Hair loss is something that most men will face at some point in their lives, and some women too. While thinning of hair as you get older is normal, the age at which you start experiencing hair loss will depend on a number of factors, including the amount of testosterone that you are producing.1 Indeed, testosterone has an important role to play in male health, although there are many other factors that can influence your overall well-being.
As noted in our general men’s health guide, eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, and finding ways to cope with stress are all important factors that can greatly impact overall health. This means everything from your blood pressure to, yes, even your hair.2
What Causes Hair Loss?
Hair loss is not always something to worry about. It is normal for individuals to lose some hairs every day, but new ones will grow in at the same time. Rapidly thinning hair could be a sign of stress or illness, or could just be a sign of aging. The medical term for hair loss is alopecia, and it can be caused by many different factors: 3
- Iron deficiency
- Rapid weight loss
- Cancer treatments
- Age-related hormone changes
In some cases, hair loss is temporary, while in others it may be permanent. Male pattern baldness is permanent if it is left untreated, but there are some treatment options available for those who would prefer to keep their hair as thick as possible for as long as possible. Unfortunately, conventional treatments can be expensive.
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The main drug-based treatments for hair loss are finasteride and minoxidil.4,5 These drugs will not work in all cases, and if they do work then they will only be effective while they are being used. If you stop using them, then the hair loss will reoccur.
Can Essential Oils Help?
If you don’t want to use prescription medications but also do not want to accept that your hair is getting thinner, there are other options. There are many essential oils that you can use to help promote hair growth. Indeed, there is an entire industry around the promotion of essential oils as a tool for improving hair growth. The question is, do these treatments really work?
The impact of essential oils for improving and promoting hair growth is something that has been the subject of extensive study, and the results have been broadly promising. There are several essential oils that are thought to help with hair loss:6
In general, if essential oils are going to be used to treat hair loss, it will be done via topical application, with the essential oils mixed in a milder carrier oil so that they can be massaged into the scalp. The reason the carrier oil is used is that essential oils are volatile and will evaporate very quickly when they are exposed to the air.
Carrier oils are thicker and evaporate more slowly, giving the oils more time to be absorbed by the skin. In addition, carrier oils dilute the essential oils to prevent the oils from irritating the skin and potentially causing an allergic reaction. Most essential oils are too strong to be applied directly to the skin without diluting them first. It takes just a few drops of essential oil to produce a therapeutic effect.
How Essential Oils Can Help with Hair Loss
Studies into the effectiveness of essential oils as a way to promote hair growth have been promising. One recent study looked at peppermint essential oil and the growth of hair in mice and found that mice that were given topical treatments of peppermint essential oil regrew shaved hair far more quickly than mice treated with a saline solution or jojoba oil.
A similar study was performed using lavender oil instead of peppermint oil, which also produced positive results in favor of lavender.7
Researchers are unsure as to exactly what the mechanism of effectiveness is with these essential oils. It is thought that they may stimulate blood flow to the follicles, which promotes hair growth. The researchers monitored not just the rate of hair growth, but also the size of the spleen in the mice that they were testing to determine the safety of the treatment. It appears that topical applications of low concentrations of essential oils are safe.
Essential Oils vs. Drug Treatments
Are essential oils superior to drug treatment for hair loss? Unfortunately, at the moment there is not enough evidence to say. In one recent study, researchers looked at the difference in hair growth between people who were using rosemary oil and those who were using minoxidil to treat hair loss.
They found that at the three-month mark there was no significant increase in hair growth for either group, but at the six-month mark, there was an improvement. By the six month mark, both groups showed an increase in hair growth (with p <0.05). The factor that makes the study particularly interesting, however, is that while both groups showed an increase in hair growth, there were fewer side effects (scalp dryness, itching) in the group that was using rosemary essential oil.8
Are Essential Oils Safe?
There is compelling evidence to suggest that essential oils could help men who are struggling with hair loss, but does that mean they are worth using? Before you start using essential oils it is worth checking how safe they are for your specific case.
Essential oils are marketed as natural remedies, but that does not automatically mean that they are “safe/” Peanuts, shellfish, and citrus fruits are all natural too, but there are many people who are allergic to those. It is possible to be allergic to essential oils, and because of this, it is worth conducting a spot test with a small, diluted solution of the oil that you are thinking of using.
Another element that you should be aware of is that some essential oils are estrogenic, and this can lead to abnormal breast growth if you use them in large quantities and for prolonged periods of time. One such essential oil is lavender.9 You may be able to get away with using lavender at very low concentrations to treat hair loss without issue, however, it is something to be aware of.
For the most part, essential oils are well-tolerated if they are used properly and diluted with a carrier oil. Essential oil toxicity is something that can happen with excessive use or if the solution that is used is too strong.10 If you are thinking of trying essential oils, then make sure that you read the instructions carefully and that you use them in moderation.
Consult your doctor if you have a pre-existing health condition or are taking medications, because there may be some rare instances where an essential oil might interact with the medication you are taking.
Other Ways to Fight Hair Loss
Most hair loss is either temporary, and the hair will grow back once the condition or issue which caused the hair loss is resolved or is just a normal part of aging. Temporary hair loss is often a sign of illness, poor nutrition, or stress. This means that the usual healthy lifestyle advice centering around a good diet, plenty of sleep, and plenty of exercise applies.
For longer-term hair loss or age-related hair loss, there are a limited number of options beyond the drug treatments mentioned above:
- Steroid injections or creams
- Light treatment
- Scalp reduction surgery
- Hair transplants
These options are expensive, and while they may work in the short term, their long-term benefits are still being evaluated.
Essential oils may help with thinning hair. However, it is normal for men to start going bald as they get older, and there are limits to how well you can “turn back the clock,” even with the best remedies. The emotional impact of hair loss can be quite serious for some men, especially if it occurs earlier in life.11 There is therapy available to help people cope with losing their hair.
In the short term, some men opt to wear wigs to hide their hair loss, but wigs can be hot or itchy and can irritate the skin on the scalp. For this reason, some men opt to shave their head and simply embrace the new look. Remember that nobody else knows the look that you would prefer to present and that being confident in your own skin and positive about your body is one of the best things that you can do for your mental health. Take care of yourself to the best of your ability, and accept things that are out of your control.
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