These days, flaxseed is a darling of the wellness world. You've probably heard of its various health benefits, but did you know that sprinkling some flaxseeds into your morning smoothie or DIY-ing flaxseed gel may wield beauty perks, as well? More specifically, this buzzy ingredient can do wonders for hair when taken orally or applied topically. Here, experts Erinn Courtney, Craig Ziering, William Gaunitz, and Monique Clay, explain everything you need to know about flaxseed including how to incorporate it into your hair routine (and if it even makes sense for you to do so).
Meet the Expert
- Erinn Courtney is a hairstylist and StyleSeat Pro.
- William Gaunitz, WTS, is a certified trichologist and founder of Advanced Trichology.
- Monique Clay is a stylist at Huetiful Salon.
- Craig Ziering is a board-certified dermatologist, hair transplantation surgeon, and restoration specialist in West Hollywood, CA.
Keep reading to discover the benefits of flaxseed—seed, gel, and oil—for hair.
What Is Flaxseed?
Flaxseed is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. As a superfood, it's lauded for improving overall health, but this versatile seed can also benefit hair and skin. As such, it's a popular ingredient in beauty products like gels, moisturizers, and oils.
Flaxseed for Hair
- Type of ingredient: Hydrator and anti-inflammatory
- Main benefits: Soothes the scalp, moisturizes, and strengthens hair
- Who should use it: All hair types, especially thin and/or brittle
- How often can you use it: When taken orally, it can be used daily; a topical application can be used weekly.
- Works well with: Antioxidants, plant-based oils, and carrier oils (e.g. coconut and olive oil) for thicker, drier hair types
- Don’t use with: There are no ingredients believed to interact negatively with flaxseed.
The Benefits of Flaxseed for Hair
We've heard that flaxseed contributes to a healthy hair diet—but how exactly? Well, it all goes back to the many nutrient-rich components of this plant-based ingredient. More specifically, flaxseeds 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. Not to mention, "Our hair technically is fiber, so it makes sense that introducing flaxseed to our hair would greatly benefit it," comments Clay. Here's how:
- Hydrates: Flaxseed combats dryness and frizz thanks to its moisturizing properties, Clay tells us. "Flaxseeds are packed with things like vitamin E, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids," she says.
- Repairs: Because flaxseed is good at binding moisture to the hair, this reduces breakage and split ends, notes Clay. Courtney agrees, explaining that flaxseed reverses damage by sealing the cuticle of the hair strand. Not only does this improve elasticity but it also prevents it from breaking further, she explains.
- Strengthens: The fiber and omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed are hair's besties. According to Clay, "Fiber aids in strengthening hair at its core. In the same way, the omega-3 fatty acids improve the health of your hair by making it stronger and improving the hair's elasticity."
- Soothes: As an excellent plant-based source of anti-inflammatories alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, flaxseed supports overall scalp health and calms scalp irritations, especially when associated with eczema or psoriasis, explains Ziering. Courtney agrees, adding that it can even prevent dandruff, too.
- May encourage hair growth: Clay cites lack of hair growth as one of the top three concerns of her clients—fortunately, flaxseed can help with that. Courtney says it can regrow damaged hair from the root. Ziering explains that by systemically reducing inflammation, flaxseed can promote healthier hair follicles,
- Can postpone gray hair: Not ready to go gray just yet? Courtney notes that flaxseed can actually delay gray hair from forming.
- Protects: Flaxseed oil is also rich in vitamin E, another antioxidant that our scalp loves. It can work to reduce the damaging effects of free radicals and help promote healthy hair follicles, says Ziering.
Hair Type Considerations
While it is somewhat of a universal ingredient, flaxseed may benefit certain hair types and textures more so than others. Courtney explains: "All hair types can benefit from using flaxseed, especially because all hair types experience breakage. However, hair textures that are thin and brittle may benefit most from using products containing flaxseed." And if you decide to use flaxseed in gel form, "Curlier hair types hold gel-like products best as they seal the curls and help to fight frizz," she adds. Ziering notes that it's also worth considering your skin type when using flaxseed topically. Given flaxseed oil's pore-clogging potential, he advises that you avoid using it if your scalp is oily and/or acne-prone.
