Everyone is talking about 'scalp facials' – but what do they involve?

Moisturising and cleansing our faces every day is second nature to us, alongside washing and maintaining our hair.

But our scalps can often be left out of the equation. 

‘The scalp is often overlooked and forgotten hiding behind the hair, but it is essentially a continuation of the face and skin and we, as experts, know that when the scalp is cared for appropriately it encourages healthier hair growth,’ says Andrew Barton, celebrity hairdresser and owner of Headmasters Mayfair.

It’s been a fundamental oversight in the world of beauty for many years – only recently are scalp products becoming more mainstream. 

In fact, many have dubbed scalp care as the new skincare and – considering how vital it is for healthy hair growth – it’s easy to see why. 

Nicole Petty, a hair care expert at Milk + Blush, says: ‘It’s interesting to see that scalp care is now becoming more and more popular. When caring for our hair, it’s vital that the scalp gets the attention it needs as this is the root of all our hair problems.

‘Like your skin, your scalp needs key moisture and oils, PH balance, cleanliness, circulation and protection to keep it healthy and well treated. You must keep all these elements in balance to improve the condition of your scalp and all the moisture and oils must be balanced.’

Flaky and itchy scalps aren’t sexy – perhaps one of the main reasons they’ve been neglected for so long – and many different elements can affect them.

Andrew Barton adds: ‘Conditions such as dandruff and oily scalp are all exacerbated by stress, air conditioning, central heating and menopause, as well as diet and dieting – all affect the scalp and the hair’s growth.’ 

We wouldn’t ignore this if it was on our faces – so it makes sense that experts, salons and retailers are finally tapping into this crucial part of our beauty routines and scalp scrubs, scalp brushes and scalp treatments are starting to flood the market. 

What’s more, ‘scalp facials’ are popping up more and more.

Working in a similar way to skincare facials, these do their bit to protect our scalps and help them look and feel their best. 

Rachael Burns, a consultant dermatologist at Sond Skin, explains: ‘A scalp facial refers to the treatment of an individual’s scalp whereby it is infused with nutrients and antioxidants to cleanse and exfoliate the scalp itself.

‘As dirt and oil builds up on our hair, the scalp itself accumulates impurities also and it’s important to cleanse it from such a build up. The treatment also helps the scalp retain moisture while also strengthening the strands of hair themselves. 

‘Over the past year the treatment has gained popularity as more people have been spending time at home and investing in their personal health and wellbeing. 

‘We’ve also noticed an increase in people suffering from skin conditions, as a result of the stresses of lockdown, which are likely to play a role in people exploring new treatments.’

Many salons now offer these professional scalp facials for the ultimate cleanse and to treat conditions like dandruff – but it’s worth pointing out that these can be carried out at home as well. 

Creative director and hair stylist Kieran Tudor says: ‘A scalp facial is essentially a gentle cleanse, exfoliation and massage to help remove dead skin and product build up from the hair follicles, unclog pores, stimulate blood flow and nourish the skin for a healthier, more balanced scalp and fortified hair.’

Below are the steps so you can try it for yourself at home:

1. Gentle cleanse

Kieran Tudor says: ‘Start off by gently cleansing the hair and scalp using a natural shampoo, free from Sodium Lauryl Sulphates (SLS) as these detergents can easily strip the hair and scalp of its natural oils – which can dehydrate the skin and cause the scalp to produce more oil to overcompensate for the lack of moisture, leading to greasy roots.’

2. Exfoliating treatment

‘Use a weekly, targeted, detoxifying treatment for your scalp,’ adds Kieran Tudor.

There are a plethora of scalp scrubs available – some contain sea salt which works as the exfoliator, while others feature other natural ingredients that lather up.

It’s important not to exfoliate your scalp too much though, as this can remove essential oils and cause your hair to over-produce more – leading to greasy hair. 

3. Scalp massage

Kieran Tudor says: ‘A scalp massage provides a further light exfoliation, stimulates blood flow and relieves tension.’

‘Start at the neck area and use the palms and fingertips to apply pressure and slow circles as you work up the head to the forehead, down the sides to the temples and then back around the ears to the neck area again.

‘Keep the tempo slow with a decent amount of pressure. Repeat the pattern three or more times, it should last a minimum of five minutes to gain the benefits.’

It’s also worth considering a scalp massage brush, which can be used in the shower when applying shampoo or conditioner. 

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