Essential Oils Treat Baldness and Acne

Essential oils treat baldness

A reader commented on my post on whether fungal infection causes male pattern baldness, and says that rosemary oil is making his hair grow back:

After reading some studies about rosemary essential oil being as effective as minoxidil for hair regrowth (and without the warnings about not letting my wife and kids touch it). I’ve been doing a self-experiment of applying a few drops of a homemade hair tonic consisting mainly of rosemary and lavender essential oils suspended in a carrier of sesame oil to my scalp and beard.

At the start of the experiment, in mid-Summer, the top of my head was a cue-ball with a few stray short hairs here and there. During the first week or so after I started, it was like an unnoticed whitish, salt-like crust came up off of the top of my scalp. Then, I noticed hair growth. At first, they were short, blonde baby hairs, but now I have extensive patches of brown hair on the top that need regular trimming.

My hair seems to be coming back in the reverse order that I originally “lost” it. It isn’t fully back yet though. But the progress has been surprising. I continue to use my normal shampoos and conditioners, or whatever partially-used mini bottles my wife asks me to help finish. Sometimes I wear hats, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I brush it, sometimes I don’t.

I haven’t used any other hair growth products or treatments during this time and haven’t tried anything else for 5+ years. I had basically resigned myself to look like my father.

Now, what is the rosemary changing on the top of my head, I don’t know. But by using it, my hair looks healthier. Also, my beard looks fuller.

He cited a couple of studies. One: Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: a randomized comparative trial. Rosemary oil was as effective as minoxidil (Rogaine).

“… both groups experienced a significant increase in hair count at the 6-month endpoint compared with the baseline and 3-month endpoint. No significant difference was found between the study groups regarding hair count either at month 3 or month 6.”

Rosemary oil is anti-fungal. And, it turns out, a number of essential oils are also anti-fungal.

The essential oils obtained from five commercial samples of Sicilian aromatic plants, laurel, sage, oregano, rosemary and coriander were analyzed by GC/MS and assayed for their antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant activities. Twenty-five different genera of bacteria and one fungal species were used in this study as test organisms. The oils showed a high degree of inhibition against all the microorganisms tested.

Clove and rosemary oils in combination have synergistic effects against fungi and bacteria.

Totally makes sense, since many phytochemicals made by plants are there to be used for chemical warfare against other plants and against animal predators. In this case, fungi predate on plants, so the plants need to have anti-fungal defenses.

I don’t know whether the other essential oils besides rosemary will treat baldness, but I bet they would. In any case, the fact that rosemary oil does treat it, and is anti-fungal, adds further evidence to the cause of male pattern baldness.

Essential oils and iron chelators treat acne

I mentioned this in my article on acneThe use of iron chelators in biocidal compositions. Through the magic of SciHub, I got my hands on the full paper.  The authors show that iron chelators potentiate acne medications such as salicylate and benzoyl peroxide from 4 to 250-fold.

Could you add an iron chelator to an acne med on your own? Maybe. Green tea extract or IP6 seem likely candidates. Topically applied IP6 penetrates the skin.

Essential oils also treat acne. Tea tree oil was as effective as benzoyl peroxide.

A number of essential oils are effective in killing the bacteria that causes acne, Propionibacterium acnes. The most effective were thyme, cinnamon, and rose oils.

The beauty of essential oils in this case are that their chemical nature makes them able to penetrate skin. However, I don’t know whether they might be irritating or toxic to skin.

Rosacea, iron, and fungi

Another skin condition is rosacea, characterized by red, inflamed skin on the face. It can range from mild to disfiguring. They still haven’t figured out the cause of it. The most effective treatment appears to be topical metronidazole.

Metronidazole is an interesting drug, the only one in current use that’s effective against both protozoan parasites (like Giardia or Plasmodium) and anaerobic bacteria. It’s been thought that this drug works against rosacea by killing Demodex, a skin mite. The problem is that it appears most people have Demodex; that doesn’t mean it’s not causative; most people seem to have Malassezia too, and that causes dandruff and maybe baldness.

However, rosacea patients have higher levels of ferritin in the skin of their lesions.

Serum peroxide levels were significantly higher and serum total antioxidative potential levels were significantly lower in patients with rosacea than in healthy control subjects (P < .05). Compared with control subjects, the number of ferritin-positive cells was significantly higher (P < .001) in skin samples from patients with rosacea, especially those with severe disease.

Ferritin is made in response to free iron, so this suggests that rosacea is associated with higher iron levels in the skin, causing oxidative stress and just maybe allowing for the growth of some microorganism, such as a fungus.

I was unable to find whether metronidazole successfully kills fungi; in any case, it isn’t used for that. But its structural resemblance to the anti-fungal drugs ketoconazole and fluconazole did not escape my attention. And ketoconazole chelates iron.

