While your relationship with coffee may oscillate between it your favourite thing that ever existed and the only thing that makes you open your eyes on a Monday morning – to going complete tee-total (or shall we say “coffee-total”?) for months, as a result of you reading about dangers of caffeine addiction in a magazine at a dentist’s office; coffee consumption is certainly somewhat controversial, but its presence in our lives is solid and undeniable.
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. In fact, knowing of its stimulating effect, we used caffeine in our flagship The Hair Fuel hair growth mask, so 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 (!). It is found in the seeds, nuts, or leaves of a number of plants native to Africa, East Asia and South America, caffeine helps them 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 you hair to growth. 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 known to be addictive: if you take more than two cups a day, you can form a dependence and might experience headaches, anxiety, or even 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 with ease absorbs caffeine directly. This explains the logic behind tea rinses and coffee grounds scrubs for your scalp – both of which make sense from scientific standpoint.
How does it work?
In one in-vitro study funded by University of Lübeck in Germany, samples from patients suffering from androgenetic alopecia (AGA), a common form of hair loss amongst men and women, were cultivated with different concentrations of testosterone and/or caffeine for a period of 120-192 hours.
The biopsies of hair follicles were taken from 14 male patients, ranging in age from 20 – 45. Each patient was at various stages of hair loss. The cultivated hair follicles were first treated with various levels of testosterone – which resulted in slowing down of the hair growth. And afterwards the same hair follicles were treated 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 hair follicle which wasn’t pre-treated with testosterone – had shown hair growth improvement.
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.
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, caffeine was applied topically which stimulated hair follicle directly and helped with hair loss and hair growth. (Source)
Does it work for everyone?
As with mostly everything, caffeine work with different efficacies for everyone. In an additional study performed largely by the same group of scientists, this time on both, female and male hair follicles, female hair follicles had shown greater perception and therefore better effects of caffeine on hair growth (sorry, men!). However caffeine treatment in both, males and females, continue to show promising results in helping with hair loss and improving hair growth. (Source)
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.
- 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, such as our signature The Hair Fuel mask, which not only contains caffeine, but also stimulates your scalp for hair growth in other ways by stimulating blood flow to your hair follicle.
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 The Hair Fuel treatment on Saturday morning. Yay!