Recently, there was a number of media reports, containing information on caffeine having positive results on hair growth and hair loss. Actually, those scientific studies have been available since 2014, and there is a plethora of caffeine-based hair care products on the market. And in fact, knowing of its hair stimulating effect, we used caffeine in our flagship The Hair Fuel hair growth mask. Today, we dive deep and explain how caffeine works with hair growth and hair loss.
What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant: a bitter, white crystalline organic water soluble compound, a methylxanthine alkaloid. It also world’s widest consumed psychoactive drug (!). Caffeine exists in the seeds, nuts, or leaves of a number of plants native to Africa, East Asia and South America. This helps these plants to protect against predator insects and to prevent germination of nearby seeds. The most well-known source of caffeine is the coffee bean. Naturally occurred caffeine is also contained in various tea leaves including mate, green and black tea, cacao beans, guayusa – an Amazonian plant, and guarana berries.
Caffeine and hair growth
While you might have thought that the morning coffee you had was not only an awakening, but also a hair-growing experience, drinking coffee isn’t what’s going to help your hair to grow. Scientists estimate we need an equivalent of 50-60 cups of coffee in order to produce noticeable hair-growing results – the amount which is unsafe, insane and is NOT what you should do. It would be extremely harmful to your body and would put you at risk of a heart attack. Coffee consumed orally is also addictive: if you take more than two cups a day, you can form a dependence and might experience headaches, anxiety, and depression.
In a nutshell, drinking 50-60 cups of coffee is NOT what you should be doing to grow your hair long. A number of studies, however had shown that hair follicle absorbs caffeine directly and with ease. This explains the logic behind tea rinses and coffee grounds scrubs for your scalp – both of which make sense from scientific standpoint.
How does caffeine work with hair follicles?
One in-vitro by University of Lübeck in Germany studied samples from patients suffering from androgenetic alopecia (AGA). AGA is a common form of hair loss amongst men and women. Samples were cultivated with different concentrations of testosterone and/or caffeine for a period of 120-192 hours.
Fischer, Hipler and Elsner, the leading scientists of the study, took the biopsies of hair follicles from 14 male patients, ranging in age from 20 – 45. Each patient was at various stages of hair loss. Firstly, they treated cultivated hair follicles with various levels of testosterone, which, unsurprisingly, resulted in slowing down of the hair growth. And afterwards they treated the same hair follicles with various caffeine levels, against a control (placebo) group.
The results of this experiment had shown, that not only caffeine cancelled out negative effects of testosterone on hair growth, but also caffeine alone when applied to a hair follicle which was not pre-treated with testosterone – had lead to improvement in hair growth.
Results of caffeine hair treatment
In this study, caffeine treatment:
- Enhanced hair shaft elongation – i.e. making the hair root bigger.
- Prolonged anagen duration – i.e. increased hair growth stage.
- Stimulated hair matrix keratinocyte proliferation – i.e. produced more keratin – key structural component of human hair).
What is more astonishing, is that after a period of 120 – 192 hours, the hair follicles treated with caffeine continue to show faster hair growth than those untreated with caffeine. So the effects of caffeine are lasting after initial application.
Rather than going through digestive tract and affecting neurotransmitters, blood pressure and potentially causing other harmful and addictive effects in our body – in this study, topcially applied caffeine stimulated hair follicle directly and helped with hair loss and hair growth.
Would caffeine work for all hair?
As with mostly everything, caffeine works with different efficacies for everyone. A largely identical group of scientists performed an additional study, this time on both, female and male hair follicles. Female hair follicles exhibited greater perception and therefore better effects of caffeine on hair growth (sorry, males!). having said that, caffeine treatment in both, males and females, continue to show promising results in helping with hair loss and improving hair growth.
How do you apply caffeine for hair growth?
As previously mentioned, tea rinses and ground coffee scrubs can help with hair growth through the same mechanism as described in the study. Another study had shown that caffeine absorption takes places between 2 and 20 minutes of application. Meaning that in order to have caffeine maximally absorbed by your follicle you need to be rinsing and / or scrubbing your hair for up to 20 minutes to derive maximum positive results of caffeine on your hair follicle.
How to make caffeine hair rinse:
- Tea rinse: make around 500ml of strong cup of black tea – 2 teabags steeped for 5-10 minutes should render desired concentration. Allow tea to cool. Rinse your hair with tea concentrate after your usual shampoo + conditioner routine.
- Coffee scrub: mix coffee grounds with warm oil of choice until desired creamy consistency, closer to that of a toothpaste – take our Hair Quiz to know which hair oil works best for you. Massage resulting coffee paste into your hair roots for 5-10 minutes. Rinse with warm water and follow with your usual shampoo + conditioner routine.
- Alternatively, there are other products, which not only contain caffeine, but also stimulate blood flow in scalp for hair growth in other ways by stimulating blood flow to the hair follicles.
The next time you’re enjoying a cup of your regular, celebrate this magical plant which can lift your mood AND your hair roots. Or better yet, combine your next cup of joe with an invigorating self-care routine: a face mask and caffeine-based hair treatment on a weekend morning.
Effect of caffeine and testosterone on the proliferation of human hair follicles in vitro, International Journal of Dermatology, (1)
Follicular Penetration of Topically Applied Caffeine via a Shampoo Formulation, (2)
Differential effects of caffeine on hair shaft elongation, matrix and outer root sheath keratinocyte proliferation, and transforming growth factor‐beta2/insulin‐like growth factor‐1‐mediated regulation of the hair cycle in male and female human hair follicles in vitro (3)