I sometimes hear from folks who are looking for natural, inexpensive, and non invasive ways to help with their hair shedding. One possibility that sometimes comes up is oiling one’s scalp. This generally involves using a carrier oil (coconut, olive, jojoba, emu, tea tree oil or others) massaged into the scalp to stimulate the hair follicles and to promote hair regrowth.
I recently heard from someone who said: “my hair has been shedding horribly for about six weeks. Not only is my hair falling out, but my scalp is sore and itchy. On a hair loss forum, I read about a suggestion for using tea tree or emu oil to soothe your scalp. I also read that these oils sometimes help with hair loss and shedding. So my question is would oiling my scalp help with what I think is telogen effluvium? Or would it just soothe my sore scalp? And does it make your hair look greasy?”
There was no way for me to predict the future or the outcome when this person oiled their scalp, but I certainly have a theory, which I’ll explain now.
Why People Typically Oil Their Scalp: Usually scalp oiling is done when people have a dry, itchy or damaged scalp. This is sometimes due to using very hot curling or flat irons. Or it can be due to some sort of allergic reaction to products. Many believe that messaging oil into your scalp can help to heal or soothe your scalp while also stimulating your hair follicles and encouraging growth. You read a lot about hair oiling in ethnic or long hair communities and forums. Some swear by this practice because it has made their scalp and hair healthier and others find that it causes their hair to become oily and weighed down. In my observation, those who get the best results from oiling have been suffering from some sort of severe or scaring alopecia because of severe damage to their scalp, but I’m sure there are probably some exceptions.
Can Scalp Oiling Help With Hair Shedding Or Telogen Effluvium?: In my experience, the people who have some success with hair oiling (at least as it relates to shedding) are those who are shedding as the direct result of poor scalp health or severe scalp damage. These are usually folks who have a scalp that is so wounded and damaged that it just isn’t able to support healthy hair growth. So, their shedding and hair loss is directly related to the poor condition of their scalp. Since the oil provides moisture, healing, and relief, the shedding improves a little as their scalp begins to heal.
However, telogen effluvium (a common form of shedding that usually comes before you notice any issues with your scalp) is usually a completely separate issue. Usually, the trigger is there before the scalp begins to have problems. In other words, a person with telogen effluvium may well have a sore or problematic scalp, but this usually happens after the shedding begins, not before it. Many people have a troubled scalp as the result of TE, but those same troubles are not the cause of the shedding. Telogen effluvium is usually caused by stress or changes to the body. Examples are illness, hormonal issues, or severe psychological stress. Now, there are types of scaring alopecia that are related to your scalp and, in these cases, oiling your scalp can help with the shedding if the oil heals your scalp.
However, if you are shedding because of some type of non scarring alopecia (like telogen effluvium,) scalp oiling my help to relive some of your discomfort and it can also stimulate regrowth, which are both positive things. But often, this type of shedding ends because the trigger (or stress) has been removed or enough time has passed for your hair cycles can reset themselves.
One more point, be careful what type of oil you use and how much of it you apply. The last thing you want to do is to clog or compromise your hair follicles and make your already shedding hair look limp or oily.