Hair Regrowth Self Experiments

hair growth supplements protocol

I’ve been losing my hair since the age of 25 and at 32 I started to do something about it. I was aware of the popular hair regrowth solutions like Minoxidil but I wanted to trial some of the other home remedies shown to be effective.

Experiment 1 – Pumpkin Seed Oil

Start Date: 3rd December 2019

End Date: 19th May 2020 (24 weeks)

Protocol: Consumption of 1000mg Pumpkin Seed Oil pill, brand Piping Rock, taken on 6 of the 7 days each week. This was due to the original research study only using 400mg, though 1000mg daily is said to be a safe dose.

Hair Regrowth Results: 24 Weeks taking Pumpkin Seed Oil 400mg daily

Results: I felt my hair continued to thin and recede at its usual rate during this period. The research study [1] I cited used a product called Octa Sabal Plus which contained other ingredients alongside the pumpkin seed oil, namely Octacosanols, GLA, Polyphenols, Lycopene and Corn Silk Extract. Feedback from the comments section of the below video suggested that topical application, i.e. rubbing it into my scalp, would have been a better experiment.

Experiment 2 – Scalp Massage

Start Date: 5th June 2020

End Date: 19th November 2020 (24 weeks)

Protocol: A daily 5 minute scalp massage, using either a spider head massager or a silicon-tipped scalp massager. I tended to massage in the evenings and on days I missed (18 in total) I then did 5 minutes the next morning and evening.

Video demonstration of scalp massage using the silicon-tipped tool
Hair Regrowth Results: 24 Weeks of a 5 minute daily scalp massage

Results: This was far more encouraging, but while I saw improvements in hair thickness my hairline continued to recede. There are two studies [2,3] showing the value of scalp massage in improving hair thickness, and there’s also a tutorial video [4] that accompanies one of those studies.

Experiment 3 – Perfect Hair Health Scalp Massage

Start Date: 20th November 2020

End Date: 25th September 2021 (2 x 24 weeks)

Protocol: A 20 minute scalp massage routine, repeated three times a week.

Hair Regrowth Results: 48 Weeks of a 20 minute scalp massage every 2-3 days

Results: Massaging 5 minutes daily equates to 840 minutes of scalp massage. Having seen a relationship between total time spent massaging and hair growth results, I tried to increase the amount I did. Followed correctly, this would see me complete 1440 minutes of scalp massage in 24 weeks. However, the first 24 weeks was horribly inconsistent and I’d forget which days I’d done, and often cut short the routine to only the bits that were easy (7-8 mins). The first 24 weeks saw me massage for a total of 454 minutes, and I doubled down on consistency the second 24 weeks, totalling 1235 minutes.

At this point I was aware of the need to align head angle to gauge hairline movement, and so weeks 0 and 48 are nearly identical in camera angle. Thinning didn’t feel too noticeable but my hairline continues to move backwards both at the front and at the temple.

Experiment 4 – Derma Roller and Topical Oils

Start Date: 18 October 2021

End Date: 10 April 2022 (12 + 13 weeks)

Protocol 4.1 (weeks 1-12): In order to keep track I created a spreadsheet of my routine. You can see Biotin, Ashwagandha and ZMA, all supplements, were taken daily. Ketoconazole shampoo once a week, alongside a 0.5mm derma-roller and a topical blend of coconut oil (1 teaspoon), rosemary oil (3-4 drops) and peppermint oil (3-4 drops) massaged into the scalp and left on.

Hair Regrowth Protocol: October 2021 to January 2022

Protocol 4.2 (weeks 13-25): I traded the Biotin for a radiance capsule, which contains other ingredients. I switched to a 1mm derma roller which I used every other week i.e. every 14 days. I reintroduced scalp massage for 3 minutes, though not in the days directly after derma rolling. The strength of the topical blend changed to coconut oil (1 teaspoon), rosemary oil (8-10 drops) and peppermint oil (8-10 drops), and the frequency was increased to twice a week.

