We lather and layer our tresses in hopes for healthy locks, long or short. But the fact of the matter is, it all starts in the scalp, and not just that top skin layer (though that’s important). We have to stimulate the tissues in our scalp to bring oxygen and nutrient-rich blood flow to the surface, as well as break up stagnation to help us achieve healthy, fuller, longer hair.
Sandra Chiu, L.Ac., M.S.T.C.M., is a Brooklyn-based acupuncturist, herbalist, and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner with almost 20 years’ experience; the founder of Lanshin; and a passionate advocate of scalp stimulation. She encourages us to use whatever we have available for acupressure and massage, even if that is just our hands, but says firmer tools are more therapeutic, effective, and satisfying:
“Scalp gua sha is the same stroking technique you see with facial gua sha, except applied to the scalp. Scalp acupressure involves circling-style massage applied to specific acupuncture points. Scalp massage is a general manipulation of the scalp skin. All of these techniques are used to stimulate the scalp using fingers or a tool, but I prefer using tools because they provide a stronger stimulation and because your fingers can get tired,” Sandra explains.
“Scalp stimulation improves the smooth flow of blood to our scalp, which in the tradition of Chinese medicine is really important for health follicles and hair. In the West, when we think of healthy, shiny hair, we often think of a product that will create shine and thickness. But in Asia, these are natural traits of healthy hair, so the goal is more to create the conditions that produce healthy hair. Scalp stimulation techniques are akin to creating better soil conditions for luscious growth.
“I recommend using the three different techniques as well as tapping and following the acupuncture energy meridians that exist on the head and scalp. This can be done dry or with scalp treatment products for a home head-spa experience. People affected by stress who are concerned about thinning or weakening hair are great candidates for this, but really anyone can benefit from scalp stimulation. However, if you have hair loss and/or an inflammatory scalp condition, you should check in with your healthcare practitioner first.
“Expect a greater sense of relaxation, a release of tension in the entire scalp and neck, sinus congestion and headache relief, and even improvement in facial appearance almost immediately. When performed regularly—two to three times per week—you’ll start to notice improved growth.
“For some, bringing more blood flow to the scalp rapidly may cause some lightheadedness or dizziness. If this happens, I always recommend drinking a few sips of juice or eating a few bites of something sweet, or massaging your hands and feet.
“I would caution people with high blood pressure or complex migraine conditions to check in with your healthcare practitioner first.”
Check out Sandra’s full scalp stimulating routine below: