Essential Oils for Hair: Oils to Stimulate Growth
Essential oils hold the promise for a great many people of stimulating the growth of bountiful healthy hair. Whether one is regrowing hair after hair loss, preventing the loss of hair, or just looking to make their hair more beautiful and lustrous than ever, essential oils and the carrier oils that comprise therapeutic aromatherapy formulas are very much worth investigating.
To use essential oils to stimulate hair growth, try one of the following:
• Use an oil treatment blend: Blend essential oils with one or more carrier oils and massage this into the scalp 3-7 times per week. We have a scalp stimulating blend already formulated called Healthy Hair on our essential oil blends page.
• Add essential oils to shampoo or conditioner: Many people add a little essential oil to their current hair care products. The upside is that this is very easy to do, the downside is that little of the oil is absorbed by the scalp.
ANY custom blend should contain no more than 5%, preferably 3%, concentration of essential oils!
We'll start with two basic recipes for oil treatments, then describe the reasons why each oil was selected. This will help you if you want to customize a recipe further.
Each of these recipes uses the same therapeutic and nutritive Base oils, to which the essential oils are added. To make the base formula, mix equal parts of virgin Coconut oil (gently warm to a liquid state if necessary), Rosehip Seed Oil, and Evening Primrose oils. If making 4 ounces of base, just fill your bottle approximately 1/3rd of the way with each of these oils, then add your essential oils as described below. All these formulas can be massaged into the scalp 3-7 times a week. It can be done before bed with these left in (put a towel on your pillow!) or kept under a warm moist towel for up to an hour then washed out - the towel isn't necessary, it just helps with absorption:
To make a formula more specific to your hair and scalp condition, keep reading to find out more about each essential oil and how they may work for you...
While the factors affecting one's personal hair growth are very complex, including such things as nutrition, age, hormone balance and lifestyle factors, a customized aromatherapy formula using authentic pure essential oils and properly made base oils can have a dramatic affect. Here's a look at how you can create and use your own recipe made specifically for your scalp and hair type.
Choosing Between Stimulating, Nutritive, Balancing and Immune Suppportive Oils
The oils used for hair growth are also those used for skin care in general -- the health of the follicles is of course closely related to the health of the scalp and skin. Essential oils for your most effective, custom recipe can be selected from one of four general categories. These are: stimulating (increasing cellular metabolism and/or new cell generation), nutritive (offering vitamins, other co-factors and essential fats necessary for healthy follicle function), balancing (returns over-oily or over-dry skin to a balanced state, balances over- or under-active hormones at a cellular level, and/or reduces excess inflammation from any number or sources), and immune-supportive (heal scalp/skin infections that may inhibit optimal hair growth).
Creating Your Best Personal Formula: Mixing Essential Oils and Base Oils
The essential oils can be thought of as the 'active ingredients' in your formula: simply choose one or more of these to include, and add these in small amounts to your base formulation. The 'base' of any therapeutic aromatherapy formula is made of carrier oils similar to Olive oil. The base oils for hair growth stimulation will be selected from base oils known to have therapeutic effects for the skin and scalp. The essential oils will be added in what seems to be very, very small amounts, but this is one of the great things about therapeutic aromatherapy: it actually works best with the smallest portions of essential oils. The essential oils are very, very potent plant medicine -- and it's easy to use too much of a good thing. The essential oils work in a very different means than most conventional medicines in that they signal cell activity, rather than force it to change. By using them, you're like a conductor conducting an orchestra of biology -- just a flick of your wand is all it takes to make dramatic changes in scalp and follicle activity.
Finding The Right Oils For You Within Each Category
We'll start with the stimulating essential oils. These essential oils are used in skin and hair care to stimulate cellular metabolism (increasing the oxygen and nutrients used by the cell) or stimulate the growth of new cells. Specifically for hair growth, we'd like to stimulate the activity of the hair follicles and grow more hair, thicker and faster. Two essential oils are used most often for this: Rosemary and Sage. Both of these herbs have a long history in hair care, with teas made from their leaves being used as a stimulating hair rinse for hundreds of years. Of all the Rosemary essential oil varieties available, you should find the specialty-oil for skin and hair: Rosemary c.t. ve
rbenone. The verbenone 'chemotype' has unique molecules in it that tells the scalp cells to speed up their activity and even produce new cells. Rosemary verbenone is the safest and most commonly-used of the stimulating oils (though it should be avoided by expectant mothers, children, and those with nervous system conditions -- check with your doctor if you're unsure about the safety of essential oils for yourself just in case).
The essential oil distilled from common Sage (found as Salvia officinalis, or Dalmation Sage) is considered the most regenerative and stimulating of all the oils used in skin and hair care. It also carries the strongest warnings--while the opinions of professional aromatherapists vary, it's generally agreed that this oil should also not be used when pregnant, or those with any other contra-indicated condition (Lavender, while listed as a balancing oil, is also regenerative and is the safest alternative). At the same time, respected therapists consider it safe when used in correct therapeutic concentrations, which are usually between one-quarter and one-half of one percent of your total blend (this is between one-part per 400 and one-part per 200, or 2 to 4 drops per ounce of base oil).
Nutritive Essential Oils
The oils that provide vitamins and growth co-factors combine perfectly with the stimulating oils. It is important if using oils to stimulate cell-metabolism to offer these same cells the nutrients they need for increasing growth (you might also look into what sorts of foods and nutritional supplements may also be effective for hair growth -- minerals like sulfur and silica, and B-vitamins are examples). The nutritive oils also supply antioxidants to hair follicles, important because some scientists believe it is oxidative damage to the follicle mitochondria (the cell's energy producer) that is the root cause of slowed hair growth. The nutritive essential oils are Sea Buckthorn and Carrot Root -- these are technically 'supercritical' extracts (rather than steam distilled essential oils), made by a low-temperature process that preserves the nutritive qualities. These oils are very safe and can be used at concentrations between one-half and two percent of the total formula.
Balancing Essential Oils
Balancing oils should make up a part of everyone's blend. Even if you just add a little bit of Lavender, you're hair will be happy! The balancing oils bring about a balance of the scalp's natural oil production, and/or cool the scalp and reduce inflammation (inflammation at the cellular level is directly implicated in hair loss). Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is the premier balancing oil for skin, scalp and hair care, and has many helpful properties -- it is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and regenerative all at the same time. If needed to balance scalp oils, Green Myrtle is an excellent choice, also with antibacterial and regenerative properties. Myrtle can reduce excessive oil production (which has been implicated in hair loss and slow hair growth) and can help a flaky, itchy scalp. For women, Clary Sage can be especially balancing, particularly where regular hormone production is the source of hair loss or slow hair growth. Proper estrogen metabolism on the cellular level is critical for beautiful hair, and older women in particular may really benefit from one-half of one percent Clary Sage included in their personal recipes.
Oils Specific to Alopecia Areata
For some folks, slow hair growth is due to mild infections of the scalp and follicles. Others, in the case of Alopecia Areata, may even have subtle immune disorders that lead to patchy hair loss. If the scalp is over-oily and irritated, with general thinning or slow hair growth, a gentle antiseptic oil should be included in your formula. This may be as simple as a small amount of Tea Tree, Myrtle or Cedar. Alopecia Areata has been treated specifically with a combination of Thyme, Rosemary, Lavender and Cedar (wood) essential oils in Jojoba and Grapeseed carriers. Each essential oil was effective at approximately one-quarter of one percent concentration.
Choosing Your Carrier Oils
Once the essential oils are selected, they are mixed into a base of carrier oils. The carrier oils are so-called as they help the scalp properly absorb the essential oils. They also provide therapeutic and nutritive properties themselves, so be sure to choose them carefully. Jojoba oil is the all-star of hair care, and has long been used for enhancing luster and softness. Jojoba will work for any skin/scalp type by itself as the base if one is on a limited budget.
For more therapeutic activity, Evening Primrose oil is an excellent choice. It has an exceptionally high percentage of essential fatty acids, which both reduce cellular inflammation and provide nutrients for hair growth. It seems to sooth all kinds of irritated scalp conditions, and is recommended in any formula treating hair loss -- can be used at 25-100% of the base.
