Often, when people hear the term “essential oil” they probably think of aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is a very common holistic healing method that is used around the world to alleviate things such as stress, headaches, nausea, as well as boost mood and focus. But, essential oils may be good for more than just helping you stay productive.
There is evidence that several different essential oils may provide some benefits for people suffering from hair loss. Sounds too good to be true? That’s why I’m here.
When it comes to hair loss, there are many people out there creating products or writing articles to try and sell products that have little-to-no scientific backing. It is extremely important to remain skeptical and only use treatments that have strong evidence supporting them.
Which is why in this article we are going to focus on the most commonly used essential oils that you may come across and take a hard at the research to determine if they could be a viable option or not.
What is an essential oil?
First let’s go over exactly what and essential oil is so that if you decide to use on for your hair loss you know exactly what you are putting on your body.
Essential oils are concentrated liquid extracts from plants. Inside every plant there are highly concentrated, highly potent chemicals that provide a range of benefits. But they need to be extracted so that these beneficial compounds can be isolated from the rest of the plant.
There are several ways that manufacturers go about the extraction process including steam distillation, water distillation, and cold pressing.
Now, you can buy essential oils in their pure form and there may be some benefits associated with that, but for the purpose of this article we will not be talking about pure essential oils. When it comes to the hair and scalp, using pure essential oils can be harsh on the skin and may cause negative side effects. This is why a carrier oil, commonly jojoba, is usually added.
Carrier oils help soften and moisturize skin while also reducing irritation, which make them ideal to combine with essential oils.
The nitty gritty: essential oils for hair loss
Now onto the good stuff.
There are more than 90 essential oils, all of which carry their own health benefits. But, amongst the bunch there are several that have risen to the top in terms of hair loss benefits.
Before we dive into these essential oils it is important to note that none of them target dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is the androgen primarily responsible for androgenic alopecia (AGA; pattern hair loss).
Okay now let’s take a look at each essential oil to see how they work and what research there is to back any claims.
Rosemary is one of the more talked about essential oils for hair growth.
The primary benefit of rosemary oil is that it can help improve blood flow to the scalp. This is also what established treatments like minoxidil do. Blood flow is extremely important for hair growth because blood carries vital oxygen and nutrients that the hair follicles use to grow.
What about the research?
Well, the reason rosemary is so popular amongst the hair loss community is because it has solid research backing it (1,2). Multiple studies have shown that rosemary is equally as effective as minoxidil, and in some cases more effective. Therefore, rosemary may be a valuable addition to a hair loss regimen or a natural alternative to minoxidil.
Another essential oil that is highly regarded for its hair loss benefits is tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil’s primary benefit is that it can help reduce and prevent dandruff. Although dandruff doesn’t directly cause hair loss it can indirectly cause it through inflammation, scratching, etc.
Tea tree oil has been shown in numerous studies to be antimicrobial. This helps alleviate dandruff because it is caused by a fungus called malassezia. In fact, it has been tested on dandruff directly and showed a 41% improvement rate (4,5,6).
If you struggle with dandruff and/or dry scalp using tea tree oil will likely provide some benefit, but it is not going to help regrow hair like rosemary (and what we are about to talk about next) does.
Peppermint oil works similarly to rosemary oil by increasing blood flow which brings nutrients to the hair and promotes growth.
Peppermint contains menthol, which is a substance that is known for its vasodilating effects (opening blood vessels).
One study (7) tested peppermint oil against minoxidil directly to which peppermint oil was shown to be more effective.
In terms of research, compared to the two treatments discussed above peppermint oil does not have as much surrounding it, albeit there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on top of the study.
Is peppermint as reliable as rosemary? We can't be sure, but it does show promise.
As far as research goes rosemary, tea tree, and peppermint oil have relatively sufficient data to support their efficacy for hair loss. They do not have even close to as much data as FDA approved treatments like minoxidil and finasteride. But, they are much more legit than many other alternative treatments that are on the market.
If you are looking for the most effective hair loss treatment, you may want to look elsewhere. But, given the fact that essential oils have legitimate clinical research showing benefits for hair loss, using them as an addition to a regimen or an alternative may prove to be helpful.