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Is Olive Oil Good for Hair Growth (and Why?) Evidence Review
Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)
Updated on February 20, 2024

As the media keep praising the health benefits of olive oil, you may be starting to wonder if they can also apply to your locks and whether olive oil is good for hair growth. After all, it has a wide range of beneficial properties as it contains antioxidants [1], anti-inflammatory[2] and antimicrobial agents [3]. So it would not be hard to fathom that it might help with your hair loss as well. 

Unfortunately, however, there is little evidence to support that olive oil can do much for your tresses other than moisturising and nourishing them. There is no human trial to support the idea that it could stimulate hair growth or prevent hair thinning from any type of alopecia. In fact, since it is heavy and greasy, using it on already oily hair might clog your pores, causing common scalp problems such as acne or scalp folliculitis[4]. 

But there’s no need to worry, even if olive oil is likely not one of the best hair growth oils, there are many other great natural remedies for combating hair loss and efficient medication which tackles the root cause of your hair shedding

Keep reading this article to find out more about:

  • The nature and health benefits of olive oil 
  • The relationship between olive oil and hair growth
  • The proven benefits of olive oil for your hair
  • Effective alternatives to olive oil for hair growth
Table of Contents

About olive oil

little bowls of olive oil

Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, but it is also commonly used for cooking in many households nowadays. It has two main varieties, depending on the way it is extracted from olives: regular olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. The main difference is that the extra virgin variety is cold pressed and undergoes the least amount of processing, while the regular one is heated and refined, which can lower its amount of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants [5].  

Olive oil is known to contain natural antioxidant, antiinflammatory and antimicrobial agents (however, the concentration varies among oil blends) and has been shown to have multiple health benefits [6][7]:

  • May play a role in preventing certain types of cancer
  • May help regulate your cholesterol
  • May help diminish blood pressure and stimulate blood circulation
  • May help prevent osteoporosis
  • May improve digestion and help prevent gallstones
  • May help prevent age-related cognitive decline

What does olive oil contain

Extra virgin olive oil normally contains mostly triglycerides of fatty acids – a type of fat found in human blood, which gets converted into energy.  It also has some minor components, such as phenols, beta carotene and lutein, which have proven health benefits [8][9]

The main components of extra virgin olive oil [27]

 

jar of extra virgin olive oil

Triglycerides (98-99%).

  • Oleic acid
  • Linoleic acid
  • Alpha-linolenic acid

 

Minor components (1-2%):

  • Phenols
  • Beta-carotene
  • Lutein
  •  

Is olive oil good for hair growth

So far, no human clinical trials have been made to demonstrate the properties of olive oil for hair growth or in preventing hair loss. The only indication that it may play any role in regulating the hair growth cycle is one small study conducted on mice, which experienced increased hair growth after being treated with topical oleuropein, a substance typically found in olives and olive leaves. However, there are several things that may prevent the conclusions of this study from being extended to humans:

  • Olive oil does not contain as high amounts of oleuropein as olives or olive leaves [10]
  • Mouse skin and hair are different from human scalp and hair
  • The amount of time needed to naturally absorb sufficient oleuropein through the scalp from topically applied olive oil could be very high

Thus, until further research, the only proven way olive oil can help your hair thinning is by moisturising it and thus preventing hair breakage, due to its high content of fatty acids.

Other potential hair and scalp benefits of olive oil

While olive oil may not have proven benefits for hair growth at this time, it does have some properties which may be beneficial for your hair and scalp. However, most of them also require further research to determine the conditions under which they can be effective:

Antioxidant properties 

Excessive exposure to sunlight is not good for your hair and scalp, due to UV radiation. Since olive oil contains natural antioxidants [1] [11], it may reduce oxidative stress [12] and prevent some UV damage to your hair and even help protect your scalp from skin cancer.

While there are no clinical studies in humans to confirm this, one study on mice found that using olive oil topically after exposure to UV radiation did indeed reduce the number of skin tumours they developed. However, using olive oil preventively, before exposure, did not have the same effect [13]. 

