Search online for natural treatments for hair loss and you’ll quickly find peppermint oil listed as an alternative to medications like minoxidil and finasteride.
Peppermint oil is a popular essential oil. It has a pleasant, refreshing smell and a cooling effect that’s made it a common ingredient in many natural shampoos, conditioners and other personal care products.
Although peppermint oil is commonly mentioned as an effective essential oil for stimulating hair growth, scientific research into its effects is very limited at this point in time.
Below, we’ve talked more about what peppermint oil is, how it’s produced and the effects it may have on hair loss. We’ve also looked at the few studies that are available on peppermint oil and hair growth to find out if it’s actually effective.
Finally, we’ve listed other treatments for hair loss that are backed up by more thorough scientific research, ranging from over-the-counter products to FDA-approved medications and more.
Peppermint oil is an essential oil made from the herb peppermint. A container of peppermint oil contains a highly concentrated, oil-based form of the parts of the peppermint plant that produce its distinctive scent and flavor (in this case, its leaves and flowers).
Like other peppermint products, peppermint oil has a sharp, refreshing smell that many people find pleasant. Because of its unique scent, peppermint is a common ingredient in hair products such as shampoos and conditioners.
Peppermint oil hasn’t been studied extensively, but some research has found that it may offer certain health benefits.
For example, a few studies have found that peppermint oil, in combination with other products, may help to treat indigestion. Other research has found that peppermint oil may help with IBS, tension headaches and abdominal pain.
Like other mints, peppermint contains an organic compound called menthol. The presence of menthol is what gives peppermint its unique flavor, as well as its mild cooling and anaesthetic effects when it’s applied directly to skin.
Like many other essential oils, peppermint oil is often promoted as a cure-all that can solve just about every ailment under the sun, including many forms of hair loss.
Although peppermint oil does appear to have some benefits, scientific research into its potential effects on hair growth is very limited.
Currently, there appears to be only one study that has looked at peppermint oil’s effects on hair growth. The study, which was published in Toxicology Research in 2014, compared peppermint oil to two other treatments for hair loss and a non-therapeutic saline solution in laboratory mice.
Prior to treatment, the mice used in the study were shaved, with their hair follicles synchronized telogen, or resting, phase of the hair growth cycle.
Over the course of four weeks, the mice were treated with saline, jojoba oil, 3% peppermint oil (diluted in jojoba oil) or a 3% minoxidil solution. The mice’s hair growth was assessed weekly to determine which treatment was most effective.
After two weeks of treatment, the mice in the peppermint oil group showed the largest increase in hair growth. After four weeks, the mice in the peppermint oil group had significantly more rapid hair growth, beating every other group including the mice treated with minoxidil.
The researchers concluded that peppermint oil may improve blood flow to hair cells, causing the hairs to enter the anagen, or growth, phase of their growth cycle.
Although this study is interesting, it’s far from conclusive proof that peppermint oil is effective at promoting hair growth in humans for several reasons.
First, it’s an animal study. Although humans and mice share certain characteristics, the fact that an ingredient produces a certain effect in mice doesn’t necessarily mean that it will produce the same effect in humans.
Second, it appears to have been a very small study, involving what looks like 20 mice.
In short, although it’s a promising sign that peppermint oil may promote hair growth, it’s far from conclusive evidence.
Although there doesn’t appear to be much other research looking at peppermint oil’s potential effects on hair growth, one study published in 2016 analyzed the effects of menthol (a compound found in peppermint) on blood flow to the skin.
The researchers found that topical use of menthol increases blood flow in the vascular system of the skin.
Although this isn’t directly linked with improved hair growth, it’s a similar response to that seen with other topical hair loss treatments.
For example, the FDA-approved hair loss treatment minoxidil is a vasodilator that improves the flow of blood (including to the scalp) — a factor that experts believe may explain its positive effects on hair growth.
Although these studies are interesting, at this point in time, there just isn’t enough evidence to say that peppermint oil definitely works to promote hair growth in humans.
Yes, the research is promising. However, we need more to better understand how peppermint oil works, its safety and whether or not it’s a reliable treatment for stimulating hair growth and stopping hair loss.
If you’d like to try peppermint oil to see if it improves your hair growth, there are several ways that you can do this:
When it’s applied topically or taken orally in normal doses, peppermint oil is generally safe for most people.
When applied topically, peppermint oil may cause skin irritation and rashes. Peppermint oil should not be applied to the faces of infants or children, as the menthol in the oil may cause harm if inhaled.
When taken orally, peppermint oil may cause dry mouth, heartburn, nausea, abdominal pain and, in rare cases, allergic reactions.
To reduce your risk of experiencing side effects from peppermint oil, start with a small amount (one to two drops) mixed into your shampoo, conditioner or a carrier oil, then adjust over time based on your comfort level and preferences.
If you’re starting to lose your hair, a range of treatment options are available to help slow down or stop thinning and even regrow some of your “lost” hair:
Although research into peppermint oil’s effects on hair growth looks promising, there just isn’t enough scientific evidence available right now to confidently say that it works.
If you’re losing your hair, using peppermint oil may help to stimulate growth. However, there’s also a real possibility that it won’t have any noticeable effects on your hair’s thickness, growth rate or overall appearance.
Starting to lose your hair? Our complete guide to male pattern baldness goes into more detail about why hair loss happens, common risk factors and the treatments that are available right now to slow down, stop or reverse balding.