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Boldify's Scalp Massage Brush and Act+Acre's Scalp Gua Sha Tool are two of our favorite picks. 7 Color Led Facial Mask
Like any type of massage, a scalp massage feels damn good. But there could be other reasons to integrate regular scalp massage into your hair care routine, particularly with the aid of a scalp massaging tool. “Aside from feeling great, scalp massagers can help with everything from reducing product buildup, removing dead skin cells, and increasing blood flow to the area, which is believed to help stimulate healthy hair growth,” says hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons. Using a scalp massager, even just once a week, can have a serious impact on the health of both your hair and scalp.
However, “the type of scalp massager you use is very important,” says trichologist, hair stylist and founder of Act + Acre Helen Reavy. “The skin on your scalp is extremely fragile, so taking proper care of it is crucial to overall hair health. I recommend steering clear of the scalp massagers made with stiff bristles, as they can be extremely rough on the scalp. I always try to tie scalp care back to your skincare routine–would you rub one of those massagers on your face?” When in doubt, look for options like gua sha tools or massagers with flexible bristles, she says. There are plenty of options out there, but these are the best expert-recommended picks.
Fitzsimons recommends this dual-action massager because it “works as a massage brush on dry scalp and as a revitalizing shampoo brush on wet hair. The silicone bristles are thick but flexible, which is really great for getting rid of impurities while increasing blood circulation promoting new hair growth.”
Testing Notes: On Fitzsimons’s recommendation, we tried this brush and found it delivered on multiple levels. We can confirm that it feels great as a massager on a dry scalp and even as a way to help distribute pre-shampoo treatments like scalp serums. In the shower, it does help lather up shampoo even more and leaves your scalp feeling cleaner after the shampoo is rinsed out. The shorter bristles worked best on short hair, where they can reach the scalp better, so if you have longer or thicker hair, you may want a deeper-reaching brush. The silicone bristles are flexible and gentle (depending on the pressure you apply), but they are still stiff enough that it’s easy to go too hard. If you have thin or fine hair, be careful.
Reavy recommends this comb-style massager because of how gentle it is. “Just like a facial massage is good for stimulating your skin and blood circulation, scalp massages [like this] are essential for scalp health and promoting hair growth” without being too harsh on the scalp skin, she says.
Testing Notes: Most scalp massagers you see out on the market are round with spiky bristles, but in our testing, we immediately understood why Reavy recommends this type of massager. It’s ultra-gentle and easy to use because you literally just comb it through your hair like regular comb. Making sure to reach the scalp is easy, even on longish hair, and using it dry or with a pre-shampoo serum is ideal. You won’t get as much of a tingle effect as you do with other massagers, but that’s kind of the point. We found it to be gentle yet still effective.
One thing scalp massagers are especially good at is exfoliating the scalp, which helps not only remove dead skin buildup but leftover products as well. This brush’s thinner, more densely packed bristles, are ideal for exfoliation but are still flexible so they “aren’t too harsh on the hair or scalp,” says Reavy.
Testing Notes: Yes, we found in our testing that this brush can be very gentle, but it really depends on how you use it. Because the bristles are long and thin, but still pretty flexible, it feels like you’re really getting down in there and deep cleaning your scalp (that the exfoliation factor), but is also easy to apply too much pressure, which can not be great if you have an especially sensitive scalp. If you’re looking for deep cleaning exfoliation (like if you tend to have lots of product buildup), then this is a great option.
This massager features both long and short bristles so it can pull double duty as a detangler if you have longer hair. “II love the design of this one–it’s extremely easy to hold and fits well into the palm of your hand,” says Reavy.
Testing Notes: We agree with Reavy that this lightweight, well-designed massager is one of the easiest to hold we tried in our testing process. The paddle-like design fits better in the palm of your hand than circular designs and you get more coverage over the scalp, as well. Thanks to the long, thing bristles, it delivers an epic scratch to your scalp, which feels great no matter what, but is especially good if you have an itchy scalp. Personally, we think this is better suited to in-shower use along with conditioner than on a dry scalp. Unlike some of the other options with thicker bristles, this one is easy to go a little too hard with, especially on a dry scalp.
Many of the experts we spoke to agreed that massaging combs, like this wooden option, are ideal for ultra-gentle scalp massaging. This one has thick, smooth, rounded tines, which make it extremely hard to do damage to your scalp no matter how hard you press (but you should still keep it gentle).
