Question: My mum told me she read that there are essential oils that can reduce DHT. Is this true and if it is which oils are they and how should I use them? Will they help to prevent hair loss (it runs in my family)? I want to find a way to make my slightly thinning hair return to its previous thickness and would prefer to use natural hair loss treatments.
Answer: Hi, Anita. There are a few essential oils which are often reported as having DHT inhibiting properties.
In short, none have enough reliable scientific research behind them to show that they are safe and effective for use in treating hair loss. Essential oils can also cause skin irritation and may be dangerous when used improperly. However, here is some information on the key contenders, in alphabetical order...
A 2016 study (doi: 10.5487/TR.2016.32.2.103) showed that mice grew hair faster and thicker when lavender oil was applied to their coats. This suggests it may extend the active growth phase - the anagen stage - of the hair growth cycle. However, no human trials have been conducted to find out whether this is the case in men and women.
This anti-inflammatory oil is known to be a vasodilator - meaning it can stimulate localised blood flow. Given this is the primary action of high strength minoxidil, the only MHRA-licensed and FDA-approved topical hair loss treatment for Male Pattern Baldness and Female Pattern Hair Loss, some may assume that peppermint oil, applied to the scalp, can have the same effects. Whilst this theory has not been proven, a single, small-scale 2016 study found peppermint oil may be beneficial in cases of the temporary hair loss conditions, Telogen Effluvium and Diffuse Thinning.
A 2014 clinical trial explored the links between topical pumpkin seed oil and hair regrowth in men with moderate Male Pattern Hair Loss. It found that 28% of the men taking a placebo had lost more hair at the end of the trial than when they started, and 64% had neither grown nor lost any hair. Researchers noted that 8% experienced "slight or moderate regrowth". Not exactly a ringing endorsement for what some people believe to be a 'natural hair loss treatment', and from what was already a small-scale trial.
Although it is used in many traditional hair care products, there is little evidence to show that rosemary oil can promote hair growth. It can, however, irritate the skin and is not suitable for use by a number of groups, including pregnant women, people with bleeding disorders, epilepsy or high blood pressure. For those who are suitable, whilst the oil form is preferably used topically rather than orally, to minimise the risk of side effects, it is unlikely to produce any meaningful regrowth results.
Saw palmetto, also called serenoa repens (SR), serenoa serrulata or sabal serrulata, is perhaps the best-known herbal remedy for hair loss.
It is generally taken orally as a food supplement, but can also come in topical oil form. Saw palmetto is thought to slow down hair loss and stimulate new hair growth in cases of androgenetic alopecia, particularly in men. This is because saw palmetto is thought to inhibit the 5-alpha-reductase (5AR) enzyme which causes testosterone in the body to convert to DHT.
According to a 2009 review published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, "Very few studies exist to support the claims of its efficacy. In a small study of 10 males with AGA (23-64 years) on oral SR, improvement was seen in 60%. In a study of 34 men and 28 women (18-48 years) topically applied SR extract in lotion and shampoo base for three months led to 35% increase in hair density and 67% increase in sebum reduction assessed by sebometry, pH metry, hydration studies and phototrichogram (study presented at the fourth intercontinental meeting of hair research societies, June 17-19, 2004). Addition of extract of 0.5% SR to ketaconazole shampoo was shown to give better results compared to ketaconazole alone (presented at the 13th Annual meeting of the European Hair Research Society, Genoa, Italy)."
It is worth noting that none of these test results apply to saw palmetto oil.
Whilst saw palmetto is understood to have hair benefits, to date, the only clinically proven 5AR and DHT inhibitor that has been both MHRA-licensed and FDA-approved any type of hair loss to date, is finasteride 1mg. This is a once-a-day oral tablet which can only be taken by medically suitable men aged 18 or over, with a clinical diagnosis of Male Pattern Baldness.
Please be aware that essential oils can be extremely harmful if applied directly to the hair or skin. They must be diluted with a carrier oil - coconut or jojoba oil, for example - before use and in accordance with the product's instructions in order to minimise any potential side effects. Essential oils do not mix with water and therefore water will not dilute them.
According to the Tisserand Institute safety guidelines, essential oils tend to be 50 to 100 times more concentrated than the element is when found in its natural plant form. This makes it a potent product which may be dangerous when used inappropriately, or by those for whom essential oils are not suitable - for example where they are contraindicated with certain medications or health issues.
Whilst natural hair loss remedies may be more appealing, those which are chemical-based are more tightly regulated. This means they have been rigorously tested for safety, efficacy and tolerability, and have to meet a number of regulatory criteria before authorisations, such as MHRA licenses and FDA approvals, can be granted and the medications can be made available.
In cases of female pattern baldness, Belgravia clients often follow a personalised female hair loss treatment course that includes appropriate high strength minoxidil formulations and additional, drug-free hair growth supporting products.
These include the LaserBand which is worn three times a week for up to five minutes per session, to stimulate the follicles into active regrowth. It employs medical-grade lasers embedded in an ergonomic headband-style device for a hands-free thinning hair solution, which Belgravia patients often use alongside their minoxidil.
The nutritional supplement Hair Vitalics for Women is also a patient favourite, with its exclusive blend of key vitamins, minerals, amino acids and botanical extracts designed to support the maintenance of healthy hair growth and the normal functioning of the hair growth cycle. It comprises a bespoke blend, developed by Belgravia's hair experts, which features biotin, zinc, selenium, grape seed extract, soy isoflavones, copper and many more hair-friendly ingredients.
Whilst essential oil products may also be used, as long as you are medically suitable and they are properly prepared and administered, there is little reliable scientific evidence available that shows they would have any significant impact on treating hair loss on their own.
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.