So it seems possible that metronidazole is either killing fungi in the skin and/or removing iron. (Either that or I’ve been looking at PubMed for too long and starting to see things.) A wastewater treatment for removing metronidazole uses iron particles, indicating iron chelation.


In summary, baldness, acne, and rosacea may have something in common: the presence of microorganisms. In turn, these microorganisms could get a perch on the skin by access to iron.

What we need is a study to see whether blood donors have fewer of these skin conditions. Rosacea typically starts after age 30, as does baldness, which could implicate iron. Obviously multiple factors, including genetic susceptibility, must be at work in all of these conditions.

PS: Check out my books, Dumping Iron, Muscle Up, and Stop the Clock.

PPS: You can support this site by purchasing through my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.


Leave a Comment:

JD says January 17, 2017

On Twitter a while ago you mentioned something about reversing hair turning white… did you do a post on it or follow up???


    P. D. Mangan says January 17, 2017

    Well, my hair is somewhat darker, and I speculate that it could be from lowering my iron. However, I don’t know that for sure and I still have lots of grey hair, so at least at the moment it’s too unspectacular a finding to write about. I certainly hope it continues to get darker, and I’ll report if I have anything to share.

      JD says January 17, 2017

      Awesome, thanks!

      JRM says January 29, 2017

      Do you find any value in hair mineral analysis? Also, some people seem to think that copper deficiency can contribute to premature gray hair. Do you worry that supplementing with zinc could mess up your copper absorption?

        P. D. Mangan says January 29, 2017

        That’s a good question. Back when I was going through chronic fatigue, I had my hair analyzed a couple of times. My feeling is that this could be a good way to see if heavy metals are a health issue; but as for minerals like copper and zinc, it strikes me as being of doubtful value. As for copper and gray hair, I once looked for some evidence for this, and didn’t find any. Everything I’ve seen points to oxidative stress in hair follicles, along with depleted melanocytes, the cells that give hair its color.

        Supplementing high dose zinc can definitely affect copper; I recommend no more than the required amount if doing long-term supplementation; that’s around 15 mg/d. Higher is OK for short term use.

JP says January 17, 2017

My new year’s resolution was to “own it” and go full cue-ball. More daily maintenance than I’m used to, but I like the look much better than my previous “friar tuck” (nothing on top, short sides).

Mike says January 17, 2017

Can confirm…

Since returning from my vacation in mexico last month and realizing the healing power of coconut oil+essential oils on sunburn, i have been using it religiously.

I’ve had a thing on my toe that has been there for 3 years finally start to go away, as well as a pilonidal cyst that has been shrinking.

It’s made the hair I do have thicker and fuller as well as beard. Have not regrown any lost hair yet.

Applying essential oils (with a carrier oil like Coconut, jojoba or sesame seed) to your skin and hair is NOTHING but beneficial. It’s like feeding your skin and your skin is your largest organ. Honestly we probably don’t need to shower with soap every, but applying essential oil to DAILY should be new mandatory regiment.

I will report back in 5 more months with hair status as that will represent 6 months of use.

    P. D. Mangan says January 17, 2017

    Totally look forward to your report.

Essential Oils Treat Baldness and Acne says January 17, 2017

[…] post Essential Oils Treat Baldness and Acne appeared first on Rogue Health and […]

Carpiem says January 18, 2017

4 years ago I didn’t workout and consumed a lot of fast food and sugar. While taking showe I noticed I was losing a lot of hair. Nowadays I workout and my diet is based on whole foods and my hair never have been better!

I’ve contemplating taking creatine but it seems it can cause hair loss. What do you think P.D. Mangan?

Guff says January 18, 2017

So what measures of lavender to rosemary to sesame would be right? I’ll give this a go for a few months and see what results come in.

Titus Hauer says January 19, 2017

I can vouch for tea tree oil against acne. I’m using a lotion not the oil & get the same effect, but it might take longer, that’s the thing I am not sure about. Also, I didn’t have any problems with irritating skin or the likes but I read that this could happen while using tea tree oil so one might take it easy before applying it every day.

As for the other oils and baldness, that’s great news that I didn’t know about.

As always very informative and great article.

    P. D. Mangan says January 19, 2017

    Titus – thanks for the input. Good to know this stuff works in real life.

Montgomery says January 19, 2017

Hay fever is annoying to crippling, depending on severity of symptoms.
Two years ago I found this:
I tried it, in the form of having the oil in little gelatin capsules which I pricked with
a needle and used as a practical and well-dosed applicator to drip the oil in my nose,
then imitating an industrial vacuum cleaner for a minute.
Burns slightly in the back of nose and throat, if applied correctly.
Stuffy nose and sneezing then are gone for hours, while when done twice daily,
the symptoms tend to stay away almost completely.
At least as effective as antihistamines, but cheaper and longer lasting.
I controlled for the effect with olive oil which had zero effects.
I tried it with nine other hay fever sufferers I know personally, in eight it worked as
well as with me, the ninth had mixed results but still uses this oil.
Relevant note:
After days and weeks of continuous application twice a day in around 50% of
the subjects I tried this (and in me) symptoms got generally significantly less
or vanished completely, this being so for at least weeks without using the oil again.

