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Does Rosemary essential oil deserve all the hype?

Can Rosemary Essential oil improve hair growth?

For a while now, I have been seeing lots of talk about Rosemary essential oil as the new wonder treatment for hair growth. Most of the time I chuckle, as I've known about Rosemary's use for hair growth long before I became an Aromatherapist - and I have been a qualified Aromatherapist for 11 years.

However, it was my association (the International Federation of Aromatherapy, or IFA) that made me decide to write this blog and address this 'not-so-new' wonder oil that everyone is now talking about. According to reports, searches for Rosemary oil have skyrocketed by 135% in the UK in the last year, due to interest generated by TikTok videos. As much as I love Rosemary, there is a lot that you need to look at if you are suffering from hair loss, or just to encourage voluminous, healthy locs.

Before and after picture of hair growth

Identify the cause

If your interest in Rosemary is because of hair loss, then the condition of your scalp is always going to be at the root (excuse the pun). Your first port of call is to see your GP or a qualified Trichologist to find out what is the cause of your hair loss. A Trichologist can also identify whether the cause is permanent or can be rectified. I saw a Trichologist in my 20s for hair loss due to permanent chemical damage to my scalp, thanks to the use of relaxers (hair-straightening chemicals).

Good Health sign

Health and wellbeing

Any good expert will also encourage you to look into your lifestyle because what we eat/don't eat plus our wellbeing plays a significant part in our hair health.

Start off with your nutrition. Are you eating a balanced diet, high enough in iron? I spent a large part of my life being anaemic due to heavy blood loss in menstruation: this was another reason I was suffering from hair loss. Had I known at the time, I would have paid better attention to my diet and my menstrual health. But there are some things I truly believe that girls need to be taught in school and period health is a vital one. (We’ll save that for another blog!)

Our stress levels are another area we need to look at in depth, particularly how we handle stress. In my 20s and 30s I was a complete ‘stresshead’ and I let everyone and everything get to me. As I edge closer to my 50s, I have learnt to let things go. Discovering self-care practices that help me unwind has helped me significantly, with aromatherapy and massage being my go-to therapies. Also, a good long walk or a soak in the tub are always high on my self-care practice list.

When it comes to health and wellbeing, also look at the side-effects of medical conditions you have, including the medications you are on. I recently learnt that those who fast continuously can also suffer from hair loss, so do complete your research.

Styling Tools

Product and styling damage

Being a woman of colour, I have sadly had a love-hate relationship with my afro hair. Afro hair is often seen as the most versatile, but a lot of our styling practices can damage our scalp. Tight braids can cause traction alopecia, and both chemical and heat-straightening products can cause burns on the scalp, which can lead to permanent alopecia. However you choose to express yourself through your hair, choose wisely and always protect your scalp.

Aromatherapy products and essential oils

Looking into aromatherapy

If you choose to go down the aromatherapy route, know that there are many oils that can help, not just Rosemary. Also, what you mix your essential with is just as important as the essential oil itself. Essential oils must always be mixed in a base product or cream, and must not be used neat. Applying neat Rosemary to your scalp can do much more harm than good. Here are a few of my favourite oils and base products for the hair…

Coconut oil - There is a reason that women from the South Pacific Islands have shiny, healthy hair. According to Base Formula, one of my favourite aromatherapy suppliers, Coconut oil is rich in essential proteins and helps to nourish, repair and condition dull, damaged tresses.

Jojoba oil - Often found in shampoos and hair products, Jojoba is a wax that mimics our natural sebum. So it’s great for the scalp.

Shea Butter - My afro hair loves Shea butter. I love to mix it with my conditioner then sit under my hair steamer to ensure the oils coat my hair strands.

Castor oil - Another of my hair staples. It is very thick so, for some, it would be better as a hot oil treatment that you wash out.

Hemp oil - Most of the oils I mentioned are great for the actual hair, but may block the pores of your scalp. As my hair is nearly always braided, using a scalp oil is a must. This is why I like hemp seed oil; I like to mix it with jojoba and sometimes sunflower oil so it penetrates the scalp.

You can also find lots of base shampoos and conditioners in good health/aromatherapy companies to mix your essential oils in.

Now to essential oils. I actually stopped using Rosemary years ago. My hairdresser is always amazed how quickly my hair has grown (we met after lockdown, my hair was in a dreadful state). So she gave me a drastic chop. I neglected my hair awfully during lockdown.

So what are my favourite essential oils for hair health?

Essential oils containing azulene - I have a very sensitive scalp and for a long time my scalp was itchy, flaky, and angry. The large flakes were causing my hair to fall out and it was often too tender to comb. If you are an avid reader of my blogs, you would have heard me mention azulene before.

It is great for soothing and reducing inflammation, which is why it is ideal for conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Essential oils that are blue are usually high in azulene, these are German Chamomile and Yarrow. It's also in Roman Chamomile and I alternate with all three when I need to soothe angry scalps. I no longer suffer from this condition since I upped my water levels and added good fats to my diet. A good nutritionist will be able to talk you through the benefits of adding healthy fats into your diet.

Healing essential oils

A healthy scalp is key to hair growth. I love Lavender, Geranium, Ylang ylang and Patchouli as my 'go-to' oils and I still add them to my hair oil/product blends.

Boosting Circulation

Have you ever looked at the anatomy of the human body? Look at the head and the scalp area, and you will see a lot of white tissue. That is fascia connective tissue. Getting fresh blood to the scalp is key to help growth, and this is why I love massage and scalp massage tools. They stimulate the hair follicles and boost our circulation, bringing fresh blood to the scalp whilst eliminating toxins from the tissue. Hence why Rosemary essential is so great for hair growth.

Rosemary is a circulation booster, warming the scalp and bringing fresh blood to the area. But there are others: Peppermint, Lavender, West Indian Bay, Cedarwood, Clary Sage and Juniper. I also love Cade essential, which is brilliant for flaky scalps, dandruff and hair loss. However, Cade is very potent in smell and strength, so use in very small dilutions. As with all essential oils, be careful if you have a sensitive scalp. Some of these oils can unfortunately be irritants.

Overall, there are so many oils, both essential oils and vegetable oils, when looking into improving your haircare and promoting hair growth. But just remember, you need to look holistically at the issue you are more than just your hair. Remember that wonder treatments are rarely standalone and to do your investigative work by seeking help from a qualified professional - especially when using essential oils.

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