Coffee, tea, colas and energy drinks: We typically love them for their caffeine. And who wouldn’t. But can caffeine cause hair loss?
From jitters and increased anxiety to potential dehydration and other side effects, most of us assume caffeine isn’t the best for us but continue to consume it anyway, without verifying these claims. But what happens when you hear that caffeine can kill your coif?
The good news is that you don’t need to switch to decaf to prevent hair loss; there’s no science showing a relationship between caffeine intake and hair loss. In fact, caffeine has a very different relationship to how your hair grows.
Here’s how caffeine can affect your hair.
There’s not a lot of scientific research on how caffeine affects human hair growth or hair loss. But the short and sweet news is that — as mentioned above — there’s no firm evidence to suggest a link between caffeine and hair loss. And if you are curious, there’s currently no scientific research that directly links normal alcohol consumption to hair loss.
What we do know is that some early studies in the lab (in vitro) have shown a relationship between caffeine and the baldness-inducing hormone testosterone and its derivatives. Caffeine, according to research, counteracts the expression of certain proteins that are affected by testosterone, and the end result of that was a net growth promotion on hair follicles.
Caffeine’s ability to impact androgen-related hair follicle growth had a significant effect on hair follicles of people suffering from androgenic alopecia, sometimes called androgenetic alopecia.
Caffeine was applied topically to hair follicles (in vitro), and as a result, the researchers saw increased anagen duration (a longer hair-growth stage in the growth cycle) in caffeine-enhanced hair. The researchers also saw hair shaft elongation (growth).
There’s further evidence to suggest that some (naturally) caffeine-containing products like green tea may create similar effects, though it’s unclear whether the caffeine itself is responsible for green tea’s ability to stimulate hair regrowth.
In short, from the data we have, caffeine has a positive relationship with your hair health. There appear to be no studies linking caffeine to hair loss, and rather a nominal few suggesting a link between caffeine and better hair growth potential.
So caffeine and hair: Seems like the perfect solution to all hair loss problems, right? Not so fast.
Studies are great, but what do they have to do with you? Can you switch to an hourly green tea beverage and pop a thick head of lush hair six months later? And what about black tea for hair, which has more caffeine than green tea?
While substances like green tea have been shown to potentially create serious benefits for the healthy growth of your hair, these studies represent early research in the field, and stop short of arguing for a dosage, or delivery method, or an exact cause-effect relationship between caffeine and hair growth.
Instead, what we have is a growing body of research suggesting “potential.” For instance, one 2019 review found benefits for green tea that included moderation of oil production in the scalp, dandruff inhibition, and softening of the hair follicle. But none of that was directly linked to caffeine.
One 2019 article mentioned a study that showed that a topical application of caffeine to treat androgenic alopecia was linked to caffeine’s ability to protect barrier function in men and discussed lab studies that have shown caffeine’s ability to stimulate hair growth.
However, the report also states that further studies are needed to confirm the research and clarify the relationship between caffeine and water barrier function.
If you’re wondering whether to buy a shampoo or other hair care product with caffeine in the ingredients list, it’s likely safe to say that there's no proof that caffeine could damage your hair.
It’s also relatively unknown whether or not caffeine will truly give your hair growth a boost.
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Here’s some good news: If you’re worried about hair loss, there are some proven methods to help stop that hair loss and stimulate regrowth.
FDA-approved treatments for hair loss include finasteride — which has been shown to block the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) from causing the conditions for male pattern baldness. Clinical trials show that daily finasteride can reduce about 90 percent of DHT levels, when taken as directed.
There are also topical hair growth medications on the market — the most popular, perhaps, is minoxidil, which also goes by the name Rogaine®, and stimulates hair growth by shortening the telogen or dormant phase of hair growth and causing your hair follicles to enter the anagen growth phase,.
You don’t need a prescription for it, either.
There’s also evidence to suggest that certain supplements and essential vitamins for a healthy head of hair may help to promote growth or reduce loss, and some shampoo ingredients may support your hair goals, too. Read our guide titled: What to Look for in a Men’s Hair Loss Shampoo if you’re interested in learning more about the potential there.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.
If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.
The effects of caffeine on the hair growth cycle is an area of research where a lot more work must be done.
Research has only begun to explore the potential of hair loss treatments containing caffeine, and still there's no data on how caffeine may affect any type of hair loss. So should you be buying caffeine-containing shampoos? Not necessarily.
It’s best to talk with a healthcare professional about your hair loss, and get advice on how to treat and reverse balding with recommended, proven treatments for hair loss.
Mary is an accomplished emergency and trauma RN with more than 10 years of healthcare experience.
As a data scientist with a Masters degree in Health Informatics and Data Analytics from Boston University, Mary uses healthcare data to inform individual and public health efforts.