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Caffeine shampoos for hair loss

Caffeine shampoos are often marketed as a hair loss treatment designed to prevent hair loss and stimulate growth. Alpecin is one of the best-known caffeine shampoos. In this article, we examine the usefulness of caffeine shampoo in combating hair loss and whether it is a viable alternative to proven hair loss treatments.
Caffeine shampoos, such as Alpecin, are often marketed as a hair loss treatment designed to prevent hair loss and stimulate growth. In this article, we examine the usefulness of caffeine shampoo in combating hair loss.

What is caffeine shampoo?

Caffeine shampoos are hair-cleansing products that contain the common chemical compound caffeine, often present as a component of coffee bean extract. Caffeine shampoos often contain other beneficial ingredients such as zinc, niacin, biotin, niacinamide and aloe vera. Caffeine shampoos entered the market after a study found that using shampoo containing caffeine could stimulate hair growth. The original research cited evidence of new hair growth on Petri dishes, not hairs still attached to scalps.

Caffeine and hair loss

Caffeine is known to be a stimulant, so applying it topically to the scalp for hair growth made sense. Laboratory studies have shown that caffeine can penetrate hair follicles and counteract the effects of androgenetic alopecia. Caffeine has been shown to increase the amount of energy in cells, elevate levels of a protein called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) that promotes hair growth and reduce the effects of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), another hormone associated with baldness.

Based on the observation from in vitro studies that caffeine might counteract AGA progression, the effect of caffeine-containing formulations on hair loss has been investigated in several in vivo studies. Some of those were noncomparative or privately funded; therefore, one must draw only a few conclusions from the results.

The studies that showed caffeine was more effective on male patients with AGA than the corresponding control group used mainly leave-on topical caffeine solutions and not shampoos. High caffeine doses are needed to support the active growing phase of male and female hair follicles.

Does caffeine shampoo work for hair loss?

There is not enough clinically viable evidence to support that caffeine shampoo prevents or stops androgenetic alopecia. The results of in vitro experiments conducted on cells and tissues outside the body have limited value compared to studies examining how a substance reacts under normal conditions. The good news is that caffeine shampoo has been found to cause no harm and can help improve the scalp’s health, supporting healthy hair growth when paired with a clinically proven treatment.

Does topical caffeine solution help with hair loss?

Adequately dosed topical caffeine-containing solutions may be helpful as a hair growth stimulant in addition to proven and licensed medical treatments for hair loss. A study comparing caffeine lotion to Minoxidil 5% on patients with androgenetic alopecia found that both treatments were equally effective after six months. While the results of these studies are encouraging, larger randomised clinical trials will provide more conclusive evidence. It is unlikely that topical caffeine will treat male or female pattern baldness.

Dr Bonaros is a member of the ISHRS and the British Association of Hair Restoration Surgeons. He performs hair restoration surgery at his Glasgow clinic. He can provide you with a consultation if you suffer from hair loss and want to know the best available treatments available.

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