Sesame oil is a popular ingredient used in cooking around the world. It’s perhaps best known for its strong flavor and its penetrating aroma.
But have you considered that sesame oil may be of use for hair loss sufferers?
You may be wondering:
“Can sesame oil actually stop hair loss? Can it possibly even contribute to hair growth?”
In this article, I’ll answer these questions and more.
I’ll break down the scientific research on sesame oil. This will include an in-depth look at its potential benefits for the scalp and hair.
Are you interested in learning more? Then read on!
What Is Sesame Oil?
As the name suggests, sesame oil is an oil obtained from the sesame (Sesamum indicum) plant.
The oil has been used in cooking for more than 6,000 years and is known for its rich nutty flavor. In both ancient and more recent times, this oil has also been incorporated as a cosmetic (1).
The oil is rich in fatty acids, sterols, and tocopherols (2). These may lend themselves to its many health benefits and uses.
What Are the Health Benefits of Sesame Oil?
Before we can consider how sesame oil may benefit the hair, it’s important to understand how it contributes to overall health.
Inflammation is a common occurrence in the human body.
After all, it’s one of the immune system’s most effective ways at healing the body and protecting against infection.
But when inflammation becomes classified as chronic, it can cause a host of problems.
One such problem is hair loss.
So, how might sesame oil help?
A 2015 clinical study showed that sesame oil may be a powerful anti-inflammatory (3).
The study consisted of 150 patients all of whom suffered from trauma to the upper or lower extremities.
The patients were split into two groups. Group one received regular care, while group two received regular care and topical application of sesame oil.
As the results showed, the sesame oil group rated their pain lower, on average, than the control group. This was further supported by the fact that patients in the sesame oil group required less use of NSAIDs to control their pain than the control group.
It Fights Against Free Radicals
It can be difficult to face the inevitable fact that aging happens.
But did you know that premature aging can be controlled, to a certain extent, with the use of antioxidants?
Antioxidants are compounds that are produced naturally by the body and found in many foods. These compounds are beneficial in that they donate their own electrons to harmful molecules in the body known as free radicals (4).
How does this help?
Free radicals are known as scavengers because they’re molecules which are missing one or more of their own electrons. But instead of dying or making do, they aim to steal electrons from the molecules of surrounding tissues.
This is a natural process that occurs within the body, but it’s also one that contributes to the tell-tale signs of aging: greying hair, wrinkles, and even hair loss.
The good news is that antioxidants exist in the natural world, and this includes within sesame oil (5).
Sesame oil is a rich source of lignans including sesamin, sesamolin, and sesaminol (6). These lignans exhibit significant antioxidant abilities.
It Moisturizes and Heals the Skin
There are some oils which are better for the skin than others. Sesame oil is one of those.
Sesame oil is highly hydrophobic, which means it repels water so as to protect the skin from overdrying. And it’s also high in linoleic acid, which is a natural fatty acid found in the skin that helps to protect the skin’s barrier (1).
If it’s moisturizing and skin barrier abilities weren’t enough, you’ll also be happy to know that sesame contains high levels of tocopherols (7).
Tocopherols are a type of vitamin E known to play a role in wound healing (8).
These vitamins can help in the treatment of major wounds, but also in repairing minor cuts, scrapes, and even cracked skin.
Can Sesame Oil Be Used to Treat Hair Loss?
What is it that we know about sesame oil at this point?
Sesame has been shown to be an effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in the human body. It has also been proven to act as a skin barrier so as to protect the skin from damage, and it may even aid in wound healing.
But do any of these benefits translate to the ability to treat hair loss?
The answer to this question may depend on the type of hair loss you have.
There are many types of hair loss, though the two most common are Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA, also known as pattern balding) and Alopecia Areata (AA).
The former is a genetic condition believed to be triggered by a sensitivity to the androgen hormone DHT (9). The latter is an autoimmune condition with a still unknown cause (10).
The anti-inflammatory abilities of sesame oil may lend themselves to the treatment of AA. But sesame may be even more effective in the treatment of AGA.
If a sensitivity to the hormone DHT is the cause of pattern balding, then it makes sense that you’d aim to lower the levels of this hormone. In fact, the FDA-approved medication finasteride does just that.
It appears that sesame oil may have that same ability.
While further research on the topic is still needed, there was one study which showed that phytosterols (a compound found in sesame) have a direct effect on levels of testosterone and the enzyme 5-α-Reductase.
This is the enzyme responsible for changing testosterone into DHT, and so less 5α-R activity means lower levels of DHT.
The study showed that feeding phytosterols to rats over a period of 22 days resulted in a 33 percent reduction in serum testosterone when compared with controls (11). The levels of 5α-R were reduced, also, by 41 to 44 percent in the liver and 33 percent in the prostate.
These results don’t mean that sesame oil is the “cure” for hair loss. But it may certainly help to slow the process.
Sesame Oil and Hair Growth: The Scientific Evidence
With the many observed benefits of sesame oil ingestion, you may be wondering whether it can be used topically for hair growth.
The good news is researchers from South Korea asked this very same question, and they had their findings published in 2010 (12).
The researchers utilized three separate solutions within their study. Saline solution was used as a negative control. Three percent minoxidil was used as a positive control. And black sesame oil was used as the experimental solution
As the use of sesame oil for hair growth had not yet been tested, the researchers used animal models (mice) in their experiment.
