Peppermint oil is an invigorating essential oil that has been used in hair care products for years. But, can it really improve hair health?
After reading this article, you’ll understand:
- How peppermint oil and extracts work with the hair;
- If the functions of peppermint oil and extracts can promote healthy hair;
- The body of research on peppermint oil and its effect on hair health;
- How peppermint oil stands up against other hair products; and
- One groundbreaking study that shows peppermint oil is more effective than the top hair loss treatment!
If you’re interested in incorporating peppermint oils and extracts for hair growth into your hair care routine, keep reading!
Quickly, make sure you take the free hair quiz later in this article.
Peppermint Oil and Hair Growth
If you’re looking to improve the health of your hair, you might consider using peppermint oil. But, can it really help?
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To help you better understand how peppermint oil can promote hair growth and if it will work for your hair, let’s talk about how hair stops growing in the first place.
Why Does Hair Stop Growing?
There are many reasons why hair stops growing or grows at a slower rate. Below, we’ll discuss some of the reasons why.
The Scalp Tension Theory of Hair Loss
The Scalp Tension Theory of Hair Loss is a theory that has been explored in research for decades. It’s used to theoretically explain the reasons behind a common type of hair loss called androgenetic alopecia, also known as pattern hair loss.
This theory includes three main factors: androgens or male hormones, inflammation, and tension in the muscles of the scalp (1). A combination of these factors lead to scarring around the follicle, decreased follicle size (known as miniaturization), and decreased blood flow and nutrient delivery to the hair.
Let’s talk about decreased blood flow and nutrient delivery for a second.
This process is absolutely essential to hair growth. Our blood is the delivery system of every nutrient in our diet. By transporting these nutrients to cells, blood flow stimulates proper functioning and fuels growth in places like our hair follicles. Without this “food” being delivered, hair can’t grow. Theoretically, if you can restore blood flow, you can restore the health of your hair. (Keep this in mind for later.)
Combined with the other mentioned factors, hair can thin considerably or even stop growing completely. This tends to happen in areas of the scalp that are classically susceptible to increased muscular tension. That’s why androgenetic alopecia is called pattern hair loss – because it occurs in a predicted “pattern”.
Currently, treatments like minoxidil, the anti-androgen medication finasteride, and other androgen-blocking medications are used to treat androgenetic alopecia.
Other Forms of Hair Loss
Although pattern hair loss is one of the most common forms of hair loss, there are other ways that thinning hair can manifest.
Let’s talk about some of them briefly.
Alopecia areata is a less common form of hair loss, affecting only about 2% of the populations (2). It can manifest as well-defined hair loss in patches, overall thinning, or complete hair loss. It’s an autoimmune condition that needs to be diagnosed by a doctor.
Scarring alopecias are a result of excessive inflammation of the hair follicle causing permanent damage that leads to scarring (3). This inflammation can result from fungal infections on the scalp, lupus, and other factors. Hair loss associated with scarring alopecias is, unfortunately, irreversible. For this reason, it’s important that factors that can cause scarring alopecias are diagnosed early to prevent permanent damage.
Telogen effluvium is a general term to describe non-scarring hair loss that usually resolves itself (4). It usually comes as a result of stress, weight loss, medications, childbirth, hormonal imbalances unrelated to excess androgens, organ dysfunction, and more.
It’s also used to describe hair loss that can result from nutrient deficiencies. The scientific body of research points to a few dietary deficiencies that can be linked to hair loss: iron, zinc, vitamin D, antioxidants, and protein (5).
Traction alopecia is similar to the progression of scarring alopecias, however, scarring progresses as a result of mechanical means (6). Tight ponytails, wig applications, braids, cornrows, and other hairstyles that put pressure on hair follicles can cause traction alopecia.
Peppermint Oil and Hair Growth
Whether you suffer from hair loss, slowed hair growth, or simply want to grow your hair fast, peppermint oil and its extracts may be able to help.
But, before we go into how peppermint oil works, it should be noted that peppermint oil can’t help if you suffer from the following:
- hair loss from scarring alopecias;
- hair loss from alopecia areata;
- hair loss, hair thinning, or slowed growth from moderate to severe nutrient deficiencies.
