There are many products, herbs, substances, or foods that are rumored or thought to help with hair loss. Just a few examples are green tea, lavender, saw palmetto, and evening primrose oil. Lately, there’s been a lot of references to coffee as one possible treatment for hair loss, thinning, or shedding. There’s some controversy however as to whether the coffee should be consumed internally or applied topically to the scalp, and if so, how often and how much should be applied? Also, how effective is this treatment and what type of hair loss is it effective for? I’ll try to address these questions and concerns in the following article.
Is Coffee Really An Effective Treatment For Hair Loss?: The recent study which is often cited tested only 14 subjects with thinning hair. The scientists took hair biopsies from these folks and then placed these in caffeine for eight days. Supposedly at the end of these eight days, the scientists theorized that the subjects saw a 33 to 40% increase in the length of the hair. The researchers went on to theorize that the caffeine had in part protected the follicles from DHT or dihydrotestosterone which is the culprit of most genetic hair loss. (If you believe this theory, caffeine would not help with TE (telogen effluvium), shedding, or medical induced loss. In this instance, we’re only talking about AGA or androgen driven loss.)
This increase in length is what the study implied, but I would question how they were able to connect the dots between being able to grow longer hair with being able to grow thicker hair. Growing long hair has very little to do with DHT. Growing healthy and thick hair does, but these subjects’ hair density and individual shaft coarseness wasn’t measured.
So, How Much Coffee Would You Need To Consume To See Changes In Your Hair?: The researchers used the equivalent of 60 cups of coffee per day. Obviously, this isn’t feasible in every day life. Getting this much caffeine internally would be unhealthy, if not dangerous. So, you’d need to apply it topically to your scalp and hope that it’s not absorbed systematically. There are hair loss products that contain coffee or caffeine. An example is alpecin, but there are others.
The Bottom Line: People have been using coffee on their hair and scalps for centuries. Sometimes it is used to darken or enhance the color of the hair. It’s also thought to make hair shinier and seemingly more voluminous. Other times, it’s used in the hopes to halt or help with hair loss. Few people claim that it can hurt you or your scalp, so long as you use a commercial product or let any coffee that you’re going to apply topically completely cool and then thoroughly rinse it out.
Green tea is another caffeine product that has been rumored to help with hair loss. But, if this is true why does a world full of coffee and tea drinkers still suffer hair loss at higher and higher levels? And, honestly, it’s the sensitivity to DHT rather than the substance itself that shrinks the follicles. It’s quite unrealistic to think that you can rid your scalp of all DHT. It’s therefore more effective to treat the sensitivity rather than to attempt to eliminate all DHT.
While it probably doesn’t hurt to experiment with topicals that contain caffeine (among other ingredients), it’s probably unrealistic to think that a widely consumed substance that has been around for centuries is the forgotten magic solution that we were hoping for. My opinion is that it certainly doesn’t hurt to add this to your regimen and to then see what happens, but it alone isn’t going to give the results that you are probably hoping for, unless you tackle the sensitivity. However, it can certainly be worth a try, so long as you also look at other options to then treat the sensitivity.