Avocado is a healthy fat filled with health-promoting nutrients.
But, can the oil be used to promote hair growth?
Is it worth investing in for topical use?
In this article, I’ll break down the science of avocado oil for hair growth and whether or not you should use it.
Quickly, make sure you take the free hair quiz later in this article.
Avocados: Nutrient-Dense Superfood
Avocados are an extremely nutrient-dense fruit (1).
They contain high levels of:
- Provitamin A carotenoids
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Monounsaturated fatty acids
This makes avocados a great addition to a healthy diet.
However, when the oil of avocados is extracted to create avocado oil, it can lose some of its nutrient value. Oil processing removes all of the water-soluble fiber, minerals, B-vitamins, and vitamin C and leaves only the fat-soluble carotenoids, vitamin E, fatty acids, and phytosterols.
But, this doesn’t mean that avocado oil is devoid of benefits. The remaining fat-soluble nutrients also possess healing properties.
What does this mean for hair?
In the sections below, I’ll discuss how the individual nutrients within avocado oil may benefit hair and the factors that may limit its beneficial action.
Key Takeaway: Avocados are nutrient-dense fruits that contain high levels of water and fat-soluble nutrients. When they are pressed into oil, they only retain the fat-soluble nutrients. These may be beneficial for hair.
Can Avocado Oil Be Used for Hair Growth?
Avocado oil is widely used as a hair growth agent.
Whether or not these anecdotal experiences are based on any science, though, raises questions.
Unfortunately, there are currently no studies available directly looking at the effects of avocado oil on hair growth. The only thing we can do is look at some of the constituents of avocado oil and how they might impact hair.
Sterols are waxy substances found in both plant and animal products.
Cholesterol is the most popular sterol and is found primarily in animal products.
β-sitosterol, a phytosterol found in avocados, has potent anti-inflammatory activity (2).
Interestingly, it also inhibits an enzyme called 5α-reductase (3).
This enzyme is responsible for converting testosterone into a more powerful male hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
This is the main hormone responsible for the development of a form of hair loss called Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA, also known as pattern hair loss) (4).
By inhibiting the 5α-reductase enzyme, 5α-reductase inhibitors can prevent the progression of AGA. However, the question is whether or not botanical enzyme inhibitors are worth using compared to FDA-approved treatments for AGA like minoxidil or finasteride.
To evaluate this, researchers conducted a study using two 5α-reductase inhibitors: Saw Palmetto extract and β-sitosterol.
They found that 60 percent of the AGA subjects who received the botanical extract experienced an improvement in their hair loss. These results were statistically significant compared to the 11 percent who experienced an improvement in the placebo group.
Although, this study doesn’t hold too much weight. The study didn’t examine β-sitosterol alone, so we can’t predict the exact efficacy of this avocado oil constituent for hair loss.
Key Takeaway: β-sitosterol is a sterol in avocado that inhibits 5α-reductase. However, no studies have examined how it might impact hair loss alone. So, we can’t predict whether or not this avocado oil constituent will benefit hair loss.
Carotenoids are yellow-orange pigments that have antioxidant properties.
Avocado oil is rich in carotenoids, specifically (1):
Research tells us that these dietary carotenoids are distributed into the skin. They protect it from free radical and UV damage which causes oxidative stress.
This may be beneficial for the skin on the scalp because the cells responsible for hair growth, dermal papilla cells (DPCs), seem to be susceptible to oxidative stress (5). Degradation of DPCs is a factor in hair loss.
By protecting against oxidative stress, carotenoids may protect DPCs from dysfunctional activity leading to hair loss.
Topical application of carotenoids has also been shown to protect against free radical damage (6). However, they are less stable and effective than the carotenoids that are incorporated into the skin via the diet.
Researchers also describe that mixtures of antioxidants and carotenoids are superior to topical application of carotenoids by themselves.
Considering carotenoids are a component of avocado oil, it may enhance hair growth in this way:
By preserving the integrity of DPCs.
Although, no studies have really looked at this.
- Avocado oil contains antioxidant carotenoids.
- These carotenoids have UV-protective and free radical neutralizing properties in the skin.
- They can be used topically or incorporated into the skin via the diet.
- Carotenoids are more stable and effective when obtained through the diet or used topically in a mixture with other antioxidants.
Vitamin E is a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant.
In one study, researchers set out to examine the benefits of vitamin E supplementation for hair loss.
After 8 months of supplementation, subjects who took the vitamin E supplements had an average increase of 34.5 percent in hair number. In contrast, the placebo group had an average 0.1 percent decrease.
As of now, there have been no studies on topical vitamin E application and hair growth.
However, topical vitamin E application does increase vitamin E levels within the skin. This means it is absorbed and may contribute some antioxidant activity to hair follicle cells.
It might also enhance the activity of the carotenoids in avocado oil (6).
When it comes down to it, though, we don’t really have enough data to establish that the vitamin E in avocado oil will benefit hair.
- Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that has possible hair growth promoting properties when taken orally.
- There is no current data examining the benefits of vitamin E for hair when used topically. However, we do know that topical vitamin E is absorbed into the skin.
- The presence of vitamin E in avocado oil might enhance the activity of the carotenoid content.
- But, there’s not enough data to establish that vitamin E in avocado oil will benefit hair.
Avocado oil is made up primarily of monounsaturated fats.
The main monounsaturated fatty acid in avocado oil is oleic acid.
But, oleic acid is an interesting fatty acid when it comes to skin.
It is a well-known penetration enhancer (9). This means it allows other ingredients to penetrate deeper and act more effectively.
Although, this isn’t always so good.
To act as a penetration enhancer, oleic acid opens up the protective barrier of the skin. While good ingredients can penetrate deeper, so can other potentially harmful environmental pollutants and microbes.
