Viral TikTok videos of rosemary oil being rubbed into the scalp to fight hair loss could have the opposite effect, experts warn.
More than one billion people have now watched clips about the so-called natural remedy on the social media platform, and thousands of influencers have shared how their thinning tresses have drastically regrown in weeks – something no medicine can do.
In one video viewed more than four million times, British influencer Regan Ellis told her 250,000 followers that rosemary oil had reversed her hair loss, caused by the condition alopecia, in ‘a couple of weeks’.
In another video, mother-of-two Amy-Jo Simpson, who has 2.4 million followers, said she had seen a ‘big growth’ with ‘new hair coming through’ within months.
The video, which was posted last month, has already exceeded 800,000 views.
More than one billion people have now watched clips about the so-called natural remedy on the social media platform, and thousands of influencers have shared how their thinning tresses have drastically regrown in weeks – something no medicine can do
Chemists say they are now seeing record sales of rosemary oil. The natural health high street shop Holland & Barrett has had a 70 per cent increase in sales in the past year, while independent pharmacy, Landys Chemist, says sales have risen by 2,200 per cent since May.
But some skin specialists are worried that using the amount of rosemary oil influencers are promoting could actually lead to hair loss.
‘There is no good evidence to suggest that rosemary oil can regrow hair,’ says Dr Mia Jing Gao, a London-based consultant dermatologist. ‘For most people, it will do absolutely nothing. But for others it can irritate the scalp and ultimately cause them to lose hair.’
Contrary to the glowing testimonials online, others have take to social media to complain the ‘remedy’ had caused hair to fall out.
TikTok user Lesley Edwards responded to Amy-Jo Simpson’s video to say: ‘This made my hair fall out.’ Ms Edwards added that she had been using rosemary oil once a week but has now stopped due to how much hair she lost.
Another responded: ‘After three months of use I’ve still got extreme hair loss every day.’
But some skin specialists are worried that using the amount of rosemary oil influencers are promoting could actually lead to hair loss
Many of the most popular posts are, in fact, paid promotions. Regan Ellis, Amy-Jo Simpson and at least ten other well-followed advocates were sponsored by Nature Spell, which sells a 150ml bottle of rosemary oil online for £8.
‘This trend appears to be driven not by science but by influencers eager for views,’ adds Dr Gao.
The popularity of quick-fix remedies is understandable – some 15 million Britons suffer from hair loss. The most common cause is androgenetic alopecia – thought to be hereditary, this is commonly called male/female pattern baldness. About half of all men and one in ten women are affected to some degree by the age of 50, but the problem can also start earlier.
Other causes of hair loss include nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, problems with the immune system and is a side effect of many medicines.
There are a number of effective treatments which can slow, or even reverse, certain types of hair loss.
Minoxidil, which is applied directly to the skin, and finasteride, a daily tablet, are two prescribed treatments which have been shown in clinical trials to combat pattern baldness. But in rare cases, patients who take finasteride can experience depression, low libido and erectile dysfunction.
In March, The Mail on Sunday revealed that health watchdogs had launched an investigation into finasteride after a three-fold increase since 2020 in men reporting these serious side effects.
Experts say natural hair-loss treatments, such as rosemary oil, appeal to people worried about side effects from pharmaceutical drugs.
Dr Stefanie Williams, dermatologist and medical director of Eudelo Dermatology & Skin Wellbeing clinic, explains: ‘Many assume natural remedies are safer than pharmaceutical drugs, but these products carry the risk of side effects, too.’
So could there be anything in the claims about rosemary oil?
One 2015 study, which involved 100 people with pattern baldness, found rosemary oil was just as effective at increasing hair growth over six months as minoxidil. This is frequently cited by influencers as a reason to buy rosemary oil.
However, experts point out there are flaws in this research.
Firstly, the study compares the effectiveness of rosemary oil with a low-strength form of minoxidil called minoxidil two per cent. The standard dose in over-the-counter minoxidil is five per cent.
The research also found patients only saw any change to their hair after six months of regular use. But many influencers claim they can notice an effect within weeks.
‘Nine out of ten people who suffer hair loss will see spontaneous hair regrowth at some point,’ says Dr Gao. ‘This study does not prove that rosemary oil is responsible for it.’
Pregnant women are advised to avoid the product as research suggests it can trigger contractions and, rarely, lead to a miscarriage.
But experts also worry that applying rosemary oil directly to the scalp can inflame the area and trigger further hair loss – notably with higher-strength doses.
While Nature Spell’s rosemary oil is diluted with almond and sunflower oils, other products contain stronger doses. One bottle of undiluted oil is on Amazon for £15.
Other videos on TikTok show recipes for home-made rosemary oil, which can be made by boiling leaves of the plant.
‘Rosemary oil, especially in its undiluted form, can be irritating on the skin. This can lead to more hair loss,’ says Dr Sharon Wong, a London-based consultant dermatologist.
Experts believe more research should be done on the possible benefits of rosemary oil, but argue that people should avoid it while there is such little evidence to support use.
‘Right now, it’s not something I’d recommend,’ says Dr Williams. ‘People need to be careful about putting these untested substances on their skin and hair.’