BEFORE WE BEGIN...
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WHAT'S THE STORY?
You’ve seen them on the high street, in your local pharmacy and online. It’s easy to find reviews claiming that caffeine shampoos have a positive effect on hair loss but can a shampoo containing caffeine extract be considered as a hair loss treatment and stimulate hair growth?
HOW DO CAFFEINE SHAMPOOS CLAIM TO WORK?
Well, the original study from the University of Jena on human hair follicles showed that caffeine increases the amount of cell energy in them by acting against a protein called phosphodiesterase. It also showed to increase the protein insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), an important signalling molecule in promoting hair growth.
Furthermore, according to the study, caffeine was noted to potentially reverse the effects of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the main hormone involved in common balding. From these results, the first in a line of caffeine shampoos were born, with the aim to repeat the results seen in the lab in a shampoo.
WHAT'S THE EVIDENCE?
As mentioned above, the evidence for caffeine shampoos is heavily based on the original study. However, unlike treatments such as Minoxidil and Finasteride, where this is possile in theory there are no significant clinically studies proving that a caffeine shampoo has any long-lasting effect on hair loss such as male pattern baldness.
Unlike the study mentioned above, caffeine shampoos have not been proven to negate the effects of DHT in the long term which, in the case of Alpecin, lead to the UK Advertising Standards Authority ruling in 2018 that they could no longer advertise that their caffeine shampoo can "help to reduce hair loss" as they found no adequate evidence to support the claim.
Thankfully research continues on caffeine shampoos, however, it’s debatable as to whether a sufficient concentration of caffeine could be delivered via a shampoo and there is no clinical evidence that it can replicate the results seen in the laboratory tests.
In fact, Dr. Bessam Fajo of the Farjo Hair Institute wrote in a article for SheerLuxe on hair loss "To be completely transparent, there isn’t a shampoo or conditioner that’s good for hair loss." he continued "If your hair is going to fall out with age, or courtesy of genetics, then a shampoo won’t be able to prevent it".
In the early stages of hair loss, there could be a case for the use of caffeine shampoos as a preventative measure or in addition to medical treatments such as Minoxidil or Finasteride, but they are not likely to make a difference in more advanced stages of hair thinning and should not be used as your only treatment.
While our aim is to provide you with uptodate and relevant information, drugs affect each person differently. As such we can not guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects and this information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss treatment options and possible side effects with a healthcare professional who knows your specific medical history.