Most adults consume caffeine every day. It’s in your morning coffee, your afternoon tea, and even your post-lunch chocolate bar. Caffeine energises you when you feel tired or drained — which is why so many of us crave a caffeine fix throughout the day.
But it’s not just our brains that benefit from a caffeine boost. Promising research suggests caffeine may also reduce hair loss and stimulate follicles to produce new hair [1, 2]. But with many of these studies conducted in the lab, can caffeine really help people with genetic hair loss? And is it as simple as drinking more coffee, or do you need specialist products to see an impact?
In this guide to caffeine shampoo and hair loss, we’ve examined the results of 5 studies to establish that caffeinated hair products can actually reduce hair loss — making them an ideal solution for those seeking a natural remedy for hair loss symptoms. While many people turn to vitamins for hair growth, research suggests that caffeine shampoos are far more effective.
You’ll also find out how caffeine shampoos measure up to other hair loss treatments, and whether it’s a suitable treatment for your hair loss.
What are caffeine shampoos?
Caffeine shampoos are hair cleansing products that contain the common chemical compound caffeine. In shampoos, it’s often present as a component of coffee bean extract. Caffeine shampoo reduces hair loss while keeping your hair clean and healthy. Caffeine penetrates the skin easily, so applying it directly to your scalp helps it reach the hair follicles .
Some of the best-known caffeine shampoo brands are:
- Umberto Gianni Grow Long
- Seba-Med Anti-Hairloss Shampoo
- Dr. Organic Coffee Hair Stimulating Shampoo
It’s also possible to make your own caffeine shampoo using coffee and coconut oil, though it’s not clear if homemade solutions will have the same effect as commercial caffeine shampoos.
What’s the difference between a caffeine shampoo and a caffeine lotion?
While caffeine shampoos are the most popular caffeinated hair products, there are also caffeine hair lotions available. Like hair masks, lotions are designed to be left on the scalp for a prolonged period, giving the scalp more time to absorb the caffeine. Caffeine shampoos, meanwhile, are usually only applied for a couple of minutes.
Leave-in caffeine treatments and lotions tend to see more impressive results, perhaps due to this difference in application time . So it’s worth considering which solution is best for you before you embark on a caffeine hair loss treatment.
Caffeine for hair: What’s the science behind it?
Androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness, is the primary cause of hair loss for people of all genders. It’s estimated that approximately 80% of men and 55% of women will experience pattern balding by the age of 80 [4, 5].
Pattern hair loss can have a serious impact on your quality of life. Women in particular have reported psychological problems associated with their hair loss, such as feelings of depression and anxiety. Some say it causes problems in their marriage and career . In response, many people turn to over-the-counter solutions like caffeinated shampoos to treat their hair loss.
Lab studies reveal that caffeine shampoos, lotions, treatments, or hair products can be effective in reversing androgenetic alopecia . In fact, it has been found to have an effect comparable to medicated hair growth treatments like Minoxidil . Caffeine reduces hair loss in a number of ways :
- Naturally counteracts the effects of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that influences your genes to suppress hair growth 
- Lowers TGF-β2 protein levels and increases the IGF-1 hair growth regulator to promote hair growth
- Protects the outer root sheath of your hair, preventing hair damage and breakage.
Applying caffeinated solutions to your scalp may provide a viable, natural alternative to expensive hair loss treatments. But most of the evidence examining the effects of caffeine on hair loss is based on highly controlled lab studies, rather than real-life patient analysis. So can these promising results really help people experiencing hair loss?
Do caffeine shampoos prevent or reduce hair loss?
We’ve analysed the results of 5 in vivo investigations into the effects of caffeine treatments on real hair loss patients — and it appears that they really can help reduce hair loss.
Three separate studies found that regular use of caffeine shampoo (at least 6 months) resulted in reduced hair loss in patients with androgenetic alopecia [2, 7, 8]. Hair shafts were stronger and thicker after 6 months of use. In a female-focused study, fewer hairs were lost in a hair pull test, suggesting follicles could retain hair more easily following caffeine shampoo treatment.
And it’s not just pattern hair loss that caffeine shampoo may be effective for. Another study assessed the effects in women with telogen effluvium, a type of hair loss caused by trauma, stress, or emotional shock. Results for this hair loss type were similar: decreased hair shedding, with a substantial improvement in hair strength.
Other hair loss types, such as alopecia areata, haven’t been studied in relation to caffeine hair loss products. But another investigation of patients with non-specific, self-perceived hair thinning found an increase in total hair count following caffeine shampoo treatment . (These results are complicated by the presence of multiple active components in the treatment, including niacinamide, panthenol, and zinc carbonate as well as caffeine.)
Nonetheless, these results are very promising for hair loss sufferers, particularly those in the early stages of hair loss. Hair loss prevention is often easier than hair loss reversal, so the earlier you address your hair loss, the less likely you are to need an invasive intervention like a hair transplant.
