Garlic is up there on my list of favorite ingredients. Whenever I'm cooking a recipe that calls for garlic, you can bet I'm going to double the amount. I'm always looking for more ways to add the ingredient into my life, so I'm definitely intrigued by the concept of garlic for hair growth. According to Leyla Milani from vitamin company HAIRtamin, garlic's a powerful antioxidant that has been used for centuries as both food and medicine. In fact, it’s often referred to as "nature’s antibiotic." It contains compounds—namely allicin—that play an important role in fighting harmful viruses and bacteria.
But do these medicinal properties extend to the hair? We consulted dermatologist Hadley King, MD, NYC-based registered dietitian, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, and trichologist Bridgette Hill to find out the best ways.
Meet the Expert
- Type of ingredient: Antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory.
- Main benefits: Has antioxidant properties and protects against some forms of UV-induced immunosuppression.
- Who should use it: In general, it's great for people with alopecia areata.
- How often can you use it: As a scalp treatment, no more than twice weekly.
- Works well with: Pretty much everything.
- Don’t use with: It doesn't interfere with anything.
Benefits of Garlic for Hair
Not only is garlic a great ingredient for you internally, but it also has some fantastic scalp and hair health benefits. It has antimicrobial properties that are good for the scalp; it's rich in nutrients like calcium, zinc, and selenium, which are trace minerals found in hair that contribute to hair health; and it has bonus traits have a huge boost to your hair's health.
- Anti-microbial: Components of garlic have been shown to have antiviral and anti-fungal properties, making it helpful for the scalp's viral or fungal infections.
- Minimizes dandruff and stimulates hair growth: A study shows that applying garlic powder to the scalp leads to increased skin perfusion (or blood circulation in the scalp). While the authors did not explicitly state garlic powder's effect on hair growth, these results may indicate that the increased blood flow in the scalp could lead to increased hair growth.
- Rich in selenium: A mineral necessary for optimum blood circulation throughout the scalp.
- Rich in sulfur: A necessary element in keratin production. Keratin is the protein that makes up 95% of the hair fiber.
- Natural DHT blocker: DHT is believed to be the culprit to androgenic hair loss or genetic hair loss.
- Protects from sun damage: A test-tube study demonstrated that the antioxidants in garlic might have the ability the protect against ultraviolet damage.
- Effective against hair loss: Another study found that topically applying garlic to the hair twice a day for three months might reduce the risk of hair loss associated with alopecia.
Hair Type Considerations
King recommends using garlic for anyone suffering from alopecia areata. "With betamethasone, garlic gel can be used as an adjunctive topical therapy for alopecia areata," she says. Hill emphasized that the use of plant-based tinctures and oils topically are purely anecdotal, and there are a few studies that have shown promising results incorporating garlic into a scalp and hair care regimen. More studies are required for the concept to be fully accepted into the scientific community. "With that being said, there have been successful trials of women experiencing hair growth when applying garlic oil directly to their alopecia areata, or hairless patches," Hill says. She also highly recommends consulting with your medical professional before taking an oral dietary supplement or introducing any new natural raw ingredient into your hair regimen.
If you're looking to get the benefits of garlic for hair through internal methods, IMMUNEtamin from HAIRtamin is a synergistic blend of 18 potent, immune-boosting ingredients to defend, protect, and nourish the body year-round; deodorized garlic is one of those powerhouse ingredients. For our bodies to truly receive the full medicinal benefits of garlic, it would have to be eaten raw and crushed fresh, and no one (for the most part) wants to go around smelling like garlic all day.
How to Use Garlic for Hair
Hill recommends garlic as a pre-shampoo scalp treatment rather than as a hair fiber treatment. Apply garlic oil or a garlic-infused oil to the scalp, like
Belle Bar Organic's Onion & Garlic Thickening Ayurvedic Herb Hair Oil ($39) or Dr. Christopher’s Oil of Garlic ($11), which has tea tree oil and is gentle enough for frequent use (it's easy on the olfactory system, too). Customizing garlic oil with essential oils and a carrier oil like jojoba or avocado oil is also an option for those who enjoy the process of creating their own blends.
Massage in the oil, allowing it to penetrate for at least 20 to 35 minutes, and follow it up with a shampoo and conditioner. For finer hair textures, you may require two shampoos to ensure the oil has been completely removed from the scalp. But tread lightly with garlic oil: garlic is highly concentrated, and the frequency of use will be dependent upon the severity of the scalp condition. "For someone who has a mild case of dandruff or itchy scalp, weekly may suffice, but for someone who is managing a moderate-to-severe case, they may need to use a garlic pre-shampoo treatment before every shampoo," says Hill.