Home remedies for preventing hair loss: Old wives tales or hidden gems?
8th April 2016
As a surgeon, my natural instinct is to be cynical of home remedies that have no founding in scientific research. There are a multitude of herbs, foodstuffs and lotions which are said to prevent, delay or treat hair loss.
Here I look at how effective they really are, to separate the myths from the genuine boosters.
Hair oil massage
It is often claimed that head massages can prevent hair loss by stimulating better circulation in the scalp, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles. It is also said this increased blood flow helps drain away toxins that gather in the scalp, damaging healthy hair growth. Some even believe that massage can stimulate dormant hair to start growing again.
Having a head massage may do wonders for your mental and physical health in terms of relaxation but will have no impact upon your hair growth. A head massage may boost circulation but poor circulation does not cause hair loss in the first place.
Indian gooseberry, also known as amla
An amla a day keeps the hair problems away, or so we are told. This small Indian fruit is said to have astonishing health boosting properties which will prevent greying and thinning hair. Followers of Ayurvedic medicine believe that amla can keep people youthful and radiant for up to 100 years.
It is true that, like many fruit and vegetables, amla is packed with vitamins and minerals but amla alone is very unlikely to have any impact on hair loss. Hair loss can be caused by a range of factors, the most common being genetic and hormonal. It can be affected by nutrient deficiencies but this simply means that people need to eat a healthy balanced diet to minimise their risk, not rely on one magic foodstuff to solve all their problems.
Fenugreek is celebrated for its healing properties. The seeds are said to help cure many conditions, including hair loss. When ground into paste and applied to hair, proteins in the seeds are believed to strengthen hair from the roots while a hormone antecedent is said to improve hair growth.
Fenugreek is believed to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It has also traditionally been thought to lower fever and soothe digestive problems. It is certainly nutritious but its effect on hair loss, like many of its supposed ‘medical’ applications, has little scientific backing.
Onion juice may not be an appealing substance to rub on your head but if its supposed curative properties for hair loss were true, it would be worth it. Onion contains sulphur, which is one of the essential nutrients in promoting hair growth. It is said that applying onion juice on scalp twice in a week for two months can stimulate hair growth.
Onion juice may well have a beneficial effect on the appearance of hair, enhancing volume and shine like a conditioner. Its effect on hair growth are less certain. There is no solid scientific evidence that onion juice has any impact on it.
Aloe Vera is renowned for its soothing, moisturising and anti-inflammatory properties, it can therefore help with dryness or itchiness of the scalp. Aloe gel also contains polysaccharides and glycoproteins which are believed to stimulate new skin growth and possibly hair growth.
Aloe Vera’s soothing and moisturising benefits are well documented so it could be used to treat a dry and itchy scalp but there is no certainty over whether it aids skin or hair growth.
While most people think of liquorice as a sweet, the plant, liquorice root, is used to treat many ailments such as asthma, depression, flu, ulcers, arthritis, shingles and more. Among the extensive list of problems that liquorice allegedly prevents is hair loss.
Liquorice undoubtedly contains many compounds that are beneficial to our overall health and this can only improve one’s chances of maintaining a healthy head of hair. But the claim that by applying liquorice to bald areas, one can stimulate hair growth has no basis in fact.
So what works?
There are many causes of hair loss but the most common presentation we see is male pattern balding. In male pattern balding hair loss is caused by the testosterone derivative dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which results in the hair cycle getting shorter and the hair follicles getting smaller until they eventually disappear. Some people are genetically more sensitive to the effects of DHT, hence losing their hair before others. Other forms of hair loss can be due to stress, nutrient deficiency, illness and more.
A good way to maintain your hair for as long as possible, is to look after your overall health with a good diet, supplements where necessary and enough sleep and exercise. Where baldness is caused by DHT and a genetic predisposition it is unlikely that any home remedies will have an impact.
At The Maitland Clinic we get to know each patient before advising them on the best treatment. We will examine their hair and find out about their medical history, lifestyle and wishes and recommend long-term lifestyle changes.
Well-researched non-surgical treatments like finasteride and minoxidil can be very effective in the early stages of hair loss but the only treatment proven to reverse significant hair loss is hair restoration surgery.
If you wish to find out more, get in touch to book your first consultation.