Stimulating Hair Growth with Scalp Massage
For the most part, (perhaps 99.9 %), the concept of stimulating hair growth with scalp massage is a useless concept. But I'd hate to see the concept disappear completely. My waiting room magazines are filled with the 'expert' beauty tip of how massaging and brushing can stimulate hair growth. Hundreds of thousand of women (and men) around the world are brushing and massaging to get more blood in hopes it does something positive. I can assure you with 100 % certainty, that small numbers of people are also standing on their heads. Does it help?
But why don't I want this erroneous concept to disappear completely? Why would I want seemingly mythical-like unfounded non-truths to permeate the world's health, beauty and fashion industry's magazines?
Well, there could be a micro-fraction of truth behind the concept.
Genetic hair loss is associated with decreased blood flow
Genetic hair loss IS indeed associated with a decreased blood flow to the scalp. But what we know in the year 2014 is really whether increasing blood flow could do anything beneficial.
Genetic hair loss is also known as androgenetic alopecia (AGA). It occurs in 50 % of men by age 50 and 35 % of women. The key process in genetic hair loss is that hair follicles get skinnier or thinner. The medical term for this phenomenon is 'miniaturization." Is some ways, it makes good sense that smaller thinner hairs need less blood flow. Why would a 25 micron diameter hair follicle need as much micronutrients, growth factors and cytokines to keep them growing as a 85 micron big 'original' size hair follicle not affected by genetic hair loss.
Minoxidil and low level light therapy (LLLT) increase blood flow
While attempts to stimulate blood flow with brushing and massaging of the scalp are useless, what we don't really know if increasing blood flow to the scalp on a more regular basis or to deeper levels of the scalp could do something positive. The hair loss treatment minoxidil and hair loss treatments with low level light therapy ARE associated with increasing blood flow to the scalp. Whether this is the 'reason' behind their growth promoting effect or just a 'coincidence' remains to be worked out.
For now, I'll shake my head , laugh and cover my eyes every time I read that massaging the scalp is good for hair, but at the same time I'll hope the next month's issues of the top magazines still contain the same bizarre, unfounded myths.
We still need to understand the role of blood flow to the scalp in genetic hair loss and the role of growth factors and cytokines that influence the reduced blood flow in balding scalps.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299