Rosehip seed is highly regenerative, shown to help reduce the appearance of aging. Rosehip should have a profound impact where hair growth is slow or hair is being lost, as similar pharmaceutical preparations have had significant effects -- also highly recommended in cases of hair loss, can be used at up to 50% of the base. Coconut is great to blend with either or both of these oils, as it is cooling, nutritive and light textured. You can use fractionated coconut (easily poured at room temperature) or just warm virgin coconut until it's pourable and mix with other carriers. Sesame is another wonderful choice for those with 'hot heads' -- really where stress may be leading to
hair loss or limited growth.
Putting It All Together for Your Best Formula
Blending and using your own home-made recipe to stimulate growing beautiful hair is really very easy (and yet remarkably therapeutic!)...Start with an empty bottle of between 1 and 8 ounces. Calculate the amount of each essential oil you'd like to use, remembering that the average amount is 1% of each essential oil. This works out to eight drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier, so if you're making a four-ounce bottle, and want to add one-percent Lavender, add 4x8, or 32 drops of Lavender to the bottle. Stimulating oils should be used at 1/2% or less, meaning 4 drops of essential oil per ounce, and nutritive oils can be used at up to 2%.
When done adding the essential oils, fill the bottle the rest of the way with your chosen carrier(s) -- the carrier measurement needn't be as precise. If you're making a 50/50 base of Rosehip and Sesame, for example, filling the bottle close to halfway with each is just fine. Once you've inverted or lightly shaken the mixture, it's ready to use: you can apply about an eye-dropper full to your scalp, and massage-in. You can do this before going to bed (though cover your bedding to prevent stains from the oils) or wrap your head in a moist towel for a while to maximize absorption. A light scalp massage with the oils will also increase circulation and absorption by the hair roots, perhaps increasing the efficacy of your blend even further.
This concludes a basic review of the therapeutic use of the best essential oils for hair growth, and how to prepare and use your own personal formula. It's so easy to make your own blend, and finally gives you control over the particular active ingredients in your hair growth products -- plus you can make them using completely natural, and even all-organic essential oils and carrier oils. With regular and consistent use, a well balanced, personal recipe should help the health and vibrancy of your hair in just a short time -- and you'll smell wonderful while doing it, too!
Essential oils can be thought of as the 'active ingredients' in your formulas. Choose one or more and add them at the recommended concentrations to your carrier oil(s). Massage your blend into the scalp daily. Some recommend wrapping the scalp with a warm, moist towel afterward to open the pores and enhance absorption. This can be done before bed, and you may want to use a cover for your bedding to provide protection from the oils. Essential oils can also be added to your current shampoos and conditioners.
Carrot Root - High in carotenes and other antioxidants, Carrot oil is exceptional for stimulating and regenerating skin and follicle cells. Retin-A, containing tretinoin - a form of vitamin A, has long been used alone or with Rogain to support hair growth for men with hair loss due to male pattern baldness. Carrot oil is actually a supercritical extract of carrot root emulsified in Jojoba oil (it is one of the few CO2 essential oils that is solid in its pure form). It may be one of the most beneficial oils for people experiencing hair loss of all types, and can support healthy hair growth for everyone. Use at 1 - 3%
Carrot Seed - Mentioned in the aroma literature for invigorating pallid and dull skin, can do the same for hair follicles. May be especially useful where detoxification is necessary; noted specifically for folks whom have been exposed to environmental toxins (polluted urban areas, office environments, significant automobile commuting time, etc.) Use at .5 - 2%
Cedarwood - Some people may be experiencing less than optimal hair growth or hair loss from bacterial or other infections, or from immune system deficiencies. Cedarwood is one of the essential oils in a blend successfully studied for alopecia areata (along with Thyme, Lavender and Rosemary, based in Jojoba and Grapeseed). Use at .5 - 1%