This is because peppermint oil can’t help resolve the underlying factors that are involved with the development of these conditions.
However, peppermint oil has a better chance of promoting hair growth if:
- you suffer from androgenetic alopecia which is characterized by decreased blood flow and scalp tension;
- your hair loss is a result of telogen effluvium;
- you don’t have any issues with hair loss and you just want to grow hair faster.
With that said, let’s talk about how peppermint oil works!
Peppermint Oil’s Mechanism of Actions
Peppermint oil has two main mechanisms that are relevant to achieving healthy hair: increasing blood flow and relaxing muscles.
So, how does peppermint oil do this? And how does this benefit hair?
Absorption and Action
Peppermint oil’s main constituent is a terpene, or cyclic alcohol, called menthol (7). This is the compound that is responsible for peppermint oil’s ability to increase blood flow and relax muscles.
When peppermint oil is applied topically, it loosens the “gates” of the skin called ceramides and easily passes through. This means the menthol is readily absorbed into the bloodstream to be distributed to the cells around where you applied it.
Within cells, an ion of the mineral calcium controls tissue functions like muscle contraction (8). As calcium increases within the cell, it triggers the contraction of muscles. This can manifest as muscle cramps and tension or more serious events like the chronic contraction of blood vessels, known as vasoconstriction (9).
When menthol reaches cells, it decreases the concentration of calcium within the cell by blocking calcium’s gateway to the cell: Voltage-Gated Calcium Channels. As calcium concentration decreases, it decreases the potential for chronic muscle tension and vasoconstriction.
Now that you know just how menthol works, let’s talk about how this relates to healthy hair.
How It Benefits Hair
Remember earlier when I mentioned how a possible cause of hair loss associated with androgenetic alopecia is scalp tension and reduced blood flow?
Well, through its biological mechanisms, peppermint oil can provide temporary scalp muscle tension relief and increase blood flow. Through consistent use, it’s possible that hair lost as a result of androgenetic alopecia can be regrown. It can also increase blood flow and enhance nutrient delivery to help your hair grow faster, even if you don’t suffer from hair loss.
As with any ingredient, the biological mechanisms are promising. But, the real question is: is there a body of research to back up the way it works?
What Does the Science Say About Peppermint Oil and Extracts and Hair Growth?
Currently, there is only one study that has examined the effects of peppermint oil for hair growth (10).
In this study, researchers shaved rats. Each group of rat’s hair was in the telogen, or resting phase, where there is actually no hair in the follicle.
Saline was applied to the bald patches of the animals in the placebo group, jojoba oil to another, a 2% minoxidil solution to one, and finally, a 3% peppermint solution diluted in jojoba oil. Researchers applied each solution once a day, six times per week for four weeks.
As researchers observed the hair growth throughout the trial period, they saw that peppermint oil promoted hair growth more effectively compared to all the other groups. Interestingly, the longer the solution was applied to the bald patches, the more effectively it stimulated hair growth.
Compared to the placebo group, jojoba oil, and even minoxidil, peppermint oil promoted hair growth the fastest! The rats didn’t exhibit any adverse reactions to the peppermint oil solution.
So, what does this mean for healthy hair?
The rats didn’t have any known underlying conditions that caused hair loss in the study. So, it doesn’t necessarily mean that peppermint oil can regrow hair lost as a result of androgenetic alopecia or some cases of telogen effluvium.
However, it is still very possible considering the biological mechanisms of peppermint oil.
What this does mean, though, is that there’s a really good chance regular application of peppermint oil to the scalp can promote faster hair growth. If your hair is not actively falling out or is regrowing, peppermint oil may also enhance your hair growth rate.
To know exactly how it will work, we’ll need more clinical trials investigating peppermint oil’s effects on human androgenetic alopecia scalps and healthy human scalps.
How to Use Peppermint Oil for Hair Growth
In the study we talked about before, researchers used a 3% peppermint oil solution. Diluting peppermint oil in a carrier oil like coconut oil, hemp seed oil, castor oil, or argan oil is important to prevent any adverse effect. Applying too high of a concentration of peppermint essential oil can result in skin irritation and contact dermatitis.
