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How to Stimulate Follicles for Hair Growth
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Updated on February 23, 2024

Hair loss is a common concern that affects both men and women, and it can have a significant impact on one’s self-esteem and confidence. Many individuals find themselves worrying about thinning hair or receding hairlines, searching for effective ways to stimulate hair growth.

Understanding the basics of hair composition and the factors that contribute to damaged or dying hair follicles is crucial. In this article, we will explore the science behind hair growth and discuss the top methods for stimulating follicles to promote healthy hair growth.

Table of Contents

What is hair made of?

Before diving into the various ways to stimulate hair follicles, it is essential to understand what hair is made of. Each strand of hair consists of two parts: the hair shaft and the hair follicle.

The hair shaft is the visible part of the hair that extends beyond the surface of the skin, while the hair follicle is the tiny sac beneath the skin’s surface that houses the hair root.

The hair follicle is responsible for producing new hair cells, which then grow and emerge as hair strands.

Why do hair follicles get damaged or die?

Hair follicles consist of cells that divide rapidly and it is this cell division that causes hair to grow. New hair cells form constantly in the hair bulb of each follicle within the scalp. These hair cells accumulate, stick together and harden. As new hardened hair cells attach themselves to the bottom of the hair strand, the hair is slowly pushed up out of the skin. 

The follicles need certain micronutrients from the food we eat to give the cells energy as well as provide the molecular building blocks needed for hair production. 

Hair loss due to genetic factors

Hair follicles can become damaged or die for many reasons. In most cases, genetic and hormonal factors are behind most cases of hair loss, especially in Western Countries. These factors may result in the development of hair loss conditions such as androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male or female pattern baldness

Hair loss due to non-genetic factors

Other factors that contribute to hair follicle damage in both men and women include poor nutrition, certain medications, excessive styling or heat treatments (particularly common in women), and underlying health conditions such as autoimmune disorders or thyroid problems. Poor nutrition that affects hair loss is a factor that may be more important in many developing countries. 

Environmental factors, like pollution and exposure to harmful chemicals, can also take a toll on hair follicles, leading to their deterioration. Excessive sunshine exposure is also a significant factor in southern and tropical countries.

Top ways to stimulate hair growth

Whilst there is not one sole way of stimulating hair growth effectively and naturally, there are some reportedly effective techniques that may help stimulate hair growth in some people. Let’s take a look at the top ways of stimulating follicles for hair growth.

1. Proper nourishment

Nutrition plays a crucial role in hair health and growth. Healthy hair growth is generally the result of good, generalised health, in which proper nourishment and nutrition play a significant role.[1]

garden salad with bread and quails eggs

Scientific studies have highlighted the importance of specific nutrients for stimulating hair growth. Nutrient deficiencies are thought to cause hair to shed, as is often the case in severe malnourishment such as in cases of chronic anorexia.[2] 

Most of what researchers have learned about the effects of nutrition on our hair ironically stems from analysing the changes in the hair of those who lack adequate nutrition.[3] For instance, nutritional supplements such as zinc and biotin are often recommended for those suffering from certain types of hair loss. Studies also show that supplementing the diet with low levels of vitamin D can improve symptoms of androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium.[4] 

One study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that marine protein and other natural ingredients safely and effectively promoted hair growth and reduced hair shedding in women and men with thinning hair.[5] These studies indicate that proper nourishment is essential for supporting healthy hair growth. (Learn more about which vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss and vitamins for hair growth.)

Man buying vitamins for hair growth outside the Wimpole clinic

2. Brushing hair and scalp massage

Regular brushing of the hair has long been recommended as a method to stimulate hair growth. Although scientific studies specifically focusing on hair growth and brushing are limited, research suggests that gentle brushing can help improve blood circulation to the scalp, which may aid in delivering essential nutrients to the hair follicles. Essentially, brushing the hair is a gentler way of massaging the scalp.

woman receiving a scalp massage

Several studies have shown that scalp massage can promote hair growth. Massaging the scalp by adding pressure or rubbing increases the blood flow to the skin’s surface.

Hair follicles need adequate nutrients to be healthy and grow hair, and it is thought that this increase in blood flow, therefore, helps promote hair growth by increasing the nutrient flow to the hair follicles.

