Argan oil has been used for decades in hair cosmetics.
But, what does the research have to say?
In this article, we take a look at just that:
Whether or not the research supports argan oil for hair growth. How compounds found in the oil impact the hair. How it compares to other oils.
Quickly, make sure you take the free hair quiz later in this article.
What Is Argan Oil?
The argan tree is native to Morocco.
It produces fruits that contain large seeds on the inside.
These seeds are used to produce argan oil. It’s often used in hair care and skin care products.
Argan oil is made up of two primary fatty acids:
Oleic acid and linoleic acid. (Keep this in mind.)
It contains about 43-49 percent oleic acid and 29-36 percent linoleic acid (1).
In smaller quantities, there are also two kinds of potent antioxidants:
Carotenoids and Vitamin E. (Keep this one in mind, too.)
Key Takeaway: Argan oil is made up of mostly oleic acid (43-49%) and linoleic acid (29-36%). It also contains two kinds of potent antioxidants: vitamin E and carotenoids.
The Science On Argan Oil for Hair Growth: What Does the Research Say?
Considering argan oil is used so frequently in hair and skin care products, the research is, well, surprising.
You would think that there would be a lot of research behind it.
The truth is:
In fact, there’s almost none.
But, even then, research shows that other oils can be more effective.
So, it’s really hard to pinpoint any real benefit for using argan oil.
The only thing we can really do is look at the components of argan oil. From there, we can see if there’s any theoretical benefit to using it.
The benefits of each individual constituent of argan oil for hair is discussed below.
Keep on reading!
Key Takeaway: There’s virtually no research on argan oil for hair. The only general consensus is that it relieves dry hair. To understand the benefits of argan oil, we have to look at the individual components.
The Constituents of Argan Oil
Argan oil itself hasn’t been extensively studied. But, its components have.
Oleic acid is the primary fatty acid in argan oil.
Most fatty acids are good for skin and hair.
Oleic acid, though?
Not so much.
Let’s talk about it:
It also increases the permeability of the skin barrier (6). This can increase the chances of environmental damage to the scalp, meaning more inflammation and oxidative stress. Both are linked to hair loss (7, 8).
However, oleic acid isn’t all bad.
By increasing skin barrier permeability, oleic acid can also enhance the penetration of other compounds.
If oleic acid is applied with other beneficial compounds, the benefits of using oleic acid might outweigh the risks. (More on this later.)
Key Takeaway: Oleic acid activates protein kinase C which may prevent hair growth. It also decreases barrier function which can be detrimental to skin health. But, it may allow for deeper penetration of other beneficial compounds.
Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid. This means it can’t be created by the body.
It needs to be applied topically or obtained through the diet.
The linoleic acid content of argan oil is like the balancing act to oleic acid.
The health of the scalp is important for hair growth.
Research backs this up:
Unhealthy scalp conditions impact hair growth and quality (10).
So, applying linoleic acid-rich oils to the scalp may promote a healthier scalp. As a result, a healthy scalp may contribute to healthier hair.
One study explored this:
Safflower oil, which is rich in linoleic acid, was applied to a 19-year-old man’s scalp (11).
He had an essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency which resulted in hair loss and depigmentation.
Researchers instructed him to apply safflower oil for 21 days. It reversed his EFA deficiency.
With continued use of safflower oil, he achieved a healthier scalp and reversal of hair loss and depigmentation.
Researchers attributed the success to safflower oil’s high linoleic acid content.
Although, no following studies have been performed to confirm the findings.
So, it’s hard to say whether or not linoleic acid directly contributes to hair growth.
But, we do know that it contributes to skin health, which includes the scalp.
And another caveat:
Safflower oil contains 70-80 percent linoleic acid. Argan oil pales in comparison with only 29-36 percent.
So, even if linoleic acid contributed to hair regrowth, it’s hard to say whether argan oil would provide enough to have any benefit.
- Linoleic acid contributes to skin health which includes the scalp.
