Sesame oil has been historically used in ancient medicines like Ayurveda for hair health.
But, is this traditional use backed by modern research?
In this article, I’ll go in-depth on the research available for sesame seed oil.
You’ll learn if it’s worth using, how to use it, why you might need to avoid it, and the best sesame seed oil for hair growth.
Just keep reading!
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What Is Sesame Seed Oil?
Sesame seed oil is the oil obtained from sesame seeds.
It has been traditionally used in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. It’s the primary oil used for abhyanga, the Ayurvedic daily self oil massage.
It is said to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that warrant its extensive use.
Interestingly, there may be science to back up these claims.
In the sections below, we’ll look into how the research might support the traditional Ayurvedic use of sesame seed oil.
Key Takeaways: Sesame oil is believed to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that may be supported by research.
What Does the Research Say About Sesame Seed Oil for Hair Growth?
Unfortunately, there is no research directly examining the effects of sesame seed oil and hair growth.
However, we can take a look at the composition of sesame seed oil and look at how it might help.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with potent antioxidant properties. One of sesame oil’s main components is vitamin E.
In a study on volunteers with hair loss, researchers observed the effects of vitamin E supplementation on hair growth (1). After 8 months, the group that used vitamin E had a 34.5 percent increase in the number of hairs. In stark contrast, the group who received a placebo experienced a 0.1 percent decrease in hair count.
Researchers attribute the success of vitamin E to its ability to reduce oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is the cumulative measure of free radical damage in the body. Free radicals are compounds that oxidize cells and cellular components, leading to cell dysfunction or cell death.
Dermal papilla cells (DPCs), the cells the stimulate hair growth, are known to be susceptible to oxidative stress in the context of hair loss (2). This may be a result of free radical damage preventing DPCs from doing their job and fueling hair growth.
Another way oxidative stress might impact hair growth is through the damage of chondrocytes. Chondrocytes are a group of cells responsible for producing a type of protein called proteoglycans.
Specifically, the proteoglycans versican and decorin play a key role in hair growth (3). Versican is responsible for the maintenance of DPCs and their ability to signal hair growth. Decorin is essential for regulating TGF-β1, a growth factor that stimulates the production of scar tissue.
Excess TGF-β1 activity and increased production of scar tissue are some of the mediating factors in Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA; pattern hair loss), a common form of hair loss (4). So, by regulating TGF-β1, decorin may play a role in preventing AGA.
Vitamin E is known to prevent damage to chondrocytes by neutralizing free radicals (5). In this way, vitamin E may prevent hair loss associated with the depletion of proteoglycans.
These findings are supported by studies that show hair loss patients seem to have higher markers of oxidative stress (6).
This is exactly how vitamin E might work. By effectively reducing oxidative stress, both topical and internal use may promote hair growth (7).
One additional way vitamin E might promote hair growth is through anti-inflammatory activity (8). Vitamin E is known for its ability to inhibit the activation of the transcription factor NF-κB.
When NF-κB is activated, it makes its way to the nucleus and influences the way it produces DNA. Essentially, it codes for the creation of genes that produce inflammatory molecules.
But, how does this relate to hair loss?
Inflammation is a key player in various forms of hair loss including AGA, Alopecia Areata (AA), and Telogen Effluvium (TE) (4, 9, 10). For example, inflammatory molecules like IFN-γ and IL-1β are known to be potent inhibitors of hair growth (11, 12).
This suggests that reducing inflammation could be a hopeful approach to restoring hair loss. By inhibiting NF-κB, vitamin E could lower inflammation.
However, there are currently no studies on the use of topical vitamin E for the treatment of hair loss. Additionally, the effects of sesame seed oil might be limited by the amount of vitamin E present in the oil.
The effects of vitamin E supplements on hair growth warrants further studies.
- Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin found in sesame seed oil. It effectively neutralizes free radicals to reduce oxidative stress.
