Rosemary Oil for Hair Growth: Benefits & Tips
Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Is your dermatologist also a world-class chef? It’s an understandable question to ask yourself when a healthcare professional recommends herbs to deal with a problem like hair loss.
Rosemary is a perennial herb. It’s used in cooking, for fragrances and as a decorative plant in homes in gardens as seen on social media. But beyond its role in flavoring a cast iron steak, it’s also a favorite of another side of TikTok — the natural health enthusiasts — with a long history as a key ingredient in healing products and essential oils for hair.
Here’s the thing: rosemary oil isn’t an FDA-approved hair loss treatment, but a small amount of scientific research has shown that it may offer benefits for people who want to stimulate hair growth.
Below, we’ve dug into the research behind rosemary oil as a treatment for hair loss, the benefits it may bring, and noted some other, FDA-approved medications such as minoxidil and finasteride that you may want to prioritize if you want to treat androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness) or otherwise promote healthy hair.
Rosemary Oil for Hair Growth: Does It Work?
Rosemary oil is a popular essential oil marketed to treat everything from hair loss to acne, stretch marks, wrinkles and more. While there’s some evidence that rosemary oil may help to treat hair loss, the evidence isn’t very comprehensive — or instructive.
For some context, hair loss can happen for a variety of reasons, including nutritional deficiencies, diseases, scalp infections and the use of certain medications. However, most hair loss — at least in men — happens gradually as you age due to a combination of inherited genes and certain sex hormones, such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This is referred to as male pattern hair loss.
All treatments for male pattern baldness, whether they’re FDA-approved medications or natural hair treatments, work by either targeting DHT to prevent hair loss or by encouraging growth of your existing hair follicles.
There’s no proven scientific link between DHT and rosemary yet, nor is there conclusive evidence that rosemary can promote hair growth. Studies have shown that it has helped hair growth for some people, but it’s not quite a proven treatment yet.
Benefits of Rosemary Oil for Hair
So what does the current wisdom say about rosemary essential oil for hair?
There are a lot of things people say rosemary oil could do — improve hair health by acting as an antioxidant, nourish healthy hair and reduce breakage, have anti-inflammatory properties, treat conditions like itchy scalp and more.
Unfortunately, the science to back these “could” statements is still mostly anecdotal, but here’s what we’ve found so far:
An animal study published in Phytotherapy Research found that rosemary leaf extract is effective at promoting hair regrowth in mice, with the researchers noting that rosemary leaf may have an inhibitory effect on the binding of DHT to androgen receptors in the hair. While this study is definitely promising, the fact that it was carried out on mice means that its conclusions aren’t necessarily true for hair loss in humans.
How to Use Rosemary Oil for Hair
Big caveat: there is no FDA-approved guidance for how to use rosemary oil for hair. When a treatment is approved by the FDA, they typically release dosing, application and other guidelines for how to safely and effectively use a treatment.
You don’t get that kind of literature when you head to Home Depot to pick up a rosemary bush, and the statements made on shampoos, supplements, oils and other topicals are not vetted by the FDA.
We say this because, at the end of the day, you’re kind of on your own to navigate the “safe and effective” part of using rosemary oil for hair growth.
If you’d like to add rosemary oil into your hair care routine, there are several ways that you can do this. This isn’t medical advice, but to get the most out of rosemary products, try:
Buying rosemary oil shampoo or conditioner. One of the easiest ways to get rosemary into your routine is to buy products with it already on the ingredient list. You can buy rosemary oil shampoo, conditioner and other hair care products from most drugstores and online retailers.
Mixing rosemary into your shampoo or conditioner. If you want to DIY your own formula, it’s fine to add a drop or two of rosemary oil to your shampoo or other hair care products if you like your current brand.
