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Professional, Japanese scalp exfoliation has become the latest craze in the US and it’s yet to find its way onto British shores. I instantly fell in love with it watching this video from YouTuber Safiya Nygaard – if you’re not familiar, she’s the perfect balance of fun and dry witticisms.
I love hair care, and I’ve used chemical scalp exfoliation before with Aveda Invati, but nothing on this scale. So inspired by Safiya, I wanted to give it a go myself and explore deep scalp exfoliation.
What is Japanese scalp exfoliation/ head spa?
If you’ve never heard of Japanese scalp exfoliation, it’s a salon beauty treatment from Japan quickly gaining popularity in the United States. It involves a multi-stage process of removing product build-up and dead skin cells from the scalp that block and congest follicles, reducing hair growth and lustre.
The Japanese scalp exfoliation process involves steaming the scalp and then removing the top layer of dead skin cells and blockages with various gentle chemicals and scrubby exfoliators. This can be done with either an especially formulated scrub or with an exfoliating shampoo. The goal is to remove any built-up dirt, oil, and product residue that may have accumulated on your scalp over time. It’s also said to have slight face lifting/tightening properties, but I’m dubious.
What are the benefits of scalp exfoliation?
The benefits of scalp exfoliation are very practical. If you suffer with dry and flakey scalp, this can help reduce or even resolve that. If you find your hair is thinning slightly, you may find that regular scalp exfoliation improves hair thickness because your hair follicles aren’t blocked and constricting hair shaft width. Then there’s just overall skin health, keeping your skin healthier, cleaner and feeling more comfortable. I was quite surprised with my scalp felt after this, it’s very difficult to explain quite how it feels.
A brief note on male hair loss
I will say that thinning hair and hair loss not caused by an illness or that’s temporary, particularly if you’re male, is often genetic and no matter what anyone says, there is no way to reverse it without a hair transplant; even prescriptions only slow it down and that’s scientific fact. Do not allow yourself to be preyed upon by dubious ads and false medical claims. I’ve sat in the presentation room at Alpecin HQ with one of their head scientists who totally back this up. For more information, here is the NHS hair loss guide.
Is Japanese scalp exfoliation available in the UK
I’ve looked and can’t find anywhere that does; leave me a comment if you find somewhere; I’m desperate to try this out in the salon. I’m surprised I couldn’t even find anywhere in London as of yet but watch this space; I’m sure it’ll appear sooner or later.
Can you do a proper scalp exfoliation at home?
Luckily, you can get excellent scalp exfoliation results at home. I’m not saying that as in “well, duh”, but more, I was dubious that it could be done, and I’ve been astonished by the results I got.
So, yes, Japanese-inspired scalp exfoliation can all be done quickly except the steaming; that was the one thing I couldn’t work out how to arrange without significant expense. I don’t think my Vax tile and grout steam cleaner would have been the safest option.
However, I tried to compensate for this by bathing and keeping my scalp under the hot water for as long as possible beforehand. This way, the heat still works to open the follicles and pores and loosen/soften the build-up and dirt.
The Essential Home Scalp Exfoliation Toolkit
My first port of call when it comes to skincare is Feelunique. They are my favourite beauty retailer. Their prices are the best, and everything arrives the next day with their delivery subscription; although their sampling service is naff, it can’t always be a winner. This isn’t an ad, by the way.
But typing in ‘scalp exfoliation’ info Feelunique gave me about 10,000,000 options so I started digging and found two perfect candidates:
- The Ameliorate Regime Kit (which LOL is owned by THG, i.e. Look Fantastic)
That’s it, I didn’t want to spend a fortune and the pair, after some discounts, was around £40. In my mind, I thought, well, I’ll start with this, and if it’s naff, I’ll buy something else and keep trying until I find something that works before I write this article. But I was lucky to get it the right first time!
The Tangle Teezer is a scalp exfoliation brush and perfect for using wet hair; it helps separate and get the product in and out of hair and stimulates blood flow to the scalp whilst gently exfoliating residue, product build-up, dead skin, etc.
Ameliorate Scalp Care Regime Kit
The Ameliorate scalp regime kit comes with a lot. On the website, it looked like the bits were tiny and almost single-use, despite being a 7-day kit. But when it arrived, I was surprised how large each product was.
The Ameliorate scalp care regime kit contains:
- Transforming Scalp Serum
- Clarifying Scalp Exfoliant
- Clarifying Shampoo
- Smoothing Conditioner
- Soothing Scalp Essence
The kit is designed more for damaged scalp and is a 7 day turnaround for someone suffering with dry scalp/dandruff. I wanted to use the kit as a one-off rather than a hardcore daily regime.