- A healthy scalp is important for healthy hair growth. L
- Linoleic acid-rich safflower oil (70-80%) reversed hair loss and depigmentation in one study. This hasn’t been replicated.
- Even if it was replicated, argan oil doesn’t have a high concentration of linoleic acid (29-36%).
Vitamin E and Carotenoids
Argan oil’s possible benefits for hair growth might just be linked to these two compounds:
Vitamin E and carotenoids.
Let’s start with carotenoids.
Carotenoids are the yellow, orange, or red pigments in food with antioxidant powers.
Research suggests carotenoids have photoprotective properties (12). This means they protect from the sun’s UV radiation.
What does this mean for hair?
By protecting the hair follicle from UV damage, carotenoids may prevent hair loss.
They can also protect against lipid peroxidation (the oxidation of fatty substances) (14). This is especially important for hair.
The scalp produces sebum, a fatty substance that is easily oxidized by free radicals in the body.
This means it’s the perfect place for lipid peroxidation.
Researchers may have found an interesting link between lipid peroxidation and hair loss:
In rats, topical application of lipid peroxides caused early onset of the catagen phase (15).
The catagen phase is when hair stops growing.
This suggests that lipid peroxides might stunt hair growth.
So, by preventing lipid peroxidation, carotenoids may promote healthy hair growth.
Then, the question becomes:
Can carotenoids be absorbed through the skin?
Research shows that topical application of carotenoids increases their concentration in the skin (16).
And what about Vitamin E?
Vitamin E is another potent antioxidant compound. It’s fat soluble which means that it may have better activity in the skin and hair.
But, what can it do for hair loss?
Researchers tried to find out:
They conducted a study on vitamin E supplementation and hair growth (17).
The subjects that were chosen for the study had varying degrees of hair loss.
Of the 38 total subjects, 21 received vitamin E and 17 received the placebo for 8 months.
At the end of the study, the vitamin E group had a significant increase in the number of hairs when compared to the placebo.
Here’s what this means:
Vitamin E may increase hair count when taken orally. These results suggest a promising link between vitamin E and hair growth.
But, what does this mean when we use a vitamin E-rich oil like argan oil topically?
Surprisingly, there are currently no studies on topical vitamin E specifically for hair growth.
Although, we do know the effects of applying vitamin E topically.
Here’s what we know:
Vitamin E is amazing at reducing inflammation and oxidative stress (18).
- Prevent hair loss associated with inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Create the conditions that hair needs to grow, which could theoretically reverse hair loss.
Unfortunately, though, we can’t come to any conclusions about topical vitamin E for hair growth. There’s just not enough data.
- Carotenoids prevent lipid peroxidation and UV radiation damage, both of which might lead to hair loss.
- Vitamin E supplementation increased hair count in hair loss subjects.
- Topical vitamin E significantly reduces inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Unfortunately, there’s not data on topical vitamin E for hair loss or growth.
Putting the Pieces Together
So, argan oil’s constituents might promote hair growth.
But, that’s not the end of the story.
As with anything, it’s about how the components work together as a whole instead of individually.
For some products, the sum of their parts decreases their efficacy.
For argan oil, this might not be the case. All the constituents together might actually lead to theoretically better results.
Let’s talk about why:
Oleic acid is bad for skin and the scalp because it decreases the barrier function, right?
Well, because argan oil contains vitamin E and carotenoids, it might not be so bad.
This decreased barrier function allows more of these powerful antioxidants to penetrate the skin (6). This means they’re more effective.
In theory, the environmental factors from decreased barrier function that cause damage might be neutralized in the presence of these beneficial antioxidants.
And let’s factor in the linoleic acid, too:
Linoleic acid might have a balancing effect when it comes to oleic acid.
Its role in increased barrier function might counteract the penetration-enhancing effect of oleic acid.
Although, this hasn’t been researched.
So, yes, some of argan oil’s components have drawbacks.
