If you’re looking for a magic oil that’ll grow your hair overnight, you’ve probably come across some pretty convincing testimonials of black seed oil (aka Nigella sativa, aka black cumin). As you can tell, the ingredient’s got a lot of different names, and some people even consider it a straight-up godsend for any number of hair struggles (think: fine or finning hair, dullness, dryness, the works). But because you can’t believe everything you read on the internet (I’ve definitely made that mistake once or twice and totally paid the price), I turned to board-certified dermatologist Dhaval G. Bhanusali, MD, to figure out what black seed oil can really do for your hair (and, you know, what it can’t).
Ahead, everything you need to know about using black seed oil for hair, straight from an expert.
Is black seed oil good for hair?
The reason you might see or hear black seed oil come up in conversation when you get to talking about hair-growth remedies is that the ingredient contains an antihistamine called thymoquinone. But is there enough evidence to support black seed oil as a hair-growth treatment? According to Dr. Bhanusali, not quite. “I haven’t come across any good literature to support the effects on hair growth specifically,” says Dr. Bhanusali.
But not all hope is lost! “There has been evidence that there may be a role for the seed as an anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antibacterial agent. In theory, if there was hair loss due to a condition like seborrheic dermatitis, it may aid in treating the condition and allowing the hair to grow in once the pathology is resolved.” Not sure what specifically is causing your hair loss? Chat with a dermatologist or trichologist before you start testing out black seed oil.
BTW: Those anti-inflammatory benefits is what makes black seed oil a pretty effective scalp-soother too. Just massage a couple drops through your scalp and it can help relieve irritation or tension pre-cleansing or conditioning. Pretty cool, right?
What are the side effects of taking black seed oil?
First of all, if you do plan on trying black seed oil for hair growth or benefits, Dr. Bhanusali recommends applying it to your hair rather than taking it as a hair supplement. “Whether medicinal treatments or otherwise, I tend to like topical application to minimize risk for systemic side effects,” Dr. Bhanusali explains. And remember: Supplements aren’t FDA-regulated, so before experimenting on your own by adding anything new to your routine, run it by your doctor first, k?
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But even if you do apply black seed oil topically, there’s still a chance you could have a less than ideal response to it. “With anything, irritation or allergic contact dermatitis is possible,” Dr. Bhanusali says, adding that it’s always best to first spot test it and then expand from there. If you decide to use the essential oil in pure form rather than using it in a pre-blended hair or skin product, Dr. Bhanusali recommends diluting it (same goes for any potent oil BTW) at least until you know your skin can handle it.
How long does it take to see results from black seed oil?
From there, take regular photos (every three to four weeks) to track your results, because any changes you might see will be subtle and gradual. According to Dr. Bhanusali, it usually takes three to four months to see visible results for non-RX options, so patience is key. “If you hit a plateau or you aren’t getting growth, I will always recommend seeing your friendly board-certified dermatologist who can explore the causes of hair loss and put you on a regimen to get you back on track,” says Dr. Bhanusali.
If you’ve tempered your expectations and accepted the fact that black seed oil probably isn’t going to give you super-long hair overnight and you still want to give it a try, just be sure to test it first in a small area to make sure you tolerate it well before applying it all over (the same goes for any new treatment). And if you really want to figure out what’s going on with your hair growth and address any hair loss, make an appointment with a trichologist or dermatologist to find the right remedy for you.
Brooke Shunatona is a contributing writer for Cosmopolitan.com.