Best Oils for Hair Growth: 15 Oils and the Science Behind Them

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Vanessa Gibbs

Published 05/30/2024

If you’re scouring the shelves for a hair loss treatment, we’re willing to bet you’ve come across a hair oil — or five.

Hair oils promise to promote hair growth, seal split ends, and hydrate dry hair, but can you trust the claims and, if so, what are the best oils for hair growth?

We’ve got you covered. Hair oils might be useful — the keyword here is might — but more research is needed. Saying that, hair oils probably won’t harm your hair, so you can try adding them to your routine to see if they work for you.

Read on for the ultimate guide to good oils for hair.

Peppermint oil is made from the leaves of the peppermint plant — no points for guessing that one. It’s used to treat everything from the common cold to muscle aches.

But what about hair growth? Peppermint oil may improve blood circulation to your hair cells. This increase in blood flow may promote hair growth. But more research is needed to back up that theory.

The research we have so far is promising, though.

A 2014 study compared peppermint oil, jojoba oil, saline solution, and minoxidil — a hair loss treatment approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). After four weeks of treatment, peppermint oil led to the most hair growth out of the four treatments. The caveat? The study was done on mice, not humans.

Beyond hair loss, peppermint may also help if you have a skin condition affecting your scalp. A 2016 study on 50 people with chronic pruritus — itchy skin — found peppermint oil could reduce itchiness.

We’ve covered peppermint oil for hair growth in more detail.

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Rosemary essential oil — made from the leaves of the rosemary plant — might have antifungal, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties. This could benefit the skin of your scalp, which might benefit your hair.

Studies are promising on rosemary oil and hair growth.

A 2012 study found that a topical treatment of 2 milligrams (mg) of rosemary leaf extract a day improved hair growth in mice.

How exactly?

Rosemary extract was found to inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. This enzyme converts testosterone into the hair-hating hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT binds to receptors in your hair follicles, causing miniaturization and hair loss.

So, rosemary oil may slow hair loss and promote new hair growth.

A 2015 study on 100 people found that rosemary oil was just as effective at treating androgenetic alopecia (more commonly known as male-pattern baldness) than minoxidil 2%. But, scalp itching was more frequent in those treated with minoxidil.

Lavender oil is derived from — you guessed it — the lavender plant.

Apart from smelling nice, lavender oil may have some hair health benefits. It has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which may promote scalp health.

Studies are pretty promising on lavender oil for hair loss, but we only have animal studies to go off.

A 2016 study compared the effects of jojoba oil, minoxidil, saline solution, 3% lavender oil, and 5% lavender oil on mice. The mice were treated once a day, five times a week for four weeks.

The mice treated with minoxidil, 3% lavender oil, and 5% lavender oil saw a significant increase in the number of hair follicles, deepened hair follicle depth (deeper hair follicles within the scalp, which may lead to less hair loss), and a thicken dermal layer (thicker skin, which may help hold onto the hair).

Hair growth was better in the minoxidil group, followed by the 5% lavender oil group, and then the 3% lavender oil group.

Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of the tea tree. It might be useful for conditions like athlete’s foot and acne. It’s also often found on lists of the best hair oils, though there’s not much science behind it.

Tea tree oil may have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antifungal properties.

For instance, a 2021 study found that tea tree oil shampoos had antifungal properties that could help improve the buildup of dandruff.

We don’t know much about tea tree oil alone as a treatment for hair loss, but it may make hair loss treatments like minoxidil even more effective.

A 2013 study found that tea tree oil combined with minoxidil and diclofenac (an anti-inflammatory agent) was more effective at treating androgenetic alopecia than minoxidil alone.

We’ve covered the benefits of tea tree oil for hair in more detail.

Fish oil is derived from the tissues of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. It’s high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can benefit your heart, eyes, and mental health.

But what about up top? Again, there aren’t many human studies, but we do have some animal studies to go off.

For example, a 2018 study showed that mackerel-derived fermented fish oil increased the length of hair fibers and encouraged hair follicles to enter the anagen phase of the hair cycle. The anagen phase is the growth phase.

Fish oil may help with more than just hair loss. Check out our guide to fish oil benefits for men to learn more.

Argan oil comes from the kernels of the argan tree, mainly found in Morocco.

The oil contains oleic acid and linoleic acid — two acids that might strengthen hair, protect it from harmful cosmetics used in hair styling, and prevent hair loss. It also contains tocopherol, which has antioxidant properties and may protect your hair from damaging UV radiation.

