Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/04/2021
If you’ve searched online for natural treatments for hair loss, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across recommendations for rosemary oil.
Rosemary is a perennial herb. It’s used in cooking, for fragrances and as a decorative plant in homes in gardens. It’s also a favorite of natural health enthusiasts, with a long history as a key ingredient in healing products and essential oils.
Although rosemary oil isn’t an FDA-approved hair loss treatment like minoxidil or finasteride, a small amount of scientific research has shown that it may offer benefits if you’re starting to lose your hair and want to stimulate growth.
Below, we’ve dug into the research behind rosemary oil as a treatment for hair loss. We’ve also looked at other treatments for hair loss, including FDA-approved medications such as minoxidil and finasteride.
Before we get into the specifics of rosemary oil as a hair loss treatment, it’s important to explain how and why hair loss happens in the first place.
Hair loss can happen for a variety of reasons, including nutritional deficiencies, diseases, scalp infections and the use of certain medications.
However, most hair loss — at least in men — is referred to as male pattern hair loss. It happens gradually as you age due to a combination of inherited genes and certain sex hormones, such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT is a byproduct of testosterone. It’s found in both men and women, although men have far higher levels of this hormone than women.
DHT is an important hormone during childhood and adolescence. However, as you age, if you’re genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness, DHT can affect your hair follicles and prevent new hair from growing.
All treatments for male pattern baldness, whether they’re FDA-approved medications or natural treatments, work by either targeting DHT to prevent hair loss, or by encouraging growth of your existing hair follicles.
We’ve talked about this topic more in our detailed guide to DHT and hair loss, which covers the hormonal side of male pattern baldness.
Rosemary oil is a popular essential oil. It’s widely available from health food shops and online vendors like Amazon. Many rosemary oil products are marketed as do-all treatments that can treat everything from hair loss to acne, stretch marks, wrinkles and more.
While there’s not a lot of evidence for many of rosemary oil’s supposed benefits, there is some scientific research to show that rosemary oil may help to promote hair growth.
For example, one study published in 2015 compared rosemary oil to minoxidil, a medication for treating hair loss that’s approved by the FDA.
Over a period of six months, the researchers found that both the rosemary oil and the minoxidil produced a significant increase in hair growth, with the rosemary oil less likely to cause itching than the minoxidil.
Another study compared a mixture of essential oils, including rosemary oil, to a non-therapeutic carrier oil. In total, 86 patients were divided into two groups, with one receiving the essential oils and another receiving the inactive carrier oil.
After seven months of daily use, 44 percent of the patients in the essential oils group showed an improvement in hair growth, compared to only 15 percent of the control group.
While this study is interesting, it’s worth noting that the oil formula also included thyme, lavender and cedarwood oil. As such, while the results of the study are promising, they can’t be attributed solely to the rosemary oil.
Finally, an animal study published in Phytotherapy Research found that rosemary leaf extract is effective at promoting hair regrowth in mice, with the researchers noting that rosemary leaf may have an inhibitory effect on the binding of DHT to androgen receptors in the hair.
Like other research into rosemary and hair loss, while this study is definitely promising, the fact that it was carried out on mice means that its conclusions aren’t necessarily true for hair loss in humans.
Overall, while there’s some evidence that rosemary oil may help to treat hair loss, the evidence isn’t very comprehensive.
Now, this doesn’t mean that rosemary oil isn’t necessarily effective. It might be. However, there just isn’t enough research available right now to conclusively state that rosemary oil is or isn’t a worthwhile treatment for hair loss.
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If you’d like to add rosemary oil into your hair care routine, there are several ways that you can do this. Beyond its potential hair growth benefits, rosemary oil has a powerful, refreshing scent that you may find pleasant when it’s applied to your scalp. Try to:
Mix rosemary into your shampoo or conditioner. For a subtle rosemary scent, add a small amount of rosemary oil to your shampoo or conditioner. It’s also fine to add a drop or two of rosemary oil to your shampoo when it’s in your hand before use.
Apply rosemary oil directly to your scalp. You can do this when you wake up, before you go to bed, or after you get out of the shower. If rosemary oil smells too strong on its own, try mixing it with a carrier oil.
After you’ve applied rosemary oil to your scalp, you can leave it in or rinse your hair after a few minutes to remove it.
Buy rosemary oil shampoo or conditioner. If you’d prefer not to add rosemary oil to your current shampoo, you can buy rosemary oil shampoo, conditioner and other hair care products from most drugstores and online retailers.
Currently, there isn’t any research on the safety of using rosemary oil at the same time as other hair loss treatments. If you’re prescribed minoxidil, finasteride or other hair loss medication, talk to your healthcare provider before using rosemary oil.
Although rosemary oil isn’t proven to prevent hair loss, other treatments are. If you’re beginning to lose your hair and want to do something about it, you may want to consider using one of the treatments listed below:
Minoxidil. Minoxidil is a topical medication for hair loss. It works by improving blood flow to your scalp. Minoxidil is backed up by a lot of scientific research, including one study in which 93.8 percent of users rated it as very effective, effective or moderately effective.
Minoxidil does not require a prescription. We offer topical minoxidil online by itself and as one of several products in our non-prescription hair loss kit.
Finasteride. Finasteride is an oral medication for hair loss. It works by blocking DHT at its source and stopping it from damaging your hair follicles. It’s supported by a massive amount of scientific evidence, including a five-year study involving thousands of men.
Finasteride requires a prescription. We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Saw palmetto. If you’d prefer to keep it natural, you may want to try saw palmetto as a hair loss treatment. As we’ve covered in our guide to saw palmetto, some studies have found that it has positive effects on hair growth in men with male pattern baldness, although much more research is needed on the topic.
You can find saw palmetto products online and in many health food stores. It’s also one of several active ingredients in our DHT-blocking shampoo for hair loss.
Although one small study has found that rosemary oil is as effective as minoxidil for promoting hair growth, there’s very little large-scale, reliable research into rosemary oil’s effectiveness as an option for treating male pattern baldness.
As such, it isn’t possible to say whether or not rosemary oil works for hair growth. If you’ve lost some of your hair and want to grow it back, you may notice improvements after using rosemary oil. On the other hand, you may notice no change at all.
Starting to lose your hair? You’re not alone. Hair loss is extremely common, with more than 50 percent of all men affected by some degree of hair loss from male pattern baldness by the time they reach their forties.
Our guide to male pattern baldness goes into more detail about how and why hair loss occurs, the symptoms you might notice if you’re prone to male pattern baldness and treatment options for stopping hair loss and improving your hairline.