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Home / Hair Loss / Natural remedies for hair loss: do they work?

Natural remedies for hair loss: do they work?

Learn more about the natural treatments available for hair loss

Millions of men suffer from hair loss every year. In fact, male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss in men. There are many treatments available for hair loss, including prescription medications and natural products. So, do natural products work? In this blog post, we will discuss the effectiveness of natural hair loss products, debunk some common wellness myths and discuss whether natural products are a viable treatment for you.

Close up of man checking hairline.

What causes hair loss in men?

The most common cause for hair loss in men is male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia), and it is estimated that up to 7.4 million men in the UK are losing their hair at any one time. It is a natural process where men experience receding hairlines, thinning hair or bald spots as they age.

This type of hair loss tends to run in families, and is believed to be caused by a genetic sensitivity to an androgen (male hormone) called DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT causes men’s hair follicles to shrink over time which makes them less capable of supporting healthy hair growth.

Some rarer causes of hair loss include:

  • alopecia areata - an immune disorder in which your immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy hair follicles
  • telogen effluvium - a temporary hair loss disorder caused by a traumatic or stressful event
  • poor hair care practice (e.g excessive hair styling)
  • some medicines (e.g chemotherapy drugs, acne medicines, medicines for high cholesterol and high blood pressure)
  • certain medical conditions (e.g overactive or underactive thyroid)
  • nutritional deficiency (e.g iron deficiency)

While male pattern baldness may not be as severe or as sudden as the above medical conditions, it is no less worrying for any man to see changes in their hair. In fact, studies have found that hair loss in men can cause accelerated rates of depression, insecurity and low-self esteem.

For that reason, many men are left searching desperately for treatment and are subsequently led to the herbal treatment route.

Are there natural treatments for hair loss?

Yes, there are practically endless lists of natural treatments for hair loss. But do they work? Let’s break down some of the most commonly discussed natural remedies for hair loss and debunk whether or not they actually work.

Massage

Perhaps one of the most clinically-attested alternative therapies for hair loss is massage therapy. Massage is a practice that has been used to treat many ailments. The earliest uses of massage therapy can be dated back to 3000 BCE India, where massage (known as Ayurveda) was practised by natural healers to realign the body with the environment.

Whilst it is now most commonly used for relaxation and to alleviate chronic pain, massage therapy has been proven to help with hair loss. The stretching force from standardised scalp massages (SSM) is believed to affect hair follicles at a molecular level, which helps to change the life cycle of a hair follicle.

One study investigated the benefits of a SSM using a massage device in 9 healthy Japanese men, and significant hair thickness improvements were recorded. A later study done in 2019 corroborated these findings using 340 participants. They found that almost 70% of participants observed hair loss stabilisation or hair regrowth.

Close up of man receiving head massage.

Biotin

One of the most popular supplements available on the market for hair loss is biotin. Biotin is a B vitamin (vitamin B7) that we consume from foods such as eggs, milk and bananas, and is responsible for many key metabolic processes. It has gained a notable reputation as being a “wonder cure” for hair loss. Whilst this is somewhat true, it is only effective in those who have a diagnosed biotin deficiency.

One systematic review of 18 cases of biotin-use found that, in all cases, biotin was effective in treating hair loss. However, all of these cases were suspected of having an underlying deficiency as they all suffered with brittle nail syndrome or uncombable hair. They concluded that, whilst beneficial in these types of cases, there is little clinical evidence to prove it could be beneficial in healthy individuals.

If you’re concerned you have a vitamin deficiency, you should always consult your doctor first as they may need to do a blood test to find an underlying cause of your symptoms. Taking supplements when you don’t need them will not only not help, but may cause some side effects.

Close up of young woman pouring supplement capsules into her palm.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a common ingredient in many skin and hair products. It is a type of fat that is made up of several saturated fatty acids.

Research claims that its natural properties means it has a high affinity for penetrating the hair shaft, helping to protect from and prevent hair loss.

This ability has been evidenced in several studies. One study found that it may be beneficial for patients suffering from hair loss caused by pollution. For 6-8 weeks, coconut oil was applied to the scalp and many experienced noticeable improvements based on photographic and hair count analyses.

Whilst hair loss caused by pollution appears very similar to androgenetic alopecia, it’s difficult to know whether coconut oil would work the same for male pattern hair loss.

Another study found that coconut oil may also help maintain the scalp microbiome, which helps to keep the scalp healthy as well as prevent and treat medical conditions of the scalp (e.g dandruff or psoriasis).

Coconut oil and chopped coconuts on a wooden background.

Rosemary oil

Rosemary oil is one of the latest essential oils to be added to the list of home remedies for hair loss. Rosemary is an evergreen shrub that is most commonly used as a herb in cooking, but has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

Research on rosemary oil does show that it can reduce hair fall. One study found that after 6 months of applying rosemary oil, 82% of men noticed a moderate decrease in hair loss and 38% even noticed a mild amount of hair regrowth.

Another earlier study, conducted on mice, even found that rosemary oil may directly affect the effect of DHT on hair follicles.

Ground rosemary in wooden bowls surrounded by sprigs or rosemary and brown essential oil bottles.

