Most people know hemp for its calming, relaxing benefits—but that's not all it's good for. Whether taken as a supplement or used topically, both hemp oil extract (which contains beneficial cannabinoids) and hemp seed oil (which is cold-pressed from hemp seeds and does not contain cannabinoids) can deliver benefits to the hair and scalp. Here's how hemp products can help you achieve healthier hair, according to research.
What does the science say about using hemp extract for healthier hair?
Hemp oil extract is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Your body can't make these nutrients naturally, but it needs them either through diet or supplementation. When it comes to our manes, these omega-3s and omega-6s may help manage hair loss, help maintain the thickness of the hair shaft (the part that you can see above the scalp), and support hair density, according to one study that tracked the hair health of over 100 female participants over a six-month period.*
Hemp oil extract is also high in antioxidants that protect our cells from damage by combating the effects of free radicals and oxidative stress.* Plus, as long as the product is full-spectrum, hemp oil has an abundance of terpenes and flavonoids that can help manage inflammation as well.* When it comes to your tresses, hemp oil also contains vitamins and minerals that have the potential to protect against damage and hair loss, though more research needs to be done into how exactly they work in the body.*
Hemp oil extract can be taken as a daily supplement to nourish your hair and scalp—and it also comes with a host of other ingredients that can be beneficial to overall well-being.* CBD, for example, can help keep the body in homeostasis.* And when CBD works in concert with the hundreds of other compounds in the cannabis plant, you benefit from what's called the entourage effect, a synergy of ingredients working together to keep you and your body on an even keel.*
What does the science say about using hemp seed oil for healthier hair? (Plus, how to use it for your hair type.)
Like other oils, hemp seed oil may have protective qualities when applied directly to the hair and scalp. We have long known that oil can prevent too much water or other substances from invading the hair shaft. The more porous hair is from chemical damage or over-styling, the more vulnerable it is to water's wear. Water can be an enemy to locks because wet tresses swell and become more susceptible to breakage. Oil also helps manage hair harm by lubricating the shaft and reducing combing force on soaked strands.
With hemp seed oil, the protection starts with the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. Fatty acids have a hydrophilic end that aids in moisture retention, and a hydrophobic end that boosts shine, "making hemp seed oil a perfect product for coarse, curly hair," says Austin-based stylist Sarah Lund.
Additionally, vitamin E also plays a role in fending off the elements and battling damage. "This will create greater elasticity in the hair while adding shine," Lund explains.
You can tailor your use of hemp seed oil to your hair type. For dry, coarse, or curly hair, use the product as a daily leave-in moisturizer. "A small amount distributed through hair midshaft [the middle of your strands] to ends will help to strengthen and moisturize hair that is older and more vulnerable to styling damage," says Leigh Hardges, a Chicago-based stylist. "Those with straight or fine hair that steer clear of daily oils could benefit from hemp seed oil as a hot oil treatment." For a dry or oily scalp, Hardges recommends applying the hemp seed oil directly to the scalp overnight and then shampooing in the morning. "The amino acids in hemp seed oil can deliver properties to help balance the scalp and regulate the production of sebum, the body's natural oil," she explained.
The bottom line.
If you've been looking for an all-natural way to up your hair and scalp health, hemp oil extract and hemp seed oil could be great options.* Hemp oil extract can be taken as a daily supplement for added nutrition that helps manage hair loss and promotes thickness and density.* And hemp seed oil can be applied directly to your hair and scalp to moisturize and combat breakage. Or take a two-pronged approach. Enhance your hair from both the inside and out by using both products to produce happy, healthy tresses.
Jennifer Chesak is a freelance medical journalist with bylines in several national publications, including Washington Post, Healthline, Prevention, Greatist, Runner’s World, and more. Her coverage focuses on chronic health issues, fitness, nutrition, women’s medical rights, and the scientific evidence around health and wellness trends. She earned her Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill School. In addition to reporting, she also serves as a freelance manuscript editor and medical fact-checker. She teaches copyediting and media studies at Belmont University and several writing courses through the Porch Writers’ Collective in Nashville, and she is the managing editor for the literary magazine Shift.