When it comes to hair care, not many of us would think that a strong, and let’s face it, not a very nice smelling kitchen staple could have the power to transform our locks. But if the recent trend is anything to go by, onions are proving to be a magical ingredient that is suddenly being seen and advocated by experts and brands as the best thing to happen to your strands. Does it actually live up to the hype? We do a deep dive into its benefits.
Turns out, onions are chockablock with ingredients that are have been proven to help improve the health of hair. Foremost among these is sulfur, a mineral that not only helps to combat thinning and breakage but also nourishes follicles, leading to regenerated, stronger and thicker strands.
That’s not all; onion juice contains flavonoids like Kaempferol and Quercetin, both with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which give it another hair superpower – that of reversing greys. Add the fact that it can protect your scalp from infections and improve blood circulation thanks to its vasodilatory action, and you have a formula for success.
Science backs this up. Dr. Smriti Naswa Singh, Consultant Dermatologist, Fortis Hospital, India cites a 2018 study published in the Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics, which found that a herbal shampoo containing onion worked well to nourish dry hair, while an earlier study in the Journal of Dermatology back in 2002, which studied the effect of raw onion juice on Alopecia Areata patients, showed significant improvement in hair growth in eight weeks.
The expert’s view
Other experts are inclined to agree. Honey Thaker, Head Nutritionist, Fitness Science & Nutrition, Purenutrition.in, uses onion juice herself as part of her hair routine. “My hectic lifestyle had taken a toll on the health of my hair, which looked dull and lifeless. I started massaging my scalp with onion juice twice a week, and in the first month itself, I could see effective results. I love the fact that is so simple yet so effective,” she says.
Herbal beauty pioneer and founder, chairperson and managing director of The Shahnaz Husain Group, Shahnaz Husain, offers her recipe, “Mix the onion juice with a carrier oil or with aloe vera gel or rose water or coconut oil in equal quantities. Leave it on for 20 minutes and then wash the hair.”
Rashmi Duseja, Senior Stylist at Jean-Claude Biguine Salon & Spa, India, addresses an important issue of how using this home remedy will affect your salon treatments like colouring your hair. “On Asian hair, onion juice will not hamper your coloring procedure. I have even gone on to do a keratin treatment on hair that had used onion juice with no side effects. However, for lighter hair while it will not affect technical treatments, it can affect how the colour will turn out, and can turn it brassy and inclined towards copper instead of the natural ash tones. To counter this, use white onions instead of the red ones,” she says.
While there are some studies done it’s by no means extensive. So err on the side of being safe. Singh says while she recommends trying this method, do it only after conducting a patch test behind the ear. “Onion juice is a common irritant and can cause Irritant Contact Dermatitis in sensitive patients. If there is no reaction to the juice on the patch area (early reaction takes 48 hours to manifest, late reaction takes 7 days to manifest), then go ahead and try it,” she cautions.
Singh has patients who have had mild success with this DIY remedy, and believes that better results are possible if the application is combined with better lifestyle changes, such as proper diet and exercise and reducing sleep issues and stress.
Dr. Madhuri Agarwal, Founder & Medical Director, Yavana Aesthetics Clinic, echoes the need for care. “Onion juice should not be used incase you experience burning, itching or rashes after use. You should not use it if you have allergies, psoriasis or eczema-prone skin. It should not be used multiple times a week as it can sensitise the scalp and aggravate hair loss,” she warns. “In the event that you do face a reaction, soothe the skin by applying a mild oil like coconut and use a mild shampoo to get rid of all traces of the juice,” recommends Duseja.