Whether onion juice causes you to tear up when you start chopping onions, or you leave that weepy work to others, onions are a staple of peoples’ diets worldwide.
For as common as they may be in your kitchen, however, there’s a chance that onion juice could be foreign to your hair care regimen.
While the usage of onions on plates and in salad bowls is secure, should you really rub onion juice into your hair and scalp, and if so, what can you expect from this many-layered vegetable?
In this article, we discuss how to use onion juice for hair growth, hair loss, thinning, regrowth, dryness, dandruff, and many other benefits.
Table of Contents
- 1 The History of Onion Juice
- 2 Does Onion Juice Really Work?
- 3 What Are the Benefits of Onion Juice for Hair?
- 4 How to Use Onion Juice for Hair Care
The History of Onion Juice
As you may remember from Shrek, “Ogres are like onions” because they have “layers,” and the onions’ own history is many-layered itself.
Onions have been with us since nearly the dawn of civilization itself, but where exactly they first came from is unknown. However, the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, and Central Asia are leading candidates.
The Egyptians didn’t just enjoy onions but saw symbolic resonance in their rings, symbolizing eternal life.
Traces of onions were even found in the eye sockets of Ramesses IV, which means they may have been used in burial ceremonies.
Further, in Numbers 11, while the Israelites are wandering in the desert, they cry out to Moses that they are hungry and remember different foods, including onions, “which we did eat in Egypt freely.”
Onions became a favorite food of athletes in Greece and Rome, with gladiators rubbing it on their skin to firm up their muscles.
Pliny the Elder includes it among the many plants he believed had medicinal benefits in his Natural History.
Centuries earlier, the Chakark Samhita, an Ancient Indian text from the sixth century, likewise mentioned the healing powers of onions, noting that they could help one’s eyes, heart, joints, and digestion.
During the Middle Ages, onions were prized enough to sometimes be used to pay rent.
Onions are not native to North America but were brought over when Europeans began conquering the continent and settlers’ ships, including the Mayflower.
Despite being kicked off their own land, Native Americans still adopted onions into their own dietary and culinary traditions.
You can peel away the layers of art history and find onions there as well. Renoir painted his “Onions” in 1881 and is currently housed at the Clark Art Institute.
Van Gogh painted onions at least twice, “Red Cabbages and Onions” from 1887, which is on display at the Van Gogh Museum, and “Still Life with a Plate of Onions” from 1889, which you can find at the Kröller-Müller Museum.
Paintings of onions also allow us to peel back layers of domesticity and see the often overlooked images of women’s lives throughout the ages, from Gerrit Dou’s “A Girl Chopping Onions” from 1646 and Lily Spencer Martin’s “Peeling Onions” from 1852 to John Singer Sargent’s “Venetian Onion Seller” from 1880 to 1882.
If those images are too old-fashioned for you, there’s Storm Thorgensen’s “Onion Ladies,” displayed at the San Francisco Art Exchange in 2007.
It showed two Moulin Rouge-style ladies in cabaret dresses that grow into rounded, sensual onion bodies, a unique commentary on beauty standards and how we imagine women’s bodies.
Strange as that may seem, Thorgensen may not be far off since while we may associate them with good food and bad breath, in the past, onions were considered an aphrodisiac.
Does Onion Juice Really Work?
Given how long we’ve been eating and using onions for all manner of purposes, it should come as no surprise that there is a healthy amount of research into the crop’s effects.
For example, you probably don’t need science to tell you that onions are full of nutrients. Nevertheless, science can show us just how useful all of those nutrients can be for several aspects of self-care, including skin and hair care.
For one thing, onions are especially rich in vitamin C, which is important for collagen production. Collagen is the most common protein in your body, found in fat, tendons, and ligaments, as well as other places.
It helps these different aspects of our body fit together. Healthy collagen levels typically translate into a healthier, more youthful appearance, and vitamin C can give your skin’s health a big boost.
Vitamin C is rich in hyaluronic acid, which naturally boosts collagen production. Also, vitamin C can help your body repair tissue and absorb iron, which can help heal damaged skin, while the latter can help you grow healthier stronger hair strands.
In addition to vitamin C, onions are also rich in vitamin B, which can boost red blood cell production and potassium.
Onions are also rich in anti-inflammatory properties, which can help with everything from soothing your skin to managing high blood pressure and protecting against blood clots.
This is in part because onions are rich in a flavonoid antioxidant known as quercetin. With 25 varieties of flavonoid antioxidants found in different types of onions, they are a uniquely rich source of these essential building blocks for healthy living.
A 2015 study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, surveyed 70 overweight people who also had high blood pressure.
They were given 162 mg of an onion extract rich in quercetin and saw their systolic blood pressure drop considerably.
A 2014 study, published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecological Research, surveyed 54 women who had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). They consumed between 40 and 60 grams of raw red onions per day for eight weeks and found that it reduced total and LDL cholesterol.