- Vitamin E supplementation is known to enhance hair count when compared to a placebo.
- Vitamin E’s antioxidant activity may reduce oxidative stress to preserve DPC and chondrocyte function. DPCs are responsible for signaling hair growth. Chondrocytes produce proteoglycans which may be important for preserving DPCs and preventing AGA.
- Vitamin E also inhibits NF-κB activation, the transcription factor responsible for upregulating inflammatory molecule production. Inflammation is implicated in TE, AGA, and AA. By reducing inflammation, vitamin E may benefit patients with these forms of hair loss.
- The effects of vitamin E supplements on hair growth warrants further studies.
- However, there are no studies on the use of topical vitamin E for hair loss. Additionally, the effects of sesame seed oil might be limited by the amount of vitamin E present in the oil.
Linoleic acid is an essential omega-6 fatty acid, meaning the human body doesn’t make it on its own. Linoleic acid is the predominant fatty acid in sesame seed oil.
This fatty acid is a key component of the skin and plays a role in maintaining the protective skin barrier (13).
Patients with a severe linoleic acid deficiency can develop dandruff, hair loss, and even loss of hair color (14). However, one case study showed that application of a linoleic acid-rich safflower oil reversed these symptoms.
Topical application of linoleic acid-rich oils might also benefit AGA. In the skin, linoleic acid is converted to a metabolite called 13-hydroxyoctadecadienoic acid (13-HODE). 13-HODE has anti-proliferative effects, meaning it prevents the excessive division of skin cells.
The proliferation of skin cells can lead to excessive dead skin cell buildup, which can block hair follicles from receiving oxygen. Anaerobic conditions, or conditions of low oxygen, provide the perfect environment for P. acnes bacteria to reproduce (15).
In scalp biopsies, patients with AGA have elevated levels of P. acnes in their affected hair follicles (4). This strain of bacteria releases molecules called porphyrins which contribute to inflammation on the scalp. Researchers believe that P. acnes plays a key role in the inflammation that is a significant factor in AGA.
Linoleic acid might also keep P. acnes under control through its antibacterial action (16). Although, linoleic acid has not been tested directly for its effects on this strain of bacteria.
Linoleic acid also possesses anti-inflammatory properties on its own (17). In cell culture studies, linoleic acid upregulates the expression of PPARγ receptors. These receptors are responsible for downregulating inflammation (18).
Overall, linoleic acid is a contributor to maintaining a healthy scalp. Scalp quality is known to play a role in hair retention (19). Conversely, an unhealthy scalp influences hair loss.
Because linoleic acid is the main fatty acid in sesame oil, topical application of sesame oil might be beneficial for hair growth.
- Linoleic acid is a key component of skin and the protective skin barrier.
- Topical application of linoleic acid-rich safflower oil has been shown to reverse hair loss associated with essential fatty acid deficiency.
- Linoleic acid is metabolized into 13-HODE which is anti-proliferative. This may prevent dead skin buildup and reduced oxygen content in the hair follicle. As a result, it may help regulate P. acnes levels in the scalp which are known to contribute to AGA.
- Linoleic acid also possesses anti-inflammatory properties on its own. It may upregulate the expression of PPARγ receptors responsible for lowering inflammation.
- Linoleic acid is important for scalp health which plays a role in hair retention.
- linoleic acid is the main fatty acid in sesame oil, so topical application of sesame oil might be beneficial for hair growth.
Sesame Seed Lignans
Some major components of sesame seeds are their lignans sesamin, asarinin, sesamolin, and sesamol. Lignans are antioxidant polyphenols found in plants.
These lignans are known to be present in some sesame oils, however, the lignan content is higher in sesame seeds themselves (20).
The lignans present in sesame seed oil might be beneficial in that they enhance the activity of vitamin E (21). Research indicates that they may play a role in recycling vitamin E.
Sesamin is also known to have anti-inflammatory activity. It may be beneficial for hair loss that results from inflammatory activity.
