There is no “one size fits all” formula for hair regrowth since there can be many causes for thinning hair. For some people, an insidious nutritional deficiency might be at the core of their hair loss problems.
And for that segment of the population, there’s a safe, natural product that may help reduce thinning and regrow hair — it’s called magnesium oil.
This article will explain how and why it works using proven, scientific evidence. It will also discuss the possible benefits of using magnesium oil, and how to use it properly to grow — and maintain — your hair.
Why Magnesium is Important to You — And Your Hair
Magnesium is an important mineral that helps with over 300 essential processes in your body, including blood glucose and blood pressure regulation, protein synthesis, and nerve and muscle control (1).
Although most of the magnesium in your body (50 to 60 percent) is found in your bones, about one percent is accounted for in blood serum, with the rest inhabiting your soft tissues (2).
Despite its essential function, magnesium deficiency is rampant in today’s populations, both due to soil depletion and poor dietary habits (3).
Signs of magnesium deficiency can range from subtle (4):
- Muscular weakness
- Coronary artery disease
- Mitral valve prolapse
- Heart failure
Obviously, magnesium can have a profound impact on your body. But it can also have an important — and impactful — effect on your hair.
Magnesium is, in part, responsible for the protein synthesis that contributes to healthy cell growth and “ripening.” In addition, it contributes to the repression of inflammation that can be associated with hair shedding(6)(7).
There is also reason to suspect that magnesium can be a potent weapon in combating scalp calcification — a leading cause of scalp conditions that contribute to hair loss and shedding.
Magnesium, Inflammation, and Hair Loss
Inflammation is your body’s natural reaction to foreign invaders, injury, and trauma.
Magnesium deficiency has been found to be a culprit in widespread chronic inflammation, and supplementation with magnesium is critical in subduing the inflammatory process (8).
While some inflammation is necessary, chronic inflammation can cause a host of undesirable health consequences, one of which is hair loss (9).
When inflammation is present in the scalp, microscopic changes show lymphocytic folliculitis present at the base of hair follicles (10).
What this means is that the inflammatory process is contributing to the deposit of various substances, like calcium, fat, and platelets into the scalp and follicles in an attempt to control the inflammation.
Magnesium can efficiently disrupt the cycle of inflammation to help scalp and follicles return to normal. In addition, magnesium has an impact on up-regulation and down-regulation of certain genes, some of which are related to the regulation of inflammatory pathways (11).
Importantly, magnesium supplementation has wide-ranging anti-inflammatory benefits, with extracellular magnesium standing out as the most important form for protection against inflammation (12).
This means that for the large number of people whose hair loss is caused or exacerbated by inflammation, magnesium can slow, halt, and even reverse the inflammatory process to allow hair regrowth to recur.
Magnesium, Calcification, and Hair Loss
Along with inflammation comes a build-up of calcium and other substances that can cause plaques on your scalp that inhibit hair growth.
In this mechanism, poor circulation due to calcification keeps follicles from receiving nutrients and oxygen through blood flow and contributes to a build-up of DHT, free radicals, and other substances that block the natural functions of your hair’s follicles.
Studies show that excess calcium in the blood contributes to mineralization (in other words, calcification) of follicle tissue when inflammatory changes are present (13).
It’s also interesting to note that injury has been shown to promote calcification, and that the presence of DHT can speed up the process (14).
But the presence of DHT isn’t the only contributor to calcification. In fact, the presence of androgens alone may actually prevent against calcification (15).
So, what is another contributor to the process?
It may be that individuals with increased androgen receptors and am imbalance of calcium regulators are more susceptible to calcification (16).
If left untreated, this can eventually lead to poor blood flow and oxygen levels within the scalp which just further contributes to the problem.
Magnesium is important in controlling calcium imbalance. This is accomplished, in part, by regulation of three important hormones in your body — the parathyroid hormone, calcitonin, and vitamin D (17).
Through this regulation, magnesium prevents and reverses soft tissue calcification by removing excess calcium from the bloodstream and transporting it to your bones to help build strong bone material (18).
One study showed that magnesium has a powerful effect on calcified tissues, effectively reversing the process and returning the tissue to normal, healthy function. In this study, the magnesium was applied topically over calcifications in joints, ligaments, and tendons.
Over the 20 week study, most calcifications disappeared entirely.
