Minoxidil vs. Rosemary Oil: Which Is Better for Hair Growth?
Changes in your skin and hair are natural consequences of aging. Many serums and other products can even skin tone and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Likewise, there are effective treatments to reduce hair loss and add thickness and texture to your hair.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved finasteride and minoxidil, in products such as Rogaine, to treat hair loss. For people who prefer a natural product, rosemary oil has scientific support for its hair loss benefits.
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Understanding the Science of Hair Loss
The most common cause of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, also known as male-pattern hair loss and female-pattern hair loss.
If you inherit certain genes that make your hair follicles more sensitive to the effects of the androgen dihydrotestosterone, you may notice hair thinning and baldness. Women may see a widening hair part and thinning hair on their crowns. Men more commonly have receding hairlines and baldness.
DHT sensitivity shortens the hair follicle growth phase from years to weeks or months. Hair follicles also decrease in size. With a shorter growth phase and smaller hair follicles, hair becomes thinner and sparser.
How Does Rosemary Oil Regrow Hair?
Rosemary oil is believed to reverse hair loss and promote hair growth in several ways. It may increase circulation to the scalp and hair follicles, delivering more nutrients and oxygen to developing hairs.
Rosemary oils may also reduce DHT production. In people with DHT sensitivity, this allows hair follicles to stay in their growing phase longer and prevents hair follicle shrinkage.
Finally, rosemary oil may also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that reduce damage and inflammation to hair follicles.1
A few clinical studies have tested rosemary oil and its potential to restore hair growth.2
In a 2015 clinical study, researchers randomly assigned 100 people to either use rosemary oil or minoxidil 2% for six months. At three months, there was not much hair regrowth in the rosemary oil or minoxidil groups.
At six months, both groups had a statistically significant increase in their hair count. Rosemary oil and minoxidil did not cause an increase in dry hair, greasy hair, or dandruff. People using rosemary oil reported less scalp itching than people using minoxidil.3
This study supports the results of an earlier study that showed that rubbing essential oils into the scalp led to more hair growth than a placebo oil.4
These two studies suggest that rosemary oil can work as well as minoxidil for reversing hair loss, but more research is needed to understand its effects and develop proper treatment doses and concentrations.5
Possible Side Effects
Rosemary oil is not well-tested, as there are only two scientific studies in PubMed when using the search terms rosemary and hair loss.
Potential side effects include:
- Allergic reactions: If you are sensitive to rosemary oil, you may develop redness, itching, or a rash.
- Skin irritation: In one clinical trial, rosemary oil caused scalp itching and irritation. However, it was less than the itching caused by topical minoxidil.
- Sun sensitivity: Rosemary oil may increase sun sensitivity and your risk for sunburn.
- Medication interactions: Rosemary oil may adversely interact with other medications you are using.
If you have a history of bleeding disorders or seizures, talk to your doctor before using rosemary oil. There is not enough reliable information about the use of rosemary oil when breastfeeding.
How to Use Rosemary Oil for Hair Growth
There is not much information about how to use rosemary oil. However, Dr. Shilpi Kheterpal at the Cleveland Clinic recommends applying about one teaspoonful of rosemary oil to the scalp every day and massaging it into the scalp. Consider applying it at night and washing your hair in the morning. In the clinical study, it took six months of daily use to notice a significant increase in hair count.
Some sources recommend either diluting it in a carrier oil (but carrier oils may contain irritating fragrances or other chemicals) and applying it to the scalp or adding it to your shampoo. Apply rosemary oil to a small patch of your scalp first to test for an allergic reaction. Watch for any signs of skin irritation.
How Does Minoxidil Regrow Hair?
Minoxidil is an FDA-approved treatment for treating male-pattern and female-pattern hair loss. Research supports its use.
Minoxidil is a vasodilator. It widens blood vessels and increases blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles. It also stimulates vascular endothelial growth factor production, which could increase blood flow to hair follicles.6
In animal studies, researchers found that minoxidil also shortens the resting phase in hair development. It pushes hair follicles into their growth phase sooner and keeps them growing longer. This can lead to longer, thicker hair.7
Clinical studies have shown that it takes about six months for minoxidil to work.
About one-third of men with male-pattern baldness and two-thirds of women with female-pattern hair loss rated minoxidil as effective.8,9
When it comes to treating male-pattern baldness, the 5% solution outperforms the 2% solution. Users of the more concentrated solution experienced 45% more hair regrowth after 48 weeks. Men who used the 5% minoxidil solution had a faster treatment response than men who used the 2% solution.10
In another study, almost two-thirds of participants reported that their treated area became smaller and that hair regrowth was rated as very effective or effective.11
After eight months, approximately 40% of women aged 18 to 45 with mild-to-moderate hair loss reported minimal hair regrowth, while 19% reported moderate hair regrowth in clinical studies.
Another study found that people who used 2% minoxidil had eight more hairs per square centimeter, and those who used 5% had 12.4 more hairs per square centimeter than those who used a placebo.
