is a male sex hormone that’s basically a stage-5 clinger. It binds to receptors in the scalp, effectively stopping hair follicles from producing new hair.
But finasteride is what’s known as a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor. It decreases the activity of 5-alpha reductase — an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT. Finasteride blocks the production of DHT, thereby stopping hair loss in its tracks.
Bear in mind finasteride has the potential for teratogenic effects, meaning it may cause congenital abnormalities if taken by pregnant women. While the oral form of the medication has been studied in women, its positive effects aren’t yet proven. Right now, it’s only FDA-approved for the treatment of male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia) in men.
You can also try massaging topical hair loss medications like our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray. This product combines two clinically proven ingredients (finasteride and minoxidil, also known by the brand name Rogaine®).
The two have similar effects but work differently. Quick recap: Finasteride blocks DHT. And while researchers still aren’t exactly sure how minoxidil works, it’s a vasodilator, meaning it brings blood to the scalp.
Minoxidil solution is FDA-approved as a hair loss and regrowth treatment. You can think of minoxidil as the alarm clock waking up your hair follicles so they can get to work — basically, it reactivates hair follicles.
Minoxidil is a great product to use in tandem with scalp massage because it’s designed to be worked into the scalp twice a day using the accompanying dropper and your fingers.
Just note that you only need to apply it to areas where you’re losing hair, not the entire scalp. Also, minoxidil solution should always be used on totally dry hair, so skip the shower scalp massage with this one.
It’s pretty rare to be deficient in biotin, which is a type of B vitamin, especially if you eat a balanced diet. That said, a 2016 study published in the International Journal of Trichology looked at women who experienced hair loss and found that 38 percent were biotin-deficient.
You can get bloodwork done if you suspect a biotin deficiency.
Fake it ‘til you make it (nope, we’re not suggesting a hairpiece). Volumizing shampoo and conditioner can strengthen your hair while boosting volume at the roots so it feels nourished and looks fuller.
A 2015 study published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology specifically looked at topical saw palmetto, which is found in our thickening shampoo. In the study (which notably lacked a control group), 50 men with male pattern baldness used a topical saw palmetto treatment over 24 weeks. The men experienced increased hair count at 12 and 24 weeks.
The plant extract saw palmetto isn’t as well-studied as FDA-approved hair loss medications like finasteride or minoxidil (mainly because it isn’t clear who would fund it). But some scientific evidence suggests it may inhibit the effects of DHT, much like finasteride.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.
If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.
Does scalp massage help hair growth? Our answer is basically the shrug emoji.
It’s like knocking on wood or using collagen to look younger: There’s just not much to support that scalp massage for hair growth works — but it’s certainly not going to hurt, so feel free to try it.
While more research is needed on scalp massage for hair growth, there are other proven benefits of scalp massage, including stress reduction and increased blood flow to the head.
Here are a few takeaways from what we’ve covered:
If you’re struggling with thinning hair or hair loss, you’ll be glad to know several science-backed hair loss treatments are available.
Medications like oral finasteride (generic for brand-name Propecia) and topical minoxidil (generic for Rogaine) are both FDA-approved and have been shown to help treat various forms of hair loss.
For more information about treating hair loss, talk to your dermatologist or complete a free online consultation to find the best option.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.