Thursday, March 8, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, March 8, 2001

Salon promotes herbal scalp treatments

By Katherine Nichols
Advertiser Staff Writer

The surrounding atmosphere was attractive; the details were not.

There was no hiding from the evidence revealed by the fiber-optic camera that enlarged (times 80!) every bead of oil and dirt coagulated at the root of the reporter’s hair.

"Your pores are clogged," said Benedict Palmeri, owner of Image Beauty Emporium and Salon with his wife, Joanne. "You’ve got a lot of build-up on your scalp."

Image Beauty Emporium and Salon

126 Queen St., Suite 101


Scalp cleansing, 60-90 minutes: $45 and up, depending on treatment

The fact that this particular scalp gets washed twice a day is helpful, said Palmeri. But it’s not enough.

Palmeri supplements Image’s typical salon offerings — manicures, haircuts, facials and perms — with specialty scalp treatments based in part of combinations devised between 1875 and 1929 by an American physician named Parker, who had a clinic.

Parker found that, by using certain herbs in combination, he could alleviate scalp problems and open the pores, promoting hair health. His tinctures (leaves and stems of various plants, soaked in alcohol, then pressed to extract the nutrients) were made of ingredients such as jaborani, mullen and capsicum (pepper).

Palmeri said the combination of herbs he applies with massage to cleanse the scalp and assuage skin problems makes his long-lasting therapies different from aromatherapy scalp treatments offered at various salons and spas around the Islands.

Examining a new client’s hair with the fiber-optic camera before and after brushing helps Palmeri determine the herbs he will mix for the treatment. The key ingredients today: lavender, jaborandi (a tropical shrub), camomile and mullein (a Eurasian plant), all derived from plants and blended in specific ratios.

An aromatherapy candle burned, permeating the small area with the scent of melon. Yanni’s latest CD played in the private room, with dimmed lights. The images of clogged pores and hair stunted in early growth faded in the pleasant glow.

"Relax and forget about your life for a little while," said Palmeri as he massaged my neck, shoulders and scalp for about 10 minutes. During this time, he encouraged a series of deep breaths. The effect was a slow melt from the part-line to the toes.

Palmeri continued the routine by washing my hair with a shampoo he has concocted from all-natural products — no sulfates — for his own line of skin- and hair-care products.

Scalp and hair loss

He believes that scalp care is part of overall good health. Most of the time, he said, "the scalp is totally neglected," which can contribute to slow, gradual hair loss.

Consequently, the desire for clean hair isn’t the only reason patrons schedule regular treatments. Many people with thinning hair — especially men — come to Palmeri for help.

The before-and-after photos in his portfolio show improvements in hair growth, but he is careful not to make bold claims in that regard. "Once we take the stress off and stimulate the scalp," said Palmeri, "if the hair is going to grow, it will."

One element of good scalp care involves nothing more than purchasing good shampoo ("all shampoos are not created equal," he said). A good shampoo would build up on the hair shaft, weighing down the hair with repeated use, and use high quality protein, said Palmeri.

Another essential purchase is a boar bristle brush. Brushing the hair and scalp at night makes the hair more manageable, stimulates the scalp and prevents build-up from too-frequent use of sprays and gels.

Palmeri recommends brushing from the roots to the ends every night, which spreads the natural oils. "This will condition the hair better than any conditioner," said Palmeri.

Recommended brushing

But he doesn’t recommend the old 200 strokes-a-night technique. Rather, he suggests men spend about 20 seconds brushing, women around 40 seconds.

Something else that can be done at home to alleviate dryness in the hair is investing in a good blow dryer. "The cheap ones are often too hot," he said. They can burn the hair and sometimes singe the scalp.

Palmeri finished my hair therapy session with a combination that included capsicum, an extract of cayenne, applied only to the roots to exfoliate debris. For a minute, it felt like a spoonful of salsa on the scalp.

His final examination with the fiber-optic camera revealed an entirely different scene: clear roots, clean skin and space for hair to thrive and grow. "The idea is to get the scalp translucent," said Palmeri. "It should feel like your scalp is breathing."

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