What is a head spa? The luxury L.A. treatment reveals the health of your scalp

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I’ve ne'er fixed overmuch thought to my scalp. Aside from nan occasional subconscious scritch-scratch aliases vigorous shampooing, it’s benignant of conscionable … there. A basal but often-overlooked cranium cover.

But nan humble scalp is nan attraction of an progressively celebrated wellness trend: elaborate Chinese and Japanese-inspired treatments astatine alleged caput spas. At these businesses, visitors person a scalp study followed by caput and cervix massages and repeated heavy cleanses. Ogling nan soul workings of nan scalp, an different forgotten assemblage portion — and addressing its needs done blissful hydrotherapy treatments — has driven nan hashtag #headspa to tie attraction connected TikTok for much than a twelvemonth now. In 1 viral video of an L.A.-area caput spa, a towel-clad influencer claims it will “change your life.”

I was intrigued. Which is really I came to find myself sitting successful a salon chair at Cai Xiang Ge, aliases “CXG,” successful San Gabriel, pinch a practitioner weaving a mini integer camera done my hair. I faced a 250-times-magnified position of my scalp connected a adjacent screen. And what I saw resembled an eerie underwater kelp forest, pinch dark, swaying stalks increasing retired of a glistening, spongy section dotted pinch reddish patches. It looked for illustration thing retired of a sci-fi film. Ew.

A manus holds a instrumentality that examines nan scalp up to nan caput of a woman.
A closeup of a woman's scalp

Deborah Vankin undergoes a scalp exam to find nan guidance of her curen astatine Cai Xiang Ge caput spa.

The process was embarrassingly revealing. Turns retired I person an oily scalp pinch bits of dandruff, CXG proprietor Ning Chen told me. “And spot these reddish parts? You’re not getting capable sleep. Stress,” she said.

But there’s besides a unusual delight successful examining your soiled scalp up close. As humans, we are thing if not fascinated by our ain bodies, whether that’s picking a scab, prodding a canker sore aliases popping a pimple. (You cognize you’ve done it.) The daze facet of scalp treatments is integral to its appeal, according to Sara Hallajian, a Santa Monica-based trichologist and hairsbreadth nonaccomplishment and scalp master astatine Âme Salon.

“It’s about: ‘Oh, let’s look astatine your dandruff up close, and really soiled your scalp is earlier and really cleanable after,’ because it’s not thing you spot pinch nan naked eye,” Hallajian said.

After my scalp’s close-up, Chen led maine into a dimly lighted room pinch aggregate spa beds and accepted Chinese harp music. Birds chirped connected nan soundtrack arsenic I changed into a clothes and reclined connected nan bed. On 1 extremity was a shampoo basin, astatine nan different a ft bath, filled pinch lukewarm h2o steeped pinch Chinese herbs. It was early February, and I mostly admit rituals astir renewal this clip of year, clichéd arsenic it whitethorn seem.

The $135 Royal Treatment scratched that itch. For 90 minutes, CXG’s Alyssa Nevins many times scrubbed my scalp and washed my hairsbreadth arsenic portion of a six-step process. The aromatherapy caput massage was a barren one, successful which Nevins rubbed tingly-feeling beverage character lipid into my scalp and then applied an electronic, cephalopod-like device, its aggregate arms whirling distant tension. That was followed by 4 shampooings, each pinch a caput and cervix massage.

The highlight: Nevins near maine lying location for 10 minutes pinch a circular, waterfall-like instrumentality bathing my caput and cervix successful herb-treated water. I wore a heated oculus mask, my caput was tilted backward and my look was immersed successful plumes of steam. Thin jets of h2o massaged my cervix and shoulders. It was heavenly; I astir fell asleep. I besides sewage a hydrating, collagen-boosting facial, an herbal hairsbreadth steam and a conditioning hairsbreadth masque.

A female leans her caput backmost complete a basin for a salon curen provided by nan female opinionated down her.

Deborah Vankin receives a hydrating, collagen-boosting facial during her 90-minute Chinese scalp curen astatine Cai Xiang Ge.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The acquisition ended successful nan salon, pinch beverage and sweets and an “anti-hair nonaccomplishment treatment.” Nevins sprayed an herbal serum each complete my scalp. She past utilized a high-frequency scalp therapy instrumentality to disinfect my pores, a curen nan spa said would fortify hairsbreadth follicles.

Head spas declare that scalp treatments beforehand circulation and detoxify, calm and hydrate skin, each of which thief forestall dandruff, itchiness, dryness, inflammation and hairsbreadth loss. I wasn’t judge whether that was existent aliases not, but it judge thumps injecting my ain plasma into my scalp astatine $1,500 per session, different precocious en vogue beauty curen aimed astatine promoting hairsbreadth growth.

A tray of beverage successful a cup and a solid teapot, pinch type snacks

Tea and ray snacks are offered aft nan cleanse, and earlier nan blowout, astatine Cai Xiang Ge.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The claims that caput spas make are “fundamentally correct,” said Dr. Carolyn Goh, a dermatologist astatine UCLA Health. “A heavy cleanable and massage tin thief pinch circulation and trim inflammation. My first proposal to anyone suffering from hairsbreadth nonaccomplishment is to make your scalp clean. But if you person psoriasis aliases eczema, it’s not going to help. I’d besides be aware if you’re delicate and utilizing basal oils — you tin create an allergy.”

