While stopping hair loss is a major concern for people experiencing shedding and balding, stimulating new hair growth is perhaps even more important. But it’s also a more difficult step, and one that requires a bit more patience and persistence.
This article will introduce the variety of natural ways to both stop hair fall and stimulate growth. These can be used to treat some of the most common causes of balding, including Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), and perhaps even reverse its effects.
Hair Loss: A Quick Overview
What is the main cause of hair loss, and can it be reversed?
These are the questions that thousands of hair loss sufferers ask everyday, and it’s also one that scientists and drug manufacturers have been researching for years.
Unfortunately, the answers aren’t so clear cut. That’s because hair thinning and balding can occur for many reasons and regrowth of lost hair is dependent on many factors.
However, the most common cause of hairline recession and balding is Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), also known as Male-Pattern Baldness (MPB) (1). It affects 30-50 percent of men by age 50, but it can also occur in women known as female-pattern hair loss. Interestingly, the exact cause is still unknown.
- Genetic predisposition
- Lack of blood flow to the scalp
- Sensitivity to DHT
In particular, the theory of sensitivity to DHT has a lot of credence and is believed by many doctors to be the cause. After all, DHT sensitivity has been shown to miniaturize the follicles and this can reduce blood flow (4).
Eventually, the follicle will have no access to nutrients and oxygen, which will further miniaturize the hairs until they can no longer be produced.
Fortunately, there are plenty of natural methods and ingredients that can help you to stimulate hair growth.
Use a Dermastamp
Microneedling is a technique often used by dermatologists and even general practitioners to reduce signs of scarring and even wrinkles (5, 6). However, did you know it can also be used to stimulate hair growth (7)?
The method involves the use of tiny needles which puncture the scalp. As the small wounds heal, a three-step process occurs all without scarring (8):
And while the technique may seem counterintuitive, it does have proven benefits!
Foremost, microneedling works because it induces collagen production which is crucial for the hair growth process (9). It also stimulates new cell production, which is required within the hair follicles (10).
These concepts were both proven in a 2013 study that compared microneedling + minoxidil to a minoxidil-only group (7). At the end of the 12-week study, the group that received both microneedling and minoxidil saw benefits greater than the group to receive just minoxidil.
How to Use the Dermastamp
The dermastamp is a microneedling tool that consists of a rectangular block with micro needles on the end of a handle. It’s pressed against the scalp to induce the process mentioned above.
To use the tool, clean the scalp with a gentle shampoo. Then press gently into the targeted area of hair loss, and hold in place for a few seconds. Repeat the pressing vertically, horizontally, and then diagonally.
You can place the stamp in areas of balding or even in areas with thinning.
To clean the stamp, you can wipe off the needles and block with an alcohol wipe or soak in an antibacterial soap and then rinse after a few minutes. You may repeat the procedure once per week.
Practice Scalp Massage and Exercises
The dermastamp is a great way to increase blood flow to the scalp while also stimulating new cell production. However, there are two other practices which you should be sure to incorporate into your hair care routine – scalp massage, and exercises.
These techniques can be performed daily and they work by increasing blood flow as well as stretching the Dermal Papilla Cells (DPCs) (11). These help to naturally stimulate the follicles.
How to Perform Scalp Massage
There are two ways to massage your scalp. The option you choose is up to you, as it’s largely a matter of preference.
With a Scalp Massager
A scalp massage is a metal tool with rubber caps that can be used to massage the scalp in multiple places at once. To use, place the massager on the outer edges of your hairline and around the scalp, and slowly move the tool up and down.
With Your Fingers
While the scalp massager can be useful, it isn’t the most effective at targeting specific areas of the scalp. To do that, you can use your fingertips.
Begin by placing your thumb, index, and middle fingers on the sides of your scalp. Use gentle, circular motions to move your fingers around the area, and then slowly move them towards the crown.
Continue these movements for one to two minutes in each location, and then move onto the hairline, back to the sides of the head, and finally to the base of the skull.
In total, the massage should take 10 minutes per session.
How to Perform Scalp Exercises
To further increase blood circulation and to reduce tension, scalp exercises can also be included in your hair care routine. These will help to improve skin elasticity as well.