A 2022 study on mice compared 1%, 2%, and 3% concentrations of argan oil. After 21 days of treatment, all three formulas resulted in hair growth — and the higher the concentration, the more hair growth that was seen.

Another bonus? Argan oil might make your hair shinier, too. Check out our guide to argan oil to learn more.

Pumpkin seed oil is another oil that’s rich in antioxidants and fatty acids. Just like rosemary oil, pumpkin seed oil works by inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, meaning it might be able to slow hair loss and potentially promote hair regrowth.

Compared to FDA-approved hair loss treatments like finasteride and minoxidil, pumpkin seed oil has fewer side effects.

Research on whether this is a good oil for hair looks promising, too.

In a 2014 study, 76 men with androgenetic alopecia used either 400mg of pumpkin seed oil a day or a placebo for 24 weeks. At the end of the experiment, the group using pumpkin seed oil had a 40 percent increase in average hair count. The placebo group has an increase of just 10 percent.

We’ve shared more research on pumpkin seed oil for hair growth.

Saw palmetto oil comes from the berries of the Serenoa repens tree, found in places like Florida and South Carolina. The oil is rich in nourishing fatty acids like oleic acid and linoleic acid.

Saw palmetto may be helpful for hair loss as it targets 5-alpha-reductase. As mentioned, this reduces DHT, which could in turn reduce hair loss. More research is needed, but a 320mg daily dose may be most effective.

You can find saw palmetto in oil formulations or in hair care products like hair-thickening shampoos.

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You might be more familiar with chamomile in tea form, but it has benefits beyond being a soothing pre-bed beverage.

Chamomile oil may have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. You might have seen it marketed to improve eczema, anxiety, and sleep.

When it comes to hair, it may help there, too.

A 2017 study looked at the effect of chamomile extract and Zataria multiflora Boiss extract — aka Shizari thyme — on 60 men with androgenetic alopecia. The men used one of the extracts twice a day for three months alongside a minoxidil 5% treatment.

At the end of the experiment, the men using either the chamomile extract or the Shizari thyme extract had more hair growth than the placebo group, who had also used minoxidil.

So, chamomile may make minoxidil more effective.

Thyme isn’t just for seasoning. It also may help treat hair loss, though research is, once again, limited. There aren’t many studies on thyme as a treatment by itself, and different types of thyme may have different effects.

We have the 2017 study mentioned above that looked at the effects of both chamomile extract and Shizari thyme on men with androgenetic alopecia. When used alongside minoxidil 5%, Shizari thyme extract was shown to boost hair growth compared to men just using minoxidil.

The combination of thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood oils has also been shown to improve hair loss in those with alopecia areata — which is when your immune system attacks hair follicles, causing hair loss.

Cedarwood oil is made from the bark of the cedar tree. Like many oils on this list, its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antifungal properties may make it a useful hair loss treatment.

There’s not much up-to-date research on the oil, though.

We do have a study from way back in 1998 that looked at 86 people with alopecia areata. Participants in this study were divided into two groups. One group applied an essential oil blend that included thyme, rosemary, lavender, cedarwood, and carrier oils to their scalp daily. The control group just used carrier oils.

After seven months of treatment, 44 percent of the group using the essential oil blend saw an improvement in hair loss, compared to just 15 percent of the control group.

Sounds good, right? But, of course, we can’t be sure cedarwood oil played a role in that. It could have been one of the other oils, or the combination of all four.

One of the lesser-known oils, geranium oil is derived from the leaves and flowers of geranium plants. Geranium oil is used for skin conditions like acne and dermatitis, and it might be useful for hair loss too.

But, yet again, there’s really not a lot of scientific evidence to back it up.

A 2017 study looked at the effects of geranium sibiricum extract on human hair cells and mice. It found that applying a geranium extract treatment for three weeks led to significantly more hair growth in mice than a minoxidil 5% treatment.

Geranium extract appeared to be more effective on the human hair cells, too. We just need more studies on IRL human heads to know for sure.

You’ll usually find grapes in the fruit aisle. In oil form, grapeseed oil is derived from a different type of grape: wine grapes.

Research is mixed, but some studies show grapeseed oil may reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and even the effects of stress on the body and mind. Not bad.

Again, there’s not much recent research on grapeseed oil and hair loss, but we do have an older study to go off.

A 1998 study found that proanthocyanidins — a plant compound — found in grape seeds promoted hair follicle growth in mice cells. This might translate to promoting hair growth on human heads, but more research is needed before we make that leap.

Coconut oil — it’s not just for cooking and skincare. Does it make the cut as one of the good oils for hair loss? Maybe.

