Last year, I briefly mentioned an interesting new study by Dr. Rachita Dhurat in regards to caffeine as a potential treatment for hair loss 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 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.
Update: June 16, 2023 — Per a number of dermatologists, caffeine could help with hair loss and receding hairlines.
Update: December 18, 2022 — An interesting discussion on caffeine and hair growth with Dr. Kyle Gillett. He says that the stimulant probably has a weak but still clinically significant (barely) effect on hair growth stimulation.
Caffeine Shampoos for Hair Loss
Interestingly, 5 of the 10 shampoos that I recommended in my best hair loss shampoos 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 . It mentions the Alpecin brand, which currently has an average customer rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars.
Caffeine and Hair Growth Research
Some other studies conducted in recent years also 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.
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 it at the very least stimulates faster hair growth. And perhaps a slight thickening of thinning hair.
We do know that the caffeine in coffee raises cortisol levels and acts as a central nervous system stimulus. It might also prolong the anagen growth phase of the hair cycle.
In a best case scenario, it could also counter the harmful effects of DHT by extending the anagen growth phase of the hair cycle. However, it is unlikely to regrow hair in totally bald areas of the scalp in those with male pattern baldness.