Alopecia treatment to boost hair growth using natural oils
Available options for Alopecia treatment typically involve the use of steroids and medication that simply suppress activities on the surface or scalp level that would lead to hair loss. However, any form of medicated treatment on the scalp level doesn’t address the root cause, which lies in the immune system. In fact, steroid treatment isn’t always effective yet brings about various side effects in the short and long term.
In this post, I’m going to share what I’ve learned over the years about medical options available today for Alopecia treatment and their limitations. I’m also going to share our experience of using natural oils as part of our topical Alopecia treatment routine to try and nourish the scalp for boosting hair growth.
What Alopecia treatment options are available today?
The most common and widely prescribed options for Alopecia treatment involve the use of corticosteroids.
How do steroid treatments work?
Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can block some actions of the immune system, and are therefore expected to reduce the rate of autoimmune related hair loss. As there are no ways that any drugs can specifically target immune response which is responsible for attacking the hair follicles itself, you can expect that your immune response would be indiscriminately suppressed while the drugs are expected to stop or reduce the rate of hair loss.
It doesn’t matter what drug names they come under, the core method in which all medicated options for Alopecia treatment work is fundamentally by suppressing some parts of your immune function in an attempt to mask symptoms. There are no available drugs that can cure the root cause of an autoimmune disorder.
“There are no available drugs that can cure the root cause of an autoimmune disorder.”
As your immune system is your core mechanism for protecting you against infections, cancer and other diseases, suppressing its capabilities means that you’re putting your own health on compromise while you expect the drugs to bring about symptomatic relief at best.
Steroid treatments for Alopecia: Ineffective with damaging side effects
Steroid treatment for autoimmune disorders isn’t always effective. In fact, steroid treatment is more often ineffective in bringing any improvement to the symptoms of Alopecia Areata, at least anecdotally.
Most people don’t see any changes in the rate of hair loss and hair regrowth when undergoing topical or oral steroid treatment. Steroid injections are an extremely painful process. Along with their limited effectiveness, other harmful side effects on the body, and the fact that you would have to do it on an ongoing basis because the root cause is not addressed, steroid injections are simply not an option for most people, nor are they worth all the massive downsides.
Steroids are especially not a wise option for children.
The length of time and the dosage at which steroids can be administered for them to remain safe have not been well established.
Even when some people may experience temporary improvements in symptoms from steroid treatment, the effects are often short-lived. In other words, these drugs tend to no longer work after a period of time, or require higher and higher doses in order to achieve the same results.
Over the course of your lifetime, there’s a limit on how high you can go on the dosage of steroid treatment. This is the main reason why most people who have stayed on steroids for many years simply give up as they simply can’t go any higher and/or they no longer see the effects.
Topical immunotherapy as another form of Alopecia treatment
Topical immunotherapy is another common treatment option prescribed for adults presenting with extensive Alopecia.
One study documented that the median duration of DPCP treatment, which is considered the most effective topical immunotherapy for alopecia, was 3 years. The results of the study also suggested that the treatment “should not be terminated before 2 years”.
Available medical treatments are not advisable for young children given their limited efficacy, potential for relapse, and probably short and long term side effects.
Links to all studies referenced to are at the bottom of this post.
Natural oils for Alopecia treatment to help promote hair growth
Along with advice from our Specialist Paediatric Dermatologist in Australia, our family decided that it was best for us to opt out of steroid treatment and any medical treatment for our daughter’s Alopecia Areata.
In addition to diet and nutrition, we then decided to support her recovery journey with topical Alopecia treatment using natural oils.
My choice of natural oils for topical Alopecia treatment
There are several natural oils that contain compounds believed to be beneficial for nourishing the scalp and in turn promote healthier hair growth.
It’s important to choose good quality that are pure and don’t contain harmful chemicals and additives. You’ll only need to use a small amount of these oils in your treatment, so it’s worth spending a little extra in order to get your hands on good quality products instead of putting more burden on your body with chemical laden products.
After experimenting for over 2 years, these are the natural oils that I’ve chosen to use for my daughter’s Alopecia treatment.
1. Castor oil
Castor oil contains high amount of ricinoleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid with anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. For hair loss that involves elevation of Prostaglandin D2 (PGD2), castor oil is helpful by acting as PGD2 inhibitor.
Rinoleic acid has excellent skin permeability, making is highly absorbable when applied topically. Castor oil has a very thick and viscous consistency, so we only use a few drops with each application.
It’s best to get pure, hexane-free, and if possible, organic castor oil.