Testing Notes: As our experts pointed out, these gua sha style combs are ideal for an extra-gentle scalp massage, particularly if you have fine or thinning hair. Slowly running the come from front to back of your scalp, either on wet or dry hair, gives a good enough massage to increase blood flow but there’s less risk of damaging the scalp either with hard or pointy bristles or too much pressure. We found that you don’t get as much of a scratching sensation, but the effects on your scalp are just as good.
This all-around great massager was specifically designed to be used in the shower in combination with shampoo. The silicone bristles are thick and while they are pointy, they are very flexible so the risk of scratching is very low. It can easily double the lather of any shampoo and helps to deliver a deeply clean feeling post-shampooing.
Testing Notes: Out of all the massaging brushes we tested, we found that this one is the best for in-shower use. It feels incredibly good on the scalp, delivering a deep scratching sensation while never feeling too harsh on the scalp. We tried it with multiple different shampoos and it helped to increase lather for all of them - a welcome bonus to the massaging effect. If you’re looking for a brush to use only in the shower to aid in your hair cleansing, this is the one.
Since this massager features interchangeable heads, one with long bristles and one with short, it can perform multiple functions. The long bristles are good for scalp massage if you have long or thick hair, or if you want to use it in the shower as a shampooing aid. The shorter, more rounded bristles, on the other hand, are great for shorter hair or using it on a dry scalp for a gentle massage to increase blood flow.
Testing Notes: We love the idea of the interchangeable heads on this brush so you can use it no matter your hairstyle, texture or length and depending on what you are using it for (shampoo, dry massage, etc.). While we agree with the reviewers that it can be hard to figure out how to change the heads at first, once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly easy - and let’s get real, unless you change your hairstyle often, you’ll probably stick with one head for the most part anyway.
We need offer a caveat here: if you have thinning hair or a chronic scalp condition like dandruff, you probably shouldn’t use an electric scalp massager. But, if you don’t, and you’re just looking for a super effective massage, this is the ticket. Multiple rotating massaging heads with 2 different speeds can deliver a deep, relaxing massage with no elbow grease. It’s also waterproof, so if you want to use it in the shower, you can.
The longish silicone bristles of this massager are great for reaching through thick and textured hair and reaching the scalp for a deep massage. It’s best when used in combination with products, whether with shampoo in the shower or on dry hair with scalp serums or oils. Not only does it deliver the tingle you want from a massager, but it helps distribute products across the hole scalp more effectively than just using your fingers.
Design-wise, this all-around good scalp massager isn’t that much different than some others on this list (a round shape, silicone bristles), but it’s slightly smaller so not only does it fit easy into the palm of your hand, but it doesn’t take up too much room in our dopp kit if you want to it take it on the road with you.
Testing Notes: We can’t find too much to argue with when it comes to this brush, which is a good all-around design and pretty standard once you start digging into the world of scalp massagers. But what we really like about it is the size. It’s slightly smaller than most of the other massagers on this list, so when you’re using it wet or dry, it hardly ever slips out of your hands. It’s also small enough to fit in your dopp kit without needing to sacrifice other products for space.
Scalp massagers are designed to stimulate the scalp and, well, massage it. Most of the versions you see on the market look kind of like hair brushes without the handle. They’re usually round and designed to fit in the palm of your hand and feature bristles of various lengths meant to reach through your hair to your scalp. The bristles are often made of materials like silicone, plastic or sometimes wood. You’ll also see scalp massagers that look like combs that are used in the same way.
Proponents of scalp massage say it can “lower blood pressure, reduce levels of stress hormones, slow heart rate, prevent flakes and dry scalp without the use of harsh chemical shampoos,” says trichologist Bridgette Hill. “We know stress tightens the scalp and impedes circulation and hair growth, so depending on hair care regimen and scalp condition, weekly scalp massages with massagers are excellent for overall health and well being.” Apart from these benefits, scalp massagers can also help cleanse the scalp deeply and aid in the penetration of scalp products like serums and treatments. Some people also say scalp massagers can help control scalp conditions like dandruff by aiding in exfoliation, however “ medically diagnosed scalp conditions should only incorporate scalp brushes under the guidance and supervision of a certified trichologist, MD or dermatologist specializing in scalp and hair.,” advises Hill.
Most scalp massagers you’ll see are designed to be used both wet and dry and using them both ways can double your scalp massage benefits. To use a scalp massager on wet hair, “apply shampoo in the shower using your hands and make sure it is emulsified throughout the scalp and strands,” says Fitzsimons. “Then, take your massager and in small, circular motions, make your way around the scalp ensuring to massage from your forehead to your neck. Rinse thoroughly with water.”