Just like many oils on this list, virgin coconut oil has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiprotozoal (meaning it can improve infections caused by the organism protozoan) properties.

It may benefit scalp health, and therefore hair health. It’s also moisturizing, so it may help improve hair dryness.

Another thing that coconut oil has in common with the other oils on this list? There’s not much research behind it.

It’s unclear if coconut oil can help with hair loss, but it might be beneficial for dandruff.

A 2021 study on 140 women — half of whom had dandruff — found that using coconut oil for 12 weeks led to an increase in good bacteria on the scalp. This was linked to improved dandruff.

Jojoba oil is a liquid wax made from the seeds of Simmondsia Chinensis, or jojoba plant. It’s used in skincare and may help reduce inflammation and bacterial growth, which could promote a healthy scalp.

When it comes to hair, research shows that jojoba oil might act as a conditioning agent — thus softening the hair — and it may reduce protein loss in the hair shaft, improving resistance against hair breakage.

But there aren’t any studies on jojoba oil and human hair to back this up.

Check out our guide to jojoba oil for hair growth to learn more.

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Castor oil, almond oil, olive oil, and every oil on this list — you’re not short on choices, but we are short on scientific evidence. So, if you’re wondering what oil is good for hair growth, the bottom line is … we just don’t know.

While some hair oils show promise, much more research is needed to know if they’re truly effective.

Here’s a recap:

  • Some hair oils show promise as hair loss treatments. Good oils for hair may include rosemary, lavender, and pumpkin seed oil, as they’ve been shown to promote hair growth in studies. But more research is needed and many studies on other oils are on mice, so we can’t say for sure whether us humans could benefit from them.

  • Some hair oils may promote scalp health. Even if oils can’t do much for your hairline, they may be beneficial as a scalp treatment if you have dandruff, itchiness, or a dry scalp, for example. This could lead to healthier hair.

  • There’s probably no harm in using hair oils. We can’t say for sure if hair growth oils work, but they probably won’t harm your hair. So, if curiosity strikes, you can try out an oil as a hair treatment to see if it makes a difference for you. It’s a good excuse for a scalp massage if nothing else.

Looking to promote healthy hair growth? Consider proven hair loss treatments alongside — or instead of — any hair oils you might want to try.

Treatments like minoxidil and finasteride are FDA-approved and have plenty of science backing them up. You can even use them together in our topical finasteride and minoxidil spray.

If you’re concerned about hair loss or thinning hair, check out hair loss treatments that have been proven to work.

26 Sources

  1. Boisvert, WA, et al. (2017). Hair growth-promoting effect of Geranium sibiricum extract in human dermal papilla cells and C57BL/6 mice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5307826/
  2. Carson, CF, et al. (2006). Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea tree) oil: a review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/
  3. Cho, YH, et al. (2014). Effect of pumpkin seed oil on hair growth in men with androgenetic alopecia: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2014/549721/
  4. Dhariwala, MY, et al. (2019). An overview of herbal alternatives in androgenetic alopecia. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Padmini-Ravikumar/publication/332400933_An_overview_of_herbal_alternatives_in_androgenetic_alopecia/links/5d3998ee4585153e591fbd12/An-overview-of-herbal-alternatives-in-androgenetic-alopecia.pdf
  5. Elsaie, LT, et al. (2016). Effectiveness of topical peppermint oil on symptomatic treatment of chronic pruritus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5066694/
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  7. Hay, IC, et al. (1998). Randomized trial of aromatherapy successful treatment for alopecia areata. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/189618
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  9. Kang, J, et al. (2018). Mackerel-derived fermented fish oil promotes hair growth by anagen-stimulating pathways. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6164340/
  10. Lee, BH, et al. (2016). Hair Growth-Promoting Effects of Lavender Oil in C57BL/6 Mice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4843973/
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  14. Oh, JY, et al. (2014). Peppermint oil promotes hair growth without toxic signs. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4289931/
  15. Panahi, Y, et al. (2015). Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: a randomized comparative trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25842469/
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  17. Sakr, FM, et al. (2013). Preparation and evaluation of a multimodal minoxidil microemulsion versus minoxidil alone in the treatment of androgenic alopecia of mixed etiology: a pilot study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3686323/
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  21. Ufomadu, P. (2023). Complementary and alternative supplements: a review of dermatologic effectiveness for androgenetic alopecia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10761108/
  22. Umar, H, et al. (2021). Formulation and in vitro characterization of tea tree oil anti-dandruff shampoo. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/355183776_Formulation_and_In_Vitro_Characterization_of_Tea_Tree_Oil_Anti-Dandruff_Shampoo
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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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