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Whether the issue was a bad haircut, a case of COVID, or a struggle with thinning hair, just about all of us have struggled at some point to grow out our hair. And while the key to healthy hair growth is a healthy lifestyle (i.e., hydrating, eating well, and sleeping enough), there are also a number of topical products, like hair growth shampoos and hair growth vitamins, that can enhance scalp health and stimulate hair growth alongside your regular shampoo and conditioner. One of my go-tos is hair growth oil, which can easily be applied to the scalp to give your hair growth regimen an extra boost.
But how do hair growth oils work, you ask? We spoke to Dr. Mona Gohara, a dermatologist who serves as Vice President of the Women’s Dermatologic Society at Yale University and is an active member of The American Academy of Dermatology and The American Society For Dermatologic Surgery.
"Hair growth oils are serums that help restore nutrients to your scalp and increase stimulation and hair production," Dr. Gohara explains. "Oils can thicken the cuticle, making the hair appear fuller. As the hydration is absorbed, the cuticle expands giving the appearance of growth."
How to Use a Hair Growth Oil
If you've never used a hair oil before, applying it for the first time can be a baffling experience. It's important to keep in mind that hair growth begins with a healthy scalp. For that reason, Dr. Gohara says, "Hair growth oils are massaged into the scalp to stimulate the hair at the root. Once you’ve shown your scalp lots of love, you can carry the product through to the ends."
And when it comes to frequency of use, Dr. Gohara reminds us to read the instructions for your oil of choice very carefully. "Following the instructions on your hair growth oil is imperative because some oils have you apply once a day while others are more frequent," she points out. She adds that it's perfectly alright to use multiple hair products at once, so long as you "couple your hair growth oils with a shampoo and conditioner routine to make sure your hair is getting as clean and nourished as possible." Clarifying shampoos in particular, she says, "are perfect companions for hair growth oils."
Still worried that adding an oil to your regimen will make your hair look greasy? "A lot of hair growth oils are applied before you shower," says Dr. Gohara. "However, if you have one that needs to be applied in the morning, you can always rock a sleek bun or pony!"
The Best Hair Growth Oils
The Best Hair Growth Oil for Thinning Hair
This oil from EssyNaturals has more than 300 five-star reviews on Amazon, and is packed with castor oil and rosemary oil—both of which are highly recommended ingredients by Dr. Gohara. The serum also incorporates caffeine, which Dr. Jerry Shapiro, a dermatologist at the New York University School of Medicine who specializes in hair loss, highly recommends. He explains, "Caffeine reverses the effects of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the main hormone involved in hair loss."
The Best Cult Hair Growth Oil
Nutralfol is beloved for its line of hair growth products, including vitamins, a powder, and topical products. This particular hair growth oil is loved by users, one of whom noted that the product increased hair growth and, perhaps more crucially, decreased hair loss.
Dr. Gohara's Go-To Hair Growth Oil
"The Natucain Hair Activator is my go-to hair serum because of its patented MKMS24 plant-based technology that supports the appearance of stronger and fuller-looking hair," says Dr. Gohara. She goes on to explain, "Ingredients are very important to me when I look at a product, which is how I initially got interested with this brand, but the results are even better!"
Best Hair Growth Oil for Thin Hair
I'm personally a huge fan of this hair growth oil, which features argan oil, chia seed oil, jojoba oil, and a myriad of other gentle, natural ingredients. While I have a lot of dense hair, my strands themselves are thin, so I'm often concerned about my scalp looking greasy. This oil, however, absorbs beautifully into my scalp without making it look slick. Plus, it smells fantastic.
The Gentle Hair Growth Oil
This product contains jojoba oil, which Dr. Gohara highly recommends looking for when shopping for a hair growth oil. It's also paraben-free, so you can be sure it's gentle enough for frequent, damage-free use.