Hair Regrowth Protocol: January 2022 to April 2022

Experiment 5 – Saw Palmetto

Start Date: 11th April 2022

End Date: 14th August 2022 (18 weeks)

Protocol: The Radiance capsules ran out in week 10 and I switched back to Biotin, but this time 10,000mcg. Having discovered a Reddit post about “The Big 3” for hair loss [5] I started looking for alternatives to the most popular ingested substance (Finasteride). I found Saw Palmetto, which the research [6] concluded is not quite as effective as Finasteride, but is a potential alternative. I also switched out scalp massage for Downward Dog, a yoga pose that improves blood flow to the scalp. Lastly an attempt to regulate my stress with box breathing, a four minute routine to engage the parasympathetic nervous system.

In week 7 I changed box breathing to coherent breathing, which is another effective stress-relieving breathing practice. By week 13 I’d changed it again, this time to a short meditation. In week 9 I changed my base oil from coconut oil to grapeseed oil, as the latter is less likely to clog pores. Throughout the full 18 weeks I was doing weekly Nizoral, fortnightly Derma roller (1mm) and twice weekly application of the topical oils, leaving them in.

Hair Regrowth Protocol: April 2022 to August 2022
Hair Regrowth Results: 18 weeks of taking a Saw Palmetto supplement alongside hair growth routine

Results: This felt like the clearest picture to date that indicates my hair is still thinning. I notice several patches with less hair and my central strip of hair appears to have narrowed at the temples. I can also see a much more prominent bald patch on my crown. This felt like a wake up call that slowing down hair loss is not enough and I should do what I can to reverse it.

Experiment 6 – Micro-dosing Finasteride

Start Date: 22nd August 2022

End Date: 19th December 2022

Protocol: I’ve dramatically scaled down the efforts I’m putting into this to focus on “The Big 3”. Those are an ingested substance, a topical substance, and a way to remove DHT from the scalp. There’s also a bonus of derma rolling. After almost three years of trying I’ve come round to what’s said to work, and my routine is as follows:

  • Finasteride (0.25mg) in the form of 0.5mg every other day. The pills are fiddly to quarter but halving them is okay. A research paper [7] has covered the effects of micro-dosing and found that 0.25mg, a quarter of the standard 1mg dose, still provides 90% of the effect. This means it’s a great option for those concerned about the side effects (mainly erectile dysfunction, depression and reduced sex drive).
  • Nizoral shampoo once a week. I leave this in for at least 5 minutes as per instructions, and it’s active ingredient ketoconazole is said to remove the build up of DHT on the scalp.
  • Derma rolling (1mm) every two weeks. Some people suggest more frequently but most sources warn against that and advise people to err on the side of not often enough. I use the “star protocol” which is rolling five times on the same strip of scalp before moving on, and doing a full roll from back to front, left to right (or right to left), and both diagonals. That means each part of the scalp will be subject to 20 rolls in total from four different directions.
  • Topical application of grapeseed oil (1 tsp), peppermint oil (8 drops) and rosemary oil (8 drops) once a week. At one point I nearly switched to castor oil but decided against it. Instead of applying this straight after rolling I wait 2-3 hours, and I can feel the tingly sensation of blood flow being stimulated. I ditched the midweek application as it was a) too much effort and b) far less effective. Supposedly derma rolling helps improve absorption by up to +800% compared with standard topical application.
Hair Regrowth Results: 18 weeks of Micro-dosing Finasteride alongside hair growth routine

Results: Another comparison where it feels like my hair is getting thinner. I finished the 28 day supply of 1mg Finasteride with my modified intake of 0.5mg every 48 hours. That meant it lasted 16 weeks instead of four. The plan was to then continue taking it for a total of 180 days to give it time to take effect. With my second packet I decided to make the effort to cut the pills into four. That allowed me to take 0.25mg every day.

Within a few days that led to insomnia, and it was only on the 8th day that I realised the Finasteride was the cause and stopped taking it. It’s not one of the side effects on the instruction leaflet but there is reference to sleep disturbances online. It takes up to 7 days to get out your system and on day five I was back to normal. To give some insight, the 8th night involved lying awake from 12.30am until 5.30am. There is no significant sleep disturbance I’d accept in order to grow my hair back, let alone 5 hours a night.

