One of the staple herbs in Italian cuisine, rosemary, is beloved for its peppery, fragrant flavor, making it an excellent complement to roast vegetables or meat dishes. Its energizing scent is widely used in aromatherapy as it is believed to positively affect the body's nervous system. Research has even suggested that rosemary oil can have an analgesic effect similar to painkillers. But its most valuable use to the beauty community is its believed ability to support hair growth.
Some think it prevents breakage and loss, while others say it stimulates new growth - but what is the truth behind these claims? We turned to board-certified dermatologists Orit Markowitz, MD, founder of OptiSkin in New York City and Ava Shamban, MD, founder of Ava MD Dermatology, the SkinFive med spa concept, and The Box by Dr. Ava, seasonal skin solutions by subscription.
Meet the Expert
Rosemary Oil for Hair
- Type of ingredient: Anti-inflammatory and vasodilator
- Main benefits: Stimulates hair growth, improves circulation and soothes the scalp.
- Who should use it: In general, anyone with hair breakage or shedding can benefit from Rosemary Oil. You should always consult a dermatologist to determine the cause of hair loss before attempting to treat it at home.
- How often can you use it: It can be used daily or as often as you wash, as long as there is no reaction and you feel or see benefits.
- Works well with: Other ingredients that support hair growth, such as pumpkin seed oil and ashwagandha.
- Don’t use with: There are no known ingredients that negatively interfere with rosemary oil, and it is not a known allergen. However, there is always a chance for irritation, and you should discontinue use if this occurs.
Benefits of Rosemary Oil for Hair
Rosemary is a medicinal plant that has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including skin irritation and hair loss. It is believed that rosemary oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties which promote healing in the skin and scalp. Rosemary oil has been found to improve hair growth in specific cases of loss, including alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia, and psoriatic alopecia. In fact, a comparative study of the effect on hair growth of rosemary oil and minoxidil (the leading ingredient in hair loss treatments like Rogaine) found "no significant difference was found between the study groups." In fact, both groups showed comparable growth at the six-month trial point. However, the rosemary oil group experienced less scalp itching.
- Vasodilation and vasoconstriction properties: Shamban explains that "It improves circulation and acts as a vasodilator meaning that it can open and dilate the blood vessels, so blood flows more easily through the vessels." This increased blood flow to the scalp provides a host of benefits to the hair and scalp itself. Markowitz adds that "the improved circulation found in the scalp help hair follicles thrive if they are being cut off from their blood supply."
- Promotes Hair Growth: Markowitz shares that "rosemary oil has been studied and found to increase hair growth similar to minoxidil." Shamban agrees but adds that "patients with some types of hair loss do report seeing or feeling more hair over time. It is thought to mitigate hair loss from alopecia areata best, and studies are making that connection. Still, overall this would need to be more seriously studied to have a truly definitive connection to other types of hair losses. Generally, re-growth or mitigating losses, in any case, is probably due to the scalp environment and circulation having positive benefits for the health of the hair."
- Strengthens Hair: Rosemary Oil will protect hair from damage and breakage, thus positively impacting hair loss, Shamban explains. "With usage over time, hair maybe is stronger and appear thicker, denser, brighter or have more shine or elasticity and therefore less breakage," she adds.
- Alleviates Scalp Irritation: In addition to the anti-inflammatory properties of rosemary oil, one of its key ingredients is carnosic acid, which Shamban explains is "known to be highly restorative in skin and tissues." These factors can improve scalp irritation and thereby improve overall scalp health.
- Prevents Hair Loss: Rosemary oil's ability to prevent loss comes from its prevention of breakage and its improvement of the scalp environment. According to Shamban, hair losses can result from breakage or damage, inflammation, extreme psoriasis or eczema, or scarring that interferes with growth and follicle functions. "Telogen effluvium stressors or sickness, auto-immune reactions, age, and hormonal changes or genetic conditions, as well as medical treatments such as chemotherapy, can all be precursors causing hair loss," she explains.
- Can Prevent Dandruff: Shamban shares that rosemary oil can support dandruff-related problems and is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. This may also improve growth if a fungal or bacterial issue is causing loss or damage.
Hair Type Considerations
Our experts agree that rosemary oil is safe for all hair types, including color-treated hair. However, as with other oils, rosemary oil may weigh thin hair down. Shamban says that "Rosemary oil can be used for the most hair and skin types, but it would be most helpful for those with oily hair or those with damaged hair, breakage and who are experiencing some forms of thinning hair or loss." Both experts believe in the potential for improvement in hair growth; however, both urge consistency to see any results.
How to Use Rosemary Oil for Hair
You can use rosemary oil to treat the hair and scalp in a variety of ways. However, for any potential hair growth benefits, the application must be regular and intentional. "When using rosemary oil for hair regrowth, I recommend nightly application every day for at least the first 6 months," Markowitz explains. In addition to the direct application of rosemary oil treatments, many shampoos and conditioners contain rosemary oil that you can incorporate into your beauty routine.
- Create a bespoke treatment oil: Combine rosemary oil with your favorite carrier oil, such as almond or coconut, and add any other treatment oils for growth, such as pumpkin seed oil. Apply to the scalp and take care to massage it into your scalp using your finger pads. Markowitz recommends leaving it on for 4-6 hours before washing out.
- Add rosemary oil to your existing shampoo: you can add a few drops of rosemary oil to your shampoo before washing your hair. Markowitz notes that this is not likely to be as effective as direct application but could still allow you to receive some oil benefits.
- Use rosemary oil products: Both experts shared that there are many existing hair care lines containing rosemary oil and other hair growth-promoting ingredients. Shamban recommends the Philip B Peppermint Avocado Shampoo or the AVEDA Rosemary Mint Purifying Shampoo.