Don’t know what a head spa is? I went to one to find out


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I thought that by 2019 we had finally dreamed up all the beauty treatments that could possibly exist. We have acupuncture facials, vitamin IV drips, and snail mucin serums. So I couldn’t possibly be surprised by another new one, right?

Not so. Enter the head spa, something I didn’t know existed until a couple weeks ago when I was introduced to both its pleasures and its purposes at Los Angeles’ landmark Korean salon, Kim Sun Young, by its owner Hun Lee.

Though I’m very much a fan of the vibe at Kim Sun Young, I’m a bit skeptical, TBH, of the premise around the NIOXIN Head Spa treatment I’m about to get (valued at $65), in much the same way I’m skeptical of things like fish pedicures. Like, is this really necessary, or have we officially jumped the shark in self care?

In response to my skepticism, Lee explains that the concept of a head spa dates back centuries in Korea, so it’s not some newfangled marketing ploy or frivolous salon add-on. Rather, it’s a long-standing tradition that provides your scalp with crucial TLC.

“Scalp care is very important because it provides the necessary environment for growing healthy, strong, beautiful hair,” says Lee, who recommends a head spa session every 30 to 45 days. This concept makes sense to me, especially when you consider the VIP treatment we give to skin elsewhere on our bodies, where we’re not even trying to cultivate luscious locks. (He is not alone among experts in this belief, either.)

“Scalp care is very important because it provides the necessary environment for growing healthy, strong, beautiful hair.”

After our educational chat, Lee passes me off to my personal head masseuse. His first order of business is to take magnified photos of my scalp, which are very gross and weirdly embarrassing. The skin is dry and flaky and a little inflamed-looking. I’m ashamed, but the head spa tech tells me that’s okay/normal.

He then has me answer a questionnaire, from which he devises a treatment protocol. Before I get into the nitty gritty of what the treatment entails, let me first say that paying someone to massage your head for an hour on a Friday afternoon is a good idea. I don’t care if it’s at a spa or at home and you have to slip your significant other a $50 to get it done. Just. Do. It.

My head spa technician starts with the NIOXIN Scalp Renew Dermabrasion Treatment. If you’re not familiar, NIOXIN is a scalp-centric hair-care line that’s been perfecting its formulas for 30 years. Its products clear follicle-clogging sebum and environmental residue, and have been previously recommended to me by my regular stylist for their potential to foster healthy hair growth.

nioxin head spa

When he begins the treatment, I almost immediately go into a trance similar to a cat deep in the throes of a purr sesh, so details get a little foggy from here. I know that after the dermabrasion, he shampoos and conditions my hair with NIOXIN’s 3-Part System in a formulation specifically selected for my needs.

Then, there is a scalp massage (purrrrrr), followed by NIOXIN’s Deep Protect Density Mask. Some other things happened next, but I’m too relaxed now to focus. I just know whatever he’s doing feels great.

By the time he washes out the mask, my tough work week has washed away with it. I am officially Jell-O. As he wraps my head in a warm towel, I’m offered a hand massage. I feel dangerously close to proposing. He then carefully dries and styles my hair… and pulls out his magnifying camera once more.

Normally when before and after photos are offered in treatments, I have to enact an Academy Award-worthy performance to feign that I can actually tell a difference. Not so here, as there is a clear change in my scalp. All the flakes and goop are gone, as in, completely eradicated. No longer weighed down by that junk, my hair follicles look as though they can breathe (and hopefully, grow hair) again. I’m impressed, and also sort of ashamed that I’ve been walking around for so long with a sad, filthy scalp.

As I find my legs to leave, I can’t help but admire the there-since-before-it-was-trendy Korean devotion to self care that my NIOXIN head spa experience revealed to me.

The treatment not only remedied important hygiene issues—no wonder my hair looked scraggly given the neglectful circumstances in which I was expecting it to grow!—and made me wish I had taken my stylist’s recommendation to use NIOXIN products more seriously, it also fully relaxed me in a way even massages can’t. I guess my next move is to finally give fish pedicures a try?

In partnership with NIOXIN

Photos: NIOXIN

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