A 5-year follow-up study discovered that the peak of hair regrowth occurred at one year.12
Possible Side Effects
The most common minoxidil side effects are skin-related and include:
- Scalp itching
- Scalp scaling
- Excessive hair growth
- Changes in hair color or texture
According to drugs.com, the following serious side effects may occur:
- Severe scalp irritation
- Unwanted excessive facial hair growth
- Chest pain
- Fast heartbeat
- Swelling in the hands and feet
- Rapid weight gain from fluid retention
- Vision changes
How to Use Minoxidil for Hair Growth
Oral and topical minoxidil are both FDA-approved to treat androgenetic alopecia. Oral minoxidil is available by prescription, and topical minoxidil is an over-the-counter medication.
Dosage instructions according to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS):
Topical minoxidil comes in a 2% and 5% solution and a 5% foam. Apply 1 ml of minoxidil solution to your scalp twice daily for men and once daily for women. Apply half a capful of the minoxidil foam to your scalp twice daily for men and once daily for women.
Oral minoxidil is typically prescribed at 0.25 to 5 mg per day. Since this is an off-label use for minoxidil, follow your doctor’s instructions to minimize side effects.
Rosemary Oil vs. Minoxidil: Which to Use?
The 2015 study is currently the only one directly comparing rosemary oil and minoxidil use. The study results showed both products led to an increased hair count at six months, and both had comparable results. However, results are likely to vary among individuals.
Consult with a dermatologist to learn more about what is causing your hair loss and which products are most likely to give you good results.
Can You Use Minoxidil and Rosemary Oil Together?
There are no clinical trials to test the safety and effectiveness of using rosemary oil and minoxidil together. Talk to your dermatologist to see if this combination is likely to be more effective than using either by itself.
Alternatives to Minoxidil and Rosemary Oil
If you are not seeing the results you expect with rosemary oil or minoxidil or you experience an unwanted side effect, finasteride is another option for treating hair loss.
The only other FDA-approved medication for treating hair loss is finasteride. Finasteride inhibits Type II 5-reductase and reduces the enzyme’s ability to convert testosterone to DHT. By slowing Type II 5-reductase, up to two-thirds less testosterone is turned into DHT. Finasteride can restore hair growth and prevent follicle shrinkage in people who are sensitive to DHT.
While there are limited options for treating hair loss associated with aging, there are many other products and treatments available for age management. Talk to an Invigor Medical treatment specialist to learn more about these options and which products may be right for you.
- Presley CL, Kolodziejczyk TC, Pulsipher KJ, et al. A scoping review of pharmacotherapy, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and surgical therapies for androgenic alopecia. Curr Dermatol Rep. 2021; 10: 1-7.
- Gupta AK, Talukder M, Bamimore MA. Natural products for male androgenetic alopecia. Dermatol Ther. 2022 Apr;35(4):e15323. doi: 10.1111/dth.15323. Epub 2022 Jan 27. PMID: 35044013.
- Panahi Y, Taghizadeh M, Marzony ET, Sahebkar A. Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: a randomized comparative trial. Skinmed. 2015 Jan-Feb;13(1):15-21. PMID: 25842469.
- Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD. Randomized trial of aromatherapy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata. Arch Dermatol. 1998 Nov;134(11):1349-52. doi: 10.1001/archderm.134.11.1349. PMID: 9828867.
- Azhar AF. The Evidence Behind Topical Hair Loss Remedies on TikTok. Cutis. 2023 Feb;111(2):E25-E26. doi: 10.12788/cutis.0731. PMID: 37075186.
- Marubayashi A, Nakaya Y, Fukui K, Li M, Arase S. Minoxidil-Induced Hair Growth is Mediated by Adenosine in Cultured Dermal Papilla Cells: Possible Involvement of Sulfonylurea Receptor 2B as a Target of Minoxidil. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2001;117(6):1594-1600. doi:10.1046/j.0022-202x.2001.01570.x
- Messenger AG, Rundegren J. Minoxidil: mechanisms of action on hair growth. Br J Dermatol. Feb 2004;150(2):186-94. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2004.05785.x
- Shorter K, Farjo NP, Picksley SM, Randall VA. Human hair follicles contain two forms of ATP- sensitive potassium channels, only one of which is sensitive to minoxidil. https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.07-099424. The FASEB Journal. 2008/06/01 2008;22(6):1725-1736. doi:https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.07-099424
- DeVillez RL. The therapeutic use of topical minoxidil. Dermatol Clin. Apr 1990;8(2):367-75.
- Olsen EA, Dunlap FE, Funicella T, et al. A randomized clinical trial of 5% topical minoxidil versus 2% topical minoxidil and placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2002;47(3):377-385. doi:10.1067/mjd.2002.124088
- Rundegren, J. A one-year observational study with minoxidil 5% solution in Germany: results of independent efficacy evaluation by physicians and patients. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 50, Issue 3, P91
- Suchonwanit P, Thammarucha S, Leerunyakul K. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2019;13:2777-2786. doi:10.2147/dddt.S214907