Commonly Used Over the Counter Therapies for Hair Growth in Skin of Color: An Evidenced-Based Review

July 2021 | Volume 20 | Issue 7 | Original Article | 726 | Copyright © July 2021

Published online June 10, 2021

Melissa R. Laughter PhDa, Jaclyn B. Anderson BSa, Nkemjika Ugonabo MD MPHb, Zainab Mohammodu MHSc, Mona Sadeghpour MDd, Jerry Shapiro MDb, Kristen Lo Sicco MDb

aUniversity of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Aurora, CO
bThe Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, New York University Grossman School of Medicine, New York, NY
cMeharry Medical College, Nashville, TN
dSkinMed Institute, Lone Tree, CO

Background: Given the immense psychosocial effects of hair loss as well as patient preference for treatment type, it is common for patients to turn to alternative medicine to improve their conditions. However, the commonly used alternative treatments can vary greatly between patients and particularly among skin of color populations.
Objective: In this work, we performed a scoping review of the evidence behind alternative topical treatments for hair loss used by skin of color patients.
Methods & Materials: We conducted a comprehensive search using PubMed to identify relevant studies.
Results: Results show a diverse variety of hair growth products used; however, only a few are supported by randomized controlled trials, case reports, pilot studies, and animal studies with some important limitations.
Conclusion: This information will be exceedingly useful for physicians so they may relay accurate evidence on these haircare practices to their skin of color patients.

J Drugs Dermatol. 2021;20(7):726-731. doi:10.36849/JDD.5689


Hair loss (alopecia) is a common dermatologic condition that is estimated to impact between 0.2 to 2% of the world’s population.1 Importantly, hair loss severely impacts skin of color patients, as it is among the most common dermatologic condition within this population.2,3,4 In fact, studies show that there is a higher incidence of certain types of alopecia within certain skin of color populations compared to Caucasians.5,6 In the United States (US), the skin of color population continues to increase with several state’s populations comprising a majority of people of color.7 This shift in demographics will likely influence the practice of dermatology in the US, bringing to light certain dermatologic complaints, habits, and practices unique to particular groups. Thus, it is increasingly important for clinicians to become familiar with these nuances to properly treat hair loss in skin of color patients.

Much of the information surrounding hair loss remedies acquired by skin of color patients are derived from cultural practices as well as recommendations from internet browsing.8 In fact, studies show that less than half of African American women trust physicians to successfully treat their hair conditions.9 Treatment regimens in these populations may stem from anecdotal evidence, with many patients relying on alternative medicines to remedy their hair loss concerns.10 Unfortunately, there is limited information on the common treatments for hair loss within skin of color communities and the efficacy of these treatments. In this review, we will examine the scientific literature to elucidate the impact and efficacy of common alternative treatments for hair loss used by skin of color patients.


A comprehensive review of the literature on alternative treatments most frequently used in skin of color patients to treat hair loss was conducted on PubMed (U.S. National Library of Medicine). Mesh terms were used when available. To begin, commonly used alternative treatments in skin of color populations were identified using a broad review of the literature. The search terms used included “skin of color” OR “women of color” OR “ethnic groups”[Mesh] AND “hair loss” OR “hair care”. This initial review returned commonly used products for hair growth in skin of color populations (narrowed to Asian, Indian, Native American, African, and African American populations) including, hair oil (coconut oil, castor oil, and rosemary oil), aloe vera, henna, capsicum, and stinging nettle.