How To Give A Totally Amazing Head Massage

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
A good scalp massage can truly change your day. Real talk: My freshman year of college, I was getting a routine trim at an on-campus salon where I let the hairdresser talk me into dyeing my hair a horrible orange-pink hybrid that he later charitably referred to as “strawberry blonde.” Why? Because I got the most epic head massage of my life at this salon, which I won’t do the disservice of naming (just kidding, it was called Pepe Leyva Salon, and it’s no longer in operation — SURPRISE).

Hair-dye horrors aside, a simple head-and-neck rub can go a long way to relieve tension, and it’s easier than you think to give one, whether the recipient is yourself or your significant other as a little date-night service. We scored some easy massage tips from the best in the beauty business. 

First Things First
Kerry Wall, U.S. brand manager at The Organic Pharmacy, recommends starting with a hot bath. If you want to get especially “romantical,” scoop in a bit of the brand’s Cleopatra's Milk Bath, which includes rose petals and exfoliating lactic acid. “The warmth of the water will help to relax your muscles and brings an ease to everything,” she says.

If a bath isn’t in the cards (tiny New York City apartments, anyone?), celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson recommends heating a towel in the microwave and wrapping your head in it for a few minutes. “This will open up the pores and provide some initial relaxation,” he says. He suggests adding a bit of scented oil, such as jasmine or eucalyptus, to the towel for an aromatherapy boost. 

Oil Up
For a scalp massage, Wall says to take an oil, like The Organic Pharmacy’s Virgin Cold Pressed Rosehip Oil, and rub it between your hands before using your fingertips to make circular movements along the scalp and neck. You can even get mildly S&M about it: “Little hair tugs are good, as long as it’s a nice, steady pressure,” she says.

Face Time
Face massages may sound odd, but we’d posit they’ll be well-received. The key to these, Wall says, is large, circular movements. “Use heavier pressure when making upward motions, and use lighter [movements] when you’re making downward ones,” she says. Concentrate around the cheeks, below the brows, and on the temples. “It sounds odd, but ear massages are quite special,” she adds. She recommends massaging the lobes and behind the ears, as we carry a lot of tension there. 
My Neck, My Back 
Who could forget Ray Boyd in Jerry Maguire breathlessly reporting that the human head weighs eight pounds? Your neck is working hard, so the back of it, where the skull meets the neck muscles, carries a lot of tension. Says Matt Fugate, a hairstylist at Sally Hershberger: “Once the neck is relaxed, have the head fall into your hands.” Light, steady pressure is key, he notes. “Use your palms around the hairline when giving a scalp massage,” he says. “Fingers are weird to use around the face.” He recommends holding the head at the top to help your recipient feel secure, while massaging with the other hand. 

Get Comfortable

But, what about the hair, as Uncle Jesse would surely have reminded us? “Instead of using a scented massage oil on the hair, which can mess up a ‘do, try simply an oil like Tata Harper’s Aromatic Stress Treatment on your own wrist, so that your beloved still experiences the benefits,” says Fugate. Alternatively, you can wear your Valentine’s favorite scent.

Be careful, though. “Know your strength,” advises hairstylist and makeup artist Abraham Sprinkle. “The amount of pressure plays a role in the end result. Heavy hands may feel satisfying to some and leave others with a throbbing headache.” The easiest way to find out is to ask your lucky recipient for a little feedback a couple minutes into your massage. 

And, if your V-Day date is you this year, why not invest in one of these cute head massagers and DIY your massage while you Netflix-binge? 

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