Anti-inflammatory properties

Olive oil contains a type of phenols that possess similar anti-inflammatory qualities to Ibuprofen [2],  olive oil is known to have anti-inflammatory properties when ingested [14].

However, no conclusive evidence has so far been presented that it may have the same effect when applied topically [15] So further research is needed to determine whether it can soothe inflammation, irritation or tenderness on your scalp.  

Antimicrobial properties

Olive oil has demonstrated some antimicrobial qualities in vitro [3], including antifungal properties. One in vitro study found it efficient against candida, reducing it by 50% [26].

This means that there is a chance it could help prevent or treat yeast infections on the scalp, such as dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, but more research is needed to determine whether it is also effective when applied on the human scalp against the fungus that causes these conditions.

This is especially important since there are medical professionals who believe olive oil may actually exacerbate dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis by feeding the yeast that causes them [4].  

Moisturising and softening properties

The abundant fatty acids in olive oil are good emollients, which soften and moisturise your hair and scalp and coat your strands in a protective layer that prevents friction-induced breaking or split ends. Moreover, it can seal the hair cuticle, keeping moisture inside for longer. 

Potential side effects of olive oil

greasy hair

Olive oil is generally safe for human consumption, both ingested and used topically on your scalp and hair. It is not known to cause significant irritation or other types of damage to your skin. While it can cause some allergic reactions, they are generally rare and mild.

However, since it is high in fatty acids, using olive oil excessively on your scalp and hair can make them greasy and can clog your pores, which may lead to scalp acne or even folliculitis. So it is best to avoid this type of oil if you already have greasy hair. And make sure you always wash your scalp well with shampoo after using olive oil for your hair. 

scalp acne

How do you use olive oil for your hair?

olive oil being applied to scalp

There are several ways you can use olive oil for your hair.  While neither has been proven to help your hair growth, they can help soften, moisturise and condition your strands, especially if you have dry, brittle hair:

  1. Pour a few drops of olive oil into your hands, then gently massage your scalp. Use a fine-toothed comb to spread the oil evenly on the entire length of your strands. Be aware that the oil can stain your clothes or furniture if it touches them.
  2. Mix the olive oil with other essential oils, such as one of the best rosemary blends for hair growth or peppermint oil for hair growth. Then use the mixture as a hair mask, leaving it on for 30 minutes before washing it out.
  3. Use olive oil only on your split ends, avoiding the scalp and the rest of your hair entirely. This way, you can keep the oil on your hair for longer and prevent your scalp from becoming greasy. Use a comb to distribute the oil and leave it on as much as you feel necessary before washing it out.  

Can olive oil be applied directly on your hair?

applying oil to hair ends

Yes, you can apply olive oil to your hair without needing to dilute it first, as it is not likely to cause irritation or burns on your scalp. In fact, olive oil can even be used as a carrier oil, which means you can use it to dilute other essential oils. 

How long should you leave olive oil in your hair?

It is normally recommended to leave olive oil on your scalp for 15-30 minutes, depending on your hair type (the thicker and drier it is, the more you can keep it in). If you have very dry hair or damaged strands, you can even leave it on overnight, but be sure to wash it well in the morning, to avoid grease buildup. 

The best hair growth oil alternatives to olive oil

jars of essential oils

If you are interested in curbing your hair thinning, here are some of the best essential oils for hair growth you can try:

rosemary oil
  • Pumpkin seed oil for hair – clinical trials have shown promising results in treating male and female pattern baldness [17], though more research is needed to confirm this.
pumpkin seed oil
  • Peppermint oil for hair – animal studies indicate that it may be effective in promoting hair growth [18] (human studies still needed to confirm this). Moreover, its menthol content increases blood flow to your hair follicles and soothes scalp irritation [19][20]. 
peppermint oil
black seed oil
  • Lavender oil – animal studies showed lavender oil may have a hair growth effect (human studies still needed to confirm this) [23]. Moreover, it can soothe scalp irritation, itching, and inflammation [24] and reduce stress and anxiety that can lead to hair loss [25].
Lavender oil

Evidence-based treatment for hair growth

If you are looking for hair growth treatments, you are probably experiencing hair shedding or hair loss. If that is true, in order to get the most effective treatment, you need to book a consultation with a trichologist for the first signs of hair thinning and balding.