A small study of Japanese men who received 4 minutes of standardised scalp massage a day showed an increase in hair thickness 24 weeks after starting the treatment. The researchers concluded that stretching forces result in changes in gene expression in hair follicles and that standardised scalp massage is a way of transmitting mechanical stress to the human dermal papilla cells in subcutaneous tissue.[6]

3. Drinking plenty of water

The effects of drinking sufficient water are not proven. In fact, our body regulates water intake very efficiently, and chronic dehydration is a very rare phenomenon.

Although there are no specific scientific studies directly linking water intake to hair growth, staying hydrated is crucial for overall health and can indirectly benefit hair growth. Water helps transport essential nutrients to the hair follicles and ensures optimal functioning.

Some hair loss could be linked to dehydration as it can lead to dry and brittle hair, which is more prone to breakage. However, this is more likely to be the result of environmental damage such as excessive exposure to the sun and/or high temperatures.

That said, it is important to drink plenty of water throughout the day to maintain good overall hydration and support healthy hair. This is particularly important in the summer months when some people experience more hair shedding than usual and where sun exposure is at its greatest. 

woman drinking a glass of water

4. Use essential oils

Essential oils have been traditionally used for hair growth promotion, but scientific evidence supporting their efficacy is still limited.

One study investigating the efficacy of aromatherapy using the essential oils of thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood in the treatment of alopecia areata showed that 44% of patients showed improvement compared with 15% in the control group.[7]

This study showed, therefore, that aromatherapy can be an effective, safe treatment to help stimulate hair follicles for hair growth. 

Another study found that peppermint oil for hair may also be of benefit when it comes to stimulating hair growth [8]. Peppermint is commonly regarded as an excellent gastric stimulant and carminative as well as being used in cosmetics. Menthol, the principal ingredient of peppermint oil, is said to be responsible for this.[9]

The 2014 study on mice showed that four weeks of topical treatment with peppermint oil induced very thick and long hair growth and promoted the elongation of hair follicles from dermis to subcutis [10]. In other words, the peppermint oil application stimulated the hair follicles in the mice and promoted hair growth.

Indeed, peppermint oil promoted hair growth quite remarkably in comparison to jojoba and saline and at a much quicker rate than applications of Minoxidil, a well-known topical hair loss treatment. However, the results obtained from animal studies do not guarantee the same strength of effect in humans. In addition, not all essential oils are backed up by scientific research (see mustard oil for hair and marula oil for hair, for example).

hand holding a vial of peppermint oil

Rosemary oil is also widely reported as being beneficial for hair growth. One research study comparing rosemary oil with Minoxidil found that after six months of treatment with rosemary oil, there was a significant increase in hair count which was very much comparable to the increase in growth of the group given 2% Minoxidil in patients with androgenetic alopecia [11]. Find out how long you should leave rosemary oil on your hair and see the best rosemary oil for hair growth blends.

While further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms and effectiveness of essential oils for hair growth, these natural remedies are generally considered safe and worth exploring.

5. Medications

If none of the natural ways of stimulating hair growth is effective, or if hair loss is particularly significant, many people seek the advice of a trichologist at a hair loss clinic and opt for medical treatment to stimulate the hair follicles.

Minoxidil and Finasteride are two treatments that can increase hair growth. 

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is a topical treatment that is applied to the scalp, though it can also be taken orally in tablet form.

As a vasodilator, Minoxidil is thought to work by allowing increased blood flow to the scalp and, in doing so, it provides the follicles with more nutrients and oxygen, stimulating hair growth.[12]

Finasteride

Finasteride is a drug that is used to treat male pattern baldness. It is available as both a topical and oral treatment but taking Finasteride tablets is the most popular option.

Finasteride is actually the most commonly prescribed hair loss drug in the world, with almost 70% of surgeons stating that they prescribe always or often to treat male pattern baldness. [13].

Finasteride works by blocking the amount of testosterone in the body that converts to DHT. DHT is the derivative of testosterone that is responsible for most cases of male pattern hair loss as it binds to receptors in the hair follicles and causes them to shrink. By reducing the amount of DHT, this effect is minimised.

When should I see a professional about my hair loss?

While hair loss can be distressing, there are several ways to stimulate follicles and promote hair growth. By incorporating practices such as brushing hair, scalp massage, proper nourishment, staying hydrated, and utilising natural remedies like essential oils, you can create an environment conducive to healthy hair growth.

It is important to note that individual results may vary, and it is always recommended to consult with healthcare professionals or hair loss specialists for personalised advice and treatment options.

How to Stimulate Follicles for Hair Growth, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)Updated on February 23, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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