The curen stimulates acupressure points successful nan head, peculiarly 1 called bai hui, wherever nan alleged meridians meet, according to Dr. Ka-Kit Hui, head of nan UCLA Health Center for East-West Medicine. “That whitethorn thief group pinch insomnia, anxiety, headaches. It’s costly, but it’s relaxing.”

Scalp treatments person been an integral portion of wellness civilization for hundreds of years successful galore parts of Asia, including successful China, Japan, Vietnam and Korea.

In China, caput spas are truthful communal that “there’s 1 connected each street,” Chen said. They caught connected present successful L.A. astir 2020 and person proliferated successful nan past twelvemonth and a half. Now, Chen says, location are astir 2 twelve successful nan L.A. area, pinch “about 4 caller ones opening adjacent successful nan past 2 months alone.” Most of them are successful San Gabriel, Temple City, Arcadia and Rosemead — hubs for Asian communities. In summation to CXG, different celebrated section caput spas see nan Si Guan successful San Gabriel, Tou Dao Tang successful Temple City and M Head Spa successful Rosemead, each of which person opened wrong nan past twelvemonth and a half.

A female pinch agelong blond hairsbreadth stands astatine a woody table astatine a caput spa.

Cai Xiang Ge proprietor Ning Chen astatine nan beforehand table of her caput spa.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Chen said her caput spa helped footwear disconnected nan inclination successful L.A. erstwhile CXG opened successful mid-2021. She plans to grow CXG into Beverly Hills wrong nan adjacent year.

Like galore caput spas, CXG serves one-timers arsenic good arsenic members who sojourn play aliases biweekly to relax and support scalp health. Chen’s clientele was initially 70% Asian and 30% non-Asian; by summertime 2023, it was nan opposite, which she said is owed to societal media promotion.

Videos of Chinese scalp treatments connected societal media are celebrated among seekers of ASMR — autonomous sensory meridian consequence — successful which definite sounds beforehand tingling, goosebumps and different relaxing sensations.

In person, nan ASMR acquisition is moreover much pronounced. Throughout nan treatment, location are nan sounds of repeated brushwood swooshes, shampoo lathering and sloshing water. This was particularly evident astatine Tou Dao Tang erstwhile I visited.

Tou Dao Tang originated successful China, wherever it has much than 9,000 locations. But successful autumn 2022, nan institution launched its first U.S. outlet successful Temple City. It has plans to grow into Glendale later this year. Openings besides are successful nan useful for Tustin, Las Vegas, San Francisco and New York.

“It’s nan caller thing,” head Hannah Lin says of scalp treatment’s increasing popularity. “And group want to effort nan caller thing.”

My scalp analysis, conducted by Tou Dao Tang’s Sherry Zhu, again reported oily skin, dandruff and slumber deprivation arsenic good arsenic a imaginable nutrition deficiency, Zhu said. The second was suggested by a fewer pale-colored hairs.

The consequent $108 Classic Scalp curen was a five-step process. It was particularly massage-oriented, pinch repeated scalp kneading, hairsbreadth combing and cleansing complete 90 minutes, and progressive 5 teas, aliases “herbal soups,” each infused pinch different integrated herbs. The rounds of tea-washing focused, respectively, connected detoxification, rejuvenation and accent relief, nourishment and calming, repairing PH equilibrium and hairsbreadth nonaccomplishment prevention.

These treatments person go truthful basal for immoderate patrons of Tou Dao Tang that members often support their ain combs and brushes astatine nan spa, branded pinch their names, for practitioners to usage erstwhile they visit.

A masked female receives a Chinese scalp curen from Tou Dao Tang caput spa.

Deborah Vankin receives a Chinese scalp curen from Tou Dao Tang caput spa.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

A follow-up exam shows a squeaky cleanable scalp aft a curen astatine Cai Xiang Ge.

A close-up of Deborah Vankin’s squeaky cleanable scalp aft her curen astatine Cai Xiang Ge.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

A smiling female aft her Cai Xiang Ge treatment, which ended pinch a blowout and styling.

Deborah Vankin aft her Cai Xiang Ge treatment, which ended pinch a blowout and styling.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

“In China, nan caput spa is truthful popular,” Lin said. “We wanted to bring it to nan U.S. and fto group cognize astir our culture.”

The caput spas I visited were very different experiences. CXG’s environs were particularly luxurious, complete pinch multicolored lights, aromatherapy and a lukewarm ft bath, while Tou Dao Tang’s home-brewed, integrated “tea bath” washings felt much down to earth. They some near maine emotion squeaky cleanable and relaxed — truthful overmuch truthful that at Tou Dao Tang, I accidentally floated retired nan doorway without paying. (I called backmost later and took attraction of nan bill.)

After some treatments, my hairsbreadth was shiny and extra-soft for days.

Needless to say, nan itch I had for a emotion of renewal was sufficiently scratched.

Source latimes