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How to Give Yourself a Salon-Style Scalp Massage

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I spent three years of my life as an apprentice at high-end hair salons—and while that meant I was learning about the craft of haircutting and coloring, the largest part of my job involved assisting the stylists. In fact, one of my main tasks was shampooing clients (hey, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it).

In my years on the job (and while studying cosmetology before that) I learned quite a few tricks for getting hair squeaky clean—and for making a client enjoy her shampoo experience as much as possible.

Be honest: The scalp massage you get at the salon is pretty much your favorite part of getting a haircut or a blowout, right? While it’s admittedly physically impossible to totally replicate the experience without one of those reclining chairs and an extra set of hands, here are a few pointers on how to make washing your own hair a more enjoyable experience.


Aveda / Fig + Yarrow

1. Massage Scalp With Oil Before You Shampoo
A good time to get a scalp massage in is actually before you even hop in the shower. Since oil attracts oil, rubbing some into your scalp and hair when they’re feeling extra dirty (like, say, post-workout) will actually remove some of the grease. And, since hair is more fragile when it’s wet, this will help prevent any unnecessary breakage from scrubbing too vigorously in the shower. Try Aveda Energizing Composition ($23, aveda.com) or Fig and Yarrow Hair + Scalp Tonic ($34, figandyarrow.com).

RELATED: 12 Weird Beauty Uses for Coconut Oil

2. Avoid Using Your Nails
If you decide to give yourself a scalp massage in the shower, it might be tempting to scratch at your scalp while you shampoo, but doing so can cause more harm than good. Not only can scratching cause burning and irritation—but any dirt or bacteria lurking underneath your nails can lead to an infection. Stick to using the pads of your fingers, and feel free to apply as much pressure as you like while you scrub.

RELATED: Are You Using Your Shampoo the Right Way?


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3. Scrub Every Single Spot on Your Scalp Thoroughly
Part of why having your hair shampooed by someone else is so satisfying is that they can see the top of your head, which makes it a lot harder to miss any spots. So, you’ll need to be strategic with your motions. Once your head is thoroughly wet, pick a place to start (the back of your head and your temples are good starting points since they tend to sweat most), and then work your way around your head in a circular path, moving towards the center of your head, to ensure that you cover every spot. Scrub vigorously—this will help your shampoo penetrate better for a deeper clean.

4. Pay Attention to Your Hairline
Whether it’s from sweat or residual makeup, the area around your hairline can feel like a total dirt magnet. This is a spot that salon assistants focus on, not only because scrubbing and massaging this area will make your scalp feel cleaner, but because it can also be very relaxing (massaging your temples eases tension and stimulates blood flow to your head). Start with your hands at your temples and massage in small circular motions, moving upwards on both sides to the top of your head, and back again.

RELATED: 8 Ways to Keep as Much Hair on Your Head as Possible


iStock/Thinkstock

5. Massage the Back of Your Head
Another important spot to focus on is the back of your head—where your neck meets the base of your skull. Again, this area not only sweats a lot, but people can often carry a lot of tension here. Place both hands on either side of your head, with your thumbs at the base of your head and your fingers around the top of your head. Apply some light pressure at the base of your skull as you massage in a circular motion, and pull the skin on your scalp upwards slightly with your thumbs.

6. Make the Most of Your Conditioning Rinse
Since shampooing strips hair of its natural oils, you might feel like both scrubbing and massaging your scalp as you shampoo will damage your strands—especially if your hair is fine. If that’s the case, wait to massage your scalp until after you’ve rinsed out your shampoo and have applied conditioner to your ends; this will let you separate your hair with more ease, allowing your fingers access to your scalp with minimal pulling. When you’re done, try using cooler water to rinse out your conditioner to seal the cuticle of your hair for maximum shine.

RELATED: The 10 Biggest Hair Care Mistakes

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