They will perform a careful examination of your scalp and hair and diagnose your condition, so they can recommend the appropriate medications and therapies to treat the specific cause of your hair loss. The most common and effective of these are:

  • Minoxidil – Usually applied topically, this medication helps widen the blood vessels in your scalp, so more nutrients can reach your hair follicles and nourish them.
  • Finasteride – One of the most recommended treatments for male pattern baldness, it helps inhibit the excessive production of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that binds to receptors in your hair follicles, making them shrink and preventing them from producing hair. However, it is not recommended for premenopausal women.
  • Steroid creams – These creams are most often used to ease the symptoms of autoimmune conditions, such as alopecia areata or scalp psoriasis.
  • Dermarolling for hair growth – This therapy harnesses your body’s natural healing response, which is triggered by micro punctures made in your scalp with a special tool. It also improves the absorption of hair growth medication, such as topical Minoxidil.
  • Red light therapy for hair growth – Focused red light of certain frequencies is used to stimulate cell metabolism and bring more energy to your hair follicles.
  • Hair transplant – This simple and highly efficient treatment involves harvesting hair follicles from an area with healthy hair on your scalp and reimplanting them in a thinning area.

More and more people opt for hair restoration surgery each year, because surgical advancements in this field made it easier to get a natural looking hair transplant regardless of whether you are getting an FUE or FUT procedure. Moreover, unlike medication which you have to keep taking, a hair transplant is permanent.

See the results for yourself in our before and after hair transplant gallery.

Is Olive Oil Good for Hair Growth (and Why?) Evidence Review, Wimpole Clinic

Sources:
  1. Antioxidant and other biological activities of phenols from olives and olive oil
  2. Molecular Mechanisms of Inflammation. Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Virgin Olive Oil and the Phenolic Compound Oleocanthal
  3. Antimicrobial activities of virgin olive oils in vitro and on lettuce from pathogen-inoculated commercial quick salad bags
  4. Use of Olive Oil for the Treatment of Seborrheic Dermatitis in Children
  5. Potential Health Benefits of Olive Oil and Plant Polyphenols
  6. Bioactive Compounds and Quality of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  7. Potential Health Benefits of Olive Oil and Plant Polyphenols
  8. Antioxidants in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Table Olives: Connections between Agriculture and Processing for Health Choices
  9. A Mechanistic Review of β-Carotene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin in Eye Health and Disease
  10. Oleuropein in Olive and its Pharmacological Effects
  11. Antioxidant effect of natural phenols on olive oil
  12. Critical Review on the Significance of Olive Phytochemicals in Plant Physiology and Human Health
  13. Protective effect of topically applied olive oil against photocarcinogenesis following UVB exposure of mice
  14. Antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phenolic activities in extra virgin olive oil
  15. Anti-Inflammatory and Restorative Effects of Olives in Topical Application
  16. Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: a randomized comparative trial
  17. Pumpkin seed oil vs. minoxidil 5% topical foam for the treatment of female pattern hair loss: A randomized comparative trial
  18. Peppermint Oil Promotes Hair Growth without Toxic Signs
  19. Peppermint essential oil: its phytochemistry, biological activity, pharmacological effect and application
  20. Mechanisms and time course of menthol-induced cutaneous vasodilation
  21. Evaluation of a Therapeutic Alternative for Telogen Effluvium: A Pilot Study
  22. Development and Evaluation of Herbal Hair Serum: A traditional way to Improve Hair Quality
  23. Hair Growth-Promoting Effects of Lavender Oil in C57BL/6 Mice
  24. Topical lavender oil for the treatment of recurrent aphthous ulceration.
  25. The effects of lavender oil inhalation on emotional states, autonomic nervous system, and brain electrical activity
  26. Antifungal Activity of Cinnamon Oil and Olive Oil against Candida Spp. Isolated from Blood Stream Infections
  27. Virgin olive oil as a fundamental nutritional component and skin protector
Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)Updated on February 20, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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