5 Oils for Hair Growth — Backed by Science
Hair growth is all about blood circulation. Whether you are suffering from hair loss, hair thinning or alopecia — the treatment is often the same.
Have you ever wondered how some of the most effective hair loss treatments came to be?
Minoxidil was initially discovered as a pharmaceutical drug for heart patients as it caused vasodilation and increased blood flow. It was later found to be useful as a topical drug for hair growth — so it was more or less accidental.
Therefore using this logic we can understand how treatments, natural or pharmaceutical, work their magic. One of the most popular methods of increasing blood circulation naturally in the scalp is scalp massage with the help of an oil with anti-inflammatory and blood circulating properties.
Scalp massage is an entire topic on its own however, it is suffice to say people have been employing this method to keep hair thick and strong for millennia. Only recently did we actually see this tested (in vitro) and results supported what scalp massage claims to do — increase hair thickness and the growth phase of hair growth (anagen). The older generations in cultures where scalp massage is a traditional practise, particularly further East, do it daily for 10 to 15 minutes and often starting from their late teens.
This persistence is probably how good blood circulation is maintained in the scalp throughout their lives, making them less prone to the negative effects of DHT such as hair loss.
This time however, I’ll be covering the best topical oils to further promote hair growth when coupled with scalp massage. This is based on their properties and absorption in the scalp, along with any scientific data.
1. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties which provides a soothing function in the scalp. Studies have also showed how virgin coconut oil can be anti-inflammatory which is the ideal counter-effect for hair loss. Since inflammation is the physiological cause that makes hair fall out, anything anti-inflammatory would obviously be good for the scalp.
In terms of other properties, it does act as a great moisturiser which is why so many cosmetic products blend it in with their formulas.
2. Argan Oil
An oil native to Morocco, Argan oil is produced from the kernels of the argan tree. It started becoming a very commercially available oil in the past 2 years thanks to the exposure given to it by the West which led to increased production by the Moroccan government.
Popularly used for improving skin complexion, treating acne vulgaris and chicken pox scars, it has also found to have beneficial properties for hair. The oil is rich in tocopherols, polyphenols and anti-oxidants which all work to fight oxidative damage. Though it does not imply hair growth directly, it can be effective again in reducing inflammation and helping renew the skin faster. Argan oil is one of the most expensive, edible oils so logic dictates that finding a cheap version will probably not hold the same medicinal effects and be of poorer quality.
3. Olive Oil
As harmful as this oil is for cooking (much like other oils on this list), it can be great for topical application and non heated consumption in many cases. Packed with essential fatty acids, they can suppress the growth of dermatophytes and thoroughly moisturise the skin outside the body and increase levels of good fat inside the body.
People believe its the reason for youthful skin and hair in some middle eastern regions, whether that is true, it definitely has beneficial properties.
4. Castor Oil
Castor oil is another popular cosmetic oil designed to help regrow hair though clinical evidence is limited. PGD2 is a hormone called prostaglandin which is commonly found in hair loss sufferers can be inhibited by a substance in castor oil. This effect is said to increase hair growth and slow down hair loss however, there are a lot missing links to this story.
Despite no clinical studies being carried out, it has worked for some but the counter-argument is that it only makes hair appear thicker and doesn’t increase growth. In instances like these, it is important to remember that everyone reacts differently to treatments based on their health and body.
5. Avocado Oil
Beyond the trips to Chipotle, avocado oil serves a similar function to that of olive oil. The fatty acids are good for combatting oxidative damage to the hair and scalp whilst also visibly improving hair quality. If you have split ends or frizzy hair, avocado oil will help.
In terms of hair growth, both avocado oil and olive oil may help inhibit an enzyme that is involved in producing the byproduct DHT. With lower levels of DHT in the scalp, there is less inflammation giving hair more opportunity to grow. Again, there aren’t clinical studies to prove this but that’s the theory.
The Problem with Oils
However, there is a major limitation with the oils mentioned above. It is why users see such a large variation in results when applying topically.
That problem is rancidity.
It essentially means that the oil has gone off. The majority of oils will eventually go rancid at room temperature and the medicinal properties will be lost. Oils may even begin to release toxins and contribute to oxidation the longer they are rancid.
When these are applied to the skin, our body temperatures will cause it to go rancid even faster. So if you are scalp massaging with these oils, there is limited time frame to when you can obtain the benefits, assuming they are not already rancid.
This is why cooking with olive oil can be so harmful. Olive oil is extremely sensitive to light and heat so even if care is not taken when packaging the oil, it can go off. Even before you crack open the lid, it can already be expired. If you further heat this oil, it starts to release toxic chemicals in even greater quantities.
If you scalp massage with regular oils, then be sure to wash them off after massaging to prevent rancid oil from clogging the pores in your scalp. Higher quality oils may still have a longer life, but will eventually see the same fate when applied on the skin.
What’s a better alternative for topical application?
Immortal’s oil is one of the only oils that does not go rancid at skin temperature, therefore its medicinal qualities can be maintained for much longer.
It stimulates hair follicles and improves thickness by increasing blood circulation in the scalp. It’s also packed with omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which has anti-inflammatory effects known to increase hair growth. If this is lacking, cells can lose their turgidity and moisture. As this is not normally produced in our body, it has to be obtained from the diet or can be topically applied for hair. It is also a popular option for facial hair growth as well as on the scalp, which suggests that it can effectively counter-act DHT’s inflammatory effects on the skin.
As a side note, it is important to remember that any application of any oil should be applied on the actual scalp, not the hair. Often people assume that scalp massage and oil is for the hair, but it is for the hair follicles.
The hair strand will constantly be going through phases of growth and death, but it’s the follicle we actually try to stimulate. Otherwise, we can slab on any fatty substance on the hair strand which will make it appear shinier and thicker. It’s all in the follicles.