Can retinol really help with hair loss? We asked an expert.

As anyone who suffers from hair loss will tell you, there's an awful lot of BS out there. There's about eleventy million different vitamins, shampoos, conditioners, massaging tools, lotions and sprays on the market, and most of them do... nothing.

So when we came across a hack that's been doing the rounds on TikTok, promising an easy solution for hair growth, we knew we had to cut through the noise and hit up an expert.

Watch: 5 ways to lift your hair game. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

We're talking about those viral videos that tout topical vitamin A (specifically prescription vitamin A, also known as retinoid) as a treatment to help prevent hair loss.

Just search 'retinol hair loss' on TikTok and you'll find a bunch of clips, including some from dermatologists swearing by the use of prescription retinoid for hair loss.

@drabby6 Using a retinoid alongside minoxidil can prevent hair loss better than minoxidil alone. Is there anything a retinoid can’t do? #hairloss #minoxidilresult #minoxidil #retinoid #hairlossremedy #hairlosssolutions #hairtok #skintok #boardcertifieddermatologist #fyp ♬ original sound - Taylor Dean
@drnomzzy Shut up part 16! Using a retinoid alongside minoxidil can help it to work better than simply using minoxidil alone. Is there anything a retinoid cant do? #drnomzzy #hairloss #minoxidilresult ♬ original sound - Taylor Dean

Seems pretty legit, right?

But... is it? Can retinoid and retinol really help with hair loss?

Here, we speak to a trichologist (hair expert) Carolyn Evans-Frost from Absolique Hair Health Clinic in Brisbane and asked her everything we need to know before applying retinol to our scalps.


Can prescription retinol help with hair growth?

Let's start with the prescription retinoid claim, shall we? It's one of the most popular hacks currently doing the rounds on TikTok.

When we asked Evans-Frost if applying plain prescription retinol combined with popular hair treatments such as Rogaine to your scalp could result in hair growth, she said, "My initial thoughts are: scalp irritation and not suitable for sensitive scalp."

Which sounds... not good.

She added that hair treatments like Rogaine contain a specific active ingredient that can be very drying on the scalp. 

"So adding it with prescription retinol can exacerbate the situation for those who already have a dry scalp," she said.

@ameliagartner Im atleast not in my pajamas this time guys… 😂🫠 @Nioxin you’re doing gods work 👌🏼 #womenwithhairloss #newmums #postpartumhairloss #hairfall #hairgrowth #recedinghairline #hair #hairtok ♬ Calm Dooowwnnn Lalalaaa (Remix) - FAITAH NADA

She also added that there was no solid evidence that retinoid (prescription vitamin A) used as a hair loss treatment is actually a thing when it comes to treating hair loss, "The research data has shown no increase of effect for hair growth related to androgenetic alopecia."

Meaning? There's just not enough evidence out there to support the benefits of this combination. You may just end up irritating your poor old scalp.

How about over-the-counter retinol?

When it comes to using over-the-counter retinol (natural form of vitamin A) as a hair loss treatment, the response was actually surprising.

Evans-Frost told us: "Retinol has been shown to be beneficial for scalp health, reducing sebum and therefore assisting with the hormonal type of hair thinning androgenetic alopecia."


"Vitamin A is also used in hair, skin and nail supplements and can help speed up hair growth."


However, Evans Frost also stated, "It is best used in combination products, not on its own."


Meaning? Slathering your nightly retinol serum on your head probably won't do much. "Research does not show the benefits when using retinol on its own for hair growth," she said.

What's the best treatment for hair growth?

Instead of playing chemist at home and combining vitamin A with different ingredients, Evans-Frost said "There are so many effective ingredients and products out there these days."

But what ones actually... work?

She said, "The ones I find work well are antioxidant-based with vitamins that help both scalp and hair. Ease of use and not leaving a residue on the hair are very important in a product, so this can make things easier to choose."

Note. Taken. 

If you're looking for specific products Evans-Frost would actually recommend trying for hair loss, Evans-Frost said there are two that stand out.  

"One of my favourite all-round products is Activance. It's unique, and I have not come across anything like it."

"We also use Absolique GRN when it is a more challenging type of hair loss. GRN is our brand but there are various similar products available."

"I would suggest checking out the ingredients of these kinds of products to know what to look for." 


In terms of taking care of your hair when you're suffering from hair loss, hair thinning and scalp conditions, Evans-Frost said there's one key thing people might not know. That is, it's best to keep hair shampoo and conditioner off the scalp. 

She said: "Use safe scalp cleansers on the scalp here, and the hair shampoo and conditioner 10cm away from the scalp, on the mid lengths and ends. Hair shorter than 10cm can get by with only scalp cleanser."

So, there you have it.

As any hair expert will tell you, all-in-all, the key to figuring out the best treatment option is finding out a diagnosis first.

"The main thing my clients tell me is they wish they had a correct diagnosis before trying all the available topical and supplemental products," said Evans-Frost.

"The value of understanding the difference between hair loss, hair thinning and the individual underlying causes would save people a lot of money and heartache."

"When I meet a client for the first time, they have generally tried three to four different treatments that did not work or made things worse, because they did not know what they were treating."

Makes sense!

Do you suffer from hair loss? What are your thoughts on the above? Share with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: TikTok/@ameliagartner, @phithegoldenskin.

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