So to do this high impact scalp treatment, I used only the Exfoliant, Shampoo, Conditioner and Serum. All the results in this article are based on just one application. I have plenty of product left and am going to the whole scalp exfoliation regime probably once per fortnight.
The Ameliorate scalp range is driven by their LaH6 complex with exfoliating lactic acid (an AHA like glycolic acid) that breaks down bonds of dead skin cells and reveals but doesn’t damage new skin cells underneath. Then there’s a blend of hydrating oat oil, skin conditioning and calming frankincense extract, and then conditioning celery seed oil that I’ve never seen before in the products I’ve used.
My scalp before the exfoliation treatment
I am an avid user and abuser of Olaplex products – if they make it, I have it. It keeps my hair looking incredible, and it’s both long, bleached and coloured. Below shows my hair immediately after its last colour at Christmas and then again a few weeks ago.
The photos below use a digital microscope I bought from Amazon ages ago. As they did in the YouTube video I linked to at the beginning; I used this to take before and after photos of the treatment to show how effective it is.
They look a bit gross but remember; they’re on a micro-level. I am lucky not to suffer from dandruff or visible flakes, and I believe the photo shows mostly product build-up rather than skin. But still… ew.
How to do scalp exfoliation at home
Total Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes
Soak your hair in warm water to soften the scalp and open the pores/follicles
Run yourself a bath and get your head as much in the water as possible. Try and keep it under the water for a good five minutes and let the warm water open up your pores and hair follicles. This makes the products you’re about to use more effective.
Scrape your hair back and comb through with the Tangle Teezer
Get your hair slicked back with the Tangle Teezer and free from tangles or knots
Use the Ameliorate Clarifying Scalp exfoliant
Section your hair by creating a parting in the middle. Start from the middle and work outwards left, then right. Generously squeeze the scalp exfoliator down the break you’ve made and start to massage in. The beads are pretty powerful, so be careful. Keep parting your hair and working it in.
Rinse out the exfoliant as soon as you’re done working it in
Using the Tangle Teezer, rinse your hair with warm water. You will not get all the beads out, but this should remove the bulk.
Shampoo with Ameliorate Clarifying Shampoo
Work the Clarifying Shampoo into your scalp and create a good lather. Rinse this out immediately; there’s no need to let it sit. Do this twice, and you’ll probably find all the exfoliating beads are rinsed out. Your hair will feel very dry. Do not try and use the Tangle Teezer; it won’t work, and your hair will knot up. Move on to the next step when you think you’ve got all the shampoo suds out.
Condition with Ameliorate Smoothing Conditioner
Use a generous amount of this and get it on your head. You’ll find your hair quickly loosens up from the previous shampoo, and you can start working it through. Use the Tangle Teezer and massage your scalp when you feel it’s worked in. It should feel pleasant and tingly. Leave the conditioner for a minute or two, then rinse.
Dry your hair
Dry your hair with your hairdryer as you would normally. As a tip, always try and use the middle-temperature setting if you can. Scorching air to the scalp regularly can dry it out and exacerbate the build-up of dead skin cells.
Apply the Ameliorate Transforming Scalp Serum
Apply the serum to the scalp. Do this by continually parting the hair and running it down the parting line. Once you’ve done the whole scalp, scrape your hair back with your Tangle Teezer. I recommend putting your hair into a bun and wrapping a head scarf around your head to keep the moisture from escaping. If you can, do this before bed and sleep in it.
Clean hair as normal 12 hours later
Ideally, let the serum sit and then in the morning, shampoo and condition your hair, as usual, using your favourite shampoo and conditioner. I would not suggest using the clarifying shampoo again as it’s pretty stripping – I noticed my hair bleach lightened slightly after just one use.
Estimated Cost: 40 £
- Ameliorate Scalp Care Kit:
- Transforming Scalp Serum
- Clarifying Scalp Exfoliant
- Clarifying Shampoo
- Smoothing Conditioner
- Strong pair of hands
- Tangle Teezer Scalp Exfoliator & Massager
My scalp after the exfoliating treatment
The results speak for themselves; after one treatment and using the serum overnight, this was what I woke up to once I shampooed and conditioned with my regular Olaplex products the morning after. It’s not 100% perfect, you can still see a few bits and pieces of buildup on the scalp, but it’s night and day in comparison to what it was before.
I’ve been really happy with the results of scalp exfoliation, and if you haven’t tried it before, I urge you to give it a go. It’s easy enough to do at home, and the benefits are definitely worth it. If you have any questions or want some tips on how to get started, leave a comment below and I’ll respond. Also make sure to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter for insights, tips and great extras.
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