As scientific evidence for the efficacy of topical magnesium has mounted, it has earned a new name: transdermal magnesium therapy (19).
Topically-Applied Magnesium Oil and Hair Regrowth
You can see how important magnesium is to both controlling the inflammation that causes hair loss and preventing and reversing the scalp calcification that prevents new, healthy hair from growing.
Fortunately, getting magnesium into your hair care routine is a simple and cost-effective way to encourage new hair growth.
Magnesium oil in not a “true” oil. Instead, it is a solution of magnesium chloride flakes dissolved in water that takes on an oily feel when prepared. On average, magnesium oil provides approximately 2400 mg of magnesium per ounce when applied topically.
One ounce (30 ml) should be enough to deliver powerful benefits to your scalp and hair follicles. Make sure to apply a dilute amount in a small area first, to test your sensitivity.
If your magnesium oil comes in a pour bottle, you might consider decanting it into a spray bottle to cover a larger area of your scalp with a more even distribution of product, although this is entirely a personal decision.
The best way to apply magnesium oil for hair growth is to combine application with a scalp massage, which will stimulate circulation (20).
Increased circulation brings blood closer to the scalp’s surface where it can access the magnesium and transport it to your skin’s cell matrix to encourage growth.
It’s common to feel a tingling sensation when applying the oil. Don’t panic — this is a sign the magnesium is stimulating circulation and the sensation should eventually disappear.
After massaging it in, leave the oil on your scalp for at least 30 minutes before wiping or washing it off. Don’t leave it on for more than 30 minutes, however, or it could have a dehydrating effect on your scalp and hair.
Repeat this process a few times a week. If you want, you can use it daily to accelerate results.
Depending on the current ratio of magnesium to calcium in your body, it may take weeks, months, or years to see results.
Increasing the Effectiveness of Topical Magnesium Oil for Hair Regrowth
One of the best — and most effective — ways of increasing the effectiveness of your topical magnesium oil solution is to find a way to get it deep within the dermal structures of the scalp.
That’s where an inexpensive and easy-to-use device — the dermaroller — comes into play.
A dermaroller is a small, metal drum-like roller with tiny, hair-thin sharpened pins attached. When you roll the device over the surface of your scalp, the tiny needles penetrate the skin to cause mild damage to skin’s surface.
A similar device, the dermastamp, is a handle with fixed (non-rolling) pins. Because the device doesn’t roll, it gives you more control and is less likely to tear nearby hair.
When the cells of your scalp are damaged in this way, your body rushes to increase blood flow to the area, increasing circulation as well as absorption and distribution of the magnesium oil.
As an added benefit, your body increases cell production in the wounded area, further aiding hair regrowth (21).
When using the dermaroller technique with magnesium oil, be sure to wait eight to 12 hours between use of the dermaroller and application of the magnesium oil to prevent discomfort.
Hair Regrowth from the Inside Out — Supplementing with Magnesium
Taking an oral magnesium supplement has many benefits for your health in addition to increased hair growth, including the prevention of (22):
- Sleep disorders
- Muscle spasms
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Chronic fatigue
The daily recommended amount of magnesium for adults in 400 mg. Magnesium is available in foods like (22):
- Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
- Fruit, particularly figs, avocado, raspberries, and bananas
- Nuts and seeds
- Black and kidney beans, chickpeas
- Peas, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, artichokes, brussels sprouts
- Tuna, salmon, mackerel
- Whole grains
- Raw cacao
However, today’s modern diet, full of fast and processed foods, means that most people don’t get a sufficient amount of magnesium from the foods they eat.
Therefore, it’s important to take a magnesium supplement daily for optimal hair and body health.
One of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium is magnesium citrate, which studies show is more effective than magnesium oxide and magnesium chelate. Magnesium orotate is another well-tolerated form of magnesium with proven health benefits (23)(24).
It’s best to take your magnesium in the evening, because it contributes to feelings of calm and a restful sleep. (25)
Spotlight: Adding Magnesium to Your Hair Care Regimen
This article has already discussed two important things you can do to help incorporate magnesium in the form of oil into your hair care routine — scalp massage and dermarolling (also called microneedling).
Now, we’ll take a closer look at both of these techniques and explore the scientifically-proven reasons behind the good results they produce for sufferers of androgenetic alopecia.
