The florets of Carthamus tinctorius L. have traditionally been used for hair growth promotion. This study aimed to examine the potential of hydroxysafflor yellow A-rich C. tinctorius extract (CTE) on hair growth both in vitro and in vivo. The effect of CTE on cell proliferation and hair growth-associated gene expression in dermal papilla cells and keratinocytes (HaCaT) was determined. In addition, hair follicles from mouse neonates were isolated and cultured in media supplemented with CTE. Moreover, CTE was applied topically on the hair-shaved skin of female C57BL/6 mice, and the histological profile of the skin was investigated. C. tinctorius floret ethanolic extract promoted the proliferation of both dermal papilla cells and HaCaT and significantly stimulated hair growth-promoting genes, including vascular endothelial growth factor and keratinocyte growth factor. In contrast, CTE suppressed the expression of transforming growth factor-β1 that is the hair loss-related gene. Furthermore, CTE treatment resulted in a significant increase in the length of cultured hair follicles and stimulated the growth of hair with local effects in mice. The results provided the preclinical data to support the potential use of CTE as a hair growth-promoting agent. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.