Oils for hair—groundbreaking, right? Well, actually, yes. Oils + hair = some pretty luscious results. Trust me, I speak from experience. My dry, curly hair loves oil.
So, we know about coconut, argan, squalane, palm, and grapeseed oils...but today, we're talking about black cumin seed oil. Black cumin seed oil has been making the rounds lately as an oil that's purported to contribute to hair growth and is a great antioxidant, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory ingredient.
Meet the Expert
- Geeta Yadav, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Science Dermatology in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
- Brendan Camp, MD, is a double board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology: Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery.
- Vanessa Coppola is a nurse practitioner, cosmetic aesthetic Specialist and founder of Bare Aesthetic.
But is it worth the effort to seek it out in your hair care products or slather it all over your strands? We spoke with experts to give us the breakdown of all things black cumin seed oil. Keep reading for more information.
Type of ingredient: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and potential hair growth treatment.
Main benefits: Adds shine, helps quell irritation
Who should use it: All hair types (even thin) can benefit from using black cumin seed oil, however, those with dry, damaged hair might see more of the benefits.
How often can you use it: Black cumin seed oil can be used daily.
Works well with: "Black cumin seed oil is often combined with with other nourishing and hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and shea butter," says Yadav.
Don’t use with: There are no known ingredients that it interacts negatively with.
What Is Black Cumin Seed Oil?
"Black cumin seed oil is an oil derived from a flowering plant also known as nigella or black caraway," says board-certified dermatologist Geeta Yadav, MD, "Nigella seeds are often used in cooking and they are known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits."
Benefits of Black Cumin Seed Oil for Hair
Black cumin seed oil has been used for centuries as both a medicine and for food, but is more recently gaining popularity as a hair ingredient.
"Black cumin has been used for over 2000 years specifically in the realm of medicinal and culinary purposes," explains Vanessa Coppola, nurse practitioner, cosmetic aesthetic Specialist, and founder of Bare Aesthetic. "The essential oil extracted from the black cumin seed is known to continue to contain high concentrations of thymoquinone which have been cited to possibly aid in the prevention of inflammation as well as possessing an antioxidant profile against radical oxygen species and antimicrobial activity."
Coppola explains that the oil is extracted from these seeds using a cold press technology. "Cold pressing involves no refinement process and therefore may produce oil that contains a higher level of natural antioxidants."
- Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredient: "Black cumin seed oil contains thymoquinone, which is an antioxidant," says Brendan Camp, MD, double board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. Antioxidants help neutralize free oxygen radicals, which are unstable oxygen radicals that can damage cellular structures and proteins.
- Adds shine and and strength: Black cumin seed oil can help smooth, add shine, and potentially help improve damaged hair. "Your hair is naturally coated with sebum and oil derived from sebaceous glands. Sebum keeps the hair soft and pliant and seals in moisture," says Camp. "Black cumin seed oil can potentially support the growth of natural hair as well as impart restorative properties for damaged hair. However, there is not really any valid reliable clinical data currently to support these claims," explains Coppola.
- Potentially promotes hair growth: While there aren't enough studies to make a firm conclusion about black cumin seed oil and hair growth, there is anecdotal evidence that it can help your hair grow faster.
- Potentially reduces hair fall: If your hair is shedding a lot, this ingredient might help. "Black cumin seed oil has been shown to help reduce hair fall, though more research is needed here," says Yadav.
Hair Type Considerations
In general, most hair types can benefit from using black cumin seed oil for hair. Yadav explains that it has a thinner consistency than coconut oil, so it has great spreadability for most hair types. Coppola adds, "Anyone who wants to try to see if they can improve the quality and growth of their hair would be a candidate to try black cumin seed oil. However, as with any non-FDA regulated supplement, it is always best to conduct a spot test first to determine any sensitivities or reactivity."
How to Use Black Cumin Seed Oil for Hair
Black cumin seed oil is available to be taken orally in pill form, in a cold-pressed oil, and can be formulated into hair care products like shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. "Try adding a few drops to the palm of your hand, rubbing your hands together, and raking the oil through your strands to evenly distribute it," says Yadav. "Or try at as a treatment mask first to see how it works for your unique texture, then experiment with black cumin seed oil as a leave-in treatment mask." And if you're interested in the potential hair growth benefits or to help soothe an inflamed scalp, Camp recommends to apply the oil directly to your scalp.
Coppola provides us with some helpful warnings, "Always start by conducting a spot test first to determine any potential allergy or reactivity to the product. How you would incorporate this into your normal hair care routine would depend upon the product chosen. For example, if you chose a shampoo containing black cumin seed oil to promote hair growth, I would recommend starting the shampoo once or twice a week and then gradually working up as directed depending how well you tolerate the product."
She continues, "It is important to remember as well to start only one new hair care product into your routine at a time, so that you can accurately determine its efficacy as well as any sensitivities you may encounter by using it. I would also suggest not to use this product if you were pregnant or breastfeeding as there is no clinical data on the effects of this supplement passing to the fetus or into breast milk."