Experts Say "Scalpcials" Are the Key to Fuller, Healthier Hair

Plus they feel incredible.

They say that what’s out of sight is out of mind, and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to the sensitive skin underneath your hair. In fact, we tend to go the extra mile to pamper our strands via expensive salon treatments, at home deep conditioners, and consistent haircuts. All the while, our scalp sits there asking when it’s going to be their turn for some TLC.

Enter "scalpcials," or scalp facials. These treatments aren’t just an indulgent pampering moment, but are a key aspect of keeping your hair and scalp healthy. Ahead, we’re talking about the surprising benefits of routine scalp facials and how to DIY your own. 

What Is a Scalp Facial?

Similar to a typical facial for the face on your skin, a scalp facial serves as a pampering reset for the often neglected skin on your scalp. 

“A scalp facial is a treatment that removes excess build-up such as dirt, dead skin cells, sebum, and product build-up from your scalp,” explains Sophia Emmanuel, a certified trichologist and licensed cosmetologist based in New York City with Hairitage. “Scalp facials can include scalp massage and specialized tools that help enhance the treatment.”

She adds that scalp facials also often include specific treatments tailored to your current needs. For example, certain treatments and products can target scalp irritation, excess sebum production, flaking, or even acne. Essentially, the goal is to maintain a comfortable, balanced scalp and to create a healthy environment for your hair to grow healthy and strong. 

Professional Vs. At-Home Scalp Facials

Like facials, you can have a scalp facial performed by a professional, or you can opt to DIY your own. The former is a nice option on an as-needed basis, and serves as a more thorough, precise, and pampering experience. 

“A trichologist typically has the diagnostic tools necessary to identify your specific scalp and hair needs, measure your baseline scalp condition and hair density, and would have professional-grade tools and products for a scalp facial that a client would not have access to for at-home use,” notes Alan J. Bauman, MD, a hair restoration surgeon. 

He adds that a professional also has access to medical-grade treatments and devices. In that sense, a professional scalp facial is an opportunity to have “the works” done on your scalp and better target specific concerns and goals. 

A DIY scalp facial, on the other hand, is ideal for everyday maintenance and pampering. Aim for some at-home scalp TLC once every one to two weeks. 

4 Big Benefits of Scalp Facials

We tend to put our scalps through the wringer. For starters, they’re exposed to a multitude of hair products that can potentially cause inflammation, irritation, or breakouts. And sometimes we go a bit too long in between washing and instead layer dry shampoo over all that dirty skin and product buildup. Not to mention, it’s pretty tricky to thoroughly clean our scalps since hair gets in the way. 

In addition to routinely washing and conditioning your hair, it’s important to reserve some energy for your scalp via a scalp facial. Doing so has some pretty notable benefits:

  • Improves Comfort: Itchy and irritated scalps feel awful. “For those who have dandruff, scalp facials will be more beneficial to you as it’ll hydrate the scalp, remove flakes, eliminate itchiness, and irritation. notes Jessie Cheung, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with practices in Chicago and New York City. It can also help ease pain related to breakouts.
  • Fosters Hair Growth: A healthy and balanced scalp can actually positively impact hair growth. “When you unclog scalp follicles, you benefit the hair strands by creating the perfect environment for hair growth,” explains trichologist Isfahan Chambers-Harris, MD. 
  • Boosts Hair Shine and Health: When hair is healthy and sebum production is balanced, you'll enjoy a shiny and bouncy head of hair. Compare that to strands that are parched and dull due to dryness, or limp and oily due to excess oil. 
  • Releases Tension: No doubt a scalp massage will help you feel relaxed. “Human physical touch is very therapeutic,” notes Dr. Cheung. “There are endorphins, stress relief, and tension release related to physical motions in the treatments that tie into the benefit of mental health.” 

How To DIY Your Own Scalp Facial

Definitely treat yourself to a professional scalp facial, but don’t shy away from at-home care, either. Here’s the full how-to:

Step 1: Pre-Wash Treatment 

Start by identifying and targeting your scalp’s specific needs. For example, if you’re dealing with dryness, then a hair oil or nourishing mask is your best bet. Try something like the indē wild Champi Hair Oil ($29, Or if you’re dealing with breakouts or irritation, then opt for a treatment that targets acne and/or soothes, such as Act + Acre’s Vitamin E Scalp Detox Oil ($48, 

Step 2: Massage 

Take your time to work the treatment into your hair via massage. You can use your fingers, or opt for a scalp massage tool such as Sephora’s Silicone Scalp Massager ($12; Sephora). Spend as long as you need here, but ideally at least five minutes. 

Step 3: Wash 

Use your go-to shampoo to wash the treatment out of your hair. If oil lingers behind, you may need to do a gentle double cleanse. If you find that you have a lot of product residue on your hair and scalp, reach for a clarifying shampoo that’ll break down build up and rinse it away. Try Adwoa Beauty Blue Tansy Clarifying Gel Shampoo ($25; Sephora).

Step 4: Scalp Scrub 

Next, apply a gentle scalp scrub to really detox the skin on your scalp. Some good ones include the Hairitage Hairitage Restart Button Scalp Exfoliator ($9; Walmart), The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Scrub ($15; Sephora), and Philip B Peppermint Avocado Scalp Scrub ($80, Dermstore). 

Step 5: Condition 

Rinse thoroughly and condition your hair with your preferred conditioner. If your scalp leans oily, only apply from the upper-mid shaft to the ends of your hair. 

Step 6: Leave-In Treatment 

For the cherry on top, finish your scalp facial with a nice leave-in treatment tailored to your scalp needs. Try the Oribe Serene Scalp Soothing Leave-in Treatment ($48; Dermstore), SEEN Restore Scalp Serum ($48;, or Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment Serum ($32; Ulta).

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