Scalp Massage And Hair Growth- What It Can And Cannot Do

There has been a bit of a trend on youtube lately. Hair gurus are going crazy over scalp massagers, claiming that they help with hair growth and exfoliation.

I actually really enjoy beauty videos on youtube– I find them relaxing and helpful.

I will admit that as much as I love these videos, I have always been skeptical about the claim that massages can increase hair growth.

Head massages are extremely easy and cheap to do. Realistically, you probably give yourself a head massage every time you take a shower. If head massages were truly effective at boosting hair growth, fewer people would have thinning hair.

However, the more that I learn about massage, the more I am impressed by what it can do. Some of the benefits of massage are overstated (I don’t believe that a massage can replace 8 hours of sleep, for example), but that doesn’t negate the very real and impressive things that it can do.

This article explores the connection between scalp massage and hair growth. First, we’ll look at some of the factors that can cause hair to growth slowly. Then, I’ll get into the three stages of hair growth and what we know about the connection between massages and hair growth from research. Lastly, I’ll show you some easy ways to get a head massage at home.




The Three Stages Of Hair Growth And What They Mean

According to WebMD, there are three stages of hair growth. These three stages are:

  • Anagen– the active phase
  • Catagen– the phrase where growth stops
  • Telogen– the resting phase

The hair only grows during one phase of its growth cycle- the anagen phase. This phase can last anywhere from months to years. Hair that has a long anagen phase tends to grow longer. This phase doesn’t just vary from person to person. It can vary from one part of your body to another.

Think about it- your eyebrows will never grow as long as the hair on your head. This is because your eyebrows have a much shorter anagen phase. If you want more hair growth, you should look at options to either make the anagen phase longer or that will make the hair grow at a faster rate during the anagen phase.

Factors that prevent hair growth

There are several conditions that can prevent hair from growing quickly, many of which can stem from medical problems. Before you start looking at ways to make your hair grow faster, you should know what is preventing you from getting the growth that you want. According to the Mayo Clinic, these factors include:

  • Stress

Stress can slow down hair growth and can even cause it to fall out. Managing stress is vital for healthy hair growth.

Food that is not only beautiful but also very healthy.
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

  • Nutritional deficiency

If you are missing essential nutrients from your diet, your hair will not reach its full potential.

It is important that you make sure that you have a balanced diet so that your hair can thrive.

  • Hormones

Hormonal imbalances are notorious for causing hair loss, especially when it comes to thyroid and sex hormones.

If you’re losing hair or if your hair is growing slowly, it is a very important to visit your doctor.

If you have a hormonal imbalance, it could not only prevent hair growth but affect your health in general.

  • Genetics

Everyone is familiar with male pattern baldness which is heavily influenced by genetics. Genetics also determine the length of your anagen phase as well as the growth rate of your hair. It is important for your peace of mind to realize that there is a limit to how long your hair can grow.

  • Medication

Some medications can slow down the growth of your hair. Perhaps the most striking example of this is chemotherapy, which can result in hair loss over the entire body. Another medication that can slow hair growth is Accutane, an acne medication. 

If your hair is growing slowly, check your medications and see if reduced hair growth is a side effect. If it is and you want to go off of the medication, please make sure that you have a conversation with your doctor first.

  • Other Medical Conditions

There is a long list of medical conditions that can cause total or partial hair loss. According to the National Institutes of Health, some of these conditions include:

  1. Alopecia
  2. Tinea Capitis
  3. Telogen Effluvium
  4. Trichotillomania
  5. Trichorrhexis Nodosa
  6. Anagen Effluvium

Basically, for the best results, it is very important to consider what may be causing your slow hair growth. Do you have a balanced diet? Are you stressed? Taking medication? It will take much longer to find a solution if you do not first understand the cause.

How can massages help hair growth?

In this article, I explore two theories behind how massages increase hair growth (of course, there are many more reasons that a massage could increase hair growth). These two theories are:

  1.  Massages increase blood flow to the scalp causing the hair to grow faster
  2.  Massages activate receptors in the scalp increasing hair growth

Let’s take a closer look at Theory 1.

Two important conditions must occur in order for it to work. First, increasing the blood flow must cause hair to grow faster. Second, the massage must increase the blood flow to the scalp. I looked around at some research to see if these two conditions could possibly occur.

Does increased blood flow cause hair to grow faster?

In 2001, a group of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard’s largest teaching hospital, investigated an important mediator that can help blood vessels grow larger.

They looked into the effects of this mediator on different groups of mice. Some of these mice produced more of this mediator while others produced less.