Peppermint Oil and Extracts Versus Other Hair Growth Products
When it comes down to it, you want to know where you should invest your money. In this section, we’ll break down how peppermint oil compares to other hair growth products.
Peppermint Oil and Minoxidil
In the study we mentioned earlier, researchers directly compared the effects of minoxidil and peppermint oil on hair growth in rats (10).
When comparing the results between the two over the four weeks, peppermint oil was more effective than minoxidil at boosting hair growth. Best of all, peppermint oil is completely natural, whereas minoxidil is synthetic.
Although both treatments work to promote healthy hair, peppermint oil seems to win this round.
Peppermint Oil and Oil Masks
In the same study, researchers also observed peppermint oil against jojoba oil (10).
Oil masks have traditionally been used to nourish hair and promote faster hair growth. However, adding peppermint oil to your weekly oil mask might just improve your results.
Like minoxidil, jojoba oil doesn’t appear to be as effective for enhancing the hair growth rate when compared to peppermint oil. Although, jojoba oil still contains nourishing fatty acids that can protect hair from becoming frizzy and dry. Paired together, these two can be an integral part of a healthy hair care routine.
Peppermint Oil and Scalp Tension Relief Devices
One of peppermint oil’s mechanisms that might promote hair growth is its ability to relieve tension in muscles. Considering scalp tension is a contributing factor to hair loss, this effect may help prevent hair loss and speed up the regrowth process. However, this hasn’t been 100 percent proven in science.
A much more reliable treatment is a device specifically designed to relieve scalp tension. This is specifically designed to relax the muscles on the scalp, restoring blood flow and reducing inflammation. It’s also a one-time purchase, compared to other treatments like peppermint oil that require a continual top-up.
So, when it comes down to it, a scalp tension relief device is a better investment in money compared to peppermint oil.
However, because a scalp tension device is strictly mechanical, you can use peppermint oil and a scalp tension relief device in conjunction with each other. This may help you achieve faster and more noticeable results with hair fullness.
Do Peppermint Oil Shampoos Work?
Shampoos and conditioners with peppermint oil will often tout faster hair growth as a result of using their product.
While peppermint oil might be effective at promoting hair growth naturally, the only known study we have uses a 3% concentration. Although shampoos don’t often list the concentration of peppermint oil in their products, there is one way to guess how much peppermint oil is actually in the product.
Take a look at the ingredient list. Where is peppermint oil on the list? These ingredient lists are formatted in descending order, meaning that the ingredient of the highest concentration is listed first. As the list goes on, the concentration decreases. If peppermint oil is at the very end, it might smell like peppermint, but there’s a good chance its concentration is insignificant for hair growth.
You might have better luck with a peppermint oil shampoo if peppermint oil is closer to the middle rather than the end.
But, keep in mind, this is totally subjective. There’s no way to tell for sure at what concentration an ingredient is in a shampoo. A better option is a topical mixture that guarantees peppermint oil is at an effective concentration.
The Verdict: Peppermint Oil for Hair
So, do peppermint oil and extracts for hair growth really work to promote healthier hair?
After examining the evidence, peppermint oil might be a natural solution! However, whether or not peppermint oil will work for you specifically is dependent on your unique hair goals and, if applicable, underlying causes of hair loss.
Unfortunately, if you have hair loss as a result of scarring alopecia, alopecia areata, or thinning from moderate to severe nutrient deficiencies, peppermint oil probably isn’t the answer. Conversely, peppermint oil, in theory, may help relieve some of the root causes of androgenetic alopecia. It may also benefit you if you’ve had thinning attributed to telogen effluvium or if you’re simply trying to grow healthy hair fast.
Peppermint oil’s ability to improve blood circulation and reduce muscle tension in the areas it is applied to is what makes it such a promising treatment.
It’s worth keeping in mind that peppermint oil, when diluted properly, doesn’t have serious adverse side effects. This means that it can safely be used on your scalp without you having to worry about anything crazy happening. Considering its possible benefits, it’s worth a try!
Have any questions about peppermint oil, hair growth, or general hair loss question? Leave a comment below!