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How to Use Rosemary Oil to Strengthen & Grow Hair

Not only can it prevent hair loss, dermatologists say it can soothe your scalp, too.

studio shot of a beautiful young woman with strong hair posing against a pink background
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Rosemary isn't just an herb used to season your food — it can also offer some major beauty benefits. "Rosemary oil, or rosmarinus officinalis, is considered to have medicinal and aromatic properties," explains Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab Executive Director Birnur Aral, Ph.D. "In particular, it has been studied for vasodilation, antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in traditional medicine and as well as in cosmetic products."

Meet the Experts

  • Dhaval Bhanusali, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Hudson Dermatology & Laser Surgery in New York City.
  • Shab Reslan is a trichologist and hair expert in New York City
  • Birnur Aral, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab

    What are the main benefits of rosemary oil for hair?

    The plant-based ingredient can have several positive effects on both strands and scalp skin. Shab Reslan, a trichologist and hair expert in New York City, shares that rosemary oil is one of her favorite oils "to strengthen and protect the hair and scalp." Though she adds that it’s more beneficial for the scalp, and "not a necessarily stand alone product for the hair itself." In addition to strengthening hair and protecting your scalp, rosemary oil can potentially:

    • Stimulate hair growth. "Much of the belief around rosemary oil's hair loss benefits centers on a 2015 study, which showed that rosemary oil may be as effective as 2% minoxidil [an ingredient approved by the FDA to stimulate hair growth]," says Dhaval Bhanusali, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Hudson Dermatology & Laser Surgery in New York City.
    • Increase blood circulation. "Stimulating blood flow brings more nutrients to the hair follicles and results in thicker and stronger hair," Reslan explains.
    • Help improve scalp conditions, including soreness and buildup that can hinder hair growth, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
    • Fight oxidative and aging stress on the hair follicles thanks to its potent antioxidant abilities, Reslan says.

      How effective is rosemary oil for hair growth — and does it thicken hair?

      When it comes to hair growth oils, the study mentioned above "tested the clinical efficacy of rosemary oil in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia (AGA) and compared its effects with 2% minoxidil, the only FDA-approved ingredient for hair growth," Aral explains. The trial lasted six months and participants used either rosemary oil or minoxidil to treat AGA. "At the end of the testing period, patients had similar results after using rosemary oil and 2% minoxidil, with rosemary oil being slightly less irritating," Dr. Bhanusali adds.

      Though Dr. Bhanusali hasn't seen evidence to support the idea that rosemary oil thickens hair, that doesn’t mean it can't, he says. "As with anything anything, we need more studies to look into potential benefits and further tease out the current ones," he notes. "I always tell my patients that the first studies tell you that these ingredients can help, but the specific concentration, how to apply, frequency and more are determined either anecdotally over time or with further studies."

      What hair type is rosemary oil best for?

      Good news: Rosemary oil can be used on all hair types. If you have sensitive skin — and thus a sensitive scalp — there is always the potential for irritation, as with any botanical oil. "This can be avoided by diluting rosemary oil with a carrier oil like argan or jojoba," Dr. Bhanusali says. Rosemary oil should not be used during pregnancy due to lack of studies in topical use cases, Aral advises. "As with any herbal supplements, which are known to have medicinal benefits, consumers should consult their physicians and dermatologists before starting use," she says.

      glass and plastic cosmetic bottles on pink background with rosemary leaves
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      Can I put rosemary oil directly on my hair?

      No, you most likely will not want to directly apply rosemary essential oil to your hair or scalp. "To prevent over-sensitizing the skin or scalp, a concentrated essential oil like rosemary oil should be mixed with a lighter carrier oil like argan, sweet almond or jojoba oil instead of being applied directly onto your hair and scalp," Reslan recommends.

      For a DIY formula, she suggests mixing a few drops of rosemary oil with your choice of carrier oil and massaging into your scalp 20 minutes before you shower to invigorate and nourish the skin. Or try "mixing it into your shampoo bottle to enhance the cleansing and antioxidant power," Reslan adds. You can also buy rosemary oil-based hair products that come pre-mixed with carrier oils.

      As for the best frequency of use to see results, "start by applying it a few times per week and then assess and increase as needed," Dr. Bhanusali says. For hair growth, it may take up to six months to see results, according to research.

      The best rosemary oil hair products to try:

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