They found that the mice that had more of the mediator had larger blood vessels and more hair growth. Then the researched took just the hair follicle, removed the vessels from around it, and looked at the effect of the mediator on hair growth.

They found that without blood vessels, the hair did not show significant growth. This suggests that the increased blood supply helped increase hair growth in the mice.

This study shows some evidence that an increase in blood supply can increase hair growth. However, this research and studies like it were done on mice. More research needs to be done before we can really understand how an increase in blood flow can affect human hair growth.

One of the researchers Michael Detmar commented “The question now is can we, by this method, improve hair growth in humans [.] Applying it to humans will be the big challenge.”

One hair growth medication that increases blood flow is Rogaine. However, it is unclear whether the increased blood flow or some other factor causes Rogaine to be so effective.

Can a massage increase circulation?

Research on this question was mixed. One study was unable to demonstrate any increase in blood flow when it came to Swedish massage techniques.

Another study found that massages that use low frequency vibration can improve the blood flow to an area (high frequency vibration can actually reduce blood flow).

So, will a massage grow hair faster by improving circulation? Possibly, but the evidence is not enough from this research. More research needs to be done on blood flow, vibration, and hair growth before we can really draw any conclusions.

A look at Theory 2 

In 2016, Japanese researchers explored this question by instructing 9 men to give themselves a massage on half of their scalp using a Panasonic massager for 4 minutes a day over a 24 day time period.

They discovered that the gene expression around the hair root changed significantly with the massage indicating that the nerves could be responding to the stretch from the massage. They also found that the thickness of the hair increased significantly.

Unfortunately, hair growth did not show any significant increase and the number of hairs actually decreased (the massage may have caused shedding).  This research shows promise when it comes to increasing hair thickness. Still, it was mainly a preliminary study with just 9 research subjects.

Though this study gives some hope, we cannot draw any real conclusions from it. Much more research needs to be done.

If you want more hair growth, I recommend looking at some of the common causes behind slow hair growth and addressing those with the help of a doctor.


A massage may only show modest results for hair growth but it has other added benefits. Massages are:

  • Easy to do
  • Relaxing
  • Exfoliating for the scalp

Three ways that you can give yourself a scalp massage are with your hands, a massage comb, or an electric scalp massager. Just be sure not to overdo it- once or twice a week should be plenty.

In conclusion, research indicates that a scalp massage is unlikely to cause your hair to grow faster, but it can potentially cause it to grow thicker. However, much more research needs to be done before we can really draw conclusions about massages and hair growth.

If you want to increase your hair growth, it is extremely important to look at the causes behind it. If your hormones are off, or if you are missing a vitamin from your diet, no amount of massaging will get you the hair growth that you want.

Let me know in the comment if you have ever made any changes that helped you grow your hair. Do you have any natural remedies that you would like to share? Let me know down below!

 

6 Comments
  1. After I turned 50 I noticed my hair started to thin significantly even though my diet and lifestyle was pretty healthy. So I started to do some research about why and what do do. First of all I stopped using a blow dryer and round brush to dry my hair after I noticed way too many hairs in the brush. Now I let my hair naturally dry and then flat iron it if needed. Then I started taking a hair and nail supplement with Biotin from Life Extension. I also bought a scalp massager and started using a hair growth shampoo. The massager is the dome shaped one with many “fingers”. I’m thrilled to report that the thickness of my hair has drastically improved!

  2. hi
    I have never had a head massage, this information is so detailed, love the idea of giving yourself a head massage, i also feel really relaxed when i am at the hairdressers and having my hair washed.
    You have alot of interesting facts about hair and i find it very interesting.
    Do you know if it is bad to keep having your hair tied up?
    Thanks for the info:)

    • Thanks! Tying up your hair can cause some breakage, especially if you do it tightly. However, I usually wear my hair tied up and it hasn’t been much of an issue for me personally.

  3. Hair loss is a disturbing occurrence to women especially. I haven’t experienced hair loss per se but I’m always looking for ways to make my fine hair healthier. I really believe that biotin is great for that and it has no side effects. I’ve also heard from a friend that Viviscal really works. I’m a little skeptical about massage working because from what I’ve been told by my stylist, applying any type of vigorous rubbing – even with a towel after shampooing – can be damaging to hair. that’s why I shape less than I used to and am down to twice a week, using dry shampoo in between.

    • Great point about the massage damaging the hair. If you do too much, it will cause damage. Focusing on just the scalp should help reduce the damage.

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