Go to TikTok and search “ginger for hair growth” and you’ll immediately find dozens of videos proclaiming that the ingredient has the ability to help your hair grow faster than ever. Some videos even tout its ability to regrow hair if you’ve been struggling with this issue. From using it in oils to grinding it and using it in its raw form, ginger has been popping up on social media pretty constantly over the past few months.
That said, according to the professionals, ginger's effects on hair growth are different than what the internet has been claiming. In fact, the experts we consulted say that ginger isn’t good for growing or re-growing hair at all, and can even have the opposite effects. New York City-based trichologist Penny James references a study from the National Library of Medicine that discourages the use of ginger for hair growth. “The study showed that 6-Gingerol does not have the ability to grow new hair; the findings show it suppressed hair growth,” she says.
To confirm this statement, Byrdie reached out to board-certified facial plastic surgeon and hair surgeon, Dr. Gary Linkov, MD. He not only agreed with James, but further explained some of the study’s findings. “Both in the petri dish (in vitro) and in live mice (in vivo), there was actually hair growth inhibition with ginger,” he says. “So, in contrast to what's trending via popular media and the products being pushed onto consumers, ginger actually behaves as a hair growth suppressor.”
Meet the Expert
- Penny James, IAT, IOT, is a board-certified trichologist and the founder of Penny James Salon in New York City. She has worked with many high-profile clients, and she is especially interested in a personalized styling approach, scalp health, and hair loss solutions.
- Dr. Gary Linkov, MD, is a double board-certified facial plastic and hair surgeon based in New York City. He regularly contributes to media outlets as an expert in his field, and is passionate about innovative techniques that help patients to look and feel their best.
- Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Mariwalla Dermatology in West Islip, New York. She specializes in skin cancer screening and treatment and is the former director of cutaneous oncology at the Beth Israel Cancer Center in New York City, and she is also skilled in many other areas across dermatology.
That said, while ginger won't help you with hair growth as TikTok claims, it can be helpful if you have inflammation or breakouts on your scalp. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of ginger for hair, as well as who should use it.
Type of ingredient: Anti-inflammatory
Main benefits: Ginger can act as an anti-inflammatory, reduce signs of aging, and potentially clear up scalp-based breakouts.
Who should use it: Ginger should primarily be used as a spot treatment for those who are dealing with acne on the scalp. It should not be used by someone aiming to promote hair growth or re-growth.
How often to use it: Some hair experts don’t suggest the use of ginger at all, so if you decide it's a good option for you, make sure you use it only as needed for breakouts and inflammation.
Don’t use with: The main key is to make sure that you’re avoiding usage if you struggle with hair loss. Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, a board-certified dermatologist, also notes that you should not mix ginger with lemon because it is too acidic, especially if you’re integrating ginger into your routine in hopes of reducing irritation. Mariwalla is also hesitant to recommend the use of ginger in shampoos intended specifically for color-treated hair, since they often have a range of ingredients. Finally, she discourages the use of ginger and castor oil together. This is because oils can be occlusives, which can lead to potential breakouts that the ginger is trying to prevent.
Benefits of Ginger for Hair
While there have been studies that completely discourage the use of ginger when applied topically, it can be useful when taken as a supplement. “Ginger could be beneficial to healthy hair when digested,” says James. “Ginger is packed with calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper, to name a few.”
Mariwalla also explained that ginger, when used properly, can have certain benefits for those who struggle with scalp health issues.
Reducing brittleness: Mariwalla says that ginger can help to strengthen the hair and reduce the signs of brittleness.
Reducing inflammation: According to Mariwalla, “any time the scalp is inflamed, the hair doesn't have a good platform from which to grow.” Since ginger will promote blood flow, it can lead to less inflammation overall.
Reducing acne and breakouts: Mariwalla suggests using ginger as a spot treatment on the scalp if you have breakouts.
Improving hair strength: Ginger is full of fatty acids, which Mariwalla says could improve the strength of each individual strand of hair.
Reducing the effects of aging: The antioxidants in ginger will help prevent the strands from signs of aging, according to Mariwalla.
With all of this information in mind, Mariwalla confirms the statements from James and Linkov. “While you may read several things about ginger for hair loss, clinical studies do not bear out this data in a significant way,” she says. “For hair loss the data is not compelling for me to advise incorporating it in a meaningful way, however if you have a sensitive scalp that is itchy and red, use of ginger can potentially help.”
Hair Type Considerations
Ginger should be considered less as a wash and more as a remedy to help improve the health of the scalp. That said, if you feel as though your scalp health is in good shape, it may be best to skip the use of ginger overall.
Mariwalla also notes that people with brittle hair could experience some benefits from the use of ginger. This is because of the antioxidants that it contains. That said, there are other ways to integrate antioxidants into your hair routine without the added risk of adverse effects from ginger, so if brittleness is your only concern, perhaps look elsewhere.
Finally, Mariwalla notes that people should avoid using ginger with lemon juice or if they have color-treated hair. While there are no specific adverse effects documented about the use of ginger for color-treated hair, Mariwalla notes that people should be extra careful when combining the active ingredients from any color-prioritizing shampoos or products.
How to Use Ginger in Hair
If you see ginger incorporated in any store-bought shampoos, they'll probably be products that are intended to reduce irritation. If you’re using it as a spot treatment at home, Mariwalla explains how you can prepare it.
Use it as a scalp mask: Ginger should only be used if you feel as though your scalp is itchy and inflamed. Mariwalla suggests doing this with fresh ginger root that you work to grind into a paste. To make the paste, Mariwalla suggests using a pestle and then putting a small amount of it on the scalp, or spreading a thin layer over particularly irritated areas. Leave it on the area for 15 to 25 minutes, then thoroughly wash it out. Do this no more than three times per week, and definitely consult a dermatologist if you continue to experience redness and irritation.
While ginger can be helpful for some hair goals, especially reducing scalp breakouts and irritation, it's decidedly not the hair growth agent that social media has made it out to be, and can in fact have effects in the opposite direction. Because of this, make sure to only use it for concerns that evidence suggests it can help with, and definitely consult a professional if you aren't sure whether using ginger is right for your hair.