The Best Hair Growth Oil for Density
This unique formula uses organic pea sprout extract, Chinese scullcap, soy, and wheat sprouts to stimulate hair root for increased hair density. Plus, it features another one of Dr. Gohara's favorite ingredients: Castor oil, which has long been beloved for its restorative effect on hair health.
The Best CBD-Infused Hair Growth Oil
This vegan hair growth oil is formulated with CBD, which strengthens hair follicles at the root level. Furthermore, its chemical-free makeup is crucial for long term hair growth. Several customer reviews attest to less hair loss, increased hair growth, and thicker strands after consistent use.
The Best Silicone-Free Hair Growth Oil
Dr. Gohara warns us to "avoid hair oils that that contain primarily silicones if you want more than just an instant fix," so this silicone-free option from cult favorite brand The Ordinary certainly fits the bill.
The Best Nourishing Hair Growth Oil
Dr. Gohara counts jojoba seed oil and coconut oil among her most desirable hair growth oil ingredients, and both are included in this formula. It's also silicone-free and combats hair and scalp dryness. To avoid greasiness, though, one reviewer helpfully instructs, "The best way that I have found that this works is by slightly dampening my hair first, then adding a few drops of this oil into my palm, rubbing my hands together, then running through my hair, especially the parts that seem more damaged."
The Best Castor Oil Hair Growth Oil
Not all castor oil is created equal or up to Briogeo's beauty standards. This castor oil is cold-pressed to preserve the harvested seeds' nutrients. Reviewers use this not only on their scalp, but on lashes, brows, and other areas where their hair follicles need a little extra love. One thrilled customer says that it even helps combat the hair loss they've suffered as a result of an autoimmune disease.
The Best Activating Hair Growth Oil
This activator promises to lengthen hair by 20 percent (!!), and heavily features citrus oils, which Dr. Gohara lists among her essentials. According to one simple yet compelling review, "This product is magic."
The Best Bond-Building Hair Growth Oil
This oil uses fermentation to strengthen the impact of its key ingredient, green tea. How does fermentation help, you ask? "Fermentation breaks down natural molecules and makes them smaller, so it’s easier for them to absorb deeper into your skin’s surface," says dermatologist Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky. That means that this oil will effectively penetrate the pores of your scalp so you can easily achieve your longest locks yet.
The Best Healing Hair Growth Oil
This paraben-free, sulfate-free option is suitable for all hair types and promises to reverse damage from heat tools, sun exposure, and harmful products so your hair growth journey can start off on the right foot. It also won't leave you with a greasy residue—according to one customer, "With a couple drops applied to the ends of my hair, I found my hair more nourished without feeling weighed down."
The Best Hair Growth Oil for Protective Styles
This product works well for all hair types, but was formulated with curly hair in mind. Customers are particularly pleased with how effective it is for taming frizz and for putting on before donning protective hairstyles like braids.
The Best Hair Growth Oil for Curls
This paraben-free, sulfate-free formula's organic origins make it safe for long-term use on natural hair, and customers rave about its results. Top reviews say that results manifest themselves within a month, that the formula smells divine, and that it even helps with styling. One reviewer writes, "It's never been so soft and my curls are so much more defined than ever before."
The Best Hair Growth Oil for Hydration
Hair growth and retention go hand-in-hand with hair strengthening, and this oil promises to help with just that. Several reviewers say that it's a great alternative to castor oil if you find the latter to be too thick or sticky.
The Best Soothing Hair Growth Oil
Hair growth begins with a healthy scalp, and this formula, which utilizes natural oils, is designed for just that. It's also an ideal solution for those whose skin tends to be irritated by oils, because multiple users report decreased dandruff, oiliness, itching, and overall scalp irritation after using this product.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Mona Gohara is a board-certified dermatologist who graduate medical school with AOA Honors before training as a dermatologist at Yale. Currently, she is the vice president of the Women’s Dermatologic Society as well as a member of The American Academy of Dermatology and The American Society For Dermatologic Surgery.