Arnica Oil Has Gained Popularity in Haircare—But Does It Actually Do Anything?

Gold liquid in an oil dropper, on a yellow background

ohlamour studios / Stocksy

Not so long ago, arnica was an obscure homeopathic ingredient, one that most people had never heard of. But its mainstream popularity has grown exponentially in recent years, and the ingredient has become the star of many topical pain relief and anti-bruising products. Now arnica oil is also being touted as a top-notch ingredient for your hair, with claims that it can help with hair loss and premature graying.

Sounds good, right? Well, before you go slathering it all over your scalp and strands, keep reading. We asked board-certified dermatologist Anar Mikailov, MD, and trichologist Isfahan Chmabers-Harris, Ph.D., to give us the full breakdown on arnica oil for hair.

Meet the Expert

Turns out, there's more research needed to back up pretty much all of arnica oil's purported haircare benefits.

Arnica Oil

Type of ingredient: Plant-based oil

Main benefits: Provides moisture for hair and scalp and has anti-inflammatory properties that may help with aging hair conditions such as loss and graying, although more research is needed to support these benefits

Who should use it: Those with a dry scalp and conditions such as dandruff and/or seborrheic dermatitis

How often can you use it: Daily

Works well with: It works well with many other ingredients, specifically other moisturizing oils such as jojoba and coconut. And even though it hasn't been definitively shown to help with hair loss, Mikailov says it is gaining attention as an ingredient that can help improve the onset of action of other active ingredients in the hair loss category, such as minoxidil and finasteride.

Don't use with: There are no ingredients known to interact negatively with arnica oil in haircare products.

What Is Arnica Oil?

The arnica used in skincare and haircare is Arnica montana, a flowering plant that is part of the sunflower family and most often found in the colder parts of Europe, explains Mikailov. "It's been used as a herbal medicine for centuries in oil and cream formulations, a long-time hero that's celebrated for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties," he says. (Hence why it's often found in products geared towards alleviating sore muscles, achy joints, and even bruising.) However, along with these more often talked about benefits, Mikailov says arnica oil can also help with some common hair and scalp issues, including dryness and seborrheic dermatitis. On that note...

Benefits of Arnica Oil for Hair

According to Chambers-Harris because arnica oil can help reduce inflammation, it may help with treating hair and scalp conditions. It's why there's been talk of it as an effective natural ingredient for combatting hair loss, but both experts we spoke with were quick to note that the jury is definitely still out on this. Anecdotally, it's been shown to help improve the health of the hair follicle, but there's no research that backs whether or not it can help with any specific type of hair loss, says Chambers-Harris.

Similarly, arnica oil has also recently been purported to be something that can help fight hair graying. "Conceptually, arnica oil will minimize oxidative stress and inflammation of the cells that provide pigment to the hair shaft, although no definitive studies on this benefit have been conducted," Mikailov explains.

Mikailov and Chambers-Harris also both note that—again, anecdotally— it's a popular option for treating scalp conditions such as dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, with Mikailov adding that this is especially the case when arnica oil is combined with tea tree oil. Again, this is likely due to arnica oil's anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

The point being, all of these aforementioned benefits are largely more theoretical than scientifically backed. The most "legitimate" reason to use arnica oil would be to help moisturize a dry scalp and/or dry hair. The natural fatty acids are excellent for improving moisture, especially when mixed with complementary oils such as jojoba or coconut, Mikailov says.

Hair Type Consideration

Arnica oil can work for all hair types, although Mikailov recommends avoiding it if you have very greasy or oily hair.

How To Use Arnica Oil For Hair

If you're using arnica as an oil for your scalp, it will be most effective when applied and left on overnight underneath a shower cap, advises Mikailov. Chambers-Harris adds that pure arnica oil can also be mixed into your shampoo and/or conditioner. Additionally, more and more haircare products are incorporating the ingredient into their formulations.

Article Sources
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  1. Lass C, Vocanson M, Wagner S, et al. Anti-inflammatory and immune-regulatory mechanisms prevent contact hypersensitivity to Arnica montana LExp Dermatol. 2008;17(10):849-857.

  2. Iauk L, Lo Bue AM, Milazzo I, Rapisarda A, Blandino G. Antibacterial activity of medicinal plant extracts against periodontopathic bacteriaPhytother Res. 2003;17(6):599-604.

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