To perform scalp exercises, place your thumb and index finger on your scalp a few inches apart. Gently pull your thumb and index fingers together without lifting them from the skin. You can then slowly increase the distance between the fingers until they’re back in their original positions.
These movements will slowly stretch the skin. You can also use your muscles – namely, your eyebrow muscles – to further induce stretching. Here’s how.
- Using your eyebrows, slowly lift them up towards the hairline as high as they can go. Hold in place for one minute, and then return them to neutral position. You can repeat this movement 5 – 10 times per session.
- Next, furrow your eyebrows deeply and hold in place for one minute. Return them to neutral position, and repeat as needed.
You can also alternate exercises, first by lifting your brows and then furrowing them without stopping in the neutral position first.
Add Essential Oils to Your Routine
Essential oils are the by-products of plants and usually come from the flowers, seeds, or berries. They are used in a variety of industries and they’ve recently become more popular among health enthusiasts.
In terms of hair growth, there are various essential oils which can be used to stop hair loss and perhaps even reverse it.
Best of all, essential oils can be used in your scalp massage routine for additional benefit.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin Seed Oil (PSO) is extracted from the hulled pumpkin seed and it’s one of the more nutrient-dense oils on this list. It includes antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and minerals, and its nutty flavor and aroma make it a popular addition in foods and cosmetics (12, 13).
As far as health benefits go, PSO runs the gamut. The oil is proven as both an anti-diabetic and anti-carcinogen, and its also an effective anti-inflammatory (14, 15, 16). But what about its use in treating hair loss?
If its many health properties aren’t enough, there’s also been a study that shows that PSO may contribute to significant hair regrowth in men with AGA (17).
This 24-week study – published in 2014 – consisted of 76 male subjects with mild to moderate AGA. One half of the participants were given a daily supplement containing PSO, among other ingredients, while the other half was given a placebo.
The supplement Octa-Sabal Plus, which contains pumpkin seed powder but also other beneficial components. These include Octacosanol (from vegetable powder), Gamma linolenic acid (from evening primrose), and Lycopene (from tomato powder).
To keep track of hair changes throughout the study, including hair counts and diameter, phototrichography was used.
As was suspected by researchers, the group to receive the PSO-containing supplement saw significant increases in hair count over the placebo group. This was theorized to be due to the inhibition of 5AR.
Does this mean that PSO is the answer to hair loss? No.
However, it does show that PSO and the other ingredients within the supplement may have contributed to growth. And while further studies are needed, PSO’s other health benefits can still be received from topical application to the scalp.
Peppermint is a plant hybrid of spearmint and watermint and it’s known most commonly for its minty fresh scent. However, Peppermint Essential Oil (PEO) has also been proven beneficial in the treatment of various health ailments, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and muscle and nerve pain (18, 19).
But what is it that makes PEO so intriguing to sufferers of male-pattern baldness?
Well, it also has numerous properties that may contribute to the health of the scalp, and even hair growth.
Namely, PEO may be useful in stimulating anagen phase and increasing cutaneous blood flow wherever it’s applied (20). Though, its anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties may also be appealing to the hair loss community (21, 22, 23).
However, one study did show it to be effective in treating hair loss in mice directly (24).
The study was performed in 2014, and it consisted of 20 male mice split into four groups. The mice were shaved (to standardize telogen phase) and then were given one of the following applications:
- Saline (SA)
- Jojoba Oil (JO)
- 3% Minoxidil (MXD)
- 3% Peppermint Essential Oil (PEO)
The mice received these topical applications for six days per week over a period of four weeks.
To track results, photos were taken throughout the four weeks. They were then categorized as follows:
- 0: no hair growth
- 1: less than 20% growth
- 2: 20% to less than 40% growth
- 3: 40% to less than 60% growth
- 4: 60% to less than 80% growth
- 5: 80% to 100% growth
Skin biopsies were also taken, which was helpful in seeing the hair follicles.
In the end, it was the minoxidil and peppermint oil groups that saw the most hair growth beginning at week 2 and continuing throughout the study. The saline and jojoba oil groups saw minimal growth.
Even further, the mice to receive peppermint oil had ongoing hair growth. This indicates that peppermint oil was able to induce anagen phase.