Scalp massage is an easy, non-invasive way to stimulate your scalp and increase circulation to your hair follicles. Increased circulation has many benefits, and one of them is to more efficiently transport topical agents like magnesium oil into the skin.
To massage your scalp, you can use the pads of your fingers in a circular, rhythmic motion. You can even pinch the skin lightly to increase scalp mobility and flexibility.
If you wish, you can purchase inexpensive scalp massagers online that might help you to massage longer for maximum benefits.
Best of all, this simple technique is scientifically proven to increase hair thickness with just four minutes of daily massage over a 24-week period of time (26).
Researchers noted that the mechanical stress (massage) caused the dermal papilla cells of the scalp to increase stem cell action through gene expression (27).
Scalp Massage: A Primer
Fortunately, learning scalp massage doesn’t require classes or expensive equipment. All you need is a few minutes of time and your own two hands.
Here’s a brief overview of one effective way to massage your scalp.
Spread your fingers as wide as is comfortable and place each hand on the side of your head, reaching through the hair to your scalp.
Now, move your fingers in a circular motion using gentle pressure with the pads of your fingers.
Continue massaging the sides of your scalp for one to two minutes, and then slowly move your hands towards the crown (top) of your head.
Massage the crown for one to two minutes, and then place your fingers on your hairline. Begin massaging at the top center, above your forehead, and slowly work out to temples, keeping your fingers in the hairline area.
Move from the sides to the center of your hairline and back again for one to two minutes, then move your hands to the back of your scalp.
After you finish with one to two minutes of massage on the back of your scalp you can revisit previous areas if you feel you missed a spot or you need extra benefit in an area.
Adding magnesium oil to your massage routine is an excellent way to provide your hair with two hair re-growing benefits: increased circulation and magnesium oil.
Microneedling with a Dermaroller
Earlier, this article discussed the benefits of using a dermaroller to increase absorption of magnesium oil in your scalp.
Microneedling is a safe, easy, minimally-invasive therapeutic technique that was originally used for skin rejuvenation. After much study, however, microneedling was found to be effective in a number of clinical applications, including (28):
- Burn scar treatment
- Alopecia treatment
- Stretch mark removal
- Drug delivery (penetration through skin)
- Hyperhidrosis treatment
Notice that microneedling works for both alopecia (hair loss) and providing increased delivery of drugs (or any solution) through skin penetration.
This makes microneedling therapy the perfect adjunct for delivering magnesium oil to the skin of your scalp for increased absorption and better hair regrowth results.
With microneedling, a specialized tool called a dermaroller or dermastamp is rolled across the scalp to mike tiny wounds in your skin.
As these wounds heal, they go through a three-stage process which involves:
- Proliferation, and
This can aid in an increase in new skin cells as well as the development of collagen. Studies show that collagen in essential in the regeneration of new hair follicles and has been associated with an increase in hair growth (29)(30).
Most importantly, microneedling has been proven to be effective in inducing hair growth in humans. Microneedling increases growth factors and stimulates stem cells in hair follicles.
One study showed that adding microneedling to a Minoxidil therapy regimen produced better hair regrowth results that Minoxidil alone (31).
If you’d like to add microneedling into your routine, here’s how.
First, you’ll need to choose a tool. Currently, the two most popular for home use are the dermaroller and the dermastamp.
Most of the studies conducted on microneedling used a dermaroller, but if you choose to use this tool you must be extra careful when rolling it across your scalp.
The dermaroller is contains needles placed on a wide, rolling drum. You roll the needles over the scalp, and the needles puncture the skin. You must be careful not to use it too energetically, because it can dislodge nearby hairs and puncture too deeply.
On the other hand, the dermastamp, a tool with needles placed on a square or rectangular block at the end of a handle, like a traditional rubber stamp, gives you much more control over the process.
To use the dermastamp, you just snug it against your scalp and press lightly down. The lack of back-and-forth movement allows you to target an area more effectively without the chance for accidental damage.
Microneedling may be a bit uncomfortable, but it should never be painful. A painful treatment means your needle is too long or you are applying undue pressure.
Best results are seen when you start with a scalp that’s clean and free of sweat, sebum, and product build-up. To properly cleanse your scalp, use a salicylic acid peel to remove any layer of build up that’s present.
This requires you to apply coconut oil to the scalp for 30 minutes, and then add a few drops of salicylic acid (15% solution or less). After 10 minutes, rinse and peel away the excess salicylic acid.