Caffeine shampoo vs Minoxidil vs other hair loss treatments
Only one study has compared caffeinated hair loss products with other established hair loss treatments. Researchers compared the effects of a lotion containing caffeine with Minoxidil 5% application for patients experiencing pattern hair loss. They found that both treatments demonstrated similar effectiveness after 6 months of use :
- Similar improvement in the proportion of anagen (growth-stage) hair follicles
- Patients using both treatment types reported similar satisfaction levels
- Similar improvements in hair strength, balding progression, and extent of hair loss.
While results are usually seen more quickly in those using Minoxidil hair restoration treatment (around 3-4 months), there are also more side effects to contend with. Some patients report scalp itchiness, headaches, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and weight gain [2, 10]. No safety concerns have been raised for caffeine shampoos, so patients looking for a hair loss solution should consider whether speed or lack of side effects are more important to them.
Drugs like Finasteride and Dutasteride haven’t been tested against caffeine shampoos, so it’s not possible to tell how these solutions compare. Like Minoxidil, these treatments can take effect in as little as 3 months. More aggressive or advanced hair loss should be treated as soon as possible, so it may be better for those in the latter stages of hair loss to try faster-acting solutions rather than caffeine shampoos.
Regardless of your hair loss stage or type, if you don’t see results after 6-9 months of using caffeine shampoo, you may want to seek an alternative treatment type. Learn how a trichologist diagnoses and treats different types of hair loss.
Can drinking coffee help with hair loss?
Drinking coffee is unlikely to stimulate your follicles in the same way as topical caffeine application. But there may be some hair-related benefits to having a daily cup of coffee, green tea, or black tea.
Oxidative stress can speed up the ageing process, leading to premature hair loss . As a rich source of antioxidants, coffee may help reduce oxidative stress, minimising the impact on your hair [12-13].
But the benefits of caffeine shampoos and lotions far outweigh these effects. As well as reducing hair loss, they can:
- balance the pH of your scalp
- make your hair softer, smoother, and shinier
- naturally deepen the shade of your hair.
Can caffeine make your hair grow longer?
Caffeine can also elongate the hair shafts, especially in women . That means it can literally make your hair longer. If you’ve had trouble growing your locks to the desired length, applying a caffeine hair treatment or product to your scalp may stimulate your follicles even if you’re not losing hair.
Side effects of caffeine shampoos
Caffeine shampoos are normally extremely safe and gentle on your hair, with minimal side effects . However, like any other skin or haircare product, there may be some minor side effects, particularly if used in excess. These include:
- Mild scalp irritation
- Allergic reactions (for those who have allergies to any of the components in the shampoo)
- Minor changes in hair shade
- Decrease in efficiency if used too frequently.
These side effects are far less problematic than those observed for other hair loss treatments. In rare cases, finasteride can cause erectile dysfunction, among other side effects. So if you’re looking for an effective hair loss treatment with milder side effects, you may want to try a caffeine shampoo or lotion.
Should you try a caffeine shampoo to tackle your hair loss?
Caffeine shampoos and lotions can significantly reduce hair loss — so they’re a great option for anyone looking for a natural hair loss solution. Thanks to the minimal side effects and proven efficacy, caffeine shampoos are definitely worth a try if you’re in the early stages of hair loss.
However, there may be circumstances in which caffeine shampoos aren’t right for you, such as:
- Your hair loss is advanced (check your stage against the Norwood scale)
- Your hair loss is aggressive (you’re losing hair quickly)
- You want a fast solution to your hair loss
- You’re allergic to ingredients in caffeine shampoos
- You’ve been using caffeine shampoos without seeing results for more than 9 months.
If any of these apply to you, talk to a hair loss specialist at the Wimpole Clinic to find the best solution to tackle your hair loss. Book a free hair loss consultation now.
- Caffeine and Its Pharmacological Benefits in the Management of Androgenetic Alopecia: A Review
- An Open-Label Randomized Multicenter Study Assessing the Noninferiority of a Caffeine-Based Topical Liquid 0.2% versus Minoxidil 5% Solution in Male Androgenetic Alopecia
- The psychological impact of alopecia
- Male androgenetic alopecia
- Female Pattern Hair Loss: A Retrospective Study in a Tertiary Referral Center
- Effect of caffeine and testosterone on the proliferation of human hair follicles in vitro
- Efficacy of a cosmetic phyto-caffeine shampoo in female androgenetic alopecia
- Efficacy of a cosmetic caffeine shampoo in androgenetic alopecia management
- Scalp application of antioxidants improves scalp condition and reduces hair shedding in a 24-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial
- Minoxidil Solution — Uses, Side Effects, and More
- Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair
- Coffee and Antioxidants: Everything You Need to Know
- Hydroxycinnamic acid antioxidants: an electrochemical overview
- Differential effects of caffeine on hair shaft elongation, matrix and outer root sheath keratinocyte proliferation, and transforming growth factor-β2/insulin-like growth factor-1-mediated regulation of the hair cycle in male and female human hair follicles in vitro
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