Not hay-fever related, but to point out that this substance may have significant further

    karmageddon says January 29, 2017

    Montgomery — so you’d snort the black seed oil right up your nose? I actually bought a bottle of the oil to deal with my allergies but couldn’t figure out how to use it.

    How much of the oil would you say you used per application? And do you think it could be effective for a perennial condition like allergies to a household cat?


Dusan says January 20, 2017

Please, can you post some recipe how to make this essential oil mix for hair…

    P. D. Mangan says January 20, 2017

    Dusan, it sounds like for the baldness treatment, it’s just straight rosemary oil; for acne, tea tree oil should be diluted about 1:10 from what I’ve read. I’m planning to experiment a bit with making my own skin care formulas, maybe even market them.

Hron Rade says January 21, 2017

I find this idea that baldness is caused by a pathogen compelling. We know the Japanese didn’t bald much before the US occupation, nor the Kitavans, nor Amerindians. We know baldness is inflammatory. Anyone who’s balding or bald can tell you your head literally burns while the hair if falling out. Stress also amplifies the balding process; I did about 70% of my current hairline loss at age 19 when I was in a highly stressful military environment. Which seems consistent with a story of suppressed immune function.

It raises a number of questions though. Such as why does the fungus attack in a pattern? with the hairline and crown of the head first to go most often? How does it interplay with androgens (we know T compromises immune function) and why are “standard horseshoe pattern” hair and body hair spared? Lastly, how is it, that in all these years, no one’s figured out some home remedy to kill the fungus? …or maybe they have…

Just imagine if we’d put the last 30 years of HIV/AIDS funding into baldness research!

    P. D. Mangan says January 22, 2017

    Hron, in answer to one of your questions – why hasn’t anyone figured out how to kill the fungus – I believe they have. Ketoconazole kills fungi; maybe that’s even the mode of action of minoxidil. But in dandruff, the shampoo must be applied regularly or the dandruff returns, because the fungi still have all the resources to grow, mainly iron, perhaps high blood glucose. Perhaps it’s the same with baldness. The combination of genetics, androgens, fungi, maybe other things like, as you note, stress, or high blood sugar – unless they are all dealt with, then no baldness cure, that’s my speculation.

    Why the horseshoe pattern? Good question. I’m not bald, yet the hair on top of my head is thinner and seemingly qualitatively different from the sides – but I suppose that just begs the question. Why does grey hair start at the temples? Why do lupus and rosacea appear on the face and not elsewhere? Why do women get osteoporosis at much greater rates? Lots of questions.

    Added: Do American Indians get bald at the same rate as whites now? Because if so, that’s an interesting piece of evidence. The Japanese bald a decade later and at lower rates than whites. (See previous post on that.)

    iwjan says March 9, 2017

    “Such as why does the fungus attack in a pattern? with the hairline and crown of the head first to go most often?”

    It’s a Fairy Ring…”The living edge of the mycelium continues to grow outward. As it grows, it secretes chemicals into the ground ahead. These chemicals break down the organic matter, releasing nutrients so that the mycelium will Fairy Ring Growth have food when it reaches this area. For a brief time, the grass at the outer edge of the ring also benefits. The extra nutrients make the grass darker green, taller, and thicker than the rest of the lawn or pasture. This lush grass dies when the mycelium grows under it and steals the nutrients. ”

Graham says January 26, 2017

Couldn’t you apply IP6 topically by mixing it with a little water and then applying it to your body with a cotton bud? Is there any need for a cream specifically? Or am I just missing something?

    P. D. Mangan says January 26, 2017

    Graham, the problem is skin penetration. However, topically applied IP6, if in a gel or cream, does work. Whether it would in water, I doubt.

Johnny says January 29, 2017

Thanks for the article PD,

Have you read this?

It says there is less bloodflow and less oxygen (hypoxia) in bald scalp areas vs non-bald scalp areas in men with MPB. Do you know of a way to stimulate oxygen delivery/blood vessel creation in scalp?

Transcutaneous PO2 of the scalp in male pattern baldness: a new piece to the puzzle. Temporal scalp blood flow was significantly higher than frontal scalp blood flow in male pattern baldness subjects; however, there was no significant difference in controls. Transcutaneous PO2 was significantly lower in bald frontal scalp (32.2 +/- 2.0 mmHg) than in hair-bearing temporal scalp (51.8 +/- 4.4 mmHg) in men with male pattern baldness.

