August 20 2014

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All Hail The Kingsley Method


In today’s world of Brazilian blow-outs, keratin treatments, chemical processing, and hot styling tool abuse, damaged hair is a given. And while deep-conditioning treatments abound to help dehydrated, porous locks get back to their former, glossy glory, few people realize that to counteract the damage, you need to get to the root of the problem—literally. Philip Kingsley had this epiphany way back in the sixties, when bleaching and teasing were in their prime. A trained trichologist (a student of the science of the hair and scalp), Kingsley opened clinics in London and New York to stress that healthy hair goes way beyond regular shampooing and conditioning.

“The goal is to maintain the integrity of the hair and scalp to reach an optimal growth and presentation level—most of us are not at that level,” Elizabeth Cunnane-Phillips, a consultant at the recently revamped New York outpost, explains of the impetus for Kingsley’s treatments. Whether or not you’re aware of it, hormonal shifts, physical and emotional stressors, and yes, the mal-effects of overstyling can all contribute to making your scalp flaky and your hair brittle, thin, and dull. “Nutrition is the stand-alone problem,” Cunnane-Phillips says, pointing out that like the skin, the hair is also effected by everything you do (or do not) put into your body. After a consultation with a new patient, Cunnane-Phillips might order blood tests to pinpoint vitamin deficiencies before prescribing a series of supplements—iron, B-12, and zinc being the most common. Then comes the fun part: the Philip Kingsley signature scalp treatment.

A no-frills service if ever there was one—there are no silk robes, cappuccinos, or order-in menus here—the seven-part service is still incredibly luxurious. Ostensibly a facial for your head, it starts with the application of a customized, fragrance-free scalp cream and “elasticizer” (a hand-blended conditioning agent made for each individual’s needs). Once both are set, a steam cap is placed on top of the head for 15-20 minutes to open the hair follicle and cuticle to let the product seep in further. Next comes the radiant heat lamps, which help to continually deliver product to the hair while loosening muscles for the massage that is to come. And come it does, lulling you into a state of total bliss; seeing as how this is a clinic and not a salon, the technicians at Philip Kingsley approach the issue at hand with strong pressure and dedicated kneading techniques. After you’ve been thoroughly rubbed, a shampoo and conditioning session follows—again with customized products hand-mixed on site—before a tonic is dabbed onto the scalp to boost circulation and help reduce oil buildup. “A lot of people come in before they color,” Cunnane-Phillips points out—or before going on camera (Kate Winslet, Renée Zellweger, and Sigourney Weaver are all devout fans).

Don’t expect to find a blow-out staff here, though—”it’s contradictory to our philosophy,” Cunnane-Phillips says—which means you’ll have to walk out onto East 52nd Street with a wet head once you’re finished. But it’s worth it after getting the best cleanse money can buy. (And If you like to live dangerously, the John Sahag salon is but a few blocks away).

Philip Kingsley Trichological Centre, 16 East 52nd Street, NYC , NY 10022; 212-753-9600.


Photo: Courtesy of Philip Kingsley