Last year, I briefly mentioned an interesting new study by Dr. Rachita Dhurat in regards to caffeine as a potential treatment for hair loss and balding in men. The conclusion of that study was pretty unbelievable:
“A caffeine-based topical liquid should be considered as not inferior to minoxidil 5% solution in men with androgenetic alopecia.”
There have only ever been two hair loss treatments approved by the US FDA (Finasteride and Minoxidil). So how could an everyday product such as caffeine ever be as good as one of those two renowned hair loss treatments?
Surely there must be something wrong with Dr. Dhurat’s study methodology? Or perhaps the hairs that were being stimulated by caffeine were just existing weak hairs getting stronger? Minoxidil actually causes brand new hair growth (or regenerates miniaturized vellus hair) in many responders.
Caffeine and Hair Growth Research
However, it seems like there have been a number of other studies conducted in recent years that have concluded a favorable impact upon hair growth after the application of topical caffeine.
- In 2007, German researchers found that caffeine by itself was effective at stimulating hair growth.
- In 2011, Italian scientists found a caffeine based lotion to be beneficial in treating androgenetic alopecia.
- A 2013 report from Poland suggested that caffeine reduced 5-α-reductase activity, the main culprit (along with dihydrotestosterone — DHT) when it comes to male pattern hair loss.
- In 2014, scientists from Germany found growth-promoting effects of caffeine on human hair follicles in both men and women at molecular, cellular and organ levels.
- At the recently ended 2018 International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists (IFSCC) conference, there was a whole workshop (number 4) devoted to caffeine and hair growth. Dr. Dhurat was one of 5 presenters during this workshop.
Interestingly, 5 of the 10 shampoos that I recommended in my best hair loss shampoo list contain caffeine as an ingredient. Dr. Dhurat’s study also mentions that caffeine has been shown to penetrate the hair follicle when applied via a shampoo formulation (Alpecin brand).
I doubt that caffeine can really be as effective as Minoxidil when it comes to hair growth. However, there does seem to be a decent chance that caffeine at the very least stimulates faster hair growth. It might also prolong the anagen growth phase of the hair cycle, and, in a best case scenario, perhaps counter the harmful effects of DHT.