    P. D. Mangan says January 29, 2017

    Interesting. Rubbing capsaicin on the scalp? (Slightly facetious suggestion.) I don’t know.

Johnny says January 29, 2017

This too:

Subcutaneous blood flow (SBF) in early male pattern baldness – In patients with early male pattern baldness, SBF was 2.6 times lower than the values found in the normal individuals ….. A reduced nutritive blood flow to the hair follicles might be a significant event in the pathogenesis of early male pattern baldness.

Johnny says January 29, 2017

I know nitric oxide causes dilation of vessels to improve oxygen delivery, NO is made from L-arginine so might look into that.
Also, donated stored blood loses nitric oxide very quickly, and when transfused it is unable to donate oxygen due to lack of nitric oxide.

Johnny says January 29, 2017

Here’s what I found so fat on L-arginine for NO, looks promising:

Hair regrowth example is at the end. BTW rosemary oil also stimulates bloodflow besides being antifungal: Although it’s not clear how rosemary works for hair loss, applying it to the scalp irritates the skin and increases blood circulation.;

paul says January 29, 2017

Very interesting. These oils would be much cheaper than minoxodil which is really expensive here, might give it a try.

BTW I think your emails have improved recently, the shorter emails probably get more people to the site, which is good because there’s good info. I always learn something useful here.

    P. D. Mangan says January 29, 2017

    Thanks, Paul, that’s good to know. Everyone in marketing advises site owners to collect email addresses and send emails, but I dislike the whole thing. So I decided I’d just send short emails that take me only a few minutes, and hope that works.

Graham says January 30, 2017

I had read that tea tree oil could be estrogenic? Do you think this is likely to be the case? I had a quick google but opinions seem pretty mixed. Don’t want to start growing breasts ideally.

    P. D. Mangan says January 30, 2017

    There’s a case report (3 cases) of young boys who developed gynecomastia by using products with lavender and/or tea tree oil. The boys were all pre-pubertal. How widespread this phenomenon is, who knows. The author states that gynecomastia is common at puberty, but rare before it.

    A letter to the editor about this report says:

    “The study by Henley et al. (Feb. 1 issue)1 raises many questions. Product names were not provided. Did the authors contact manufacturers to report concerns or ask about constituents? The variability, adulteration, and contamination of herbal products have been widely reported,2,3 as have discrepancies between labels and contents.4 Plastic containers may contain phthalates, known endocrine disrupters.5 What was actually in the products cited in this report?
    None of the hormonal testing showed abnormal results, except in Patient 2, who had elevated levels of testosterone (not estrogen). There was no report on ultrasound examination or needle biopsy, nor were subsequent weight changes reported. Might the patients’ gynecomastia have reflected another pathophysiological process that resolved spontaneously?
    Traditional use and clinical trials have not suggested estrogenic effects of tea tree or lavender oil, though estrogenic effects have been reported for other essential oils and plants. Are occupational exposures to lavender and tea tree associated with estrogenic symptoms? In vitro testing alone is not adequate grounds for indicting traditionally used products and may raise public fear.
    Kathi J. Kemper, M.D., M.P.H.
    Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157
    Aviva J. Romm
    Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510
    Paula Gardiner, M.D., M.P.H.
    Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215”

    I think the letter raises some very good points. So the case isn’t clear.

Donald says February 10, 2017

What about baldness or lack of hair growth in women? Do the same principles apply?

Should I recommend this article to my cousin who is having this issue?

    P. D. Mangan says February 10, 2017

    Donald, female hair loss isn’t usually the same thing as male pattern baldness. Iron, zinc, and thyroid deficiencies are common causes of female hair loss. That being said, if your female cousin is over 50, and actually even if she isn’t, these could work, and I don’t see any harm in trying any of them.

      Donald says February 10, 2017

      Thanks for the advice. She will be grateful when I relay this to her. Great site!

DT says February 18, 2017

“All the essential oils studied were capable of chelating iron(II), the rosemary essential oil producing the highest effect (76.06%) in this respect.”

also this is a bit dated but forum users here report success with an essential oil/carrier oil mix that was used in a study in 2000

David says March 7, 2017

If it’s at least partially a fungal issue, why not simply use an antifungal cream, perhaps something useful for athletes foot or similar??
Also, as far as oils go, castor oil has long been thought of as an antifungal oil, and is a commonly suggested household remedy for various ailments. Any thoughts??
Great site & info btw!

    P. D. Mangan says March 7, 2017

    Hi David, and thanks. Ketoconazole is an antifungal and appears to be effective against baldness. The specific fungi that cause athletes foot – there are 2 of them – are different species, genus Trychophyton, from the one that causes dandruff and putatively, baldness, which is Malassezia furfur. (Not sure if treatment is all that different though.) As for castor oil, I’m afraid I know next to nothing about it.

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