What exactly are you supposed to do when a hairstylist massages your head?

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Avoid closing your eyes? Try not to growl? I’m stuck in a chair with a small towel around my neck and I don’t know how to react

As someone who doesn’t particularly like unnecessary physical contact with other human beings, the pre-haircut scalp massage offered by some salons is a real nightmare that I’ve learned to avoid. I draw the line at a firm handshake for 99% of the people in my life, so when a stranger starts kneading my temples and skull, I’m deep in uncharted territory.

So what’s the etiquette here? You can’t just stare at the ceiling like you’re going to get your teeth cleaned at the dentist, can you? And I guess you should absolutely avoid locking your stylist’s eyes in the mirror? I expect you to acknowledge that it happens and point out that it feels good, but where is the line between throaty moans and tangible discomfort, “Thanks, that’s nice but, uh, you’re not you don’t have to do that”?

First, let’s backtrack a bit to understand why stylists and barbers massage the scalp in the first place. “The massage provides gentle exfoliation and invigorates the scalp, and the increased blood flow and circulation leads to better hair growth and reduced dandruff,” says Fairy Norrisstylist and colorist Rock Paper Fair to the

Plus, since some people can get nervous before getting a haircut, a massage has the added benefit of “reducing stress, promoting relaxation, and laying the foundation for a positive experience,” she adds. “It can also create a connection and a sense of teamwork as you move from the sink to the chair.”

In his more than 20 years in the business, Norris has learned that almost everyone “reacts to touch a little differently.” “People who know it’s part of the process are usually completely comfortable massaging the scalp and just relaxing,” she says. “But I’ve had more than one occasion where someone felt the need to talk to me, maybe because they’re uncomfortable, and turned their head to do so, which sends water flying everywhere.”

So, Norris thinks the best reaction is to just “close your eyes and enjoy it!” Admittedly, for reasons I don’t quite understand, I feel a little more comfortable with this option now that I know scalp massage has some use. While I still think it’s a free amount of touch, at least it’s not done solely in the service of the paying customer’s enjoyment.

That said, if you remain skeptical and opposed to the Chicago-based scalp massage hair and beauty consultant Ghanima Abdullah says it’s perfectly fine to ignore it completely. You can ask to forgo the massage “because you’re short on time, ‘just prefer a rinse’ — or don’t give a reason at all — and the stylist will be fine with that,” she explains. . “It’s understandable that some people aren’t tactile – I’m not myself.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is one thing you should avoid doing at all costs. “The only response that can get a little weird is ‘moaning,'” Norris explains, adding that ‘moaning’ might be the most common response after quiet, eyes-closed pleasure. “It’s like they forget they’re in public or that their stylist isn’t their partner,” she says. “I understand that a scalp massage can be pleasurable, but I always prefer ‘it’s nice’ to moaning loudly in pleasure.”

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