But can these results be useful for humans? The researchers certainly think so.
As they concluded, “PEO effectively stimulated hair growth in an animal model via several mechanisms and thus could be used as a therapeutic or preventive alternative medicine for hair loss in humans.”
An oil extracted from the Rosmarinus officinalis plant, rosemary oil has been found to be useful in the treatment of various ailments. More specifically, studies have shown it to be helpful in stimulating hair growth for patients with Alopecia Areata (AA) and AGA (25, 26).
The first study, published in 1998, consisted of 84 subjects with AA divided into two groups (25). The first group received received daily scalp massages with an essential oil blend containing thyme, rosemary, lavender, and jojoba among others. The second group received daily scalp massages with carrier oils (such as jojoba and grapeseed) only.
So, how did patients respond to the treatment?
At the end of the seven-month study, 44 percent of the participants in the treatment group saw improvement (i.e. reduction in the size of bald patches). This was compared to 15% in the placebo group.
And while this doesn’t definitively link rosemary oil to the treatment of hair loss, it does provide hope to essential oil users.
But what about in the treatment of AGA?
In 2015, researchers recruited 100 male AGA patients for a study which would compare the efficacy of rosemary oil and minoxidil 2% (26). The men were split into two groups of fifty, and the patients received either rosemary oil or minoxidil 2% for six months.
To track progress, a microphotographic assessment was taken at baseline, three months, and six months.
As was expected, hair growth was seen in the minoxidil group at both three months and six months. However, growth was also significant in the rosemary oil group.
And even more importantly, the difference between growth amounts wasn’t significant for either the rosemary oil or minoxidil group.
So, what does this mean? As researchers concluded, “the findings of the present trial provided evidence with respect to the efficacy of rosemary oil in the treatment of AGA.”
While magnesium oil is actually a carrier oil, it’s too good of a topical not to be mentioned.
Magnesium oil is a combination of magnesium chloride flakes and water. It’s able to be absorbed transdermally, but can also be taken orally (27).
So, why should magnesium oil be used on the scalp? The answer is calcification.
Calcification is the accumulation of calcium deposits in areas where calcium is not usually present – for example the scalp. This is most often due to an excess of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia), but may also be from external sources (such as tap water) (28). As the calcium builds up on the scalp, it begins to harden the tissues (29).
As you might imagine, this makes it rather hard for hair to grow. And, in the case of hypercalcemia, it also begins to cut off the blood supply to the follicles (as the calcium plaque is formed.
In short, calcification is a no-go if you want to grow your hair.
Interestingly, magnesium oil has been shown to reduce calcification in smooth bovine muscle tissue (30). This means when applied topically, it may help to reduce calcification of the scalp.
Will this reverse hair loss completely?
Unfortunately, calcification is often a sign of long-term hair loss. If the follicles have been exposed to calcium deposits for too long, and they’ve been unable to function, they may have died.
However, the magnesium application can still help to break down tough tissues and give your follicles a fighting chance. Even better, since magnesium oil is a carrier, you can use it in combination with any of the above-mentioned oils.
Improve and Alkalize Your Diet
While topicals such as essential oils can help to stimulate hair growth, it’s also important to work from the inside, out. This means focusing on your overall health and nutrition, so that your hair and other non-essential organs will receive the nutrients and minerals they require.
In short, the foods you eat are essential to your overall wellbeing. If you’re eating poorly, then your non-essential organs will be neglected and this can result in numerous symptoms, including hair fall.
This is where minerals, nutrients, and alkalization come into play.
Foremost, a balanced diet will enable you to receive the nutrients that your body desperately needs. So, what nutrients in particular should you focus on?
Increase Nutrients and Minerals
While there are many nutrients that play a role in hair growth, there are a few which play a more significant role. These include:
- Biotin (Vitamin B7)
- Vitamin E
- Zinc and selenium
You can increase these nutrients by simply increasing your dietary intake, or with the use of a supplement.
Alkalize Your Diet
As mentioned previously, there are many factors that contribute to hair loss (and AGA specifically). One such factor is blood pH levels, which can contribute to increased activity of 5AR if too acidic (34).