However, whether the lignan content of sesame seed oil is high enough to be beneficial is debatable. Unrefined sesame seed oil might have higher levels of lignans compared to its refined counterparts.
- Lignans are polyphenol antioxidants found in plants like sesame seeds.
- Sesame seeds contain sesamin, asarinin, sesamolin, and sesamol.
- Lignans are known to be present in sesame seed oil but they are predominantly found in sesame seeds.
- These lignans might be beneficial because they enhance the activity of vitamin E and have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Whether or not the lignan content of sesame seed oil is high enough to be beneficial is debatable. Unrefined sesame seed oil might have higher levels of lignans.
Sesame Seed Oil and Castor Oil for Hair Growth
Sesame seed oil is often compared to castor oil for its hair growing abilities.
However, castor oil works very differently to sesame seed oil.
Castor oil contains a novel fatty acid called ricinoleic acid (22). This fatty acid is what gives castor oil its laxative and labor-inducing properties.
It works by binding to prostaglandin E3 receptors. These E3 receptors are expressed during the anagen growing phase of the mouse hair cycle (23).
From these observations, we can assume that these receptors play a role in regulating hair growth. However, the role of prostaglandin E3 receptors in human hair follicles hasn’t really been explored (24).
So, castor oil may stimulate hair growth by acting on a receptor. Differently, sesame seed oil seems to work by reducing inflammation, mitigating oxidative stress, and promoting scalp health.
Although, the effects of these two oils on hair growth haven’t been directly examined.
- Castor oil is different from sesame oil in that it activates prostaglandin E3 receptors.
- PGE3 receptors have been found during the anagen phase of the mouse hair cycle. E3 receptors in human hair growth hasn’t been explored.
- Castor oil may stimulate hair growth by acting on PGE3 receptors. Sesame seed oil lowers inflammation, mitigates oxidative stress, and promotes scalp health.
- Although, the effects of these two oils on hair growth haven’t been directly examined.
When You Probably Shouldn’t Use Sesame Oil: Dandruff
When it comes to dandruff, you might want to avoid using sesame seed oil.
Linoleic acid’s anti-proliferative properties might combat the flakiness in dandruff. But, the fatty acids in sesame seed oil might also make dandruff worse.
This is because Malassezia spp. yeast are lipophilic, meaning they feed off of oils (25). This is why they grow in areas where sebum is produced.
In this sense, topical application of oils like sesame seed oil might also provide the fuel for Malassezia to overgrow. While the effects of topical oils on dandruff hasn’t been studied, avoiding topical oils is probably prudent.
Key Takeaway: Fatty acids in sesame seed oil could fuel Malassezia yeast, making dandruff worse.
The Best Sesame Seed Oil for Hair Growth
As with any oil, cold-pressed, organic sesame seed oil is likely the best oil to use.
Cold-pressed processing of sesame seed oil ensures all the beneficial antioxidants like vitamin E and lignans are present in the final product.
Sesame seed oil produced from organically-grown sesame seeds also avoids pesticide residue. Some pesticides like glyphosate have been linked to an increased risk of developing Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (26).
Additionally, purchasing unrefined sesame oil could be the way to go. Unrefined sesame seed oil may have a higher lignan content.
Key Takeaway: For the best effects, use organic, cold-pressed, unrefined sesame seed oil.
Should You Really Use Sesame Oil for Your Hair?
When we take a look at the science, it’s clear that there is some evidence to back up the traditional use of sesame seed oil. The constituents of sesame seed oil have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiproliferative, and antibacterial properties.
Overall, it may help boost scalp health leading to healthier hair growth.
However, you may need to avoid the use of oils like sesame seed oil if you suffer from dandruff.
If you do choose to use sesame seed oil, opt for organic, cold-pressed, unrefined sesame seed oil.
Have you used sesame seed oil for hair growth in the past? How did it turn out for you? Leave a comment below.