As a hair loss treatment that is similarly (if not more) effective than minoxidil, peppermint oil is a necessary addition to your hair care routine if you want to stop any further thinning and receding and perhaps even regrow your hair.
This guide will discuss the use of peppermint essential oil (PEO) for the treatment of hair loss. This includes an in-depth look at recent scientific research, as well as ways you can use the ingredient more effectively.
What is Peppermint Oil?
Peppermint is a plant hybrid of spearmint and watermint, and it is used in a variety of industries.
In addition to its place in the kitchen (where it is added to tea, gum, ice cream, and more), it is also been used quite recently for its many health benefits.
Peppermint has been shown effective in relieving hot flashes in women, reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and decreasing nausea (1, 2). Due to its cooling effect, it is used commonly in the temporary treatment of muscle and nerve pain, as well as in the relief of itching (3). In addition, its aroma is frequently used to induce alertness.
Can PEO Be Used to Regrow Hair?
There is no doubt that PEO is a highly versatile ingredient. But where does it stand when it comes to treating hereditary baldness?
As will be discussed further below, PEO has a variety of properties that make it an excellent addition to anyone’s hair regrowth routine.
This article will highlight four main properties of PEO that help in the regrowth of hair, including:
- Stimulation of the anagen growth phase;
- Improvements in blood supply;
- Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties; and
- Anti-inflammatory properties.
More Effective Than Minoxidil?: The Scientific Proof
In 2014, Korean researchers studied the effects of PEO on hair growth (5). Comparing the essential oil to Minoxidil, a popular FDA-approved hair loss treatment, the results were certainly stunning.
Though, it needs to be remembered that this study was conducted on shaved mice, not humans. More studies are needed on humans for more conclusive results. However, since human studies are, understandably, considerably more expensive than mice studies, we might be waiting a while for those.
In the beginning of the study, 20 male mice were shaved on their dorsal area so as to standardize the telogen phase for all. The mice were split into four separate groups, with each group receiving a topical application of either:
- Saline (SA);
- Jojoba Oil (JO);
- 3% Minoxidil (MXD); or
- 3% Peppermint Essential Oil (PEO)
The application was done six days per week for a total of four weeks.
Throughout the study, photographs were taken to visually track hair growth. Each photograph was categorized, and the categories were 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; and 5: 80% to 100% growth.
In addition, skin biopsies were taken at conclusion of the study, and a number of RESULTS were tested.
As mentioned, photographs were taken every week throughout the 4-week study.
As clearly depicted, saline and jojoba oil had minimal visible results throughout the course of the study. However, minoxidil and PEO saw positive hair growth from week 2, and this continued through the entire four weeks.
Further, PEO was clearly dominant when compared with minoxidil and growth was still ongoing. This means that both groups of mice were in the anagen phase of hair growth even after four weeks.
Now, while visual results can be helpful, it is important to get a better understanding of the scientific results obtained by biopsies and samples. First is a chart that graphs the effectiveness of all four groups over the course of the study. The results were the mean hair growth score of five mice in each group:
While PEO and MXD were close in the first week, PEO quickly took the lead in terms of hair regrowth scores. In fact, the gap between the two treatments only continued to widen as the weeks passed to reach 60% at the end of four weeks between PEO and MXD.
Next, here is a look at the biopsy results. Here, we see the vertical histological view depicting the quantity and quality of hair follicles:
Only minoxidil and PEO showed clear hair growth, as depicted by the elongated hair follicles and hair shaft.
Last, researchers compared the number of hair follicles in all four groups, as well as the depth of said follicles:
By week four, the PEO group had seven times and three times more hair follicles than the SA and JO groups, respectively.
In addition to all of the above results, PEO was also shown to increase blood circulation to the scalp. This was determined by monitoring Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP) activity. When ALP activity is increased, the relaxation of vascular smooth muscle occurs. This enables improved blood flow, and enables your hair follicles to receive the nutrients and oxygen it needs to stay healthy.
As concluded by researchers, “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.”
The Oxygen-Hair Loss Connection
Peppermint oil can increase blood flow when applied topically. As such, it also increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients.
Oxygen, as it does in all other organs, plays a crucial role in the hair follicle. It not only keeps it alive, but it also provides the scalp with circumstances necessary to thrive. Let me explain.
When testosterone is produced in the prostate, it does not stay there. Instead, it travels to various parts of the body (including the scalp and hair follicles). This is known as Free Testosterone (fT) (6).
