Anyone who’s experiencing hair loss is told about a lot of products that could potentially “cure” their problem.
Although caffeine is often the first thing people reach for in the morning, it isn’t usually considered to be a substance that promotes healthy hair.
But there are many products that claim to do so, which has led many people to wonder, does caffeine shampoo work?
While there are some “studies” out there asserting that, there’s a reason why you should take those things with a grain of salt.
The same goes for all the online reviews that you read about caffeine shampoos.
Why Is Caffeine In Shampoo Used?
Back in 2007, a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology came up with some interesting findings.
The researchers performed biopsies on the scalps of 14 male patients who were suffering from androgenetic alopecia, also known as pattern hair loss.
Their hair follicles were taken and cultivated in Petri dishes. It was found that those hair follicles that were treated with 5 µg/ml of the hormone testosterone could not grow. However, this effect was cancelled by 0.001% and 0.005% concentrations of caffeine.
Not just that, but caffeine even promoted the growth of hair follicles. It was proposed that caffeine was able to do so by inhibiting the activity of a certain enzyme that promoted the metabolism and number of cells.
That study was supported by “Dr Kurt Wolff GmbH.” This is the same Dr Wolff of the Dr Wolff Group, under which falls the ownership of 7 brands.
Of these, one stands out the most, namely Alpecin, which became the first company to sell caffeine shampoo in 2010.
On their website, Dr Wolff Group states that Alpecin focuses on “hereditary hair loss,” helping people with that through their caffeinated hair products.
So, the study that provided evidence for caffeine for hair was funded by the company that first made caffeine products for hair.
At the end of the day, this research could be considered a part of the company’s “marketing” efforts.
However, the idea for caffeine shampoos took off. But that still left many people wondering: does caffeine shampoo work?
Is Caffeine Shampoo Good For Hair?
Caffeine may potentially help the hair in the following ways:
Counters Miniaturisation Caused By DHT
DHT is the hormone that’s primarily responsible for causing genetic hair loss.
The testosterone in the body gets converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) with the help of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase.
However, the study above did show (albeit weakly) that caffeine can counteract the effects of DHT, so this is why many believe that the answer to “does caffeine shampoo work” is positive.
Makes the Hair Longer
Research shows that the transition from the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle to the catagen phase is regulated by different factors.
The IGF-1 allows for hair growth, and the TGF-β2 promotes the transition to catagen.
Naturally, you’d want more of the IGF-1 because that allows the hair to stay in the growth phase. Growth stops in the catagen phase.
One study published in the British Journal of Dermatology (also supported by Dr Kurt Wolff GmbH) found that caffeine promoted the expression of the “good” IGF-1 factor while counteracting the TGF-β2, allowing for longer hair to grow.
This was despite the fact that the follicles had been exposed to testosterone.
Makes Hair Stronger
On account of being rich in antioxidants, it is believed that caffeine can help make hair stronger.
Some research shows that its application can also reduce shedding.
Circumstantial evidence also suggests that oxidative stress can cause greying hair, so the antioxidants in caffeine could potentially slow that process (not reverse it).
Can You Use Caffeine Shampoo Every Day?
It would depend on the manufacturer’s instructions, but there are caffeine shampoos out there that can be used on a daily basis.
Of course, at the end of the day, you would know what better works for your hair, and you can use the shampoo accordingly.
However, using it too much and too often wouldn’t give you any results more quickly.
Here, it should also be noted that according to a study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, caffeine was found in the hair follicles after 2 minutes of application.
So, if you’re using a shampoo with caffeine in it, you may have to have it on for that long.
Does Caffeine Shampoo Work?
There is no conclusive, reliable scientific evidence that caffeine shampoo for hair actually works. All you’ll hear about is anecdotal evidence from different people.
The studies mentioned above are certainly not reliable for many reasons. There’s a clear bias. Moreover, their design and methodology don’t definitively answer the question: does caffeine shampoo work?
Alpecin claimed that its products helped “reduce hair loss” and marketed them as such.
However, in 2018, the Advertising Standards Authority, a UK watchdog, disallowed the company from doing so. That’s because they found that no evidence supported this claim.
This was after the company had submitted 8 research studies and summaries of others, along with a consumer survey.
It was dismissed on the grounds that in none of the studies was the actual product being used. Also, some of the studies submitted measured the effectiveness of caffeine through a “hair pull test,” which is not definitive.
There’s also the concern that the dosage of caffeine in shampoos is simply not enough to do any of the miracles that companies claim it can.
It is also not known how long it will take to see any results from these shampoos.
Also, don’t take everything you read about these shampoos at face value.
It’s possible that those people who swear by them were only experiencing temporary shedding, and the use of the shampoo coincided with that shedding phase coming to an end.
What Are Caffeine Shampoo Side Effects?
There are some people who don’t have a good experience with caffeine shampoo. It can cause:
- Dryness (leaving the hair brittle and prone to breakage)
- Burning sensation on the scalp
- Irritation and itchiness
Some people also say that their headaches coincide with the use of caffeine shampoo. Because caffeine constricts blood vessels, it has the potential to do that, but it is not exactly clear if a shampoo can trigger that.
What Are the Alternatives to Caffeine For Hair Loss?
Since the answer to “does caffeine shampoo work” is no, it might be a good idea to consider the following alternatives:
Have A Balanced Diet
It is true that nutritional deficiencies can cause hair loss, so you can prevent that from happening by eating right.
Keep in mind that diet cannot treat permanent hair loss caused by your genetics.
Women experiencing pattern hair loss can benefit from spironolactone which is an anti-androgenic diuretic.
This drug will not cure baldness; you will have to keep taking it to maintain results. In addition, it can take up to 6 months to see the results of this therapy.
It also has some side effects. Being a diuretic, it can make you urinate frequently. It can also cause breast tenderness, menstrual irregularities, muscular atrophy and headaches.
Minoxidil & Finasteride
The only two FDA-approved drugs for hair loss are minoxidil and finasteride. The former can increase blood flow to the scalp, while the latter stops the conversion of testosterone into DHT.
You’ll have to keep taking these drugs to maintain the results. Both of them can cause side effects, but finasteride may be considered more severe as it can also cause sexual dysfunction.
Some research shows that laser therapy can benefit hair (many studies on its benefits have been funded by the companies manufacturing these products).
The light absorbed by the hair helps with growth.
The problem with this is that it doesn’t exactly work for everyone, and the devices are also not cheap to come by.
PRP (& Microneedling)
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) from the blood contains growth factors and proteins that can help the hair grow.
It can also be combined with (professional) microneedling, which allows for better penetration of the PRP concentrate and stimulates the production of collagen while increasing blood flow to the scalp.
Here, keep in mind that PRP and microneedling together or separately cannot treat permanent hair loss.
The only surgical and permanent solution to permanent hair loss is hair transplantation. It takes hair follicles from the back of the head and places them in the balding areas.
You should be able to see the results of this treatment in about a year.
Does caffeine shampoo work? There’s a need for larger clinical studies with better design and methodologies to draw definitive conclusions. For now, the answer to the question is no.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, it is important that you get yourself checked by a dermatologist or trichologist for an accurate diagnosis.
The answer to “does caffeine shampoo work” can depend on the kind of hair loss you’re experiencing.
There are many different types of hair loss, and not all of them are permanent. You’ll be recommended a suitable treatment option depending on your diagnosis.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr Hassan Soueid.