Can You Use Retinol For Hair Care?

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Retinol is well known as an important nighttime skincare product. But maybe it’s time to branch out? Can you use retinol for hair care? Is that a thing?

People have started applying it to their hair, but thus far there is relatively little evidence that retinol really does much of anything to the hair.

In recent years, there has been a tremendous rise in retinol-based skin care products, and so many have been left wondering if it can equally serve as a good hair care product. 

In this article, we’ll go over the details of using retinol in your hair.


What is Retinol, Anyway?

Retinol is a type of vitamin A primarily used in producing skin and hair products. There are many different types of retinol, and they are known as retinoids. Because retinoids differ and vary in strength, you must be careful to purchase those that are appropriate for your skin type and needs. 

Tretinoin, also known as Retin-A, is the most powerful retinoid and is typically used to treat acne. It is the most powerful because it is easily absorbed into the skin compared to other retinoids. It is prescription-only in the United States.

All other retinoids have a slower effect because they must be converted before they can be absorbed by our skin cells.

Even though they react slowly, they are less likely to irritate the skin than Retin-A.

Can Retinol Be Used on Hair, Just as on Skin?

While the haircare world has proven reliable, with a wide range of successful hair care products, including vitamin C, protein, and clay, retinol hair care remains relatively unexplored.

Retinol is an excellent skin care product that smooths and brightens the skin while preventing acne. 

It also contains vitamin A, which promotes cell growth and collagen production, making it a market-leading skincare routine product.

But, just like our skin, could retinol benefit our hair?

What Can Retinol Do for the Hair?

While vitamin A in Retinol is an effective anti-aging component, little research has been conducted to determine the effects of retinol on the hair and scalp.

According to the findings of the few studies that have been conducted, retinoids are beneficial to both the hair and the scalp. However, many retinol hair benefits are still hypothetical.

However, many retinol hair benefits are still hypothetical.

Nonetheless, here are some potential retinol hair benefits.

1. Promotes Hair Growth

A blend of all-trans-retinoic acids was an effective scalp conditioner, significantly promoting robust hair growth and potentially treating alopecia.

Some dermatologists have stated that retinol can increase blood flow to hair follicles on the scalp, resulting in healthy hair growth. But again, preliminary.

2. Moisturizes the Hair

Dr. Sue Anne Chan, a resident dermatologist at Monpure (a retinol-powered hair serum manufacturer), has claimed that retinol can help regulate sebum production, leaving the hair oily and moisturized.

She also claims that it aids in the removal of debris from the scalp, allowing for maximum absorption.

But once again, we would say: preliminary research from a company looking for profit. 

3. Decreases Buildup on the Scalp

Retinol functions as a chemical exfoliant. It can help reduce the accumulation of dead skin cells on the scalp’s surface, leaving it clean and healthy. A clean scalp also promotes hair growth by allowing new hair follicles to emerge.

4. May Clear Dandruff

Retinol keeps excess oil from building up on the scalp. When excess oil builds up on the scalp, they stimulate yeast overgrowth in the scalp, causing dandruff. 

5. Can Increase the Effectiveness of Other Hair Care Ingredients

According to Dr. Wendy Roberts, a board-certified dermatologist, retinol-powered products work well with other hair care ingredients.

She claims that retinol can aid in hair regeneration by thinning the skin’s outer layer, increasing the penetration and absorption rate of other hair products down the follicle, and making them much more effective.

But once again, like everything else preliminary research from a company looking for profit.

6. Reduces Greasy Hair

This is especially helpful for people who have oily scalps. Retinol may aid in the reduction of greasy hair and scalp by decreasing oil production in the oil glands.

Potential Side Effects of Retinol on Hair

The side effects of using retinol on your face can also be seen on your scalp. However, the side effects of retinol on hair are linked to long-term use.

Retinol can cause drying and scalp irritation if used excessively, especially in people with skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. If you have an underlying skin condition, you should consult your dermatologist before using retinol on your scalp.

Retinol can also cause scalp irritation, itching, and burning, and in severe cases, it can cause peeling of the scalp, sunburns on the scalp, and fading of hair. Retinol and sun exposure is a common issue for skin, and the same would follow for hair and scalp.

Dr. Michele Green, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, recommends using sunscreen sprays to avoid sunburns on the scalp.

However, you can easily avoid these side effects by reducing the amount and frequency of application.

How Can Retinol Be Incorporated Into a Hair Care Routine?

Dr. R. Sonia Batra, a certified dermatologist at Santa Monica, recommends using retinol in moderation. She advises anyone who wants to incorporate retinol into their hair routine to gradually do so to allow the skin and scalp to get used to it. 

For better results, use retinol alongside your hair products twice per week every night while monitoring the reaction with your hair and scalp. If there is no reaction, you can use it every day.

Who Should Avoid Retinol?

People with extremely sensitive scalps should avoid retinol hair products at all costs. Dryness caused by retinol can irritate sensitive skin, resulting in redness, burning, and peeling. Famously retinol can cause the retinol uglies on skin due to its irritation properties. This typically goes away after a couple of weeks.

When the scalp peels, it can burn when exposed to the sun.

The scalp also serves as a protector, and when it is disrupted, the skin becomes more prone to irritation when other skin products are applied.


Aside from treating skin conditions, retinol can also be used to stimulate hair growth and treat various hair disorders such as alopecia areata, frontal fibrosing, and monilethrix.

Retinol contains vitamin A, which aids in the formation of follicles, resulting in faster hair growth. This, however, has the potential to disrupt the normal hair cycle, resulting in unprecedented hair loss. 

Always conduct extensive research and consult your dermatologist before attempting to use a new retinol product on your hair. This is because different hair products react differently with different hair types. Visit your dermatologist if you experience itching, burning, or hair loss after using a retinol product. 

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).