Hair Growth - Growing Back Edges with Emu Oil

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I live downunder, in the land of Emus. Being the hair junkie that I am, was surprised that I'd never tried to use Emu oil! So off I went, scouring hairboards for anectodal evidence that this oil did something for hair. I came across a few posts claiming improvements mainly in hair lines/ edges. Exactly what I needed. I then headed to journal articles to see if there was a scientific basis for this. This was what I found:

  • One study found emu oil has the ability to penetrate the skin barrier and largely has an anti-inflamatory effect. It was also found to suppress the inflammatory disease, arthritis. However, the study also found that the quality of emu oil that can be found in the market is greatly variable and is often mixed with other oil such as chicken fat or linseed oil (i.e. it's important to make sure you're getting a pure as possible product). (Whitehouse, M.W., Turner, A.G., Davis, C.K.C., Roberts, M.S. (1998). Emu Oil(s): A source of non-toxic transdermal anti-inflammatory agent in Aboriginal medicine. Inflammopharmacology, 6, 1-8).

  • In a pilot double-blind study (i.e. neither the researcher or the participant knows what treatment the particpant is getting, it just eliminates bias) participants were given mineral oil and emu oil, then asked to use and rank each (again without knowing which was which) on permeability and moisturizing properties. Emu oil ranked higher in both properties, on average. (Although, for the more technical readers, the difference for moisturizing properties was not found to be statistically significant, probably due to the small sample size, n= 11). (Zemstov, A., Gaddis, M., Montalvo-Lugo, V.M. (1996) Moisturizing and cosmetic properties of emu oil: a pilot double blind study. Australian Journal of Dermatology, 37, 169-152).

  • So what does inflammation have to do with edges, I hear you ask. Well, other studies have found that physical stress, caused by hairstyles such as braids, will result in mechanical damage to hair follicles. This in turn results in inflammation on the affected ares. (Khumalo, N.P., Jessop S., Gumedze F., Ehrlich., R. (2008) Determinants of marginal traction alopecia in African girls and women. J Am Acad Dermatol, 59, 432-438).

  • Relaxers in certain circumstances can result in inflammation, resulting in particular forms of alopecia (Khumalo, N.P., Pillay, K., Ngwanya, R.M. (2007)Acute 'relaxer'-associated scarring alopecia: a report of five cases. British Journal of Dermatology, 156, 1395-1396).

  • Here's an article by a UK based scientist on Emu oil. It's a great blog too!!

It's all well and good to have the scientific backing on the properties, but does this stuff actually work in the real world. Do the anti-inflammorty properties of emu oil help to alleviate the inflammatory effects of some of our styling practices? Unfortunately there are currently no studies directly linking emu oil and hair growth, so for now us hair junkies will have to rely on correlations with current studies, anectodes from forums, website, blogs and personal experience.

Looking around for any success stories, I found this website that has a page dedicated to growing back edges with Emu oil. At the bottom, she has pictures of her progress over 12 weeks, and there is quite a bit of improvement. She does also go into a bit of detail on factors that may have affected her results, which helps a little.

It does sound promising. We know it's definately not toxic, so I'm open to trying it. Regimen:

  • As simple as applying it on my edges every 2-3 nights for the next month. Depending on how my scalp feels, I may and probably will extend this little challenge to 3 months. I'll be taking a photo every week to keep tabs on the progress. I won't be applying anything else to my edges while I do this.

Anyhoo, let me know what you think. Do you have any experience with Emu oil?


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