5 hair oils dermatologists recommend for a healthy scalp and stronger, longer locks
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- Hair growth oils can't make hair grow faster — but they can boost hair and scalp health overall.
- You can try applying coconut, saw palmetto, tea tree, rosemary, and castor oils to damp, clean hair.
If you struggle with excessive hair shedding, thinning, or breakage, you're not alone — more than 80% of people experience hair loss in their lifetime.
There's no clinically proven way to make your hair grow any faster, but hair growth oils are one increasingly popular treatment you can try at home to help keep your hair and scalp healthy.
Hair oils may benefit your hair and scalp because they:
- Contain essential nutrients: Fatty acids and vitamins A and E may help promote hair health and growth, according to Dr. Ahmad Chaudhry, a board-certified dermatologist at Scandinavian Biolabs.
- Help prevent damage: Hair oils may help lubricate and strengthen your hair shaft to prevent breakage, according to Dr. Alpana Mohta, a board-certified dermatologist and medical advisor for Better Goods. They can also nourish your scalp and follicles to support new growth.
- Can reduce inflammation: Certain oils also have anti-inflammatory properties, according to Dr. Lauren Penzi, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. For example, peppermint oil, tea tree oil, and rosemary oil are all known for reducing inflammation. That alone could make them worth a try, since scalp inflammation can cause hair loss.
Finding the best hair growth oil for you depends on your specific concerns and goals. With that in mind, research suggests the following oils may help promote hair growth. Below, dermatologists share the potential benefits of hair growth oils, plus some tips for trying them.
1. Coconut oil
A small 2020 study found coconut oil, unlike many other oils, can penetrate hair strands and form a protective layer to help prevent damage from heat, coloring, and other factors.
Another 2021 study shows coconut oil can help promote scalp health by reducing the presence of "bad" bacteria associated with fungal infections while increasing the presence of "good" bacteria associated with a healthy scalp.
What's more, coconut oil absorbs much better into the scalp than many other types of oils, which can amplify its potential benefits.
2. Saw palmetto oil
3. Tea tree oil
According to Penzi, tea tree oil has antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Because it can fight off harmful bacteria and fungi, Penzi says it's an excellent option for helping to treat seborrheic dermatitis — a common skin condition marked by dandruff, itchiness, and scaly patches on the scalp.
Tea tree oil is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that inflammation plays a part in many common scalp conditions, like psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, often by causing or worsening symptoms.
4. Rosemary oil
Rosemary oil may also kill off harmful fungi and bacteria that can keep your hair from growing.
According to Chaudhry, this may be because rosemary boosts blood circulation to the hair follicles, much like minoxidil does.
5. Castor oil
Currently, not much scientific research supports the hair benefits of castor oil. Most evidence for its benefits remains anecdotal.
That said, experts believe castor oil may promote hair growth for these reasons:
- It's rich in antioxidants, omega-6 fatty acids, and nourishing vitamin E.
- It has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
- It can increase blood flow to the scalp.
Other oils to try
According to Chaudhry, other oils that are particularly rich in hair-nourishing fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals include:
Where to get oils for hair growth
Start your hair growth oil journey with products and brands that our health and beauty teams have tested and recommend.
- Coconut: OGX Nourishing Coconut Oil Weightless Hydrating Oil Mist, from $7.89 at Target and Ulta
- Tea tree: The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil, $12 at Ulta
- Rosemary: Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil, from $10.29 at Target and Ulta
- Argan: Moroccanoil Treatment, $34 at Sephora
Other ingredients to try
When shopping for hair products, you might also consider products with other ingredients known to promote hair and scalp health.
Green tea is packed with antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols, that may help protect against oxidative stress — which research has linked to scalp conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and alopecia. Oxidative stress may lead to hair loss even if you don't have any known scalp conditions.
Studies have found that one specific antioxidant in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), can inhibit 5-alpha-reductase, which may help prevent hair loss.
Green tea can also block dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone known to shrink hair follicles and cause balding.