But, when we look at argan oil as a whole, it seems like it might have an overall benefit for scalp and hair health.
To determine whether or not it can promote hair growth, though, we still need more research.
- Oleic acid promotes decreased barrier function which is bad.
- Oleic acid can enhance the penetration of vitamin E and carotenoids in argan oil. This means they can be more active in the skin.
- Linoleic acid may counteract oleic acid’s effects on barrier function.
- Argan oil as a whole might make
Argan Oil for Healthy Hair
We don’t know a lot about argan oil.
But, here’s one thing we have more data on:
Argan oil’s ability to combat dry hair.
How does it do this?
The main way argan oil works is this:
It’s linoleic acid content coats the hair shaft which prevents friction and frizz (19). It also acts as a lubricant which can prevent some breakage.
Less breakage means longer, fuller hair.
Even still, argan oil isn’t the best of the best when it comes to promoting healthy hair.
This was investigated in one study:
Researchers compared mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil (20).
They coated hair shafts to analyze the oil’s effects on preventing hair damage. In this study, hair damage was measured by hair protein loss.
Loss of protein means hair is more prone to breakage and looks dull.
Mineral oil and sunflower oil had no effect on maintaining protein content. However, the coconut oil did.
Researchers explain that the lauric acid in coconut oil is responsible for this. It has a tiny molecular structure that allows it to penetrate the hair shaft.
Unlike coconut oil, sunflower oil had a high linoleic acid content. Linoleic acid was too big of a fatty acid to penetrate the hair shaft.
So, what does this tell us?
Like sunflower oil, argan oil contains linoleic acid. This does play somewhat of a role in preventing frizz and breakage.
But, it doesn’t prevent damage.
Overall, coconut oil beats argan oil for healthier hair.
- Argan oil contains linoleic acid. It can coat and lubricate the hair shaft which prevents frizz and some breakage.
- But, the linoleic acid is too big to penetrate the hair shaft which means it can’t protect protein loss.
- Coconut oil’s small molecular structure allows it to penetrate and maintain protein.
How to Use Argan Oil for Hair Growth
Let’s take a look at what we know:
- Argan oil contains vitamin E and carotenoids which may benefit hair. We don’t know the exact impact they have on hair growth or loss, though.
- Argan oil can prevent frizziness and some breakage.
With this information, we can come up with the best way to use argan oil.
Based on the research, argan oil is best used on the ends of hair.
It can be applied after a shower, between washes, or as a hair mask before a shower.
And if you want to use it as a scalp treatment?
While we don’t know the exact effect it will have on hair growth, there’s no harm in using it on your scalp.
Simply pour some argan oil into an applicator bottle and massage it into your scalp until it’s fully coated.
Then, you can wash it off as usual in the shower.
- Argan oil’s effects on hair growth aren’t proven.
- But, you can still use it as a scalp treatment.
- It’s benefits for preventing frizz and breakage are more concrete.
- A more research-centered use is on the ends of the hair.
How to Find the Best Argan Oil
Did you know that heat can damage antioxidants?
Considering some of argan oil’s benefits are tied to two antioxidants, vitamin E and carotenoids, you want an oil that retains all of these beneficial compounds.
This means you need to buy cold-pressed oil.
Organic is also preferred. Pesticides used in conventional farming may damage DNA, impact liver health, and affect brain function (21).
Key Takeaway: Organic, cold-pressed argan oil is best.
The Big Picture on Argan Oil for Hair Growth
Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture:
For an oil that is used so frequently in hair products, you would think that argan oil would have a significant body of research behind it.
But, it doesn’t.
So, we can’t make any claims on how argan oil affects hair growth. However, it does contain some notable compounds that may contribute to healthy hair.
It’s most studied effects are on using it to treat dry hair and prevent frizz and some breakage.
The best form of argan oil to use — however you choose to use it — is organic and cold-pressed.
Do you plan on using argan oil for your hair? Leave a comment below!