The mice were five weeks of age at the beginning of the trial, and they were split into three groups.
Each group received an 100 µl application of their assigned solution each day.
Group I received saline, Group II received minoxidil, and Group III received black sesame oil.
These applications were performed one per day, six days per week. This continued for a total of three weeks.
But how was the efficacy of each treatment tracked?
The researchers used a variety of means.
To track hair growth, the mice were observed visually and, at the end, histologically.
But that’s not all.
The researchers also monitored the activities of enzymes (such as ALP) and the expression of growth factors (such as IGF-1).
By the end of the three-week study, the results were clear.
As was to be expected, the saline group saw little in the way of hair follicle development and elongation.
But hair development and elongation of the follicles was noted in both the minoxidil and sesame seed oil groups. And there was also significant enzyme and growth factor activity.
Skin ALP levels were significantly higher in the sesame seed oil group by week two, and this continued on to week three. The same can be said for serum γ-GT, skin γ-GT, and IGF-1 expression in the skin.
So, what did the researchers conclude?
“These results indicate that black sesame oil effectively stimulated hair growth in an animal model via several mechanisms and that it can be used practically for hair growth or prevention of hair loss in human beings.”
How to Use Sesame Oil for Hair Growth
While we cannot guarantee that sesame oil will provide you the results you’re looking for, it’s certainly an ingredient that’s worth trying. So, how can you incorporate sesame oil into your hair care routine?
Add Sesame to Your Diet
Sesame seeds and oil are versatile ingredients which can be added to a variety of dishes.
If you prefer to incorporate sesame directly, you can certainly ingest a teaspoon or two of the oil on its own. However, sesame has a very strong flavor that can be overwhelming.
The best way to incorporate it, then, is by adding it to your meals.
Sesame oil can be used in place of canola and olive oils for frying. You can also add it to soups and stews, but remember that a little goes a long way.
You can also use sesame seeds to garnish your salads, soups, vegetables, and meats.
Take a Sesame Oil Supplement
Because sesame oil contains so many beneficial components – including fatty acids, sterols, and tocopherols – you may want to take it as a daily supplement.
These will often be in the form of gel capsules, and they’re a quick and easy way to get your daily dose of sesame.
Do keep in mind that there’s still a lot of debate surrounding the bioavailability and absorption of supplements and whether they offer the same benefits as direct ingestion (13).
This shouldn’t keep you from taking a sesame oil supplement if you think that’s best, but it’s something to consider if you can find other ways of adding the oil to your diet and routine.
Apply Sesame Oil Topically
If you’d prefer to take a more direct approach to sesame use, then you can also apply it topically to the scalp.
Just like other cosmetic oils, such as coconut and almond, you can apply sesame oil to the hair and scalp to act as a moisturizing agent.
You can even add in a simple scalp massage routine to ensure that the oil is dispersed evenly, as well as to stimulate blood flow.
A basic routine may look like this:
- Place your thumbs, index fingers, and middle fingers on either side of your scalp just above the ears. Begin to move them in a gentle circular motion.
- Continue this motion as you move slowly towards the top of the scalp.
- Remain at the crown for one to two minutes, and then begin to move towards the temples while retracing any areas you think you may have missed.
- Continue the circulation massage at the temples, and then make your way to the forehead.
- Once your hands have met in the middle, return to the sides of the scalp, and then slowly trace your way on both sides to the base of the skull.
This routine should take no more than ten minutes, and it can help you to create healthy blood flow to the follicles.
Are you not too keen on your hair smelling like sesame oil? You can use essential oils like rosemary and peppermint to mask the scent.
These oils also provide benefits of their own when it comes to hair growth, so it’s not a bad idea to add them to your routine.
Is There a Risk of Side Effects from Using Sesame Oil?
Just as with medications and other alternative treatments, there is always a risk of side effects.
The risk is a bit greater with sesame oil, though.
While the exact number of people with an allergy to sesame is unknown, the cases are certainly growing (14).
How can you know if you’re allergic to sesame?
The signs of a mild allergic reaction include itching and hives. But an allergy such as sesame can quickly turn lethal if not treated immediately.
The signs of a severe allergic reaction include swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat, nausea and vomiting, and increased heart rate.
This isn’t said to scare you away from sesame oil, but to inform you of the potential dangers.
To be safe, it’s important to test the sesame oil on your skin.
The best place to test it is on the inside of your wrist. You can place a dab of it on your wrist and then check in a few hours for a reaction.
If none is present, you may proceed with using it on your scalp.
What You Should Look for In Sesame Oil
You can go to just about any supermarket and purchase sesame oil off the shelf. But no two oils are created equal.
Your best bet is to choose a brand of sesame oil that has been as minimally processed as possible.
On the label, this will often be listed as “virgin” and “unfiltered.”
This means that the oil has gone through the least amount of processing so as to retain the most nutrients.
If you use sesame oil topically or internally, does it mean you will regrow your hair fully? Likely not. However, the advantages of its use cannot be dismissed.
The use of sesame oil may help to combat inflammation, and it seems to even fight against free radicals. As an added bonus, the oil has also been shown to moisturize and heal the skin.
So whether you choose to use it as a topical ointment, as a garnish on your food, or take it in a supplement then you may certainly receive some benefits.
Do you have questions about sesame and its benefits? Please feel free to leave a comment below.