THE BOTTOM LINE:
I tried a hair serum recipe that I found online, made of three essential oils and it is working.
The recipe I’ve settled on is:
• 5 Drops Lavender (Bulgarian initially, but currently using French)
• 4 Drops Basil (Indian)
• 5 Drops Rosemary (Hungarian)
• in a 4 oz. dropper bottle of filtered water *
*I am not an aromatherapist and my friend who is studying essential oils said it was a bit odd to put them in water, but I did it to reduce greasiness and to be able to get the essential oils on my scalp morning and night. The initial recipe was in a base of Jojoba Oil. You can also use Watercress Oil, which is supposedly also used to treat thinning hair. You can also make a water based serum for day and an oil based one for night. Please see precautions about essential oils below.
I have applied this serum religiously morning and night for about 10 months now. I simply fill up the dropper, place it to my scalp (starting at the top of the crown) and squeeze out the serum, dragging the dropper along my scalp as I do so, in rows. Then I massage it in a bit. The water based version runs pretty quickly so massaging it in right away helps to keep the essential oils where you want them.
I also switched to natural, gentle sulfate-free shampoos & conditioners. Intelligent Nutrients (less sudsy) and John Masters (more sudsy).
(scroll down for links of where to buy everything.)
THE FULL STORY:
My hair has been getting thinner and thinner over the years. When I was in my 20’s I had stunning, full, long locks. My mom, whose hair also thinned substantially as she got older, warned me that her hair was like mine used to be when she was younger too. And her mom was the same.
Until the last year or two I didn’t do much about it, but the thinning intensified after years of a tumultuous break up from a psychologically tortuous relationship (stress!). I didn’t know how much of my hair loss was genetic or stress related, but I figured it was most likely both! It’s also possible that part of the genetic factor might be how the matrilineal side of my family handles and is affected by stress (I am a “highly sensitive person”). In any case, like so many of my family’s patterns, this is another one that I’ve been determined to break!
I have noticed that when I’ve done really intensive diet over-hauls and retreats that lasted longer than three weeks, my hair would start to change for the better. I attribute this to better processing of nutrients and lowered stress levels (nutrition as well as a destressed environment means lower levels of cortisol—the stress hormone that contributes to hair loss, among other things). But I live in one of the most stressful cities in the world and with the type of work I do it’s very hard to vigilantly quality control my diet, so I have experimented with other solutions to help through times of bad diet, lack of sleep and the sporadic schedule of a freelancer.
The first thing I tried was Viviscal, because so many models swear by it. Inevitably, if I was doing a girl’s hair and noticed lots of new growth she was taking Viviscal. Unfortunately, I can’t personally testify to its effectiveness because I’ve never been good at taking vitamins consistently—even when I’ve spent a lot of money on them and Viviscal is not cheap. My guess is that it might be better at recovering from temporary (stress related) hair loss.
I also tried Nioxin shampoo, conditioner and scalp treatment. But it made my hair feel like crap and the chemical nature of it was a turn off.
Then I tried Peter Thomas Roth’s Hair to Die For. This product resulted in a profound and instant change- extremely reduced fall out. My drain catcher no longer looked like a tarantula after every shower! This was the first product that did something, but it has drawbacks. First, it is heavily fragranced— so much so that it made it hard for me to fall asleep at night because the smell was so distracting. And the scent isn’t something innocuous or universal. It’s a very specific, synthetic perfume smell that I did not like. Second, chemicals, chemicals, chemicals. I just didn’t feel good about it, even though it was working.
So then I came across this medical website (the link to which I cannot find) that talked about essential oils as an effective treatment for thinning hair and it had a simple recipe, which was nice because it seemed easy enough to try. It called for 4 drops of Rosemary, 4 of Lavender and 3 of Basil in about 10 oz of Jojoba carrier oil. I ended up using the instructed amount of essential oils in 4 oz of Jojoba instead, as that was the only size bottle I had. I combined the ingredients in a dark blue dropper bottle and I would deposit about one dropper full onto my scalp every night before bed.
Eventually I found the Jojoba to be way too heavy for me since my scalp is already so oily in the mornings, and I felt that the excess shampooing it required was counter productive. So I made a water based formula and have been using it morning and night ever since.
I also changed my shampoos. I started using John Masters’ Lavender Rosemary Shampoo and Rosemary Mint Detangler and then Intelligent Nutrients Harmonic Shampoo & Conditioner. Currently I rotate between these two brands. The Intelligent Nutrients Shampoo doesn’t get super sudsy—you have to make sure your hair is well soaked before applying—but it does a good job at cleaning my very oily prone hair. In the last two weeks or so I’ve been trying EO Shampoo & Conditioner. So far I really like it and the price point can’t be beat, especially since sulfate-free formulas often require two passes of the shampoo.
