I Visited a Japanese Head Spa for the Ultimate Scalp Facial—Here’s What Happened

I Visited a Japanese Head Spa for the Ultimate Scalp Facial—Here’s What Happened

The author after her treatment at a Japanese head spa

Iman Balagam

In This Article

What It Is Benefits What to Expect Cost The Results

As a beauty editor, I’m constantly experimenting with hard-to-wash-out hair products—so, unsurprisingly, there’s often a ton of gunky buildup on my scalp. While I’m no stranger to exfoliating shampoos and scalp serums, I decided to bring out the big guns and treat myself to a head spa. 

Head spas, also known as scalp bars, have been popping up all over cities like New York and Los Angeles, with salons such as Masa.Kanai racking up four-month waitlists due to demand. Luckily, I snagged an appointment at Yuki Natori New York Salon in the Upper West Side for a full 60-minute head spa experience. Read on for my honest review and insights about head spa treatments courtesy of trichologist Penny James, IAT, MIT. 

Meet the Expert

Penny James, IAT, MIT, is a board-certified trichologist and the owner of Penny James Salon in New York City. 

What Is a Head Spa?

Originating in Japan, head spa treatments include a scalp massage that applies gentle pressure to pressure points (promoting increased blood circulation to the scalp) along with deep conditioning, aromatherapy, and hot towel/steam treatments.

During a head spa treatment, a hair therapist will use essential oils, scalp scrubs, and deep conditioning masks to exfoliate the scalp, remove excess oils and debris, and hydrate the hair follicles. You can also expect a vigorous scalp massage to alleviate tension, increase stimulation, and relax the scalp muscles. According to James, the massage techniques performed at Japanese head spas “target and lift the scalp muscles to stimulate blood flow to the scalp.”

Benefits of a Head Spa Treatment

  • Cleanses the scalp
  • Stimulates blood flow; increased blood flow can assist in hair regrowth 
  • Strengthens the hair follicles
  • Decreases stress and anxiety

James tells us there are numerous benefits to combining scalp treatments and massage. “Blood circulation is improved, the scalp’s skin is moved, and steam opens up pores and hair follicles,” she says. “Active scalp treatments can be incredibly beneficial for cleansing and hair follicle strengthening, resulting in a healthy scalp and, hopefully, healthy hair growth.”

For those of us who live in a perpetual state of anxiety (guilty as charged), a head spa may also aid in relaxation and help loosen tight muscles in the head. The lifting technique around the scalp can help relax facial muscles, leaving you feeling rejuvenated and rested.

What to Expect During a Head Spa Treatment 

Once I sat in the salon chair, a hair therapist analyzed my scalp and hair roots using a microscope, providing a detailed view of my scalp's condition. While it can be fascinating to see it all up close, it can also feel embarrassing to see any buildup that may have accumulated (you may notice a filmy coating)—much like the way you might feel at the dentist when they accuse you of not flossing daily, and you can't lie because the proof is right there.

Following the analysis, the therapist massaged exfoliating essential oils into my scalp and hair to stimulate various energy points. (It’s important to tell your therapist if you have any allergies to essential oils, as they can trigger dermatitis in some patients.)

The author's scalp and hair roots on a computer screen

Iman Balagam

My mom really prioritized oiling my scalp as a child; I used to run away on Saturday mornings because I hated the scent of coconut oil and the feeling of a greasy braid. But now, as an adult far away from home, I’ve become deeply nostalgic for the feeling of my mom’s hands on my scalp. Part of me almost cried mid-treatment because oiling and scalp massages are so deeply interwoven into my upbringing and childhood. It’s funny that the more I dive into beauty, the more I realize the importance of the basics I grew up with.

The author receiving a scalp massage

Iman Balagam

Once I got my emotions in check, I was then guided to a quiet private room for steam therapy and a deep shiatsu massage. A steam cap was placed on my head, and steam was applied to my scalp to enhance the penetration of nutrients, resulting in a smoother texture. Like the steam treatments that are part of traditional facials, the scalp steam helps clean house: It “unclogs pores and follicles on the scalp and helps to open up the cuticle along the hair shaft,” explains James. 

I counted my blessings as I lay there with my heated eye mask and steam bonnet. In a city like New York, it can be hard to unwind or find respite. But in the head spa, I was so relaxed that I nearly fell asleep. (I say nearly because, again, I'm anxious and unable to fall asleep in public spaces. Read: sleepovers growing up.)

After a few minutes of steam and massage, my therapist rinsed the oils with a mineral-rich shampoo that cleanses hard-to-remove impurities and dirt inside the pores. Post-rinse, we returned to the microscope for a little before-and-after viewing party, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of the filmy sebum had disappeared. I was then treated to a blowout before heading out the door with a scalp so clean it could pass a health inspector's test.

The Cost

A head spa package at Yuki Natori costs $195, but the price of a head spa treatment varies depending on the length of the treatment and the salon. Remember that the head spa is commonplace at any Japanese salon, so while it may not be a dedicated head spa, it may still be available on their menu.

The Results

A selfie of the author after her head spa treatment

Iman Balagam

Unlike when I’ve hastily applied hair masks at home, everything at the head spa was done thoroughly and with intention. Post-treatment, my scalp felt incredibly clean, and my hair had never felt softer.

My only grievance is existential: Sometimes, caring for so many different body parts can feel cumbersome. From the monthly mani/pedis and facials to the occasional “back facial,” it can feel like so much of our time and budgets are consumed with trying to keep everything pristine. But a head spa treatment is truly a treat, benefitting scalp health and serving as a relaxing ritual you can look forward to.

HydraFacial Keravive Is Like a Facial for Your Scalp Article Sources Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Natarelli N, Gahoonia N, Sivamani RK. Integrative and mechanistic approach to the hair growth cycle and hair loss. J Clin Med. 2023;12(3):893.

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