The Pleasure and Pain of Salon Hair Washes

When I was younger, going to get my haircut wasn’t something I thought of as a luxurious or particularly nurturing experience. I didn’t go often, and I didn’t really do anything daring with my hair. Once I started paying for my own haircuts, I went even less often, and I usually went to a chain store that was conveniently located and really fast.

Now that I live in a city with a thriving local business scene, I think more carefully about how and where I spend my money. For that reason and many others, I started getting my hair cut and colored at my friends’ amazing, intimate salon in downtown Athens, Georgia. It’s like going to therapy, I swear: the salon is very small, and everyone there (stylists and customers alike) is fun to talk to.

Sensitivity to scents

One other bonus: my friends who own the salon know that I moonlight as The Migraine Girl, and they are extremely thoughtful about my potential triggers whenever I come in. They don’t ever use strongly-scented products on my hair, and they ask me to lightly sniff anything even mildly scented before they put it on me. They’re also very accommodating when it comes to the hair washing.

A soothing massage

For me, getting my hair washed is one of the main reasons I want to go get my hair cut. Feeling someone else care for you and nurture you, even for a few moments, is immensely soothing, plus that head and neck massage feel pretty dang incredible.

Neck pain during the hair washing

Unfortunately, the hair washing is also one of the least comfortable parts of the process. Funny that: comforting but uncomfortable. That would be an oxymoron to most, but I know my migraine buddies understand.

No matter what the heck I do, I can’t get my neck comfortable on that sink. We’ve tried all sorts of towels rolled up in all sorts of ways. I’ve tried slouching wayyyyy down in the chair and sitting a little straighter. I’ve tried putting my neck straight onto the edge of the bowl. The bowl itself is literally made to hold a human neck as the human gets its hair washed, but it’s still so uncomfortable for me.

Last time I went to get my hair done, the neck discomfort was worse than ever. I moved around repeatedly and the assistant washing my hair was very kind and accommodating, but I still couldn’t fully relish the experience of a blissful head massage because my neck pain was so distracting.

The migraine attack

For days after, my neck felt “off” some how, like I had moved it out of joint. Heck, maybe I had! I hadn’t had a migraine in nearly two weeks, but I got one a few hours after being at the salon. Not only did the migraine come back day after day, one of the attack’s key features was the continuing neck discomfort.

Pinpointing the trigger

As with every migraine episode, it’s impossible to know for sure what the one trigger was that acted as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. In all likelihood, the neck pain would’ve been part and parcel of the attack anyway and the hair washing discomfort was just a coincidence.

I need to schedule another haircut soon, and I’m a little nervous about it. What if laying my neck on that sink did cause neck pain that triggered a multi-day migraine? I don’t want to bring that on again, especially after several days of being pain-free.

Does anyone else out there have this same love-hate relationship with the hair washing station at a salon? How do you tackle this problem? 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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