How to Use Flaxseed for Hair
Flaxseed is a versatile ingredient that comes in various forms—seed, oil, and gel. As a seed and oil it can be taken orally and as an oil and gel, applied topically. You have the option of either whipping up your own flaxseed gel at home or purchasing a flaxseed product in-store. According to Courtney, "Brands like Cantu, Aunt Jackie's, and Eco Style have gels and oils that are made with flaxseed for curly hair. They have benefits like sealing moisture into the hair strands and creating a strong hold to help fight frizz in curls" (more on that below). But no matter how you decide to use flaxseed, Clay emphasizes cleansing hair beforehand with a water-based moisturizing formula like AG Natural Balance Shampoo ($30) and DevaCurl No-Poo Original Zero Lather Conditioning Cleanser ($16). Post-wash, follow up with a hydrating conditioner to be used with heat, a steamer, or a plastic cap.
- Add it to your diet: Consuming flaxseed oil or seeds is a safe and effective way of incorporating flaxseed into your diet. "Typically, a 100mg to 500mg daily dose would be advantageous," says Gaunitz. Ziering agrees, adding, "I have patients who swear by putting a tablespoon of flaxseed oil in their morning smoothies."
- Use it as a scalp or hair treatment: 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.
- Try it as a styling product: Courtney likes to use flaxseed in the form of oil, curling gel, and edge control hair products. She advises, "Applying it to wet hair and scalp will help the oil or gel penetrate the hair strand best. I always recommend letting the oil or gel dry with the hair and then will style as usual, generally once a week. If your hair is prone to breakage, you can use it as needed."
- Make a DIY flaxseed gel: As a gel, flaxseed is gaining popularity within the curly community for defining coils—sans flakes. And since it's DIY-able, you know exactly what's going into your product and, more importantly, your hair.
- ¼ cup of flaxseed
- 2.5 cups of water
- Essential oils (optional)
- Aloe vera (optional)
- Pour ¼ cup flaxseed into 2.5 cups of water.
- Bring to boil on medium heat for about 7-10 minutes, stirring often to ensure the flaxseeds don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. You’ll want the texture of the flaxseed mucilage (the gel-like substance you’ll put on your hair) to be consistent with egg whites (i.e. not too thick, not too runny).
- Turn off the stove and allow the gel to cool with the flaxseed for 45 minutes to an hour. During this time, the gel will thicken.
- Next, place a knee-high stocking in a glass measuring cup, then pour the mixture into the stocking.
- Here’s the fun part: Squeeze the gel out of the stocking and into the measuring cup to strain the gel (FYI: This will take a few tries).
- This step is optional, but you can add aloe vera gel and a few drops of your go-to essential oil to your mixture. To temper an itchy scalp, try adding tea tree oil. For hair growth, try adding a few drops of lavender oil.
- Next, pour your gel into a glass bottle or jar and store it in the refrigerator.
- Enjoy your new DIY flaxseed gel for moisturizing, edging, and styling.
Click Play to Learn How to Make Flaxseed Hair Gel
The Best Products With Flaxseed
Courtney names this cream gel as one of her go-to hair products with flaxseed. It's also got aloe, shea butter, honey, and vitamin E to bring you a host of hair benefits: enhanced shine, a frizz-free finish, and defined curls—without the crunch.
In order for your curls to live their best life, you have to invest in the right products. This organic flaxseed gel by Aveda lends bounce, shine, and definition to coils, making them pop. Think of it as your humidity-proof solution to rainy days.
It's no secret that natural hair loves a gel—flaxseed gel, especially. This gel is a cult-favorite and Courtney's favorite, combining black castor and flaxseed oil to style hair while conditioning it at the same time. "Because flaxseed is a gel-like substance, it's great for styles worn best curly," comments Courtney. And unlike other heavy-duty gels that weigh hair down, this product is lightweight yet offers serious hold.
The search for the best lotion and potion under the sun stops here. Formulated with flaxseed gel, shea butter, and a blend of oils, this spray gel promises soft, bouncy curls. And in case that doesn't sell you, we should mention that its creator is none other than Beyonce's hairstylist, Kim Kimble—and if it's good enough for Queen Bey, it's good enough for us.
We used to think that our baby hairs were our enemy, but that was only until we realized how to tame them. Courtney recommends this edge control which allows you to not only whip your baby hairs into shape but also nourish them at the same time.
How long does homemade flaxseed gel last?
Flaxseed gel can last up to three weeks in the refrigerator with the help of essential oils like rosemary, jasmine, or lavender.
Are there any side effects of using flaxseed on hair?
According to Ziering, 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.
Is it okay to apply flaxseed oil directly to my hair and scalp?
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.
Parikh M, Maddaford TG, Austria JA, Aliani M, Netticadan T, Pierce GN. Dietary flaxseed as a strategy for improving human health. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1171. doi:10.3390/nu11051171