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How to Use Rosemary Oil to Strengthen and Grow Hair

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Hair loss, whether brought on by genetics, stress, or environmental factors, is a pain point that sends many of us on a lengthy and costly journey toward healthy, luscious strands. Rosemary oil has recently been touted as one of the more effective (and affordable) solutions. Although likely best known as a savory herb for your favorite dishes, rosemary is believed to help repair damage and even promote hair growth.

It’s thought to create a healthy environment for strands to grow in by improving circulation to the scalp, moisturizing the skin, as well as soothing dandruff and inflammation.

Preview the best rosemary oil hair products:

TikTok and Instagram have certainly hyped up its greatness (particularly since there’s little evidence to support the efficacy of hair growth vitamins), but what’s actually the truth and what’s fiction? Well, we turned to the experts for the facts on using rosemary oil for hair and learned there’s so much more to this essential oil other than great taste. Keep reading to find out, plus shop some of the best rosemary oil hair products—including top hair growth shampoos and scalp treatments approved by experts.

What is rosemary oil?

First things first. Native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary oil is “a pale liquid oil from the rosemary plant which has an herbaceous aroma,” says cosmetic chemist Ginger King. “It’s often used in perfumes, skincare, and haircare as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial ingredient.”

How can rosemary oil benefit the hair?

Improves hair growth: So, can rosemary oil help with hair growth? Experts say yes. “The rosemary plant contains carnosic acid, which is known to heal nerve damage, tissue damage, and improve cellular turnover,” says Marnie Nussbaum, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist. “Therefore, it encourages nerve growth and improves blood circulation. The reason blood circulation is so important to hair growth is that without a proper blood supply, the follicles do not get the nutrients they need to grow the hair, and they can die off.”

“There is one study that compared [rosemary oil] specifically to minoxidil (aka Rogaine off the shelf) and the finding is that the results appeared similar after six months,” says King. In another study performed on mice, the ingredient has also been shown to inhibit DHT, the male sex hormone that plays a major role in contributing to hair loss in both men and women. If you desire fuller, thicker, and more luscious strands, experts agree rosemary oil is one of the most potent hair growth oils on the market.

Reduces scalp irritation: From that same minoxidil study, the majority of those who used rosemary oil also had less itchy scalps. “The rosemary plant in essential oil form is known to boast anti-inflammatory properties,” says Ope Ofodile, MD, MPH, a board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist at Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta. “This would be especially beneficial to help soothe distressed scalps.”

Can prevent hair loss: “Rosemary oil is a potent antioxidant that can fight against free radicals,” says Dr. Gaby Longsworth, Ph.D. scientist, certified hair practitioner, and owner of the blog Absolutely Everything Curly. These molecules destroy cells over time and can ultimately lead to hair loss by damaging the hair follicle.

Prevents dandruff: “In addition to improving blood circulation to the scalp, rosemary oil eliminates bacteria that clogs hair follicles,” explains Dr. Longworth. This can “potentially reduce the occurrence of flakes on the scalp,” adds King.

May help reduce gray hair: When cells are damaged from environmental aggressors, they can oxide, which research has shown can play a major role in accelerating aging processes, like hair graying. By actively fighting against those free radicals, rosemary oil may also be able to slow down the graying process.

Trichologist Penny James adds that rosemary oil’s aromatherapy benefits “can also be very helpful to reduce stress that’s known to cause graying.”

How long after using rosemary oil should someone expect to see results in hair growth?

Not all hair will magically transform into Rapunzel-length upon using rosemary oil, as it depends on the person’s reaction to it. Also, be prepared to play the waiting game if longer hair is your goal. King says, “There is limited study to prove its effectiveness, but it takes more than six months [of use] to see results.”

Who can use rosemary oil?

“Rosemary essential oil can be used on any hair type because the benefits target the hair follicle, not the hair strand,” says hairstylist Matt Newman. “It is safe to use on color-treated hair, especially because its main use should be directly on the scalp.”

If you have sensitive skin and are unsure how your scalp skin may react, first talk to your dermatologist about integrating the oil into your routine. Newman recommends doing a small patch test first and waiting 24 hours to see if any irritation occurs. “Also, when applying to the scalp, tilt your head backward to avoid any oils dripping into your eyes.”

Also, “There is no data regarding use in pregnancy or breastfeeding; therefore, I would avoid it if possible,” advises Dr. Nussbaum.

How does rosemary oil compare, if at all, to other oils?

Newman notes that rosemary essential oil differs from most carrier oils used in hair care because of its hair follicle health benefits. Hairstylist Cheryl Bergamy agrees, “Unlike other oils (like tea tree and peppermint) that produce hair growth, rosemary oil strengthens and promotes circulation for thirsty hair follicles that are starving of its blood supply and leading to hair loss.” One caveat: “It must be used more sparingly than carrier oils because overexposure can be irritating to the skin,” says Newman.

What are the side effects of using rosemary oil for hair?

The physical weight of the oil could interfere with your style. Newman says that for people with thin or fine hair or a sparse density of hair, the oils can make the hair look greasy and weighed down. “If this is the case for you, try using the product as a pre-shampoo treatment reserved for days when you will be using a clarifying shampoo on your hair.”

How often should I put rosemary oil in my hair?

“If you’re trying to suppress itching due to dandruff, use the oil mixed with compounds three to four times a week,” suggests James. “Massage it directly into the scalp, leave it on for 20 minutes, then shampoo the oils out of the hair and scalp.”

If you have very fine hair and/or an oily scalp, James advises using rosemary oil once a week as a scalp treatment and washing it out of hair immediately to avoid any greasiness.