A 2014 study published in Nutrients indicated that onions could help prevent or combat diabetes. This study examined 42 people and found that 100 grams of fresh red onion could reduce blood sugar levels.
What Are the Benefits of Onion Juice for Hair?
1. Protection Against Free Radicals
One more wonderful thing about vitamin C is that it can help guard against free radicals, which are unstable molecules that, when triggered, can cause your skin and hair to age prematurely.
Free radicals can be triggered by a variety of causes, including UV rays and cigarette smoke. Vitamin C is rich in antioxidants, which can stop free radicals in their tracks.
2. Hair Growth
As mentioned, onions have vitamin B, which boosts red cell production. This is good news for your scalp, as boosting red blood cell production and circulation around the roots of your hair follicles can help encourage hair growth.
Even if it isn’t the be-all and end-all of this process, every little bit helps. As mentioned in the next section, onion juice can even help regrow hair after certain bacterial infections.
3. Antibacterial Properties
One of the biggest threats to your scalp’s integrity is bacterial infections. If your scalp becomes too oily or dirty, bacteria can start to make themselves at home.
Once that occurs, the integrity of your hair is in danger. Thankfully, there is a host of evidence demonstrating that onion juice is an effective antibacterial agent.
A 2018 study in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis found that onions can combat several pernicious bacteria strains, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli (E. coli), Staphylococcus aureus.
Another 2010 study, published in the Journal of Ayub Medical College, found that they can combat Vibrio cholerae, another type of bacteria that is especially prevalent throughout the developing world.
Rubbing some onion juice into your scalp can give you a vital layer of protection against bacterial and other microbial infections. In fact, a study from 2002 specifically covering onion juice’s use in this way demonstrates how and why it can be so helpful.
In the study, onion juice was used against alopecia areata, a bacterial infection that can cause quarter-sized holes to appear in your hair, leaving you with a distinctly unsettling “Swiss cheese” look.
In the study, those using onion juice experienced some hair growth on areas of their scalp affected by alopecia areata. It can also serve as an antifungal and anti-acne treatment for your scalp.
4. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
One of the biggest existential threats to your hair is your scalp becoming inflamed. You cannot have a healthy head of hair if the scalp in which your hair’s roots are embedded is reddened and ravished by inflammation.
When your scalp is inflamed, it can start to become dry and scaly, which in turn can impact your hair follicles. You naturally want that to happen, which is why it’s so important to treat your scalp with anti-inflammatory substances.
Thankfully, onions are a natural anti-inflammatory. The quercetin in onion juice can inhibit histamines, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins, all of which can cause inflammation in those suffering from osteoarthritis.
Another study conducted in 2012 and published in the African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology tested these anti-inflammatory claims on rats.
5. Reduce Gray Hair
No substance can turn gray hairs their former color again, in large part because greying is genetic.
That said, there is evidence suggesting that onion juice may slow the process, in part because of the antioxidants that can help prevent free radicals from making you go gray early.
6. Adds Shine
As important as it is to take care of your hair and fight bacterial infections and soothe inflammation, and all that jazz, you also want to jazz up your hair, and adding shine is a great way to do that. Thankfully, onion juice can help make your hair shinier.
7. Adds Moisture
Granted, “moisture” may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an onion. That being said, onion juice can indeed help your hair retain moisture.
Strange as it may seem, it can help take care of dry and scraggly hair and leave you with silkier, softer locks.
How to Use Onion Juice for Hair Care
One of the most important things to consider when using onion juice as a hair care product should also be one of its most obvious drawbacks – the smell.
Unless you feel like having your hair smell like onions all day, you’ll need to mask the smell by mixing it with other hair care substances.
Onion oil is one of those substances that works best when it is applied repeatedly throughout the week. Ideally, you should apply it three to four times per week.
Take care to mask its odor with something such as lemon juice, which can also lend your hair and scalp some soothing properties as well as a much more pleasing aroma.
Combine three tablespoons of onion juice with two tablespoons of lemon juice or the carrier oil of your choice, and apply the mixture to your hair and scalp.
Leave it in before rinsing it out. To make sure the onion smell is gone, rinse it out with a mild shampoo.
Onion juice can be a tricky hair care product. On the one hand, you probably don’t want to go around smelling like onions.
This is why it is essential to make sure you don’t drown your scalp in onion juice or use it without a masking agent with a stronger, more pleasant scent.
On the other hand, there is no denying that there are definite upsides to incorporating onion juice into your hair care regimen. It is a fantastic natural antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial agent.
Also, the vitamin C contained in onions can be of great help in combating free radicals, thereby helping you keep your hair looking younger longer.
Throw in some potential for hair growth, and it’s no wonder why more people believe onion juice is a vital ingredient for hair care.