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Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Nicholas Gibson
Hair loss is an issue that just about every guy will deal with at some point in life, whether it’s in his 20s, 30s or well into middle age.
If you’ve searched for information about treating hair loss and stimulating hair growth, you may have come across recommendations for natural products such as essential oils.
Essential oils are oils that contain chemical compounds extracted from plants. They’re easy to find online and are promoted for their purported health benefits and antimicrobial properties.
Overall, the evidence for essential oils as hair growth treatments is mixed. While some studies involving animals have found that certain essential oils may help to promote hair growth, there isn’t much scientific research that looks at their effects on human hair.
Below, you’ll find information on the most popular natural oils, as well as the latest research on their effectiveness for treating hair loss and promoting hair growth. So if you find yourself asking: “What natural oils are good for hair growth?” Read on.
Below you’ll also find details on a few science-based treatment options you may want to consider if you’re starting to lose your hair.
Before getting into specific oils, it’s important to point one thing out: Right now, the evidence for natural oils as hair growth treatments is limited, both in scope and quality.
Most studies on oil-based hair loss treatments are small in scale, and only a few involve human participants. As such, when something “works” in a study (for example, it promotes thicker hair, faster hair growth or better blood circulation in mice or rats), it doesn’t necessarily mean it also works for humans.
It’s important to keep this in mind when reading an article or watching a video that makes claims about the effects of essential oils.
Certain natural oils may offer benefits for hair growth. However, most research into their effects is still ongoing, meaning it’s best to treat most findings as a “maybe” rather than a “definitely.”
With this disclaimer out of the way, let’s start by looking at the natural oils that are backed by the strongest scientific research.
Rosemary essential oil is one of the most popular natural oils for hair growth, as well as several other common health issues. It’s also one of the most well studied, with a variety of research on its potential benefits for treating anxiety, pain and inflammation.
One study published in the journal SKINmed compared rosemary oil to the hair loss medication minoxidil.
In this study, people with androgenetic alopecia (AGA, or pattern hair loss) were treated using a rosemary oil solution or 2% minoxidil for a period of six months. By the end of the study, both groups showed a significant increase in average hair count.
Interestingly, the researchers couldn’t find any significant differences in hair growth between the two groups, although they did note that the minoxidil group was more likely to experience scalp itching.
A different study published in Archives of Dermatology in the late 1990s also found that several essential oils, including rosemary oil, may help to treat alopecia areata — a form of autoimmune hair loss that can cause patchy baldness.
Right now, the research on rosemary oil is interesting but far from comprehensive. This guide to rosemary oil for hair growth looks at this research in more detail and shares ways you can use rosemary oil as part of your hair care routine.
Tea tree essential oil, or melaleuca oil, is a natural oil that’s produced using the leaves of the Australian tea tree, or Melaleuca alternifolia. It’s long been used as an ingredient in traditional Aboriginal medicine.
Many anti-dandruff shampoos use tea-tree oil as an active ingredient. In one study, researchers found that tea tree oil shampoo was more effective than a non-therapeutic placebo for reducing dandruff in men and women.
Although there’s no precise link between dandruff and hair loss, tea tree oil’s effects on dandruff may be beneficial for general hair health and a healthy scalp, or if you simply have oily hair.
In another study, researchers found that a microemulsion containing tea tree oil, diclofenac and minoxidil was more effective at promoting hair growth than minoxidil on its own.
You can learn more about this research and other studies into tea tree oil’s effects in this guide to tea tree oil and hair.
Several essential oils aren’t supported by much in the way of specific research but have been found to promote hair growth in animal studies or when used with other ingredients.
Peppermint oil. A study published in Toxicological Research in 2014 found that topical use of peppermint oil stimulates hair growth and increases hair follicle count in mice, possibly due to an increase in blood flow to the hair follicles. However, there’s currently no research on the effects of peppermint oil on hair growth in humans.
Lavender oil. Although there’s currently no research on its effects on human hair on its own, one study of lavender oil found that it may produce new hair follicles and increase follicular depth in mice. Lavender oil was also one of several oils used to treat alopecia areata in a small-scale study published in 1998.
Jojoba oil. One study of jojoba oil published in Food and Chemical Toxicity found that it may help to speed up the hair growth process in mice. However, there’s currently no research showing the same effects in humans.
Cedarwood oil. Like lavender oil, cedarwood oil was one of several oils studied as part of a combination treatment in 1998. However, there currently isn’t any evidence that it prevents hair loss or promotes hair growth when used by itself.
Argan oil. A popular shampoo ingredient, argan oil is promoted for its fatty acid content and effects on a dry or itchy scalp. However, there’s currently no scientific evidence that it has any effect on hair growth.
Castor oil. Another popular shampoo ingredient, castor oil is often promoted to treat dry scalp. Although it may help to prevent breakage, there isn’t any research to show that it stimulates or speeds up hair growth.
Black seed oil. Although a few studies have found that black seed oil may have hair-related benefits, none are very comprehensive. There isn’t enough scientific evidence to confirm that black seed oil improves hair growth or prevents male pattern baldness. Many hair products use a combination of black seed oil and other ingredients, making it difficult to understand if black seed oil is effective.
While these oils are often promoted for their hair growth effects (usually mixed with a carrier oil or in hair care products), the scientific evidence behind them isn’t very strong right now.
Currently, there isn’t any high-quality evidence that shows that thyme oil, lemongrass oil, clary sage oil, ylang-ylang oil or other widely-promoted essential oils can stop hair loss or stimulate hair growth.
However, these oils and others may provide benefits for dry hair, brittle hair, hair breakage and general hair health when used as part of your hair care routine.
If you have hair loss or other hair or scalp issues, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider before using any natural oils for hair care purposes.
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Overall, there isn’t all that much evidence that natural oils are good for hair growth, or can prevent hair loss or do other things to improve your hair’s appearance.
As mentioned above, this doesn’t mean that natural oils don’t work. There just isn’t any large-scale scientific evidence yet definitively proving that these ingredients will improve your hair’s thickness, density or overall growth.
However, if you’re starting to lose your hair, there are several options available that can stop further hair loss and, in some cases, stimulate regrowth. These include:
Minoxidil. This topical hair loss medication works by moving your hair follicles into the anagen, or growth, phase of the hair growth cycle. It also increases blood flow to your scalp, which may improve nutrient access and help the hair shaft to grow. This guide to applying minoxidil for hair growth breaks down how you can use minoxidil for healthy hair growth and fuller, better-looking hair.
Finasteride. This prescription medication works by reducing levels of DHT, the hormone that causes male pattern baldness. Research shows that it prevents hair loss and even stimulates hair growth in areas with noticeable, recent thinning. This guide to what every man should know about finasteride goes into more detail about how finasteride works, its effects and how you can use it to score thicker hair.
In addition to minoxidil and finasteride, products like a good quality hair loss shampoo can help keep your hair in optimal condition and create an environment that supports stronger, healthier hair growth.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.
If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.
Kept inside a diffuser, natural oils can make your home smell great. There’s also some evidence that they may offer certain health benefits, such as soothing a headache, helping you to relax at the end of the day or calming down an upset stomach.
When it comes to stimulating hair growth, however, the evidence isn’t very strong. While there’s some evidence that rosemary and tea tree oil may have hair-related benefits, only a few studies are currently available, none of which were conducted on a large scale.
As covered in this guide to essential oils for hair growth, there’s little risk in trying natural oils for hair growth if you’re curious.
Finally, you can learn more about the causes of hair loss, symptoms you might notice if you’re losing your hair and the latest treatments in this guide to male pattern baldness.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.