Can I leave rosemary in my hair overnight?

Although rosemary oil is not harmful, James warns against leaving it in hair overnight. “Leaving any kind of oil on the scalp for a prolonged period of time will upset the microflora of the scalp,” she says. “This can cause itchiness and redness, and it applies to all oils—not just rosemary oil.”

How can I use rosemary oil for hair?

Mix it with a carrier oil. “You can start by using rosemary essential oil one to two times per week and titrate use upwards to daily as tolerated,” says Dr. Nussbaum. “Only use five drops of it, add it to a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil and massage into the scalp for five to ten minutes, and rinse.” Diluting pure rosemary oil helps reduce potency and, therefore, decreases irritation on the skin.

According to James, rosemary oil can safely be combined with most other essential oils.

Blend into shampoo or conditioner. Bergamy suggests adding it to your shampoo or conditioner to get the benefits while washing your hair. Just be sure to thoroughly wash your hair to get the product out well.

Use rosemary oil products. Alternatively, instead of playing scientist and adding rosemary essential oil to other products, you can use ones that already include the ingredient.

On that note, read on for the best rosemary oil products for hair.

Rosemary Mint Purifying Shampoo

Aveda Rosemary Mint Purifying Shampoo

“It smells amazing and is a personal favorite of mine,” says Dr. Nussbaum. “It is great for fine hair as it contains white vinegar as well which decreases product build-up that can cause stress on the follicle.”

HG Shampoo

Bondi Boost HG Shampoo
Credit: Courtesy

Bergamy recommends this vegan-friendly shampoo with rosemary oil for hair growth. She says, “It works great for fine or thinning hair and is packed with vitamins and minerals that revitalize the hair shaft, plus gentle cleansers to help whisk away scalp build-up.”

Magic Elixir Hair Restructuring Concentrate

Kiehl’s Magic Elixir Hair Restructuring Concentrate

Now 25% Off

Credit: Courtesy

Use this ultra-lightweight scalp and hair oil treatment before shampooing to boost your hair’s manageability and shine factor. “It combines rosemary oil and avocado oil to encourage hair growth while delivering moisture,” says Dr. Nussbaum.

Rosemary Scalp Scrub

AROMATICA Rosemary Scalp Scrub
Credit: Courtesy of brand

Aromatica’s scrub features a pointed nozzle to distribute product directly to the root to break up any residue, dandruff, or dryness on the scalp.

Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil

GIRL+HAIR Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil

Not only is this oil dermatologist-formulated (Dr. Camille Howard-Verovic is the founder), but the blend is a minty delight. Rosemary takes the lead to reduce hair thinning, as spearmint oil stimulates the scalp and pumpkin seed oil strengthens and adds shine.

Best Seller

Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil

Mielle Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil
Credit: Amazon

Both Newman and Dr. Longsworth are fans of this product. “It’s great because it can be used as a scalp treatment to precisely deliver the hair follicle benefits,” says Newman. “The oil can be used as a leave-in/styler for natural, textured hair.”

Rosemary Conditioning Hair Oil

Weleda Rosemary Conditioning Hair Oil
Credit: Courtesy

Ethically sourced from Spain, the rosemary in this formula helps deep condition hair and boost shine.

On Sale

EverStrong Thickening Sulfate Free Conditioner

L’Oréal Paris EverStrong Thickening Sulfate Free Conditioner

Now 20% Off

Credit: Amazon

The key ingredient rosemary leaf in this duo was formulated to create thicker-looking hair. Dr. Nussbaum notes it “encourages hair growth without sulfates, dyes, and parabens.”

On Sale

SahaScalp Amla Soothing Scalp Serum

Fable & Mane SahaScalp Amla Soothing Scalp Serum

Now 18% Off

Made with rosemary, amla, and soothing aloe, this serum calms an irritated scalp, boosts overall shine, and stimulates hair growth.


Meet the experts

Ginger King is a New Jersey-based cosmetic chemist.

Dr. Marnie B. Nussbaum is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in non-invasive aesthetic rejuvenation.

Dr. Ope Ofodile is a board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist at Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta.

Dr. Gaby Longsworth, Ph.D. scientist, certified hair practitioner, and owner of the blog Absolutely Everything Curly.

Penny James is a trichologist and founder of the Penny James Salon Trichology Center.


Why trust ELLE Beauty?

Sam Peters is a seasoned commerce writer and editor with over five years of experience covering beauty, fashion, and lifestyle topics. For this piece, she consulted dermatologists and hair experts about the benefits of rosemary oil.

Nerisha Penrose is the Beauty Commerce Editor at ELLE.com. Since joining ELLE.com in 2017, she has interviewed countless skincare professionals and has personally tested the latest and greatest products across makeup, skincare, and hair care.

Headshot of Sam Peters

Sam Peters is a Senior Commerce Editor at Hearst covering fashion, beauty and lifestyle. Her writing has appeared in WWD, Footwear News, Real Simple, PopSugar and Bridal Guide, among others. She enjoys unpacking the latest trends and testing and reviewing some of the most innovative, emerging products on the market. 

Headshot of Nerisha Penrose

Nerisha is the beauty commerce editor at ELLE.com, covering all things beauty (and fashion and music). She has a penchant for sneakers and nude lip glosses, and spends way too much time re-watching 90s sitcoms.

Lettermark

Natalia Trejo is a freelance writer covering fashion, beauty, and lifestyle topics. Her work includes shopping round-ups, celebrity interviews, Latinx culture, and wellness topics. She loves discovering fashion indie brands, the latest beauty must-haves, and popping into cute coffee and vintage shops. 

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