Next, using the tool of your choice, apply it to the area of hair thinning and apply pressure.
If you’re using a roller, roll over the area in different directions (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal) four to five times. If using the stamp, place the tool in different directions upon each pressing.
Repeat this on all areas of hair loss.
You should then clean the tool (using an antibacterial wash and boiling water) so it’s ready for your next session.
If you’re using magnesium oil, wait until eight to 12 hours after you’ve completed your microneedling session. This will give your scalp time to begin to heal, but the wounds will still be delicate enough where oil can easily penetrate.
Magnesium Supplementation — Realistic Expectations
While it’s possible to get remarkable results from adding magnesium, both oral and topical, to your hair care regimen, you should have realistic expectations regarding this therapy.
For example, if magnesium deficiency is not playing a part in your individual hair loss situation, you may see minimal — or no — results from supplementation.
However, since magnesium is relatively well-tolerated, adding it is an easy and healthy way to potentially boost the effectiveness of your current regimen.
Minoxidil: A Viable Alternative to Magnesium Oil?
There’s an ever-increasing trend towards ‘all-natural’ and ‘organic’ products, and this leads to many hair loss sufferers to lean away from the more traditional treatment route.
One such traditional treatment option is minoxidil.
Minoxidil is a topical solution that was first developed as an oral tablet for the treatment of hypertension (32).
One side effect of the tablet was hypertrichosis, or excess hair growth. This discovery led researchers to develop (and test) a topical formulation, which was then approved for use in the treatment of AGA in 1984 (33).
Interestingly, there is still no definitive answer as to how minoxidil works.
- Stimulation of blood flow
- Upregulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which contributes to healthy vascularization and hair growth
- Opening of potassium channels
But no matter how the drug works (and it’s likely a combination of the three above theories), there is proof that it’s very effective in regrowing lost hair.
Study: Topical minoxidil in early male pattern baldness
One of the first studies performed on minoxidil after its approval by the FDA was carried out with the help of 126 healthy men with AGA (37).
The men were split into three groups and then received either:
- 2 percent minoxidil
- 3 percent minoxidil
The study lasted for 12 months, and after four months the placebo group was switched over to 3 percent minoxidil.
The groups who received 2 percent minoxidil and 3 percent minoxidil showed marked improvement in hair count over the placebo group by the end of four months. The group to switch from placebo to 3 percent minoxidil also showed an increase in hair count by the end of the study.
Ultimately, 24 percent to 56 percent of participants experienced moderate to dense regrowth of their vertex hair.
Study: Five-year follow-up of men with androgenetic alopecia treated with topical minoxidil
While immediate results of minoxidil are good to know, researchers and hair loss sufferers alike are apt to want to know whether these results will continue in the long term. That’s why researchers recruited 31 men from the previous study to continue treatment for four additional one-year periods (38).
The men in the study continued with either 2 percent minoxidil or 3 percent minoxidil, and at the end of the study they had been using the solution for four-and-a-half to five years.
Hair counts were taken at various points throughout the study, including at two years and nine months, three years, and four-and-a-half years.
The results of minoxidil treatment peaked at one year, and a slight decrease in average hair count numbers was noted at three years. However, there was still a significant increase over baseline hair counts by the four-and-a-half year mark.
So, is minoxidil an acceptable alternative to magnesium oil? Absolutely!
The fact that it shows sustained results is great news for hair loss sufferers.
And its ability to increase blood flow to the scalp is a great way to combat calcification and fibrosis, both of which contribute to permanent balding.
Magnesium oil may be a powerful tool to fight hair loss, encourage regrowth and hair thickening, and contribute to overall health. Best of all, magnesium is a safe, effective, and natural substance that your body needs for optimal health.
You can easily add magnesium to your hair regrowth regimen by applying the oil directly to your scalp with a circulation-boosting scalp massage or after a microneedling treatment you can do at home.
It’s best to supplement with oral magnesium as well, so you are treating your hair loss from the inside and the outside. However, remember that if your hair loss isn’t stemming from, or exacerbated by, a magnesium deficiency you may have limited results.
Magnesium oil is readily available from online sources or you can make your own by mixing equal parts of magnesium chloride flakes with distilled water.
But other options – including minoxidil therapy – do exist which can offer you the same (if not better) results.