On dry hair, you’ll use it in a similar way, but just without the shampoo. “Begin at the base of your scalp and apply gentle pressure, moving the tool in circular motions across the scalp,” advises Reavy. “You don't want to press too hard or rub aggressively, as this can cause discomfort or damage your scalp. Work through the hair in sections to ensure you’re stimulating the entire scalp.” If you’re applying a scalp serum or treatment, apply it to your dry scalp first before starting the massage.
What kind of hair you have may also decide the best way for you to use the massager as well. “For curly, tightly coiled textured hair types, It is best to use a scalp brush at the pre-shampoo treatment step performed weekly, bi weekly or monthly,” says Hill. “For straight and finer hair textures, I suggest integrating scalp brushes bi weekly- one with a pre-shampoo scalp oil massage to address any non medical scalp concern and another round of using the scalp brush during your detergent based shampoo.”
First you need to consider what kind of hair you have. “Thinner bristles are great for detangling and exfoliating while thicker, firmer bristles may be too harsh with those who have sensitive scalps,” says Fitzsimons.
Second, how the massager is made plays a big role. Hill advises looking for four things: that the massager is made with anti-microbial materials (like silicone), that it has slightly blunted, rounded or flat tips on the teeth (basically, the tips should not pointy), that it’s ergonomically designed to allow for proper grip and control, and it has the ability to be properly cleansed and sanitized (usually this means it should have a non-porous material).
Finally, the style of massager should come into play. “Ideal scalp massage comes from moving the scalp over the skull,” says William Gaunitz, FWTS, certified trichologist and founder of Advanced Trichology. “By moving the scalp over the skull, you are actually stretching the scalp, improving blood supply and scalp repair. The scalp massage tool must be capable of kneading the scalp over the skull.”
If you are questioning whether a scalp massager is right for you, your first step should be asking a doctor or trichologist. Typically those with sensitive scalps or rapidly thinning hair would be advised against using a scalp massager as well as anyone with a chronic skin condition on their scalp. Also, “avoid using scalp massagers if you have any open wounds on your scalp, or if you are struggling with any scalp conditions that are inflamed, as the massager will only irritate them more,” says Reavy.
While scalp massagers seem like they’d be pretty low risk, they are kindof polarizing in the trichologist community. Most of the reasoning against scalp massage comes from two factors: that people tend to use them too aggressively and that they are sometimes thought to be solutions to some scalp issues when, in fact, they can make them worse. “Using such a device on any kind of weakened hair and scalp will only lead to damage and hair loss,” says hairstylist, trichologist and founder of BioMethod Shann Christen. “For instance someone who is only washing their hair once a week has oil build up inside the follicle. This build up weakens the hard Keratin that holds the papilla in the scalp. Such aggressive action of the scalp massager will only aid in the hair falling from the scalp. Also, someone suffering from Male Pattern Hair Loss is experiencing the miniaturization of the hair shaft. In this weakened state, a scalp massager will only cause the hair to fall from the follicle. Again, the action is too aggressive to be healthy for the hair and scalp.”
The short answer is yes. Like anything, you should regularly clean your scalp massager to ensure it’s free from growing bacteria and other things that can be transferred to your scalp. This is especially true if you have dandruff, advises Reavy. “You need to ensure you are properly cleaning it post wash, otherwise, it can spread the yeast even further throughout the scalp.” To clean your scalp massager, she recommends lightly rinsing it with water or spraying it with an alcohol-based sanitizer post-use. Then once a month, soak the massager in soak and warm water for 5-10 minutes.
The best alternative to a scalp massager is the good old fashioned finger scrub, particularly if you’re focused on cleansing. “The proper way to cleanse the scalp is through gentle massage moving the scalp in circular motions with the palms of the hand and gentle movements with the fingertips,” says Christen. Using your fingers on a dry scalp can be effective as well, by manually moving the scalp over your skull, says Gaunitz. If you do it right, you’ll feel a warm sensation in your scalp after two to three minutes which indicates increased blood flow.
For this story, Munce consulted with three haircare experts on the best scalp massagers for men, and he personally tested over a dozen massagers based on their effectiveness, build, and price point. Munce has more than 10 years of experience as a grooming editor, and has been testing scalp and haircare products even longer.
Garrett Munce writes about men's style and grooming. He's written for Esquire, New York Magazine, Spotlyte, and Very Good Light and held staff positions at GQ and W. Follow his skincare obsession on Instagram at @garrettmunce.
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