Ginseng

Ginseng is a plant root that grows across Korea, China and in some areas of America. It has been used in traditional medicine in China as early as 196 AD.

In more recent years, some research has linked a specific type of ginseng (red ginseng) to hair regrowth. The majority of the research has been done on mice in which experts believe ginseng may have some effect on the hair follicle structure.

However, the mechanism of action is not well understood and there is little evidence done on human hair.

Whole and sliced ginseng root on black plate and wooden table.

Marine protein complex

Marine protein complex (AminoMar®) is the main ingredient of a popular natural hair loss treatment known as Viviscal. It is used specifically to treat female pattern baldness and hair thinning, a less understood form of hair loss that develops as women age (occurring typically after menopause).

It contains a blend of mollusc and shark powders, fish oil and other marine ingredients which are high in proteins and other natural compounds. These ingredients have been found to increase the supply of healthy nutrients to the hair follicles which promotes hair regrowth.

One study found that compared the hair of women taking a marine protein complex supplement versus women who took a placebo. They found that within 6 months, hair shedding was significantly reduced. Another study also found that the women who took a marine protein complex noticed significant mood improvements.

Mineral powder in glass jar resting on seashells and pebbles.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a common ingredient in many hair care products, which potentially has several benefits for hair and scalp health.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, a substance that protects your body from free radicals (unstable molecules your body produces in response to external pressures). Too many free radicals and not enough antioxidants can cause oxidative stress. This can damage certain cells in your body, and has been linked to increased risks of ageing and disease.

There is some evidence that free radicals and oxidative stress can cause hair loss by breaking down the hair follicles in your scalp. One study found that after 8 months of taking Vitamin E, participants experienced a significant increase in hair count compared to those using a placebo.

Similar effects may be seen in other antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin A, but more research is needed on the effect of antioxidants on hair growth.

Assortment of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants.

Onion juice

The weirdest, and possibly the smelliest, home remedy to surface for hair loss in recent years is onion juice.

One study compared a placebo to onion juice in the treatment of hair loss. They found significantly better results with the onion juice than the placebo (74% success in women and 93% in men).

Whilst promising, this was only found in those with alopecia areata (patchy baldness) which is slightly different to androgenetic alopecia. More research will be required to understand how onion juice may work.

Sliced brown onion on wooden chopping board.

What are the benefits of using natural products?

There are several benefits to using certain alternative treatments for hair loss.

The main benefit is that these ingredients are natural, and tend to be better tolerated in those who may not be suitable for prescription treatment.

Another benefit specific to hair loss is it opens more doors for treating female pattern baldness, as most prescription treatments are only licensed for use on men.

However, with these benefits, come certain risks.

The herbal medicine market is a lot less regulated than over-the-counter and prescription medicine markets. This could mean a certain ingredient may cause you certain adverse effects or may just not work.

Moreover, certain herbal medicines are not suitable to take with other medicines. For instance, St. John’s Wort is an infamous example of a herbal medicine that can react with several, common prescription medicines.

Wooden spoons containing various herbal supplements

How do I pick the right natural treatment?

Finding the best hair loss treatment can be tricky, so here are some tips to find a credible natural product.

  • look for a THR (traditional herbal registration) verification on the packaging or website - this means the product complies with safety standards, you can find a list of government-approved THR products here)
  • check that there are reviews for the product and the provider on an independent review service (such as Trustpilot)
  • if the provider claims to be a prescription service, check they are governed by the appropriate regulatory bodies (e.g the GMC, GPhC or MHRA in the UK)
  • check with your doctor or dermatologist - they will check if the ingredient is suitable for you, especially if you take any other medicines

A lot of herbal products are unregulated or make claims that aren’t proven, so it’s important to do your research before taking a product.

Are there any medicinal hair loss treatments?

Yes, there are several medicated products available that are safe, regulated and are clinically proven to get you results. If taken early, these medications can prevent hair loss in most cases.

Minoxidil, sold under several brand names including Regaine and Rogaine, is a popular treatment for hair loss. It is available to buy over-the-counter as a topical treatment which you apply to the scalp daily to reduce hair loss. study published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology on 984 men found that after 1 year, Minoxidil had significantly reduced the appearance of bald patches in 62% of patients. Minoxidil can also be used by women, and is the only licensed prescription treatment for female pattern baldness.

Another widely prescribed hair loss treatment is called Finasteride (Propecia), a tablet you take just once per day. Studies have shown that just after 2 years of treatment, 83% of men taking Finasteride saw no further hair fall, compared to just 28% taking a placebo. 66% of the men taking Finasteride also saw new hair growth, as opposed to just 7% of men on the placebo.

Finasteride has also been shown to have long-term success. A 2019 study conducted in Japan found that after 10 years of using Finasteride the drug was over 90% effective in preventing hair loss and over 99% effective in promoting hair growth in 801 men.

Even better news is that you can buy Finasteride (Propecia) online at euroClinix and get your treatment delivered to your door, saving you the hassle of in-person appointments and long pharmacy queues. Our service is simple, safe and all prescriptions are issued by UK-registered doctors.

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