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Scalp Massage for Hair Growth: Benefits & Tips

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Grace Gallagher

Published 06/05/2023

Updated 04/29/2024

It’s the undeniable best part of a haircut — but does scalp massage for hair growth really work? Though it may seem too good to be true, some research suggests that scalp massage can stimulate hair growth, slow hair loss and increase hair thickness.

But there’s a small catch to the hair benefits of scalp massage. Just as you wouldn’t expect a couple pull-ups to immediately tone your arms, one scalp massage isn’t enough to generate hair regrowth.

Read on to learn more about scalp massage, how to do it yourself, how to use scalp massagers for hair growth and how long you should massage your scalp for hair growth. We’ll also dive into the link between massage and hair health, plus other scalp massage benefits (besides the fact that it feels great).

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.

Stress Reduction

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.

Improved Blood Circulation

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.

Improved Scalp Health

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.

Traditional 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. 

Scalp Massage With Essential Oils

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.

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Scalp Massages in the Shower

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.

Scalp Massager Tools

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.

How Often Should I Massage My Scalp for Hair Growth?

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.

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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

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.

Topical Finasteride and Minoxidil

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

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.

Biotin

Supplementing with biotin gummies may help with hair loss. But before you start popping them like candy, note that biotin is most effective in people with a true vitamin deficiency.

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.

Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner

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.

Saw Palmetto

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.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

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.

To learn more about how to make hair grow faster and explore science-backed tips for hair growth, check out our blogs.

24 Sources

  1. English R., Barazesh, J. (2019, Mar). Self-Assessments of Standardized Scalp Massages for Androgenic Alopecia: Survey Results. Dermatology and Therapy. 9(1): 167–178.
  2. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380978/
  3. Koyama, T., Kobayashi,K., Hama, T., Murakami, K., Ogawa, R. (2016). Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue. ePlasty. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740347/
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  5. Quinn, C., Chandler, C., Moraska, A. (2002). Massage Therapy and Frequency of Chronic Tension Headaches. American Journal of Public Health.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447303/
  6. Espí-López, G., Monzani, L.,Gabaldón-García, E. Zurriaga, R., (2020). The beneficial effects of therapeutic craniofacial massage on quality of life, mental health and menopausal symptoms and body image: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229920304982
  7. Borda, L., Wikramanayake, T. (2015). Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff: A Comprehensive Review. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4852869/
  8. Murphrey, M., Agarwal, S., Zito, P. (2022). StatPearls. Anatomy, Hair. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513312/.
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  10. Lee, B.H., Lee, J.S., Kim, Y.C. (2016). Hair Growth-Promoting Effects of Lavender Oil in C57BL/6 Mice. Journal of Toxicology. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4843973/
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  12. Sinclair, R. (2007). Healthy Hair: What Is It? Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15526559
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  15. Lee, W.S., Juhasz M., Mobasher P., Ekelem C., Mesinkovska N. (2018). A Systematic Review of Topical Finasteride in the Treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia in Men and Women. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6609098/
  16. Salisbury B.H., Tad Pi. (2023, April 14). 5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitors. StatPearls-NCBI Bookshelf. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555930/
  17. Badri, T., Nessel, T., Kumar, D. (2023). Minoxidil-StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/.
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  19. PROPECIA® (finasteride) tablets for oral use. (2011, May). Available from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/020788s020s021s023lbl.pdf
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Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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