We’ll give it to you straight: Hair growth is not a simple equation. No single hair oil will magically transform your hair into Ariana Grande’s ponytail overnight. “It’s a misconception that oils have properties to stimulate hair growth,” says trichologist and scalp therapist Bridgette Hill. But while that may sound like bad news, there is still hope—hair oils can still offer benefits that lead to the ideal conditions for growth down the line.
While addressing major hair loss is really a job for a prescription like Minoxidil, for most, hair growth is all about the long game (literally and figuratively). In other words, patience is key, and you need to take care of what you already have. While hair oils aren’t fertilizer, per se, they can nurture your hair by infusing it with moisture, fighting bacteria, and encouraging cellular turnover. “The perceived growth from hair oil should be attributed to the preventive impact using oil has on the hair fiber by reducing shedding and breakage—which results in longer hair fibers,” Hill says.
So while there’s not a magic oil that will make your hair longer in less time, healthy hair means less breakage, and less breakage means fuller hair. If you focus on fostering the healthiest hair, it's sure to look and feel more lush over time. Ready to upgrade your regimen? Learn all about seven hair oils for growth ahead, including benefits, product recommendations, and how to use them.
Meet the Expert
- Michele Green, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City.
- Morgan Rabach, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. She is the co-founder of LM Medical PLLC.
- Bridgette Hill is a certified trichologist and scalp therapist.
- David Adams is a consultant trichologist and the co-owner of FourteenJay Salon in New York City.
Coconut oil is like duct tape—it can do just about anything. That’s because it's packed with fatty acids that allow it to fully penetrate the hair shaft, so any results come from the inside out. The most important component is lauric acid, the primary fatty acid found in coconut oil. “It has antimicrobial properties and protects the scalp and hair from bacteria, irritants, and environmental damage like UV light,” says New York-based dermatologist Michele Green.
Not only does it act as a shield from any damaging agents, but recent studies show that coconut oil is effective in increasing the tensile strength of hair fibers, meaning less breakage and hair loss.
Greene recommends this accessible, all-purpose coconut oil because it’s organic, chemical-free, and very versatile. Massage it into your hair as a mask, and then use the rest for stir fry.
Argan oil is a workhorse product that functions as a mask, conditioner, treatment, styler—you name it. “Similar to coconut oil, argan oil has high levels of fatty acids that condition and protect the hair,” says Green. “It also contains antioxidants like vitamin E that prevent split ends and protect hair during styling or treatments.”
Fun fact: The UN General Assembly declared May 10th as an international celebration of the argan tree—mostly because of its socio-economic value in Morocco—but we like to think someone in the UN has a beauty secret that was just too good to keep to themselves.
Green likes that this fast-absorbing argan oil comes in a dark-colored bottle, which will protect the product from light and ensure that it retains its beneficial properties. (If you don’t believe her, believe over 1000 five-star reviews on Ulta’s website.)
“Rosemary has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties,” says Green. “In particular, it contains carnosic acid, which has been shown to improve circulation to the scalp, leading to increased hair growth.” Studies seem to confirm its effectiveness, with participants seeing significant hair growth after six months of treatment—similar to the results seen with Minoxidil.
Rosemary leaf extract is a potent antioxidant that protects the skin and prevents signs of premature aging. Rosmarinic acid (its main component) helps calm skin conditions like eczema and acne.
Trichologist David Adams recommends blending this essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba, since putting essential oils directly on your scalp can be irritating. And for anyone worried about smelling like an Italian restaurant, Adams says the aroma of this particular oil is not too overpowering.
Tea Tree Oil
Time for a semi-gross reckoning. Your scalp is a microbiome, which means it needs some bacteria to thrive. But bad bacteria (like certain fungi) can cause dandruff and clog your hair follicles, preventing further growth. “Tea tree oil helps unclog hair follicles and reduces yeast and bacteria, an overgrowth of which is not healthy for the scalp,” says New York-based dermatologist Morgan Rabach.
A hot tip from Rabach: When looking for a tea tree product, make sure the plant name “melaleuca alternifolia'' is in the ingredients list to ensure it's a pure extract, like in this Nature's Truth oil. Again, this is an essential oil, so you’ll need to dilute it in a carrier like olive or almond oil before getting your scalp massage on.
“Peppermint oil has vasodilating properties, which means it increases blood circulation to the scalp,” says Rabach. That’s largely thanks to its menthol compound, which gives peppermint hair products that cool, reinvigorating sensation we know and love. While there aren’t any conclusive studies on peppermint promoting hair growth, anti-inflammatory menthol can soothe a dry, itchy scalp, providing a more fertile bedrock for healthy hair.
“This is a popular and trusted brand,” says Adams. “It’s organic, effective, and not very expensive.” A little can go a long way because of how strong menthol can be. Blend a few drops with a base like jojoba, grapeseed, olive, or almond oil.
Castor oil is a long chain fatty acid (LCFA), which is a fancy way of saying that it has tons of essential proteins and nutrients, from vitamin E to ricinoleic acid (which helps to lock in moisture). “Castor oil assists with cultivating the necessary environment needed to nurture and support healthy hair follicles,” says Hill.
This pure, cold-pressed castor oil is already mixed in a carrier oil, meaning less time doing at-home chemistry. Use on the ends of your hair for shine and hydration, and perhaps even try it as a mask or overnight treatment.
Cedarwood oil might be a bit of a deep cut (it’s way easier to pick up a vat of coconut oil at the grocery store), but Adams touts its ability to cleanse the scalp with antibacterial and antifungal properties. Studies have also shown that a scalp massage with a cedarwood oil cocktail could be an effective treatment for alopecia. “It’s also thought to balance the sebaceous gland in the scalp and regulate the amount of natural sebum being produced,” Adams says—this can be key in treating inflammation.
A London native, Adams recommends Neal’s Yard Remedies for fairly priced essential oils. Mixed with a carrier oil, this woody essential oil can make for a great pre-bedtime scalp treatment.