Chamomile, German - One of aromatherapy's most effective agents for reducing inflammation. Hair loss is sometimes attributed to inflammation in the scalp and follicles, resulting in less-than-ideal cellular function. Some even attribute hair loss to an over-heated scalp. German Chamomile is both anti-inflammatory and cooling, with a pleasant sweet herbaceous aroma. Consider also Lavender for a similar effect. Use at .5 -1%
Clary Sage - Proper hormone balance is crucial for both genders when considering the health of hair. Clary Sage is thought to balance estrogen levels in the skin and scalp, and can be of particular help for women of maturity. Use at .5 - 1%
Clove - Antiseptic and a very potent antioxidant (one of the most potent natural antioxidants ever tested, at over 100,000 on the ORAC scale). Can increase circulation, and may be of best support for stimulating new hair growth. For scalp circulation stimulation, Black Pepper may also be used. Use only in very small amounts due to possible skin sensitivity, .25%
Cypress - Included in formulas for increased circulation and capillary strength. It is important to have good blood circulation to the follicles for optimal hair growth. Many regimens for treating hair loss include Ginko and other herbs specifically for increasing circulation in the scalp. Use at .5 - 1%
Helichrysum - Thought to be regenerating to all soft tissues of the body, helichrysum is found in blends for both mature skin and for healing wounds. It is likely regenerative to scalp tissue as well, and may be particularly important as some physicians see the aging scalp to resemble scar tissue. Also an excellent anti-inflammate, and used to enhance circulation. Use at .5 - 2%
Lavender - Found in hair formulas for all types of hair and scalp conditions. Balancing, soothing, regenerative, anti-inflammate and antibacterial. The most commonly used oil for stress reduction. If stress is playing any part in preventing you from having the head of hair you'd like, add a little Lavender! Use at .5 - 3%
Myrtle - A balancer of scalp oils, particularly useful where over-production of sebum may be clogging the pores and follicles of the scalp. A natural, gentle antiseptic; also considered regenerative. Use at .5 - 1%.
Rosemary - One of the premier hair growth enhancing essential oils, rosemary is found in many preparations for hair and scalp. Thought to increase cellular metabolism, thereby stimulating healthy hair growth. Use the Verbenone type if regenerative properties are desired (may be most useful for supporting treatment of hair loss). Successfully used in alopecia areata treatment. Use at .5 - 2%.
Sage - Highly regarded for hair growth, with stimulating properties found in Rosemary - along with hormone balancing of Clary Sage. Can balance scalp oils, and is found in blends for scar reduction and skin regeneration. Not for children or if pregnant. Use at .5 - 1%.
Sea Buckthorn - Noted as enhancing skin and scalp health for every skin type and even every imbalance. Highly nutritive, potent antioxidant and regenerative. Due to high carotene content, will tend to leave the scalp with a little red color for a while after applied - be careful not to stain clothes and bedding. May prevent UV damage, which has been implicated in reducing energy in hair follicles. This is an amazing oil, well worth its berry-redness! Use at .5 - 2%.
Ylang Ylang - Like Lavender, it is thought to reduce stress. Long used to increase the thickness of the hair shaft and to grow thicker hair. Can have a balancing effect on scalp oil production, and may help with split ends.
The Carrier Oils
Carrier oils are just as important as the essential oils for getting the best results for stimulating hair growth. The carriers provide important essential fatty acids to the scalp and follicles. They offer necessary nutrients, and have therapeutic actions themselves. All these oils may be used for 100% of the base, though it may be most beneficial to blend two or more that suit your specific needs.
Coconut - A carrier oil used in Ayurvedic medicine for enhancing hair growth all by itself. Fractionated coconut (as we carry here at Ananda) is simply Coconut oil that has had the largest-chain molecules 'fractionated' from the smaller ones—this allows the oil to stay liquid at room temperature. Fractionated coconut has a nice light texture, appreciated in the warmer months. Virgin whole coconut can also be used in your formulas, and will remain liquid if blended with other carriers for your base. Highly nutritive, excellent for all types of scalp & hair.
