Can caffeine cure hair loss? There are certainly a growing number of caffeine shampoos and lotions on the market.
And there have been several reports in the media recently about how research has 'proven' that caffeine can reverse baldness.
But is drinking more coffee REALLY the answer to our prayers? Or should we be taking caffeine in some other form?
On this page I'll take a look at some of the claims about caffeine and the facts behind the newspaper headlines.
NOTE: This information is presented as a guide and should NOT be seen as professional medical advice. You should always discuss your hair loss concerns with a doctor or other medical professional.
The claims about caffeine are based on 2 separate pieces of research.
The first took place in 2007. Researchers studied a group of male patients affected by androgenetic alopecia. Hair follicles were collected during 14 biopsies and cultured in a laboratory (which means they were grown artificially).
The samples were exposed to caffeine and testosterone, to investigate their effects on hair growth.
It was found that – whilst testosterone suppressed hair growth – exposure to caffeine could COUNTERACT its effect. In other words, it could prevent the hair loss testosterone can cause.
What's more, it was found that caffeine could actually STIMULATE the growth of hair.
The researchers concluded that caffeine is a "… stimulant of human hair growth".
Promising results of MORE research into the potential for caffeine to cure hair loss were published in 2014.
In this new study, researchers planned to further investigate the effects of caffeine on the hair and this time included women.
Tests showed that female hair follicles seem to be even MORE sensitive to caffeine than male.
Researchers noted that the caffeine enhanced the elongation of the hair shaft and prolonged the 'anagen' phase of their hair (the growth phase).
The conclusion was that
"...this study reveals new growth-promoting effects of caffeine on human hair follicles in subjects of both sexes at different levels".
Sadly, no, because the amount of caffeine needed to see these results is far too high to safely consume each day in coffee form!
A mind boggling 50 to 60 cups would need to be consumed daily!
I think Dr Weil put it best when he said
"… If you drank that much coffee you'd be so wired you wouldn't care about the state of your hair".
(On another note, too much caffeine can limit your iron absorption, potentially causing hair loss. You can find out more about how iron affects your hair here).
The caffeine, then, would need to be applied topically (to the scalp).
The problem is that the levels of caffeine in these products is unlikely to be the same as the dose used in the research.
It is unclear just how much caffeine is absorbed from products like this (although this research seems to indicate that there is SOME absorption).
Also, all the hair follicles in the research I mentioned earlier were cultured in a laboratory (in other words, grown under controlled laboratory conditions).
So it's a real stretch to assume that caffeine will work in just the same way when some is added to hair loss products and used in a real-life situation.
I haven't come across ANY research 'proving' that caffeine shampoos or lotions can cure hair loss.
Nevertheless, many women do swear by a couple of these products (one of these is a relative of mine!) and you'll find quite a large number of positive reviews online.
Despite the favorable reviews (and trusting that they are genuine!), the fact remains that these products are not backed with any science that demonstrates they can prevent or reverse hair loss.
But the results of the research were undoubtedly promising, so let's keep our fingers crossed that they are used to develop a genuinely effective hair loss treatment.
Then there are 2 things to take into consideration.
Some women find that caffeine shampoo strips any artificial color from their hair.
If your hair is dyed, you might want to think hard before using it.
There is a lot of debate about whether it makes sense to use a caffeine shampoo alongside Minoxidil.
Minoxidil is a vasodilator (it relaxes the blood vessels). Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor (it constricts blood vessels). So it seems that the two products would contradict each other.
There seems to be no official answer to this dilemma, with some manufacturers simply stating on their websites that it's okay to use both, without directly addressing the issue.
My advice then, would be to apply the Minoxidil, then to wait at least 30 minutes before using a caffeine shampoo or lotion. Better still, use one in the morning and the other one at night.
Have you had amazing results with any products containing caffeine? Or have you had any negative side effects that you'd like to tell others about?
Please contact me here – I look forward to hearing from you.