After having used the oils religiously on my scalp twice a day for a few months, I went to the gym with my hair pulled back in a tight pony tail. I was in the bathroom and looking in the mirror, my pony looked lumpy. I went to smooth it down when I realized the lumps were actually short hairs, about two inches long, that were poofing up. They were all over. It was all new hair growth. Then a few months later, after getting my hair cut and watching the stylist blow out my hair, I saw all the new growth every time he angled the blow dryer a certain way and they would blow down (too short to stay in the brush with the rest of my hair). I pointed it out to him and he said, “Oh yes honey, that’s all new hair!” 🙂
After doing more research I made a version based in Watercress Oil, which is supposedly also good for treating hair loss and thinning. Since I don’t really have a control group, I can’t attest to its powers, but it’s just another option to add to the mix.
A WORD ABOUT HAIR TRANSFORMATION:
What you need to know about any program you take on to transform your hair— whether it be through diet, supplements or topicals—it’s A LONG GAME. It takes about three weeks for things to start turning around in your system just internally. And with hair, if the health of your follicles starts improving, all that stuff is happening beneath the surface, so you won’t see anything for a good long while. Then, if you do successfully stimulate new hair growth, it takes another good long while for those new hairs to grow to same length as the rest of your hair! I ordered my first oils in September of 2015, it is now July 2016 and my new growth is probably only about 3.5″ long.
A WORD ABOUT ESSENTIAL OILS:
Essential oils are powerful and mysterious things. I’m a complete novice and have been only self educating over the last year. It is important that you use only therapeutic grade oils for two reasons. One: they are effective and there’s not really any point in using them if they’re not, other than for the enjoyment of fragrance. Two: they are pure. I’ve been getting mine from Native American Nutritionals/Rocky Mountain Oils (these two companies merged this year) and Appalachian Valley Natural Products. They are good, trustworthy companies. They are also small scale operations, so shipping and such can take a little while. Appalachian Valley has slightly better pricing here and there, simply because they want to keep EO’s affordable for all where possible, and you can also purchase samples from them. Both companies will help you navigate their products. If you go out exploring for your own oils, a good indicator of legitimate therapeutic grade oils is whether or not the country of origin is indicated. This is vital information for practitioners as oils from different places have different therapeutic attributes.
It is also important to start small with oils. Always do a little skin to test to see how sensitive you are. There are some that should never be used without a carrier oil! This is where putting them in water like I did can get tricky as they are not water soluble. So please, please, please proceed with caution and trust your body to tell you what it wants. There is lots of useful information on line as to how to navigate EO’s. A quick google search will yield lots of info. Here’s a pretty good overview. This page is great as well.
A WORD ABOUT STRESS AND HORMONES
It is commonly held that thinning hair can be a part of the aging process because of hormonal changes. Hair health is deeply affected by our hormones which change as we age. Our hormones also change like crazy when we are stressed. And let me tell you something: STRESS IS REAL. It profoundly affects our health in EVERY WAY. I highly recommend doing some research on adrenal health and stress reduction. If you are suffering from hair loss, exhaustion, over sensitivity, irregular periods, inexplicable weight gain or weight loss, low sex drive or sleeplessness, these are all pretty good indicators that you are stressed! Essential Oils are very helpful for de-stresssing and lowering cortisol levels. Lavender and Basil are great de-stressors and I’m sure having them in my hair every day is helping from this angle as well. Here’s an interesting read on this front.
Lately I’ve been using basil essential oil on my tragus (near the ear) as a stress reducer. I’ve also started taking magnesium powder every day. Other great stress reducers: exercise, acupuncture, meditation, B vitamins, and SLEEP. For hair specifically, many people also recommend prenatal vitamins. But it’s only recently that I’ve added these particular things to my daily regimen. For the longest time, I’ve just been using the oil formula and it has made a big difference.
So there you have it! If you give it a go, please let me know what your results are like.
- Rocky Mountain Essential Oils (you can also get jojoba oil from these guys)
- Appalacian Valley Natural Products (you can also get jojoba oil from these guys)
- Intelligent Nutrients Harmonic Shampoos & Conditioners
- John Masters Shampoos & Conditioners
- Watercress Oil (this supplier also seems to sell on ebay as “cocojojo” for a lower shipping cost)
- EO Shampoos & Conditioners (I’m currently using the coconut hibiscus duo)
- Premium Vials dropper bottles (this place is great if you are buying a few bottles, otherwise if you just want one, you can find them up at most Whole Foods or a local herbal shop)