Is Olive Oil effective in treating your hair loss problems? We have seen this question asked several times, so we have decided to do some work and find out for ourselves. Olives have been known for its health, dermatological and beauty care benefits for ages and the fruit contains 20-30% oil extracted from an oval, green, or purple coloured fruit. Olive oil is probably one of the most researched, studied and investigated natural oil/butter for its wide range of usage in cosmetics, personal hygiene and beauty care products.
Here, we will summarize some vital information about olive oil and its benefits in addressing hair loss problems. Let’s start by examining the chemical composition and main components of olive oil. We will also focus on virgin olive oil and wherever we use the word "olive oil", it means virgin olive oil.
Profile of Olive Oil composition
Olive oil is slightly yellowish-green in colour and contains triglycerides unsaturated oleic and linoleic acids along with saturated palmitic and stearic acids. It also contains small amounts of arachidonic and linolenic acids. In addition to this, antioxidant and polyphenols are also present. The oil is an excellent source of vitamins A, D, E, and K.1-2 The unsaponifiable fraction is mainly composed of saturated hydrocarbons, unsaturated squalene and aliphatic alcohols e.g. sterols like β-sitosterol.3
Table 1: Average values for the chemical composition of fatty acids present in olive oil.
- Component The average range of % age
- Palmitic acid 6.00 – 12.0
- Stearic acid 2.00 – 5.00
- Oleic acid 70.0 – 80.0
- Linoleic acid 1.00 – 3.00
Monosaturated oleic acid is the main ingredient. Olive oil has high levels of vitamins and antioxidant tocopherols which shape up its cosmetics and dermatological benefits. Another important component is sterols that are indicated for its skin regeneration and stimulating role.
Dermo-Cosmetic benefits of Olive oil
The topical application of olive oil imparts soothing action with beneficial effects on various skin & scalp problem such as dermatitis, irritation, rashes, eczemas, and burns.4 The presence of sterols confers skin an amazing revitalizing properties. The antioxidant action of vitamin E prevents skin ageing, while the regenerating properties of vitamin A protect the skin against damage while maintaining its softness, smoothness, firmness, and elasticity.
The unsaponifiable fraction contains various active components with emollient, softening, and restorative properties. This is the reason; olive is a top choice for skin cosmetics (creams, lotions, milk) designed for the treatment of sensitive, dry, chapped and aged skins. Scientists have developed various cosmetics ingredient (emollients, cleansing agents and emulsifiers) exploiting the intrinsic benefits of olive oil as these novel ingredients can deliver benefits in different types of products.
Best Olive Oil Recommended Products
Hormonal changes to Hair Loss
The exact mechanism and reasoning of hair loss are still not very clearly understood. It is believed that the hair density, type, colour and growth rate is controlled by genetic makeup and testosterone hormone.5 Testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone in the hair follicle and the reduction reaction is catalyzed by 5-alpha reductase (5α-R) enzyme. It is known that high levels of dihydrotestosterone can induce hair thinning which may eventually fall off quickly and cause baldness.6 We need to inhibit the chemical activity of the 5α-R enzyme to prevent the formation of dihydrotestosterone which can help us in avoiding hair loss.7
Side effects of Synthetic Chemical Agents
A wide range of natural and synthetic chemical remedies are available in the markets to address hair loss and promote hair growth. Minoxidil is well-known among them; however, it has several side effects include irritation, itching and redness at the treated area. Finasteride is another chemical agent used for hair loss treatment. It also shows several different side effects include impotence, abnormal ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and testicular pain. This is the reason why the hair biologist and consumers have been looking for safe yet effective remedy which should be free from these side effects and can be widely used in all types of hair loss or alopecia.
How does Olive oil stimulate hair growth?
Scientific studies have shown that unsaturated fatty acids and sterols can inhibit the activity of 5α-reductase.8 Olive oil importantly contains both of these chemicals. The oil composition above shows that we have large volumes of oleic acid (a monosaturated fatty acid) that can inhibit enzymatic activity and thus lower down the concentration level of dihydrotestosterone in the hair follicle.
Olive oil also contains sterols which are proven 5α-reductase inhibitor. Sterols in plant-sourced oils have been examined for their hair growth activity. Lab results for various natural oils containing large amounts of sterols (such as olive & Argan) have confirmed the enzymatic inhibition. This means repeated applications of olive oil can see a hair growth particularly at the scalp area where we have lost hair.
Olive oil is a time-tested natural remedy for the range of hair & skin problems. Science has proven it to be an excellent yet cost-effective ingredient for skin, hair & scalp. High unsaturated fatty acid content and sterols are responsible for its main activity to address hair loss. Repeated application of oil or its products (shampoo, balm or cream) can surely improve hair density and thickness but there are no guarantees that it will work for you. It may help in some small way but unlikely in the greater scheme of things.
To learn more about out own prescribed list for treating hair loss, then check out our recommended list here.
Bibliography & Further reading:
- Burlando, B.; Verotta, L.; Cornara, L.; Bottini-Massa, E., Herbal Principles in Cosmetics: Properties and Mechanisms of Action. CRC Press: 2010.
- Hanif, M. A.; Nawaz, H.; Khan, M. M.; Byrne, H. J., Medicinal Plants of South Asia: Novel Sources for Drug Discovery. Elsevier: 2019.
- Ramadan, M. F., Fruit Oils: Chemistry and Functionality. Springer International Publishing: 2019.
- Bielfeldt, S.; Blaak, J.; Staib, P.; Simon, I.; Wohlfart, R.; Manger, C.; Wilhelm, K., Observer‐blind randomized controlled study of a cosmetic blend of safflower, olive and other plant oils in the improvement of scar and striae appearance. Inter. J. of Cosmet. Sci 2018, 40 (1), 81-86.
- Olsen, E. A.; Messenger, A. G.; Shapiro, J.; Bergfeld, W. F.; Hordinsky, M. K.; Roberts, J. L.; Stough, D.; Washenik, K.; Whiting, D. A., Evaluation and treatment of male and female pattern hair loss. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2005, 52 (2), 301-311.
- Whiting, D. A., Male pattern hair loss: current understanding. Int. J. Dermatol. 1998, 37 (8), 561-566.
- Zviak, C., The Science of Hair Care. Taylor & Francis: 2005.
- Heim, S.; Seibt, S.; Stier, H.; Moré, M. I., Uromedic® pumpkin seed-derived Δ7-sterols, extract and oil inhibit 5α-reductases and bind to the androgen receptor in vitro. Pharmacology & Pharmacy 2018, 9 (06), 193.