When fT makes its way to the scalp, it meets another substance – 5AR (7). If the circumstances are right, as they often are, this interaction will result in the production of DHT. While this is okay for individuals without Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), it can lead to inflammation and miniaturization in those with the condition.
Oxygen plays a role in the scalp’s environment. In short, a low-oxygen environment will contribute to the production of DHT. This is because very little oxygen is needed for the exchange.
If you have AGA, this will only continue the cycle. The presence of DHT = miniaturization = less blood flow and poor oxygen levels = hair loss. However, you can increase the oxygen levels (with natural extracts such as peppermint oil) to create a different outcome.
This outcome, another by-product of fT and 5AR is estriadiol, an estrogen steroid hormone that has actually been shown to induce hair growth (8). By increasing oxygen levels, then, you will see a decrease in DHT production and an increase in estradiol.
Implications for Thin Hair Sufferers
While the above study was performed on mice, the results can have serious implications for the future treatment of hereditary baldness.
As shown, PEO plays a key role in the initiation of anagen phase and hair follicle proliferation. Both of these are necessary for the growth of healthy, strong hair.
In addition, it also markedly increased IGF-1 gene expression at week two, where it took minoxidil until week four to do (9). What does this mean?
The IGF-1 gene is one that promotes cell growth and survival, and also increases the thickness of hair. An increased expression of this gene means improved hair growth. In individuals with AGA and other such forms of alopecia, this can mean that the use of PEO can “reboot” the hair growth cycle.
Additional Benefits of PEO
The above study does show some promising results, but PEO is beneficial to thin and receding hair sufferers in a number of others ways, too.
First and foremost, this nice smelling herb belongs to the same family as rosemary. This is another oil that is beneficial in the treatment for regrowing hair, and this connection may indicate more positive benefits for PEO than just what the above study shows.
In addition, PEO has benefits that are not just related to scalp health. However, these benefits can still provide your scalp and hair with positive effects.
It Cleans the Scalp and Follicles
Scalp buildup – including sebum, sweat, dead skin, hair product, and even chemicals such as DHT – can create an unhealthy environment for your hair. This can lead to irritation and inflammation, and it can also encourage the growth of bacterial and fungal infections.
PEO is an effective antimicrobial, fighting both bacteria and fungi (10).
This was proven in a 1996 study that tested the efficacy of ten different essential oils against 22 bacteria and 12 fungi. The oils included in the study were aegle, ageratum, citronella, eucalyptus, geranium, lemongrass, orange, palmarosa, patchouli, and peppermint.
The oils were introduced to the various bacterial and fungal cultures, and here is how peppermint oil fared. Peppermint was effective in inhibiting all 22 of the bacterial strains, as well as eleven out of twelve of the fungal strains.
Whether you suffer from tinea capitis, dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, or folliculitis, PEO can clean the scalp and treat the issue at its source. This means you can provide a clean and healthy environment for your hair follicles, and this in itself is a necessary step when looking to regrow your hair.
It Soothes an Irritated Scalp
The conditions mentioned above – such as dandruff and folliculitis – can cause irritation and inflammation. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it can also lead to inflammation, scarring, and permanent bald spots.
PEO’s main component, menthol, is a known anti-inflammatory.
This was shown to be true in a 2016 research study, which aimed to determine whether menthol could be used to 1) treat a parasitic infection; and 2) soothe the symptoms of said infection (which include inflammation of the skin) (11).
The mice in the study were infected with the parasite, and then split into five treatment groups. These were:
- Negative control (which was not infected with the parasite);
- Positive control (which was infected with the parasite, but not treated);
- Mentha 15 (which were treated for 15 consecutive days with 50mg/day);
- Mentha 60 (which were treated for 60 consecutive days with 50mg/day); and
- Praziquantel (a drug commonly used in the treatment of the infection).
NOTE: The menthol in this study was derived from a pharmaceutical source – Mentaliv, which is commonly used to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – and it wasn’t the only component within the Mentha 15 and Mentha 60 treatment groups. Another major component was methone, which was up to 32% of the solution.
One way to test for inflammation is by studying cytokine levels (12). These are pro-inflammatory proteins, which have a direct effect on inflammation and pain. Here is a look at this groups’ cytokine levels after 61 days of infection (and treatment):
As seen above, the Mentha 60 experimental group gave the best results when compared with the positive control. In fact, IL-4 levels were reduced by 53.5% in comparison to the positive control, and IL-10 levels were reduced by 62%.