2. Coconut oil
A publication about a study on the effects of coconut oil in the prevention of hair damage states that “Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft… The findings clearly indicate the strong impact that coconut oil application has to hair” … when compared with mineral oil and sunflower oil, “coconut oil was the only oil found to reduce the protein loss remarkably for both undamaged and damaged hair…”
It’s best to get pure, virgin, unrefined, organic coconut oil that comes in glass jars. Pure coconut oil solidifies in colder temperatures, but it easily melts when handled in your hands to make it easier to apply on the scalp and hair.
3. Candlenut or kukui nut oil
Candlenut or kukui nut oil is a popular oil used in hair treatment in its native Indonesia and Hawaii.
Candlenut or kukui nut oil contains fatty acids and amino acids that easily penetrate the scalp and hair shafts to keep it moisturised and nourished. Candlenut or kukui nut oil is widely used to protect and repair damage to the hair and skin due to its regenerative benefits.
You can use the oil by massaging onto scalp and leave on for a few hours before shampooing, and to do it routinely for several times a week for better results.
It’s best to get pure, cold-pressed candlenut or kukui nut oil. Here are a few pointers on how to tell if a product contains pure candlenut or kukui nut oil:
- Pure candlenut or kukui nut oil has a distinct candlenut or kukui nut aroma
- Pure candlenut or kukui nut oil is golden-yellow red in colour, almost like reddish brown
- Pure candlenut or kukui nut oil has a lower smoke point than most cooking oils, so it will smoke up faster than most other cookings oil when heated up
- The smoke from pure candlenut or kukui nut oil is thicker and more ‘stingy’ than the smoke from most other cooking oil
The consistency of candlenut or kukui nut oilis much thinner than that of castor oil. When used together, candlenut or kukui nut oil helps to thin out the castor oil mixture.
4. Olive oil
Olive oil contains an abundance of vitamin E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, specifically oleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid. Applying olive oil topically on skin and scalp helps lock in moisture and protect it from environmental damage.
It’s best to get cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil that comes in glass bottles.
5. Sesame oil
Sesame oil contains fatty acids such as oleic, palmitic, stearic and linoleic acid which act as effective moisturisers. It also contains a good amount of vitamins A and E, and minerals like copper, manganese, calcium and magnesium.
Sesame oil is easily absorbable on the scalp, although the smell is quite distinct.
It’s best to choose 100% pure, cold pressed sesame oil.
Vitamin E oil as part of natural Alopecia treatment
In addition to natural oils, I add vitamin E oil into our topical treatment mixture.
Vitamin E plays an important role in helping hair growth as it helps to reduce inflammation and repair damage to the follicles. Applying vitamin E topically can supply the scalp with specific forms of vitamin E that are not available from the diet.
Essential oils that help promote hair growth in Alopecia treatment
There have been studies that looked into the use of aromatherapy for Alopecia treatment. I also consulted The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood to get a list of oils that can help reduce hair loss, treat the scalp, and stimulate hair growth, and essential oils that are safe to be used for children.
Here are some essential oils that can be used to complement your Alopecia topical treatment:
- Rosemary (use with caution or avoid use on children)
- Carrot seed
- Ginger (halve the amount for use on kids, and don’t use on young children or infants)
To use these essential oils, I dilute them in a mix of natural oils, then apply onto scalp with bald patches or thinning hair. Leave the oils mixture on for a few hours or overnight before washing it off gently with a small amount of very mild shampoo.
Use essential oils with care
As essential oils are very concentrated, they must be used with care. Internal use of essential oils isn’t recommended for children.
To use essential oils topically, be sure to dilute them properly in carrier oils. For more information on the ratio of dilution, consult with your healthcare professional. Personally, I refer to this book for guideline, and I’m not scientific when it comes to dilution because we’ve used essential oils long enough for my daughter to have a good idea of what works for her.
If you or your child has a medical condition, you may want to consult with your healthcare practitioner before using essential oils.
Along with looking after diet and nutrition, topical Alopecia treatment using natural and essential oils has has helped my daughter achieve faster and stronger hair regrowth whenever new bald patches would form. When applied on areas with thinning hairs, I’ve noticed that it helps prevent hair loss in those areas.
- Alopecia areata. A review of therapy, efficacy, safety, and mechanism.
- Clinical Efficacy of Diphenylcyclopropenone in Alopecia Areata: Retrospective Data Analysis of 50 Patients.
- Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage.
- Randomized trial of aromatherapy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata.
Natural Alopecia Wellness
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