The fact that I had side effects from 0.25mg daily but not with 0.5mg every other day probably means that I also wasn’t experiencing the benefits. What that means is this experiment hasn’t confirmed that micro-dosing doesn’t work for me. It has only confirmed that it’s not a viable option for me due to the side effects.

Experiment 7 – Stinging Nettle Root

Start Date: 8th January 2023

End Date: 16th April 2023

Protocol: I’m bringing back scalp massage with the silicon tipped massager every day (5 minutes). Two of those times will be massaging in my topical mixture of grapeseed oil, peppermint oil (8 drops) and rosemary oil (8 drops). Rather than leave the topical mixture in I will be washing it out after 20 minutes. I am ditching the derma roller because it hurts. It’s also less effective when I don’t keep my hair short and it’s clearly not doing enough to stop hair loss. The stinging nettle root is a 500mg pill which I will take every morning. I did consider the stinging nettle tea and it comes in the form of a shampoo as well. I’m sticking with Nizoral once a week and the tea seems too much hassle compared to a pill.

Update: As of 1st March 2023 I have switched from a handheld massager to an electronic one. The LA-based company Laduora were kind enough to send me a Duo device, which I now use every evening. I have two of their pods aimed at thinning hair and I’ll be curious to see the effect. My protocol is now condensed to stinging nettle root, Nizoral shampoo and the Duo device.

Hair Growth Progress: 17 weeks of Finasteride, 7 weeks of Stinging Nettle Root (capsule)

Lighting plays such a key role in progress pictures but I believe that my hair is continuing to thin.

Experiment 8 – High Frequency Method

Start Date: 17th April 2023

End Date: 15th October 2023

Protocol: For this experiment I’m doing certain things more often in a given week. I will continue taking a 500mg stinging nettle root capsule, but I will do so twice a day. I will be using Nizoral shampoo three times a week, and bringing back 1mm derma-rolling once every two weeks. Finally, I still have the Duo device from Laduora and will do electronic scalp massage for 5 minutes every day. The device comes with pods which ran out within 2 weeks, but I’ve refilled them with my topical blend. A reminder, that’s Grapeseed Oil and 3% of both Peppermint Oil and Rosemary Oil. Here’s how my latest protocol looks for a week that includes derma-rolling.

hair growth
Hair Growth Protocol: April 2023 to October 2023

I’m cutting my hair every 4-6 weeks purely because it doesn’t look great when it grows any longer than that. Here are my progress pictures for the high frequency method so far.

Hair Growth Progress: High Frequency Method including twice daily Stinging Nettle Root and Nizoral 3x/week

As I said in my latest video, day 68 was a case of favourable lighting, though there is glare on my crown. I would also say for day 154 it wasn’t my usual 6mm cut. I mistakenly cut to 2mm then waited 10 days before taking a progress picture (I also cut my head on a tree branch which you can see!).

Experiment 9 – Topical Finasteride

Start Date: 16th October 2023

End Date: 10th March 2024

Protocol: This is a much more simplified protocol. I am quite relieved to see the back of Nizoral, as well as the twice daily Stinging Nettle Root capsules. I have created a topical solution using crushed Finasteride pills, 96% alcohol, Tween 80 (polysorbate 80) and Transcutol CG (cosmetic grade). This is applied every night before bed, allowing for the recommended 6-10 hour application. I have purchased a Derma-pen and will be doing a split-method, where the left side of my head will be treated with the Derma-pen and the right side with the 1mm Dermaroller. Finally, twice a week I will apply a topical solution of rosemary and peppermint oil in a grapeseed oil carrier.

Topical Finasteride using Polysorbate 80, Transcutol CG, 96% Alcohol and (crushed) Finasteride pills

The other major change is to take the advice from several of my subscribers and to take progress pictures in artificial light. All pictures will now be taken from my windowless garage under strip lighting. This does make comparisons to all previous pictures a little difficult but going forward there will be some much needed consistency.

