Onion Water for Hair: Benefits, Side Effects and How to Try It

Cardi B recently set social media on fire when she took to Instagram to share a potentially unexpected secret to healthy hair: onion water.

The rapper says the DIY home treatment made her hair shinier after just two washes – and the supposed before and after photos she posted on instagram are unquestionably convincing.

She is possibly the first female rapper to have three diamond single certifications from the Recording Industry Association of America, per paper magazines, but she’s certainly not the first to use the at-home hair treatment. Countless followers who flocked to Cardi B’s comments section praised the artist for using the natural remedy, as it is deeply rooted in Ayurvedic practices and Dominican culture (although the origin of the practice is unclear). And Guillaume Gaunitza board-certified trichologist, or hair and scalp expert, and founder of Advanced Trichology in Phoenix, Arizona, says his hair loss patients have been discussing this natural treatment for years.

Gaunitz says the claims about the benefits of onion water for hair “are valid to some degree.” But he doesn’t unconditionally support the practice because “it’s subject to a random recipe” with a “variety of variables” that may or may not work.

While Cardi B’s hack involved boiling onions and using water, Gaunitz notes he’s met patients who have mixed onions to make a juice-like substance that they use as a treatment. scalp before rinsing it off in the shower.

Still others chop the vegetable and add it to their shampoo. It’s the case for PureWow writer Angie Martinez-Tejada, who learned the supposed trick from his Dominican mother. She used the onion shampoo first and followed with a second shampoo, which she says masks any lingering onion smell.

But what does science say about this hair-raising hack? Ahead, we break down everything you need to know before soaking your hair in onion water.

What are the health benefits of onion water for hair?

The health properties of onions mean that the vegetable can provide a host of benefits for the hair. “Rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, onions provide antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory benefits,” says Kerry Yates, trichologist and founder of Dallas-based Color Collective. These properties make it a potential solution for alleviating fungal infections that can cause dandruff, she adds. Although there is a lack of high quality research on how these properties translate to your scalp, one review published in 2020 in the Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences noted the antifungal and antimicrobial potential of onion extract and onion essential oils.

And although research on the actual applications of onions for hair is limited, a past study suggested that onion water may help promote hair regrowth in study participants living with alopecia areata, which is a condition that causes hair loss.

The study involved 38 women and men who applied onion juice or tap water to their scalp twice a day for two months. Of the 23 participants who used onion juice, 20 people (or 87%) noticed regrowth after six weeks of the trial, while only two people in the tap water group noticed the same. But the small sample size of this study means more research is needed to fully understand this potential effect.

One possible reason why onion juice can be a boon for your hair? “The sulfur content of onion water is very high,” says Gaunitz. You’ll also find high levels of sulfur in other foods, including meat, eggs, cruciferous vegetables, and other allium vegetables like garlic, for example. past searches. This nutrient leaves you with tears in your eyes after chopping onions, noted The New York Times. But it can have other effects, Gaunitz continues: “Because sulfur is a common over-the-counter treatment for inflammatory skin conditions when applied to the scalp, it works for many people who have skin issues. of inflammatory hair loss.

Take note, though: Onion water won’t work for all types of hair loss, such as hair loss caused by nutrient deficiencies and androgenetic alopecia, Gaunitz says. No research suggests that onion juice can suppress dihydrotestosterone levels to prevent androgenetic alopecia. Likewise, it has not been shown to increase protein or vitamin D levels at the base of the hair follicle, which may contribute to nutritional hair loss.

In either of these cases, it is best to consult a board-certified dermatologist or trichologist.

What are the potential side effects of onion water for hair?

If you’re allergic to onions, avoid using them entirely topically, including in onion water, warns Yates.

And even if you’re not allergic, be sure to wash the onion water off your scalp thoroughly to avoid irritation. (It’s unlikely, but not impossible, that it could irritate your skin, depending on the Environmental Working Group.)

While smelling of onion isn’t a health-related side effect, it’s probably not the scent you’re looking for. The good news: When combined with shampoo, “the onion smell should come out immediately” after rinsing, Gaunitz says.

How to Use Onion Water for Healthy Hair

If you’re interested in trying the onion water hair remedy, Gaunitz advises against cooking or boiling them. “The [theoretical] medicinal properties come from the raw onion itself,” he explains.

Instead, here’s a potential method, according to the New Jersey Hair Restoration Center:

  1. Peel and cut three to four onions into small pieces.
  2. Extract the juice by squeezing or blending them.
  3. Apply the juice to your scalp using a cotton ball. Optionally, adds Yates, you can add a little lemon juice if you want to offset the onion smell.
  4. Massage it into the scalp, let it sit for an hour, then rinse. Continue with a second cleansing of your usual shampoo.

If you’re worried about whipping up a do-it-yourself onion water solution, Yates suggests opting for topical hair care like a shampoo, conditioner, or oil that contains onion juice.

Healthy Hair Alternatives to Onion Water

Not all experts are advocating for the onion water trend. “While onions can be a powerful antioxidant, I wouldn’t invest too much stock, medically speaking, in the latest social media trend, or one that celebrities swear by,” says William Yates, MD, a Chicago-based hair loss surgeon. “The truth is that much of your hair loss (or lack thereof) is genetically set in stone. Aside from illness, which we’ve seen happening very widely with COVID, and hormonal imbalances, your hair density is mostly predetermined based on traits inherited from your parents.

Instead, he advises you to focus on “getting enough nutrients by eliminating processed foods and opting for a diet high in protein, vitamins and minerals.” The Cleveland Clinic offers similar tips for preventing hair loss, noting that protein-rich foods and a Mediterranean diet can be particularly beneficial.

As for your hair care routine: “Eliminate all harsh chemicals such as phthalates, sulfates, and alcohol,” advises Dr. Yates.

Takeaway meals

Using onion water to improve scalp health and the appearance of your hair is not a new practice – it is rooted in Ayurvedic practices and Dominican culture. Overall, while some people claim it can reduce dandruff, reduce hair loss and increase shine, the research evidence to support the widespread use of onion treatments for scalp issues and hair are lacking. Although the theoretical risk and cost are low, consult a dermatologist or trichologist before trying the DIY treatment, as not all hair concerns can benefit from this practice.

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