Before moving here (5 years ago), the concept of a hair spa was totally foreign to me. I would say that hair spas or hair treatment centres aren’t places most Americans regularly visit or even know exist (at least I didn’t). Yet I was curious and decided to try out a “free offer” from one of the 4 hair treatment centres. I knew before even stepping foot inside their shop that they were going to find something wrong with my hair (that of course, is how they make money). My purpose in going was not for a diagnosis; it was to see what they do, whether I can replicate their treatment at home, and whether my treatment could match theirs. Here are my results:
Step 1: Determine your baseline. I went to a treatment centre during one their “free” or “promotional” offers to get a baseline read of my hair issues. Other objectives were to check out their products (and ingredients), equipment, processes, and cost. The consultant began the session with a scan of my scalp. For this, they used a USB microscope, one similar to this one which you can buy online.
They then took a series of 3 images – 2 near the top of my head and one at the base of the neck, where hair is typically less sun-damaged and less exposed, and hence makes a good comparison of what “healthier hair” might look like. Since it was my first time, and I was nervous, I forgot to take photos of my scan. According to the consultant and reference photos, the scan revealed that my scalp was oily and some follicles appeared to be “clogged”. The consultant also mentioned that my hair was thinning in certain areas as a result of the excess oil and clogged follicles. She said if I don’t get it treated (and treated straight away), I would continue to see copious hair loss. But I wasn’t alarmed because in my experience, the less money you pay for one of these services, the more dire they will say your prognosis is, which is all to set you up for the hard sell. The diagnosis is followed by the educational/art session where the consultant explains in a very simple (and sometimes incorrect) way how hair follicles work, accompanied by sketches. This is followed by the treatment, which consist of a wash, serum/herbal application, incubation (some people had heat lamps, others just had their hair wrapped in a towel), and blow dry. The entire treatment process is one hour and would normally cost between $150-$300 per session.
Step 2: Make/Source your own products. The exact herbal formula or ampoule/serum they use is a trade secret and not readily available to buy online or in shops; however, you can buy similar products. If you want to use TCM products (many of which are the same as the ones used in the 4 hair centres), iherb sells such an item here for about $10. If you use the promo code FUZ092, you will get $5 off your order. TCM uses herbs like panax ginseng and he shou wu. If you want to instead try a Western hair product, you might like this one from iMOB Shop also for $10 (make sure you enter the promo code imobciti1463). Western formulas often use probiotics and essential oils. If you want something which you can get locally from a brick and mortar shop, you can try Ayurvedic products at Mustafa Centre (level 1 near entrance 5). They use herbs like bhringraj, amla, shikakai, aloe, and methi. For issues such as oily and thinning hair, a lot of these products do essentially the same thing, which is to supply nutrients directly to the scalp, strengthen the hair follicle, decrease inflammation and/or neutralise the scalp, and cleanse the hair and scalp of excess sebum (oil). For me (not being partial to any medicinal tradition), I decided to use a combination of all of them so I’m not really sure which one really did the trick. I used each product about once a week for 2.5 months.
Step 3: Test to see if your product worked. I visited another hair spa (not the same one I went to) using a different promotional offer. When the lady asked if I had any hair treatments prior to visiting, I only mentioned the one from the first hair spa I visited and didn’t tell her that I’ve been using my own products for the last 2.5 months. She did the scan, and the results were all clear, except for a little bit of sensitivity at the top of my head. This time, I remembered to take photos. Because my scan results looked acceptable (other than a few spots of sensitivity), she didn’t have much to say except to tell me that I “should” strongly consider one of their packages for maintenance purposes. She did not mention oily or thinning hair at all.
Step 4 (optional): Get your own USB microscope and have a hair spa party with friends (or start your own hair spa!). If you don’t have a free/promotional offer for a scan and treatment trial like I did, you can always get your own USB microscope like the one mentioned above and perform your own scan. Then, compare your photos to reference photos to see whether you have a “healthy” scalp. The reason why I have to put “healthy” in quotes is because neither they (the hair spa consultants) nor you are trained dermatologists and therefore cannot, with some degree of confidence, rule out an underlying medical conditions which may affect the scalp or hair.
Total cost: $40 ($30 from products including shipping and $10 spent at the second spa as part of their promotional price). What would I have paid had I purchased one of the treatment packages? At least $2500 and upwards of $8000 for a complete “full” treatment.
NOTE: Your hair may have different “issues” and may require a different regimen. For this post, I focused on oily scalp and thinning hair, which were the issues I was diagnosed with. You might have the opposite issue. Many of the products/serums that are sold online or in shops will tell you the condition for which they are used. Find one that addresses your specific issue. You can also try creating your own product. There are thousands of DIY recipes online for at-home hair treatments. Please note that changes in your hair can be a sign of a medical condition such as thyroid problems or hormonal imbalances, and that you might consider going for a health check-up.
For men who have thinning hair as a result of typical male pattern balding (due to elevated Dihydrotestosterone or DHT), I’ve found that caffeine works well (as it blocks DHT topically). Here are some studies on it
- Role of Caffeine in the Management of Androgenetic Alopecia
- Effect of caffeine and testosterone on the proliferation of human hair follicles in vitro
- The role of hair follicles in the percutaneous absorption of caffeine
My husband has been using my homemade caffeine shampoo for 4 years now, and his hair loss, which started in his mid-30s, has completely halted. In some areas, his hair has even grown back. There are a few new commercial shampoos that started using caffeine as a result of these studies, but my husband doesn’t want to try them as they use synthetic surfactants. In my homemade recipe I apply the same concentration of caffeine to match the studies. To do this, I use caffeine from iherb (don’t forget the promo code FUZ092 for $5 off).