Onion juice for hair loss – it's one of the remedies 'doing the rounds' on the internet… particularly on social media! But does it actually work?
On this page I'll take a closer look at just what's behind this ancient 'cure' and why you may not want to dismiss it completely out of hand.
Please note: the information given here should not be seen as medical advice. Please speak to your doctor if you are experiencing unexplained hair loss, or before trying any remedies.
If you want to get past the typical 'hype' of websites suggesting onion juice for hair loss and establish the facts, then you've probably looked to see if there's any research PROVING that it works.
But you need to be careful doing this – I've come across lots of sites that refer vaguely to research from the U.K.'s Bradford University, which found – they say – the causes of hair turning gray and thinning. They go on to say that one of the causes – a lack of an enzyme called catalase – can be reversed by the application of onion juice to the scalp.
However, the research I've seen mentioned – Senile Hair Graying and this paper discussing repigmentation of skin and hair in patients with vitiligo – did not study hair loss, nor did they in any way imply that a lack of catalase triggered hair loss. The onion juice itself was never mentioned at all in these studies.
But before you dismiss onion juice as a potential remedy…
Skeptics will say that it's unlikely that a totally natural substance like onion juice will ever be comprehensively studied as a hair loss remedy, as no one stands to profit financially from a positive result!
That being said, there has been one study published - entitled Onion juice (Allium cepa L.), a new topical treatment for alopecia areata – very small scale research to be sure, but intriguing nonetheless.
In this study, patients with alopecia areata were split into 2 groups.
Group 1 – advised to apply a crude onion juice to the scalp twice a day for 2 months
23 patients, 69.5% male and 30.5% female
Ages: 5 to 42, with an average age of 22.7
Group 2 – advised to apply tap water to the scalp twice a day for 2 months
15 patients, 53.3% male, 46.7% female
Ages: 3 to 35, with an average age of 18
After 2 weeks of treatment, regrowth of coarse hairs was observed in group 1… and after 4 weeks, researchers observed regrowth in 86.9% of the group (93.7% of the men and 71.4% of the women).
The researchers concluded that "(crude onion juice)… can be an effective topical therapy for patchy alopecia areata".
In addition to the small scale research mentioned above, there is a fair bit of anecdotal evidence from hair loss sufferers on forums and in online comments, in support of onion juice's effectiveness.
And that may be because onions are rich in sulfur. Sulfur has antibacterial and antifungal properties, killing off germs, parasites and putting an end to fungal infections. Given the fact that hair loss is often triggered by an unhealthy scalp, it makes sense that sulfur-rich onion juice may act as a 'cure'. Indeed, another widely reported benefit of applying onion juice to the scalp is that it gets rid of dandruff, which is usually fungal in nature.
Onions also contain quercetin, an antioxidant that studies have shown may be useful in treating alopecia areata.
If the information given above has persuaded you to give onion juice a try, here are some guidelines for preparing and using it.
Some people have reported suffering from a red, itchy scalp after applying onion juice – it is, after all, very strong.
You might like to test it on a very small area before applying it all over your scalp and you should definitely avoid any sore areas, particularly those with broken skin.
Yes – it's easy to buy online . BUT its potency is greatly reduced as time passes and fresh is BY FAR the best. In fact, expert onion juice users recommend preparing it as and when needed, rather than preparing a batch to store for later use.
There are several methods you can use, depending on the equipment you have to hand.
NOTE: Do not try simply blending and onion and applying it to your scalp – you will be picking bits of onion out of your hair for days!
If you are concerned about sensitivity, you could also try…
There's no getting away from the fact that onion juice has a VERY strong smell. However, whilst the odour can be overpowering during application, supporters of the onion juice treatment say it is barely noticeable – if at all – when washed out.
(Editors note – I have not been brave enough to try this treatment myself, for EXACTLY this reason).
Nevertheless, there are a few things you can try using (besides water) that are said to help remove or hide any lingering aromas!
Apply it as often as you can
...daily if possible, and remember it can take several weeks (or even a few months) to see results with any hair loss remedy.
Massage it gently into the scalp
...and leave it to work for at least 30 minutes (or even overnight – but I strongly recommend covering your hair to protect your bedding).
Apply it in conjunction with emu oil
Emu oil has been found to be very effective in allowing hair loss products to permeate the scalp and get to where they're needed.
Then consider using a sulfur shampoo, which is a somewhat simpler approach to achieving a healthy scalp.
For the benefits of quercetin, you could swap onion juice for the juice of any of the following, all of which are good quercetin sources…
If you've tried onion juice for hair loss and have any results to share – good or bad – please do let me know, or leave a comment via Facebook (below).