Exercise for Hair Growth: Does It Work?

A quick Google search or social media scroll will offer you loads of advice on how you can promote hair growth—most of it either slightly scary-sounding (hi, scalp microneedling) or a topical or oral product that requires a big commitment (both time-wise and wallet-wise) to see results.

But can something as simple as your regular yoga practice help with hair growth? According to physician Mary Wendel, MD, yoga’s many benefits (and that of exercise in general) most likely help hair health—you just won’t find any studies to definitively confirm this.

“I do think there’s truth to anything that can create better blood flow will improve hair health,” says Dr. Wendel, who founded Medi Tresse, a medical practice in Massachusetts dedicated to treating female hair loss. “I’m a very strong believer in the benefits of exercise and yoga to improve blood flow, and also to diminish stress,” she continues. “The effects of increased stress on hair growth is profound, and we know it’s one of the biggest factors that can accelerate shedding.” She notes that it’s exercise’s proven ability to reduce stress (and not necessarily a specific yoga inversion) that’s really key to helping with hair.

How exercise impacts hair health

For a little more science on how exercise and practices like yoga and meditation can help improve the health of your hair, Dr. Wendel shares how stress affects both your hair and your overall health. “There’s a condition called telogen effluvium, or TE, which is an episode of profound, excessive shedding brought on by illness like COVID-19 or by severe stress,” she explains, noting that she’s treated patients in her practice who have experienced this. “Stress increases your cortisol and does other things in terms of your hormone balances and thyroid function.” Those imbalances can obviously negatively impact your health in other ways, but they can also cause your hair to shed excessively.

While Dr. Wendel practices yoga herself and recommends that her patients find some type of physical activity that they enjoy to improve blood flow and decrease stress, she also reiterates that the scientific research is lacking.

“I think there is a strong belief that these are beneficial things, it’s just that you’re not going to be able to find a study that shows it improved things by ‘X’ amount,” she says. “But there are certainly studies that show that exercise, yoga, stress reduction, they help balance out hormones, they improve stress, they decrease depression, they reduce anxiety—all of those things that are important.”

An easy, at-home way to stimulate blood flow to the scalp

In addition to keeping up with your workout routine, you can also incorporate a simple scalp massage into your routine periodically. “It helps to bring some blood flow to the scalp, and it also sort of spreads the natural oils that the follicles and the scalp make so that they don’t build up as much,” Dr. Wendel explains.

She sells her own Root Cleanse Shampoo, which comes with a massage brush, but she notes that massaging the scalp on its own just a few times each week for five to 10 minutes is beneficial. (If you’re going the cleanser route, use it once a week with the brush, and then stick to using the brush on its own when repeating your scalp massage throughout the week.)

“You don’t want something that’s hard and metal that’s going to scratch the scalp too much or cause irritation,” she says. Instead, the massager brush that you choose should use soft, silicone bristles that won’t cause damage to the scalp or the hair (while using gentle massaging motions, of course).

“It’s like when you go to the salon and they do a nice little scalp massage while you’re there,” Dr. Wendel says. “You can do a little bit of a circular movement, but sort of just gently follow from front to back like you’re brushing your hair with the massager,” she says, noting that this helps to avoid tangling up the hair.

Ready to de-stress? Try this calming yoga flow:

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