This is because the human body functions optimally on the more alkaline side of the pH scale, falling between 7.35 and 7.45 (35). Diet is one factor that alters pH levels, and the more acidic the diet the more acidic the levels.
As such, it makes sense that consuming more alkaline foods will alkalize the bloodstream and return the body to optimal functioning (36). It will also reduce the activities of 5AR, which is beneficial for those with DHT sensitivity or AGA.
Add Enzymes and Probiotics
When healthy, the human gut includes millions of bacteria and other flora (37). These help to aid in the process of digestion and can contribute to your overall health (37). But many factors, including diet and prescription drugs, can wreak havoc on the gut’s natural environment.
When this happens, the balance between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria has been thrown off. This may lead to digestive problems, and even reduce the nutrients and minerals that your body absorbs (38).
So, what can you do to bring your gut back to its former glory? Add enzymes and probiotics into your routine.
Probiotics are found in many foods, mostly those that are fermented (39). These include kimchi, kombucha, and kefir. When consumed regularly, they can help to balance the bacteria in your gut, and bring it back to the ‘good’ side.
Use Natural DHT Blockers
While some of the essential oils above may inhibit 5AR or reduce DHT, that isn’t typically their main mechanism. So, what about ingredients that work directly to reduce DHT levels in the scalp?
Perhaps the most well-known DHT blocker among hair loss sufferers is saw palmetto. It’s a berry-producing plant that has been shown to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase (40).
A 2016 study, performed on Syrian hamsters, looked to answer this exact question (41).
Syrian hamsters were randomly divided into groups and the lower back of each was shaved to expose flank organs. The groups were then set to receive either a control (ethanol only), GNC Herbal Plus SPS (HLLP), Jarrow Formulas SPS (HLHP), or Doctor’s Best SPS (HMLP) daily.
Even further, the hamsters were to receive either testosterone or DHT.
The results of the study showed that saw palmetto when combined with testosterone was better at reducing pigmentation of the flank organ than when combined with DHT. This is a sign of androgen activity, and it indicates that saw palmetto is better able to inhibit 5AR than it is to reduce DHT.
This means that saw palmetto can be used to reduce the activities of 5AR and, as a result, indirectly block DHT production.
But best of all, saw palmetto won’t completely block DHT. This can reduce the risk of side effects, such as those associated with finasteride (42).
Reishi mushroom is another inhibitor of 5AR and, as such, can be helpful in reducing DHT levels within the body and at the scalp. This was shown in a 2005 study (43).
Researchers collected 19 different mushrooms (including Ganoderma lucidum, also known as reishi). Extracts of the samples were prepared, and they were then added to a rat liver microsome suspension.
The goal of the study? To determine how effective each of the species was at inhibiting 5AR’s activities.
As the results showed, reishi mushroom was the most effective at inhibiting 5AR when compared to the other 18 species. In fact, it inhibited between to 75 and 80 percent of 5AR activities while the next closest species Pleurotus ostreatus inhibited just 60 percent.
And while no studies have been done to compare the two, both reishi and finasteride inhibit 5AR. This means that reishi may be used similarly to finasteride to stimulate hair growth in AGA sufferers.
The study to show its internal effects was performed in 2005 (44). Researchers recruited 620 men with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and split them into two groups.
The first group received two stinging nettle capsules of 300mg each, twice daily, while the second group received a placebo. At the end of the study, 81 percent of the patients in the treatment group saw a reduction in serum Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) and prostate size.
What does this mean for the treatment of AGA?
BPH is a condition which, much like AGA, is largely affected by DHT levels (46). The reduction in serum PSA and prostate size indicates that stinging nettle reduces DHT levels within the prostate.
The second study, performed in 2011, considered the effects of stinging nettle on rat prostate size (45).
As the results showed, the various levels of stinging nettle used were beneficial in treating testosterone-induced BPH. And while the results weren’t exactly up to par with finasteride (the positive control), they still show that stinging nettle may be an effective alternative option.
However, these come with their own set of side effects, and they aren’t a treatment as much as a way to slow the inevitable.
This is where natural ways to stimulate hair growth can address the problem directly, and they may even help to treat the underlying issue.