Applying rosemary oil directly to your scalp. Why not cut out the middle man? When you wake up, before you go to bed or after you get out of the shower are all appropriate times to apply a little oil directly. And you may also get the energizing benefits of inhaling rosemary oil when you apply it to your scalp. After you’ve applied rosemary oil to your scalp, either leave it in or rinse your hair after a few minutes to remove it.
Rosemary Oil vs Minoxidil
Is rosemary oil an alternative to the hair loss treatment minoxidil? That’s a hard question to answer, in part because the sheer volume of research showing the benefits of minoxidil is so substantial.
Comparatively, the data on rosemary oil for hair health is a handful of sand. And yet, at least one study examining exactly the question of “which is better” thinks that rosemary oil might have minoxidil beat — at least in the 2 percent formulation.
A 2015 study compared rosemary oil to minoxidil over a period of six months. The researchers found that both the rosemary oil and the minoxidil produced a significant increase in hair growth, with the rosemary oil less likely to cause problems like itching than the minoxidil.
In other words: it worked about as well, with fewer side effects.
Is that enough for us to crown rosemary king? Hardly. One small study doesn’t undermine decades of dermatology research, and there’s very little large-scale, reliable research into rosemary oil’s effectiveness as an option for treating male pattern baldness.
So we think you’re better off with some of the proven treatments.
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Alternatives to Rosemary Oil for Hair Growth
Although rosemary oil isn’t proven to prevent hair loss, other treatments are — and they’ve got a lot more backing them up.
If you’re beginning to lose your hair and want to do something about it, you may want to consider using one of the treatments listed below:
Minoxidil. Minoxidil (also known as Rogaine) is a popular non-prescription medication for hair loss that comes in both topical and oral forms. It works by improving blood flow to your scalp. The effectiveness of minoxidil foam and minoxidil solution is backed up by a lot of scientific research. We offer topical minoxidil online by itself and as one of several products in our non-prescription hair loss kit.
Finasteride. Finasteride is an oral and topical medication for hair loss that blocks DHT from damaging your hair follicles. We offer finasteride online following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Supplements and hair care. If you’d prefer to keep it natural, you may want to try adding supplements or other hair care products to your routine. DHT blocking shampoos like those containing saw palmetto have been shown to promote hair growth, and products like our dandruff detox shampoo and biotin gummies can also benefit your hair.
FYI: there is currently no research on the safety of using rosemary hair oil at the same time as other hair loss treatments, so if you’re prescribed minoxidil, finasteride or other hair loss medications by a professional, talk to them before using rosemary oil to make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk.
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No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere. Early action is the best hair loss prevention.
Does Rosemary Oil Grow Hair? Final Thoughts
There are too many hair loss treatments to count on the market these days, but the list gets much narrower when we limit it to things the FDA has approved.
Is rosemary oil part of that list? Not yet. So when you’re trying to save your hair, here’s the takeaway:
Hair loss is extremely common, with up to 50 percent of men affected by some degree of hair loss from male pattern baldness by the time they reach their fifties.
There’s an increasingly long list of herbal supplements for hair loss, including castor oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, argan oil and plenty of others you can read about in our natural oils for hair guide. Spoiler alert: most of them have nothing close to the proven benefits of minoxidil and finasteride.
There’s not a lot of evidence for many of rosemary oil’s supposed benefits, so it isn’t possible to say whether or not rosemary oil works for hair growth. However, there is some scientific research to show that rosemary oil may help to promote hair growth.
As such, If you’ve lost some of your hair and want to grow it back, you may notice improvements after using rosemary oil, but other options are more reliable and proven.
Have more questions about thinning hair and how to get healthier hair? We can help. Our science-backed hair growth tips are a great place to start.
Our guide to male pattern baldness also goes into more detail about how and why hair loss occurs, the symptoms you might notice if you’re prone to male pattern baldness and treatment options for stopping hair loss and improving your hairline.
Finally, if you’re ready to put products to work right now, consider our two-in-one topical finasteride & minoxidil spray for a one-two punch of effective ingredients.