This anti-inflammatory property was also confirmed in a 2001 study when PEO reduced allergen-induced histamine release (13). Histamine is the chief cause of allergy and inflammation in our body.
This oil’s anti-inflammatory properties, then, may be able to effectively soothe an irritated scalp and prevent further irritation and inflammation from reoccurring.
It Increases Subcutaneous Blood Flow
As mentioned in the 2014 study, PEO promotes blood flow. This was seen by monitoring ALP activity.
The main cause of hair loss in men and women with AGA is the presence of DHT in the follicles. This leads to a process known as miniaturization, which causes inflammation and irritation. When this occurs, another side effect also sets in – a reduction of blood flow to the area.
This happens because the hair bulb – the base of the follicle and the source of nutrients – is separated from the blood vessels due to the swelling. The follicle is then unable to receive adequate oxygen and nutrients, both of which are necessary for healthy hair growth.
One study, performed in 2016, showed that menthol (the main component of PEO) increases subcutaneous blood flow when applied topically (14). In fact, the higher the concentration of menthol the greater the increase in blood flow as measured by Cutaneous Vascular Conductance (CVC):
This means that applying PEO to the scalp can naturally reduce inflammation while also increasing blood supply.
How to Use PEO in the Treatment of Thinning Hair
The best (and safest) way to use peppermint oil in the treatment of thinning hair is in shampoos and scalp elixirs. Do not apply any essential oil directly to the skin, they are meant to be diluted.
As an essential oil, PEO should be thoroughly diluted before applying to the skin. This will greatly reduce the risk of skin irritation, while also ensuring that the peppermint oil is more effectively delivered to the hair follicles. However, properly diluting PEO can be difficult without the right equipment, so you will need to be careful when using it.
Are There Risks or Side Effects Associated With Peppermint Oil?
PEO should not be used if you have any liver or bile-related diseases (gallstones or bile duct obstruction). Also, its safety in pregnant women has not been tested.
While rare, side effects may occur when PEO is applied to the skin. You should test the oil on a small patch of skin (such as the inside of your wrist) before applying to more delicate areas (i.e. the scalp). If you do experience irritation, the most common signs include:
- Flushing of the surrounding skin
If you are allergic to peppermint oil’s active ingredient – menthol – you should avoid the use of PEO completely. The signs of an allergic reaction include:
- Redness and/or hives
- Coughing and/or wheezing
- Difficulty breathing
While itching, redness, and hives may reduce over time (though, you should keep a close eye on these symptoms, too), you should seek out emergency medical help if you experience any of the other symptoms. Do not take essential oils internally.
The Dermaroller – A Natural Way to Boost Peppermint Oil’s Effects
It is recommended to combine this technique with a hair growth boosting ingredient, such as PEO. This will improve the absorption of the oil and, therefore, boost the results.
IMPORTANT! Be sure you leave at least 12 hours between microneedling and applying the oil – otherwise it will sting really badly!
You can see a professional to have this treatment done. However, it is also possible to do it on your own. A few tips for successful use:
- Apply the right amount of pressure. You want to apply enough pressure so the needles penetrate the skin to the dermal layer, but you don’t want to cause pain or excess bleeding. Press just until you feel a slight tingling.
- Use a multi-directional method. For best results, you want to cover as much of your scalp as possible. This is why it is recommended to use a multi-directional method, including vertical, horizontal, and diagonal.
- Wash and sanitize after each use. Allow the dermaroller to sit in an antibacterial wash for at least one minute after each use. Then, rinse, dry, and put away in a clean container. Doing this each and every time will reduce the chances of an infection.
NOTE: The dermaroller should be used prior to application of the oil, but allow the scalp to rest for at least 12 hours before applying the oil. While this may seem like a long time, the effects of microneedling are present even days after the procedure.
Costs and Availability
As a common plant, the oil is widely available and very affordable.
This oil can be purchased in grocery stores, health food stores, and even chemists. In addition, you can purchase the oil online from a wide variety of retailers, including Amazon.
If you are in need of a soothing, cleansing, all-natural product, then peppermint oil may be just what you are looking for.
This is because not only is it seemingly effective at treating hair fall caused by AGA, but it may also treat and prevent thin-hair-causing infections and conditions (such as seborrheic dermatitis) and reduce inflammation.
Talking to a qualified medical professional about your hair loss is the first step in treating it.