Water can also escape from the skin, known as transepidermal water loss (TEWL).
All of these factors combined can cause irritation, inflammation, and oxidative stress. When you’re trying to promote hair growth, this isn’t something you want.
So, the high levels of oleic acid in avocado oil may make it a not-so-optimal oil for the skin and the scalp.
- Oleic acid is the primary fatty acid in avocado oil.
- Oleic acid can enhance ingredient penetration by opening up protective skin barrier.
- However, this can also allow microbes and environmental pollutants in to cause damage. It can also allow water to evaporate out, causing TEWL.
- Taking these factors into account, avocado oil may be a not-so-optimal oil for promoting hair growth.
Putting It In Perspective: Rate-Limiting Factors
The nutrients in avocado oil suggest a possible mixed effect on hair growth.
These potential effects may be limited by avocado oil’s lack of penetration, though (10).
According to an analysis of avocado oil, it is one of the oils with the lowest penetration ability. This means that, even if the constituents could benefit hair, the chances of them penetrating deep enough to exhibit those benefits are highly unlikely.
But, it may act as a protective barrier to prevent TEWL and promote skin health.
This is beneficial for the skin of the scalp which acts as an incubator for hair growth (11). The condition of the scalp is known to impact hair growth and retention.
The benefits of avocado oil probably don’t extend beyond that when used topically.
And while avocado oil may benefit health when used in the diet, using avocado oil in place of consuming whole avocados leaves a lot of missing nutrients on the table.
- Avocado oil’s lack of penetration might prevent the nutrients from exerting any beneficial effects.
- Avocado oil may act as a protective barrier and prevent TEWL to promote skin health.
- Preventing TEWL may benefit the scalp by promoting its health. The scalp acts as an incubator for new hair growth. The condition of the scalp is known to impact hair growth and retention.
- Avocado oil may benefit health when used in the diet, but isn’t as beneficial as consuming whole avocados.
Avocado Oil Vs. Other Oils
There are many other oils that may be more beneficial for hair growth than avocado oil.
Below, I’ll compare avocado oil against other oils to help you decide which oil to invest in.
Castor Oil and Avocado Oil for Hair Growth
Castor oil is an oil that contains monounsaturated fats, like avocado oil.
The main difference between the two is a novel fatty acid called ricinoleic acid found in castor oil.
It is known for its ability to relieve constipation and stimulate uterine contractions in pregnant women (12). It acts on an inflammatory protein receptor called the prostaglandin EP3 receptor.
EP3 receptors are found in hair follicles during the anagen or growing phase (13). This suggests that they play a role in hair growth.
As a result, it’s more likely that castor oil has an impact on hair growth when compared to avocado oil.
Key Takeaway: Castor oil binds to and activates EP3 receptors which are found in hair follicles during the anagen phase. For this reason, castor oil probably has more of an impact on hair growth than avocado oil.
Avocado Oil Vs. Coconut Oil for Hair
Coconut oil outshines avocado oil for one specific reason.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a fatty acid with a tiny molecular structure. This size of this fatty acid allows it to penetrate into the hair shaft (14).
Once there, it binds to the keratin proteins that make up hair to prevent their loss and the resulting hair damage.
Unlike coconut oil, avocado oil’s fatty acid profile doesn’t allow it to effectively penetrate the hair shaft. Instead, it sits on top of that hair strands and reduces friction between the hair strands.
While this is still beneficial for reducing frizz, it doesn’t compare to coconut oil’s ability to prevent damage.
Key Takeaway: Coconut oil is superior to avocado oil for preventing hair damage because its small fatty acid structure allows it to penetrate the hair shaft.
Avocado Oil Hair Treatment
Still opting for an avocado oil treatment?
I suggest mixing your avocado oil with the other oils mentioned: coconut oil and castor oil.
You can even add some peppermint essential oil which has proven to be as effective as minoxidil in animal studies (15).
This will allow you to take advantage of all the benefits of each individual oil.
Here’s how to make an avocado oil hair treatment:
- Mix equal parts avocado, castor, and coconut oil in an applicator bottle. You might have to melt down the coconut oil on low heat.
- Optional: add 3 drops of peppermint essential oil per 2 teaspoons of oil for a 3% dilution.
- Apply to combed hair until your scalp is fully coated.
- Let the oil mixture sit on your scalp for a minimum of 15 minutes.
- Rinse with shampoo and conditioner like usual.
Do keep in mind, though, that avocado oil isn’t proven to promote hair growth.
Key Takeaway: Avocado oil isn’t proven to promote hair growth. However, if you do choose to include it in a hair treatment, add other oils like coconut, castor, or peppermint essential oil to add some benefits.
Avocado Oil for Dandruff
Plant oils are often used as a natural treatment for dandruff.
But, avocado oil may not be the one to use, simply because there is no research for us to draw from.
Avocado oil may prevent the scalp from becoming dry and flaky. However, it doesn’t resolve the underlying yeast infections that often lead to a dry, itchy scalp.
So, the bottom line is: avocado oil probably isn’t the way to go.
Key Takeaway: There is no research to suggest avocado oil improves dandruff. It doesn’t resolve the underlying yeast infections that can often caue a dry, flaky scalp.
Breaking It Down: Does Avocado Oil Really Work?
When we examine all the research, there’s very little to support the use of avocado oil for hair growth.
Some of its constituents may have some theoretical benefits.
But, these benefits are most likely limited by avocado oil’s minimal absorption via the skin.
Your best bet is consuming avocados as part of your healthy diet.
How do you feel about avocado oil for hair growth? Is this research surprising to you? Leave a comment down below.