These days, flaxseed is a darling of the wellness world. You've probably heard of its various health benefits, including being a good source of protein and fiber, helping to improve cholesterol and lower blood pressure, the list goes on and on. But did you know that sprinkling some flaxseeds into your morning smoothie or using flaxseed oil in that homemade salad dressing may also have beauty benefits? More specifically, the ingredient can be beneficial for your hair when taken orally and possibly even when applied topically. Here, certified trichologist and founder of Advanced Trichology William Gaunitz, WTS, and Craig Ziering, a board-certified dermatologist, hair transplantation surgeon, and restoration specialist in West Hollywood, CA, explain what you need to know about how to incorporate flaxseed into your hair care routine (and if it even makes sense for you to do so).
Meet the Expert
Type of ingredient: Flaxseed is the seed of the flowering flax plant; flaxseed oil is pressed from the seed.
Main benefits: It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties, which can help improve irritation, redness, and inflammation of the scalp. Flaxseed can also help keep hair dense, shiny, and maximize volume and elasticity, says Ziering.
Who should use it: According to Ziering, those with dry and damaged hair will benefit the most from flaxseed, as will those with curly, frizzy, or ethnic hair. Those with scalp irritation may also benefit.
How often can you use it: When taken orally, it can be used daily; a topical application should be more sparing.
Works well with: Ingredients that are rich in antioxidants such as green tea, vitamin C, and resveratrol, says Ziering. Gaunitz adds that mixing it with other plant-based oils, such as borage and evening primrose oil, can also be helpful for those trying to consume high levels of plant-based omega-3s.
Don't use with: Our experts were unaware of any ingredients that might negatively interact with flaxseed or flaxseed oil.
Benefits of Flaxseed for Hair
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are a good part of a healthy hair diet when taken orally and applied topically, says Ziering. Why? It all goes back to the many nutrient-rich components of this plant-based ingredient.
Has a strong anti-inflammatory effect: Flaxseed is an excellent plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids—specifically alpha-linolenic acid or ALA—which are well-known for their anti-inflammatory properties. When it comes to hair and scalp health, the benefits of this are two-fold. Systemically reducing inflammation can promote healthier hair follicles, while topically applied flaxseed oil can help soothe and calms scalp irritations, especially when associated with eczema or psoriasis, says Ziering.
Is rich in antioxidants: More specifically, flax seeds are high in lignans, compounds found in fiber-rich plants. "Lignans have very high antioxidant qualities and keep hair dense, shiny, and can maximize volume and elasticity," explains Ziering. Flaxseed oil is also rich in vitamin E, another antioxidant that our scalp loves, and can also reduce the damaging effects of free radicals and help promote healthy hair follicles, he adds.
Delivers plenty of moisture: This benefit is for flaxseed oil specifically; because it's highly nourishing and moisturizing, it can also help combat dry hair.
Hair Type Consideration
While it is somewhat of a universal ingredient, Ziering says that it's especially beneficial for anyone with dry and/or damaged hair and those with coarse or curly strands. But, as it pertains to topical use specifically, it's also worth considering your skin type, given flaxseed oil's pore-clogging potential (more on that in a moment). Avoid using it topically if your scalp is oily and/or acne-prone.
How to Use Flaxseed for Hair
Here's where our experts were a bit split. Both agreed on the oral benefits: "The best way to use flaxseed oil for hair is to consume it orally," says Gaunitz. "Typically, a 100mg to 500mg daily dose would be advantageous," he says. Ziering seconds this opinion. "I have patients who swear by putting a tablespoon of flaxseed oil in their morning smoothies," he says. However, Ziering says that using flaxseed oil topically is also a good idea, noting that it can either be massaged into the scalp or used as a hair mask periodically. He does note that, while it's well-tolerated and unlikely to cause any side effects, it is high on the comedogenic scale, meaning it can potentially clog pores for some people. On the other hand, Gaunitz advises against topical applications of flaxseed oil: "It's not going to do anything substantial and may encourage overgrowth of things such as the Demodex parasite, which consumes oil on the scalp," he says. In short, if you want to play it safe, stick with incorporating either flaxseeds or flaxseed oil into your diet.