Caffeine is a stimulant — and as such, it can directly stimulate hair growth at the follicles.
One study compared the use of caffeine with finasteride, a prescription medication commonly used to treat hair loss from alopecia. Researchers found that men with androgenetic alopecia who used caffeine reported nearly as much of an improvement in their condition as those who used the finasteride.
Other research suggests applying a topical solution of caffeine, minoxidil, and azelaic acid to the scalp may help reduce hair shedding. Researchers found this solution is more effective for decreasing shedding and improving hair regrowth than minoxidil alone.
Some evidence suggests up to 38% of women dealing with hair loss have a biotin deficiency. Experts have linked a deficiency in biotin, aka vitamin B7, to dermatitis and alopecia, along with other hair conditions.
How to oil your hair
Some oils come already diluted and ready to use in serums, shampoos, and other styling products. You may need to mix others with a "carrier" oil before using them, however, so you'll always want to check the instructions before applying a new oil.
When using a pure essential oil, like rosemary oil, Mohta says you'll need to dilute it by adding about 5 drops to a carrier oil, like jojoba oil, almond oil, or coconut oil.
For best results, Mohta recommends the following approach:
- Apply the oil after shampooing and conditioning, while your hair is still damp.
- Start by massaging a few drops of oil directly into your scalp, and then use the remaining oil to coat any dry ends of your hair.
Allow the oil to sit for at least 30 minutes before rinsing it out.
- If you can, Penzi recommends leaving the hair oil on overnight and then washing it out in the morning.
- Try using hair oils one to three times a week — more frequently if you have a dry scalp and hair, and less frequently if you have an oily scalp and hair.
Note that overusing any hair oil can cause buildup on your scalp, Mohta says, which can then clog your hair follicles and stall hair growth.
"Keep in mind that it will take a minimum of three to six months to see any results from any hair growth product," Penzi says.
Quick tip: Always check with your dermatologist or doctor before trying new ingredients — especially if you have a known scalp condition, like psoriasis, eczema, or dermatitis. It's particularly important to ask a doctor before using products with potentially irritating ingredients, like essential oils, Chaudhry says.
Even if you don't have a pre-existing scalp condition, Chaudhry strongly recommends doing a patch test on a small area of your skin before applying one of these oils to your entire head. To do a patch test, simply apply a very small amount of the product to the underside of your arm daily for about a week to observe how your skin reacts.
When to work with a dermatologist
According to Mohta, it's a good idea to get professional support if you've noticed any of the following:
- Excessive hair shedding
- Red, flaky, or itchy scalp
- Scaly patches on your scalp
- Thinning hair
- Patches of baldness
These symptoms may point to conditions like alopecia or seborrheic dermatitis, which may require prescription-strength medications.
If, for example, seborrheic dermatitis is causing your hair loss, your dermatologist may prescribe an antifungal shampoo and topical corticosteroid. Or, in the case of alopecia, Penzi says your dermatologist may prescribe steroid injections or an oral anti-androgen like finasteride.
"A dermatologist will be able to determine appropriate products based on your individual needs and provide additional guidance on how to use them safely and effectively," Mohta says.
Mohta notes that a dermatologist may also suggest lifestyle changes, such as modifications to your diet or stress management techniques, to help improve your overall scalp and hair health.
Hair growth oils may not make your hair grow faster — however, they may help boost hair and scalp health overall. Not only can these oils provide beneficial nutrients that promote healthy growth, but some can also prevent or reduce inflammation, fungal infections, and other issues that contribute to hair loss.
According to research, some of the most beneficial options include coconut oil, tea tree oil, argan oil, rosemary oil, and castor oil.
Always consult your dermatologist or doctor before using any of these hair oils. Also, it's best to seek professional guidance for persistent hair loss or other hair and scalp issues — a professional can assess the root cause of your condition and recommend the right hair loss treatment for you.
"Remember that hair oils cannot work miracles. But if you're looking for a way to give your hair an extra boost of nourishment, then a quality hair oil is a great option," Chaudhry says.
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