I Tried a Scalp Facial

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Last summer’s weird facial was the vajacial, a facial for your vagina (imagine that phrase in emoji-speak), which, although it involved steaming your peach with hippie-sounding herbs, kind of made sense. My reaction when I heard about the new craze, scalp facials, was just the opposite.

My scalp don't need no stinking facial, I thought. Sure, no one wants a flaky scalp, but it’s not an area besieged monthly by a woman ripping hairs off of it with hot wax. Unless you are bald, it’s protected from the sun and the elements, in a manner, by hair. Then I read the description of the service and found out that the procedure included a thorough scalp massage and was being offered at the offices of Philip Kingsley, at a tony Upper East Side address, and thought: Rich-people indulgences. Yes.

I arrived at the Philip Kingsley Clinic expecting fluffy white robes and fancy cucumber spa water, but instead, the clinic resembled more of a fancy doctor’s office, with a nice but minimal hair salon in the back. I met Steve, a trichologist (a hair doctor), who can look at your scalp and divine things about your diet and general health. Your scalp literally holds the roots to your hair’s health. In gardening terms, the scalp is like the soil and your hair, the tree that you pay landscapers lots of money to prune, rake, and style.

My hair was in a ratty ponytail, which I undid to show Steve my locks. He looked at my scalp, making one of the five faces that Britney Spears had in rotation while judging on X-Factor. “So, I, uh ... didn’t wash my hair yesterday after SoulCycle,” I sheepishly explained. “And then ... I also didn’t wash my hair the three days before that. I've been using lots of dry shampoo.” Basically, I had showed up at a facial without washing my face for the past four days.

Steve, kind soul that he is, still dug through my hair to examine my hairline, noting that it was red and inflamed, while reassuring me this would be all fixed. He began by wetting my hair and using Kingsley’s Scalp Tonic, which felt like a cooling toner. Then he spread gloppy amounts of Kingsley’s Elasticizer, a deep hair conditioner, all over my hair from root to ends, securing a band of cotton around my hairline so the glop wouldn’t drip into my eyes. I sat there for a few minutes under a heat dryer, noticing that the other clients around me were Upper East Side ladies with Céline bags and well-blended highlights.

As the Elasticizer and heat began to work together, my scalp got the equivalent of a steam bath. Then, as Steve said, “the fun part begins.” Steve began to give me the most relaxing 15-minute scalp massage of my life, massaging so deeply yet gently, that I felt like he was cushioning my brain and rocking it to sleep. I wanted to fall asleep but instead asked him a question that troubles me every time I Swiffer the floor: "How can I tell if I'm shedding too much hair?"

Steve explained that hair shedding happens in cycles. You may lose more or less hair during certain periods of the month, he said. It's only a cause for concern if you notice a lot more hair being consistently lost and even then, it could be anything from your hair-tie choice to pillowcase type to diet to hair-washing frequency to real health concern. Hair is as much a health indicator as your nails or skin are, and Steve has detected potential thyroid issues in long-time clients by being aware of their hair loss.

Following the massage, Steve luxuriously washed and conditioned my hair. An hour later, it was over (they provided high-end blow-dryers and brushes for me to dry and style my hair myself before I left). I rarely blow-dry my hair, but I noticed that it was easier to style than usual, softer without being fluffier, and with the pieces around my face hanging easily. My hair felt clean, but not squeaky-clean, and my scalp felt like it had been nourished with Nutri-Grow. Days later, I tried to massage my scalp like Steve did but as with most things D.I.Y., the experience just wasn't the same. I've learned just the beginning of the secrets of my scalp, and I want more. 

The Philip Kingsley Clinic is at 16 E. 52nd St., 9th Floor (between Fifth & Madison Avenue) and can be reached at 212-753-9600.