Progress pictures from daily topical Finasteride

The final picture above was taken on 9th March 2024, which was 21 weeks into what should have been a 28 week program. Having seen the clear thinning around the crown in the reverse horseshoe shape, I immediately stopped this protocol. The strength of the solution was equivalent to applying 0.1mg of Finasteride to my scalp each night. My lack of results could have been down to the low strength, and so if I were to repeat this I would aim for 0.20-0.25mg per application.

Experiment 10 – Topical Rosemary and Castor Oil

Start Date: 11th March 2024

End Date: 22nd September 2024

Protocol: I’ve reverted to more natural solutions and I’m unlikely to return to Finasteride again. This one will run for 28 weeks and involves nightly topical application of Rosemary Oil in a Castor Oil base. Plenty of people have mentioned the benefits of Castor Oil, which contains Ricinoleic Acid to improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Rosemary Oil has been shown to be as effective as 2% Minoxidil.

Using my 50ml bottle I added 250 drops of Rosemary Oil and topped up the rest with Castor Oil. Once mixed that’s equivalent to the high end of the ideal dosage – 5 drops per application. I do have a Tea Tree Oil shampoo which I’ll use a few times a week but I wouldn’t consider it officially part of the protocol. Otherwise I am continuing with my “split head” protocol, with the left side getting a Derma-pen and right side a 1mm Dermaroller. I’ve been encouraged by the recovery of my scalp after fortnightly treatments, so I will now be treating both sides every 10 days.

Progress pictures from daily topical Rosemary Oil

I’m trying to extend the time between progress pictures so I’m now shaving my head every 8-10 weeks. I will wait for the picture in mid-July before I make any sort of judgement as to the progress with this protocol.

References

[1] Effect of Pumpkin Seed Oil on Hair Growth in Men with Androgenetic Alopecia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial, 2014. Cho et al.

[2] Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue, 2016. Koyama, Kobayashi, Hama, Murakami, Ogawa

[3] Self-Assessments of Standardized Scalp Massages for Androgenic Alopecia: Survey Results, 2019. English Jr, Barazesh

[4] Perfect Hair Health Scalp Massage Tutorial Video, Vimeo

[5] Reddit guide “I’m losing my hair, what do I do?” updated 2020

[6] Natural Hair Supplement: Friend or Foe? Saw Palmetto, a Systematic Review in Alopecia

[7] The effects of finasteride on scalp skin and serum androgen levels in men with androgenetic alopecia

About Fraser_9to5 204 Articles
Site owner. I'm a graduate in Sports Science and have an MSc in Sports Biomechanics. I set up 9to5strength in 2015 as a resource for people interested in strength training, nutrition and fitness. I consider myself a fitness blogger and enjoy creating YouTube videos and trying out workout programs.

5 Comments

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for such a comprehensive summary. Have you considered trying saw palmetto as a topical? I noticed less hair fall and good spiky regrowth with this in the past, but fell out of my routine.

    • Hey, no this is the first mention of using it topically. I’m trying to dedicate at least 3-6 months to each experiment to confirm whether it’s working so I’ll look into the topical use but may not have time to try it out. In terms of topical oils the top of my list from recommendations right now is castor oil, I’m not really seeing anything dramatic with peppermint & rosemary which is a combination I’ve been using quite a while now.

  2. Thank you so much for running these experiments. I am about to start my own experiment with with flaxseed. Supposedly it can help with hair loss. Have you tried flaxseeds? It needs to be the whole seed (grounded) instead of the oil.

    • Interesting, no I haven’t tried them. They are really high in phytoestrogens so I guess if they lower testosterone then it also reduces DHT. Were you planning to eat them or apply topically to the scalp?

  3. After washing my hair there was always so much hair left in the bath. After using Nizoral it was so much better. I’m not saying it stops balding but it certainly had benefits.

    I’m currently using a wooden ladybird massager on my scalp. It’s more than likely just wishful thinking, but I swear there’s progress.

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