Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work For Hair Growth?
If you’ve ever searched for hair loss treatments, there’s a good chance you’ve seen ads or read articles about hyperbaric oxygen therapy for hair growth.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a process that involves spending time inside a pressure chamber that’s filled with 100 percent pure oxygen. The idea is that spending time in this type of environment can increase your body’s potential to heal wounds and other injuries.
HBOT is an interesting technology, and some research suggests that it may offer benefits when used as part of recovery from procedures like hair transplant surgery.
However, things aren't entirely clear when it comes to evidence that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can slow down or stop hair loss.
Below, we’ve explained what hyperbaric oxygen therapy is and the potential benefits this type of therapy might offer for treating injuries and improving certain conditions.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a form of treatment that uses a specialized device called a hyperbaric chamber to increase the amount of oxygen in your blood. You can typically find these devices in hospitals and emergency care centers.
Inside a hyperbaric chamber, the air pressure is higher than in the outside environment. The air is also pure, 100 percent oxygen, as opposed to the 21 percent oxygen found in everyday, normal air.
As a result of these elevated air pressure and oxygen levels, your body is able to transport extra oxygen through your blood to your organs and other tissue.
This increased oxygen in your blood supply can improve certain aspects of your body’s function, including your ability to heal wounds and overcome injuries. HBOT can also reduce swelling that often develops when fluid becomes trapped in certain types of tissue within your body.
Medical professionals use hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers to treat a wide range of medical conditions, including:
Air or gas embolism
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Crush injuries (injuries caused by force or pressure)
Necrotizing soft tissue infections (severe infections in skin, muscle or other tissue)
Wounds that aren’t healing properly
Some brain and/or sinus infections
Hyperbaric oxygen chambers are also used to treat decompression sickness (DCS) — a type of injury that can develop after exposure to a rapid decrease in pressure, such as fast ascent during deep scuba diving.
Because of its effects on oxygen levels and blood flow, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a necessary form of treatment for numerous different conditions.
However, it’s not without risk. While complications from this form of therapy aren’t common, they do occasionally occur for some people.
Known risks of hyperbaric oxygen therapy include:
Ear and sinus pain
Injuries to your middle ear, including a perforated eardrum
Temporary changes in your vision
In rare cases, the higher concentrations of oxygen and elevated pressure levels in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber may affect your lung health.
Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work For Hair Growth?
Hair loss is a common issue affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. In men, it tends to occur in the form of androgenetic alopecia — a type of pattern hair loss caused by a mix of genetic factors and a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
If you’re genetically sensitive to the effects of DHT, this hormone can attach to receptors in your scalp and cause your hair follicles to miniaturize or shrink.
As your hair follicles shrink, they produce thinner hairs that are eventually unable to make their way through your epidermis (the outermost layer of skin).
The results of this process include the classic receding hairline, a bald patch around the top of the scalp or the horseshoe-shaped hair pattern that many men start to develop as they grow older.
You can learn more about this process in our guide to DHT and male hair loss, which explains how the body produces this hormone and why it can be such a pain for your hair follicles.
Before we get into the details of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and hair loss, let’s quickly go over the basics of how other treatments for hair loss work.
Currently, the three most effective treatments for hair loss are finasteride, minoxidil and a form of surgery called hair transplantation.
Finasteride is a prescription medication that comes in both oral and topical form. It treats hair loss by stopping your body from creating DHT. The idea behind this kind of treatment is simple — lower levels of DHT mean less damage to your hair follicles and a thicker, fuller head of hair.
Minoxidil is a primarily topical (but sometimes oral) medication that doesn’t block DHT, but it does move your hair follicles into a state of growth, referred to as the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle.
It may also expand the blood vessels that supply your hair follicles, resulting in improved blood flow and nutrient supply.
In a way, you can think of finasteride as functioning like a shield that protects your hair follicles, and minoxidil as a type of fertilizer for your hair.
Hair transplantation, on the other hand, involves surgically removing healthy human scalp hair follicles from the back and sides of your scalp, then using them to “fill in” areas with a reduced level of hair thickness, such as your hairline or crown.
So, how exactly does hyperbaric oxygen therapy fit into this? Right now, there isn’t any reliable evidence to suggest that hyperbaric oxygen therapy reduces DHT levels like finasteride, or that it accelerates your hair’s growth cycle like minoxidil.
In other words, there’s no obvious reason for hyperbaric oxygen therapy for hair growth to work, at least not in the same way as hair loss medication.
However, there is a small amount of scientific evidence to suggest that using hyperbaric oxygen therapy may reduce hair shedding after hair transplant surgery.
It’s official. Hims is a hit.
In a small randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, a team of researchers compared the recovery process and results following hair restoration surgery for two groups of men.
The men in the first group underwent a follicular unit extraction (FUE) hair transplant procedure, then recovered normally.
The second group underwent the same procedure but also received hyperbaric oxygen therapy for 60 minutes each day for one week.
Both groups were assessed for satisfaction and clinical improvement four weeks and six months after the procedure.
The researchers found that the men who received hyperbaric oxygen therapy had lower rates of folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles) and scalp itching than the men in the control group. They also had a lower rate of postoperative shedding — a common issue after hair transplantation.
The men in the hyperbaric oxygen therapy group reported significantly higher average levels of satisfaction shortly after the surgery (88.2 percent vs. 52.9 percent).
However, nine months after surgery, there wasn’t any significant difference in their results, both in terms of satisfaction and hair follicle survival rate.
In other words, hyperbaric oxygen therapy seems to reduce shedding and improve recovery for men who undergo hair transplant surgery. However, after the procedure, it doesn’t appear to produce any long-term improvements in hair follicle growth or general appearance.
Shop by treatment options
No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere. Early action is the best hair loss prevention.
Are Oxygen Hair Growth Treatments Worth It?
Although hyperbaric oxygen treatments might offer some minor advantages for wound healing, shedding and general satisfaction after hair transplant surgery, there’s no evidence that they’re helpful for actually improving hair growth or stopping hair loss.
Overall, it’s best to remember the following regarding hyperbaric oxygen therapy and your hair:
Male and female pattern hair loss develops as a result of your genes and the presence of DHT. Currently, we don’t have any convincing data to show that oxygen therapy has any effects on DHT level, your sensitivity to DHT or your rate of hair growth.
Although oxygen therapy does seem to improve recovery from hair transplant surgery, it isn’t associated with any long-term improvements in hair growth or patient satisfaction.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can cost hundreds of dollars per session, making it difficult to suggest it as an affordable option for treating hair loss.
Instead of trying hyperbaric oxygen therapy for hair growth, if you’re beginning to lose hair, you’ll get the best results by working with your healthcare provider to reduce DHT levels and stimulate growth locally.
You can get started by taking part in an online hair loss consultation to learn about your options and, if appropriate, access FDA-approved hair loss medication.
You can also find out more about the most effective ways to deal with hair loss using our guides to treatments for thinning hair, the different types of hair loss and how medications like minoxidil and finasteride work to treat and prevent male pattern baldness.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.