It’s the latest trend that’s taken TikTok by storm but can rosemary oil really make hair grow as claimed?
Even if you’re not on TikTok you can’t have failed to have seen/ read about the huge upsurge in people buying rosemary oil for hair growth. #rosemaryoil has had over 204 million views and videos galore show people revealing seemingly dramatic results simply from slathering on a bit of rosemary oil. But does it really work? That’s what we wanted to find out.
What is the rosemary oil for hair growth trend?
First up, where has this trend come from? Well, of course, TikTok. It is the epicentre of where some of the biggest beauty trends come from nowadays. We’ve had the TikTok trend fruit used as makeup not to mention the Selena Gomez beauty tips we’ve learnt.
It’s hard to pinpoint where the rosemary oil for hair growth trend originated on TikTok but now it’s saturated with videos where you can see before and after shots as well as (of course) being able to buy rosemary oils. And it has made its way into hair salons too.
“So many of my clients have been asking me about rosemary oil, it’s definitely the ingredient everyone’s talking about,” says celebrity hairstylist and colourist Zoë Irwin, Creative Director at John Frieda. “One of my colleagues has also been using it, she’s been adding it to her regular shampoo and conditioner and has noticed a real difference in the length and softness of her hair,” she adds.
As well as anecdotal evidence of rosemary for hair growth being effective, there is some validity to this trend. Back in 2015 a medical study was carried out to discover the efficacy of rosemary oil against minoxidil - a popular topical medication used to help with androgenetic alopecia also known as male-pattern baldness (it also occurs in women) to see how effective it was. Half of the group were given minoxidil and the other half were given rosemary oil to apply twice a day for six months. At three months, no new hair growth was detected. At 6 months both groups had a ‘significant increase in hair count’ but perhaps the most interesting aspect is that the people who had used rosemary oil had less of an itchy scalp compared to those on minoxidil so for those prone to a sensitive or reactive scalp may be better off using rosemary oil.
However, the other takeaway from the study that amplifies why rosemary oil for hair growth can work - that doesn’t seem to be apparent on TikTok - is the frequency of application impacting hair growth. Some TikTokkers would have you believe that a single sprinkling of rosemary oil is going to suddenly leave you with Rapunzel-like hair, it’s doubtful that will happen. In the study, the participants were applying rosemary oil twice daily. That is a lot of oil for even the driest scalps and hair types to deal with and from a very practical styling perspective, not the easiest to incorporate into regular daily life.
Another key factor about the study may muddy the waters of how effective rosemary oil is for hair growth, at least in the way that is being touted on TikTok. “In this study, there is no ‘dummy’ product or placebo control being trialled at the same time,” says Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Natalia Spierings. “The need for a placebo control to demonstrate the efficacy of any treatment in a trial is essential and without it, you cannot draw any conclusions at all from the findings.” Spierings goes on to stress that if you’re dealing with age or hormone-related hair loss, “minoxidil is the only licensed and approved topical treatment for hair loss and has a relatively strong evidence base for efficacy”.
Does rosemary oil for hair growth work?
So while the science doesn't quite play in favour of rosemary oil over minoxidil, it does show that rosemary oil does do something to help hair grow. “The key component in rosemary extract is carnosic acid, a powerful antioxidant with protective and restorative properties,” explains Joseph Singh, product educator at JVN hair. “Applied topically, this promotes a balanced and nourished scalp to minimize hair fall and encourage healthier hair,” Singh adds.
However all the experts we’ve spoken to have cited another element to using rosemary oil as what will encourage hair growth and that’s massage. "Rosemary oil has plenty of hair and scalp benefits. It does support hair growth, but the trick is to massage it into the scalp for optimum results,” says Akash Mehta, co-founder of Fable & Mane. “The warming of the oil, paired with a head massage, stimulates the hair follicles and increases blood circulation. This is what promotes healthy hair growth while also preventing hair loss.”
A sentiment that Irwin also agrees with. “Hair massage increases the flow of blood to the scalp and stretches the cells within the hair follicles and studies have shown that massage increases hair growth. Not only that but because a lot of hair loss is linked so closely to stress, by taking some time and incorporating hair and scalp massage into your routine, especially at night, regardless of what type of oil you’re using, will help calm your mind and lower your stress levels which will also help with hair growth in the long term.”
How do you use rosemary oil on your hair?
So if you’re serious about hair growth, as the medical study reveals, to get the most out of your rosemary oil you need to be applying a few drops massaged over the scalp twice a day. However, this won’t be practical for everyone. And steer clear of applying neat rosemary oil to your hair or scalp as it’s too potent and can irritation. It needs to be combined with carrier oils and is often combined with other hair-caring ingredients as well.
“If you have thick, coarse hair or a very dry scalp then applying that much oil may just about work for you as your hair won’t get too greasy. However, if you have fine hair then that might not be the right approach as you’ll need to wash it out continually,” says Irwin. So you may need to work out how frequently you can be applying it as works for your hair-washing routine.
You also need to be concerned with not over-oiling your hair and scalp. “Too much oil on the scalp is a possibility and can lead to clogged pores or can actually make your scalp feel and look drier,” says Singh. “We recommend applying oils to the scalp once or twice per week to coincide with washing hair. However, finishing oils can be applied to ends daily.”
Rosemary oils to try
This is the rosemary oil that seems to be the most popular on TikTok. You can either apply a few drops before blow-drying hair or apply more to massage and leave in.
Weleda Revitalising Hair Tonic, £13.95
A very watery and fluid tonic that can be used twice a day. The scent is subtle and not over-powering.
Ideal for textured hair, this oil is infused with biotin as well as rosemary and mint. It can be used on the scalp as well as throughout the hair length.
Combined with hydrating hemisqualane and coconut oil, this oil is designed to be applied to the scalp and then rinsed off after 5-10 minutes.