Serums for Hair Growth: Ingredients to Look For

Hair loss is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It can be multifactorial in nature and challenging to treat in many cases. An accurate diagnosis is crucial to regrowing hair quickly. Depending on the cause, certain products may help regrow hair. Read on to learn if hair growth serums can help you regrow your hair.

Key takeaways:

What is hair serum?

Hair serums are silicone-based liquid products that help our hair in some way. Since many different serums are available, you can tailor them to your personal needs. There are hair serums that help with shine, smoothness, hydration, protection from heat or pollution, strengthening, and growth. Some serums combine many of these attributes together. You can apply them to wet or dry hair but not the scalp.

How does hair grow?

Hair goes through different stages during its life cycle. No matter what occurs, hair moves through these stages in order. If there are issues causing hair loss, your hair will move through these stages more quickly.

Here are the stages of hair growth:

  • Anagen. This is the growth stage of the hair cycle. It is the longest stage, lasting about 3–5 years. About 90% of all the hairs on your scalp are in this stage. Scalp hairs grow about half an inch per month.
  • Catagen. This is the transition stage, which is the shortest of all the stages. It only lasts for days.
  • Telogen. This is the resting stage, which can last for months.
  • Exogen. Some consider this part of telogen. It is the shedding stage, which can last for months. It is normal to lose about 150 hairs per day.

What causes hair loss?

Hair loss is multifactorial, meaning it can result from various causes. These causes can be intrinsic, stemming from internal causes, or extrinsic, resulting from external forces. Intrinsic causes include genetics, age, sex, and medical problems. You cannot control these forces. However, you can properly treat your medical conditions to regrow hair. Extrinsic causes include stress, medications, nutrition, and hair care practices. You can control and remedy these issues to promote hair growth.

Ingredients to look for in a hair growth serum

Many over-the-counter ingredients in hair growth serums have been reported to lead to successful hair growth. However, most of the evidence is anecdotal, except for minoxidil. Minoxidil is the only FDA-approved over-the-counter hair growth product. It is important to remember that hair growth serums can take 6–12 months to help your hair, so patience and consistency are key.


Minoxidil has shown benefits in regrowing hair for men and women in several studies. It is available in men's and women's strength. Its mechanism of action is not entirely known; however, it does increase circulation to the scalp. This increased circulation brings nutrients to the scalp to nourish it and promote hair growth. Some people find the liquid form more irritating than the foam.

Essential oils

Essential oils are often mixed with a carrier oil, such as coconut or argan, to dilute them. These carrier oils also help to moisturize the hair to prevent dryness and brittleness. There are very few studies looking at these various ingredients for hair growth. Most of these studies are small or performed on animals. Some of these essential oils include rosemary, lavender, peppermint, cedarwood, lemongrass, thyme, and clary sage. Interestingly, a small study comparing rosemary to minoxidil showed equal hair growth ability, but rosemary caused less irritation.

Side effects of hair growth serums

As with any product, there is a chance for side effects with hair growth serums. If you have sensitive skin or are concerned about having a reaction, try a test spot first. The good news is that most are generally well tolerated.

Here are some possible side effects:

  • Irritation
  • Allergic reaction
  • Redness
  • Scaling or flaking
  • Itching, burning, or tingling

How to use hair growth serums

As with any treatment, consistency is key. You must use your hair growth serums daily or as directed on the product. Massage the product into your scalp gently and use just enough to cover the affected area. Using too much will only waste the product. These serums will not work immediately. It will take 6–12 months to see the benefits, so be patient. Many combine topical products with oral hair growth supplements to get enhanced results.

Other treatment options

If over-the-counter treatments fail to deliver the results you desire, consider other options. You can add a nutraceutical hair growth supplement to your topical regimen. You can also consult your doctor for professional treatments such as oral Propecia, low-level light therapy, microneedling with or without platelet-rich plasma or platelet-rich fibrin injections, and hair transplants. These treatment options also depend on the cause of your hair loss. Not every treatment is appropriate for every type of hair loss.

Hair loss results from various causes. It is best to see a doctor to determine the cause of your hair loss before starting any treatments. Proper diagnosis will lead to quicker recovery, but be patient. Hair growth serums, alone or in conjunction with other treatments, can help regrow hair. However, not all ingredients in these serums may help, and hair will not regrow overnight. Proper selection of ingredients, consistency, and patience are critical to success.

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