May 01, 2023

Does Rosemary Water Make Your Hair Grow Faster?

TikTokers tout the perks of spritzing or saturating the scalp and locks with rosemary water. But this seemingly magic potion comes with a caveat.

A recent TikTok trend using various essential oils, including rosemary, as a hair-health hack, claims that applying the plant extracts onto your scalp and hair strands result in everything from shine to growth. Now influencers on the video-sharing site are touting a DIY plant-based potion for hair growth: rosemary water.

The hashtag #rosemarywater has racked up 609.8 million views, with individual videos getting millions of views apiece. Many of the clips depict influencers showing off their shiny, healthy, long locks, attributing their hair health to a simple recipe of boiled water and rosemary leaves.

"Rosemary water is the new rice water," @audreyvictoria (2.3M followers) proclaims in a 10-second video dousing her hair in a homemade concoction. "I used rosemary water on my hair for seven days and the results were shocking," @beautybypriscila (21.5K followers) says in a video with 2.2 million views, claiming that her hair grew "half an inch" in a week.

In one video viewed a whopping 17 million times, hair influencer @jonathankmonroe (2.3M followers) claims that rubbing rosemary water "haircicles" (rosemary water poured into a silicone massage-bar mold and frozen) into your hair "can reduce hair loss and boost hair growth" and increase shine. "Make sure you hit your scalp to improve follicle circulation for maximum growth," he adds.

Another user, @katyaniomi (195.8K followers) maintains that there is even scientific evidence supporting rosemary water for hair growth. "A study has shown that this is comparable to 2 percent minoxidil," she says in the video viewed over three million times. "Minoxidil is one of the only things scientifically proven for hair growth and the stop of hair loss."

But just because it's trending on TikTok doesn't mean rosemary water is an all-encompassing solution for improved hair growth and shine. Over the years, we’ve seen hair-care trends, similar to this, go viral on social media without clear scientific evidence and long-range studies to prove its efficacy for all hair types or hair loss conditions. Therefore, using TikTok for hair-care advice, as opposed to consulting a board-certified dermatologist, isn't advisable.

With this caveat in mind, read on to learn more about rosemary water, the science behind the claims, and whether or not it may be useful in your hair-care routine.

Rosemary water is created by steeping rosemary leaves in water, resulting in an infused liquid, explains Michelle F. Henry, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College.

In her video, Niomi breaks down a recipe for how to make rosemary water: Start by adding 5 cups of water and 5 buds of rosemary (1 bud for every cup of water) to a pot over medium-high heat, she explains. "Once the water is boiling you are going to leave it for 15 minutes." Then, turn off the heat and let the mixture sit in the pot for 25 minutes until it has a "pinkish-reddish hue." Then, strain the finished product into a bottle, removing the rosemary twigs. The solution can be refrigerated and used for one to two weeks if stored properly.

As for how to use it, some TikTokers suggest pouring it over the head, saturating the roots and scalp, while others recommend spraying it on. "Use as a last step rinse in shower hair-care routine," suggests Niomi.

Is rosemary water the miracle potion TikTokers are claiming? Here's what the experts told us.

There is some research supporting the plant's power to potentially promote hair growth. In addition to the study published in 2015 that Niomi referenced, which found rosemary oil to be just as effective as 2 percent minoxidil after six months of use, a small study published in 2013 supported rosemary leaf extract's ability to promote hair regrowth in participants with androgenetic alopecia.

However, Michelle Ornstein, an esthetician and the founder of Enessa Skincare in Los Angeles, explains that there is a big difference in the potency of essential oil or extract used in the studies, and a DIY water.

"The process of making an essential oil is to use professional, sterile equipment at controlled temperatures to achieve effective results, as opposed to boiling a plant that has the nutrients cooked out of it with high temperatures and evaporation under conditions that are not uniform," Ornstein explains.

With essential oils, the process of extracting the highly concentrated oil from the plant involves steam distillation, which is done without overheating or creating a "burned" oil. "The byproduct of the essential oil is the hydrosol or hydrolat, which although less concentrated and a water-based product, contains much of the same benefits as the essential oil, but is in a less concentrated form,"she says.

Additionally, the effectiveness of rosemary water or oil is also dependent on the quality of the ingredients, Ornstein adds. "In other words, they must be organic or wildcrafted and from reliable sources," she says.

However, even when looking at the benefits of the more potent rosemary essential oil, Dr. Henry maintains that more research is needed to establish a direct relationship. To date, the studies available are small and still preliminary which does not suggest any long-term definitive benefits. And there are no existing studies that specifically evaluate rosemary water for hair care.

It's also important to note that essential oils are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Be sure to consult a certified aromatherapist or integrative practitioner before directly applying any new essential-oil or extract-based product, even if homemade, to your hair and body.

Healthy hair usually starts with a healthy scalp, and rosemary oil may have some possible benefits.

Participants in the aforementioned 2015 study who used rosemary oil were less likely to experience scalp itching than the minoxidil group. Ornstein explains that rosemary oil is known to be high in antifungal and antibacterial properties, and may be useful to combat dandruff, among other scalp concerns.

Henry points out that scientific studies specifically focused on the impact of rosemary oil on scalp health are limited, and again, focus on rosemary oil, not rosemary water. Research is needed to better understand the potential relationship between rosemary water and scalp health.

According to Henry, there isn't much validity in the claim that rosemary water hydrates the hair. "Rosemary itself doesn't have inherent hydrating properties," she says. However, "when used in combination with carrier oils or hair products, it may contribute to overall hair and scalp moisturization."

Again, research specific to rosemary water is nonexistent, but necessary to support what TikTokers claim.

While rosemary oil may temporarily provide shine to the hair when applied, Henry isn't convinced that rosemary water can enhance hair shine in the long run, and no research exists. "It may enhance the hair's appearance by adding a lustrous sheen, but the effect is temporary and can vary based on individual hair characteristics," she says.

Most people with healthy hair and no scalp concerns could try adding rosemary water to their care routine. Regarding side effects, rosemary oil is generally considered safe for topical use.

However, Henry notes that some individuals may have allergies or sensitivities to it. Irritation and inflammation may result from using rosemary oil on the scalp for some individuals. It's crucial to consult a certified aromatherapist, integrative doctor, or dermatologist for guidance before trying anything new. And, "conducting a patch test before applying rosemary oil or water to the entire scalp or hair is advisable," says Henry.

Moreover, excessive use or high concentrations of essential oils, like rosemary oil, may potentially cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.

Individuals with specific hair or scalp concerns should proceed with caution. "It's always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or a dermatologist before trying any new product or treatment, particularly if there are underlying scalp conditions or sensitivities," Henry adds.

Furthermore, anyone currently taking supplements for hair loss, or who is being treated for hair loss with medications, should not try rosemary oil or rosemary water, as certain contraindications may occur.

In conclusion, while rosemary oil has been associated with certain hair-related benefits, the scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness is limited — and there is absolutely no scientific evidence of rosemary water's impact on hair health.

Henry says rosemary water may have some positive anecdotal effects on scalp health, hair growth, and the appearance of hair. "However, individual results may vary, and it's important to consider personal hair characteristics, potential allergies, and seek professional advice before trying any new hair-care trend," she says.

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