Spending three hours at a hair spa sounds like an impossible luxury, especially if you're a busy professional. Working women with young families are even more strapped for time, one would expect. But it's these working professionals - with their harried lifestyles - who form the demographic most likely to show stress in their lacklustre locks, or worse, thinning hair.
Which means that a trichological treatment isn't so much a luxury but a necessity these days where modern day stress is showing in the scalp. More than a decade ago, when former SIA stewardess Anita Wong was flying regularly, and encountering problems with her hair, she realised how difficult it was to find a hair salon with staff who were knowledgeable about hair and scalp health. "The first step to having beautiful hair is a healthy scalp, but in those days very few people knew about this," she highlights. She opened her first salon in 2006, and PHS now has three outlets, with possible joint ventures overseas.
This is certainly a sign that PHS is on to something. As Ms Wong explains it - and she's done her research - is that although the hair might be just made up of dead cells, they reflect one's overall health condition. And then there's the scalp. An unhealthy, imbalanced scalp will simply choke the strands of hair growing out. Which is why PHS's three-step programme is about detoxifying the scalp, then stabilising it followed by regrowing hair.
In a full hair spa programme, the detox part, clients sit comfortably through 150 minutes of treatment which also comes with a shoulder massage to relax the upper body. The detoxification process begins with a gentle brushing to stimulate the scalp and then the application of a mask to open the pores. An orange peel extract and extract of a fruit called the Chayote (sechium edule is the latin name) and a flower, helichrysum, are used for their anti-oxidant properties. The mud opens up the pores in the scalp, to detoxify unhealthy follicles and nourish the hair cells. After the deep-cleansing, the therapist attaches a large cap over your head, like a baker's hat actually, with a pipeline to an oxygen machine. The oxygen treatment goes on for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then it's time to shampoo the hair and scalp.
An appropriate serum is then massaged into the scalp. In my case, the oil control serum which contains witch hazel to balance the sebum. After this, it's another few minutes of warm infra-red to help micro-circulation in the scalp. Another wash, and then the hair is blown dry and styled to your liking.
For those who can't do the full three-hour pampering treatment - in the private room, where you can also watch a movie of your choice - the more expedient 45-minute treatment at the salon also goes through the steps, sans the luxurious surroundings.
Ms Wong however says that ideally, one should have a scalp treatment once a week or every fortnight. And the other thing is to start early and when you're still young. "Don't wait until you start having problems like balding or thinning hair," she says, explaining that because hair growth is a three-month cycle, one may not see immediate results. One also has to continue with the scalp care, because of the long hair growth cycles.
"We advise clients to have realistic expectations. Unfortunately, the rate of hair growth isn't as fast as hair loss, so regular treatment is the only way," she says.
Her cabin crew job used to give her hair problems, she recalls. "I ended up with a dry and sensitive scalp because of the frequent travel, and having a good shampoo alone doesn't help," she says. One common problem she sees women in their 30s to 50s face is chemical treatment of the hair. "Salons often don't give a pre-treatment to the scalp," she points out.
Then there's the humidity in Singapore which presents its own unique problems. "Because of that, products from mainly France and Korea may not be so suitable. We've been developing our own for the past six years," she adds.
PHS's research into trichological products has now come to fruition and they've launched a men's range to tackle male hair loss and also a retail product line (rather than just salon products) and an online store. Are hair spas the next big thing in beauty and wellness? Ms Wong certainly thinks so - as she's on a roll to convince the public that it's as necessary as the regular facial or body treatment for overall health and beauty. "You can have a hair transplant, but if you don't look after your scalp, you'll face the same problems all over again," she stresses.
The Detox Restorative Spa Treatment at PHS (Professional Holistic Solutions) Hair Science, Ngee Ann City, #05-25A/B, 391 Orchard Road costs S$348 for 150 minutes. PHS also has outlets at Wheelock Place and Plaza Singapura
This article was first published on August 2, 2014.
Get The Business Times for more stories.