Evening Primrose - Many conditions of the skin are positively affected by essential fats, of which Evening Primrose is a wonderful source. Application and ingestion of this oil has been the subject of many scientific inquiries, with exceptional results for all kinds of dermatitis. Evening Primrose is noted to specifically address hair growth (or hair loss) where poor circulation might be an issue. Evening Primrose also may have a significant effect in reducing inflammation, which may in-turn be beneficial for reversing hair loss.
Grapeseed - In the last few years, this oil became very prominent for healthy cuisine. Sometimes found dark green in color, the darker Grapeseed oils have more significant amounts of antioxidant polyphenols. Grapeseed has a particularly light feel, and may be the best choice if one has an oily scalp, though is wanting the many benefits of essential oil application. Grapeseed and Jojoba were used as the base for a study which treated alopecia areata with essential oils. These oils may be used 50/50 for this purpose.
Hemp - Like Evening Primrose, Hemp offers significant quantities of essential fats, may improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Hemp is a highly regarded oil for its many nutritive constituents, and is considered the most palatable of the high Omega-3 plant oils. Some experts note that ingestion of essential fats can be very significant for hair growth, and Hemp is the most easily ingested of the plant sources (generally Evening Primrose and Borage oils are found too bitter, and are taken in capsules, rather than 'straight' or in a salad dressing, etc.)
Jojoba - Found in many natural hair care products, Jojoba is used for softening and moisturizing dry hair. It is thought to cleanse the follicles of sebum, and promote vibrant, shiny and soft hair.
Rosehip Seed - Considered one of the most therapeutic carrier oils for skin and hair. Rosehip has been the subject of many studies involving the reduction of sun damage and wrinkles for the skin. While not yet proven in the laboratory, Rosehip seed oil's therapeutic effects should benefit those needing its regenerative properties for their scalp and hair. While it can be used at 100% strength, Rosehip is most often blended with other carriers at 10-30% of the base formula.
Sesame - Also highly regarded in Ayurveda, Sesame contains lignans that greatly enhance the efficacy of Vitamin E. Sesame is thought to encourage the growth of dark lustrous hair.
Blends and Recipes
Here are some suggestions for basic hair care formulas. All of these are designed for regular daily application, or as frequently as you feel is beneficial to you. These formulas can be massaged into a wet or dry scalp and left for at least 20 minutes, or applied before bed and left overnight. All formulas may be increased or decreased in total volume, thought the ratio of essential oil to carrier oil should stay close to these suggestions. These are general (though potentially very effective) suggestions -- changing ingredients to best suit your hair is encouraged!
- For Healthy & Vigorous Hair Growth - for those with 'normal' scalp conditions, blend 2 ounces Jojoba and 2 ounces Coconut oils. To this add 64 drops Lavender, 64 drops Rosemary (Cineol or Verbenone), and 16 drops Sage. If pregnant, use Rosemary Cineol and skip the Sage.
- For Healthy Growth for the Mature Feminine Beauty - To 2 ounces Jojoba, 1 ounce Evening Primrose and 1 ounce Rosehip Seed, add 48 drops Lavender, 48 drops Rosemary Verbenone, 48 drops Carrot or Sea Buckthorn and 24 drops Clary Sage.
- Treating Hair Loss For Men - Blend 1oz each Evening Primrose, Coconut, Rosehip Seed and Sesame. To this add 64 drops Carrot oil (HelioCarrot CO2 extract in Jojoba), 32 drops Rosemary Verbenone, 27 drops Helichrysum, 12 drops Clove, 32 drops German Chamomile, 48 drops Lavender, 20 drops Cypress.
- Treating Alopecia Areata - In 4oz of a 50/50 base of Jojoba and Grapeseed oils, add 32 drops each of Lavender, Thyme, Cedarwood and Rosemary c.t. Verbenone.
- For Dark & Thick Hair - In 4 ounces equal parts Jojoba, Coconut and Sesame, add 48 drops Lavender, 48 drops Rosemary Verbenone, and 48 drops Ylang Ylang.
These are just a few suggested recipes. It is important to understand your own hair & scalp type, and reasons for your hair's condition. This will help guide you to the best choices for treating hair loss, or just growing wonderfully thicker & healthier hair.