Caffeine Isn't Just For Coffee Anymore - It Can Supercharge Your Shampoo, Too

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"Look, just give me the coffee, and no one gets hurt." That one phrase launched a thousand Etsy shops, and that's because it's true. For many, there is no life without coffee. Coffee lovers, whether they're loyal to Dunkin Donuts (we're looking at you, Bennifer), Starbucks (Taylor's Version), or Tim Horton's (like Justin Bieber), will create entire Pinterest mood boards that fully explain their undying devotion to all things caffeinated. There's even a term for those who are sad and depressed when they're out of the strong, black stuff: "depresso."


Coffee aficionados have found other uses for their favorite drink, like coffee perfumes, and even coffee ground facial and body scrubs. But now, some people are swearing by a new use for coffee, and they apparently love it a latte (bah dum CHING). There's a new trend of using coffee in your shampoo in an effort to increase the volume of fine hair, and even to perhaps stimulate hair growth. Here's what we know about the trend, and if it truly can deliver on its promises.   

Stylists gush over caffeine-based shampoos

A 2007 study published in the International Journal of Dermatology looked into the possibility that coffee is good for your hair — not the beans themselves, just that blessed caffeine within them that we all know and love. The study suggested that caffeine might stimulate hair growth in those who were suffering from hair loss. Alpecin, a German caffeine shampoo, hit the market soon after that study. Fans of the product say their hair became stronger at the root, preventing loss, and touted that it prevented future hair loss as well.


Stylists agree. "Caffeine helps to suppress the hair loss hormone called DHT at the follicle," professional hairstylist Joseph Michael told Byrdie, explaining that caffeine makes the hair shaft itself longer and makes your overall head of hair thicker and fuller with all of that sought-after volume. "Caffeine along with other ingredients together can help stimulate hair growth," Michael adds. Oribe executive director of product development Michele Burgess agrees, saying "[Caffeine is] important because it rejuvenates the hair follicles and promotes an environment for optimal hair growth," per Stylist.

Does it really work?

So we all love that blessed caffeine inside our heads, and stylists like it on the outside of our heads, but is the science on caffeine's side? There seems to be a bit of dissent on that end. Dermatologist and trichologist (someone who studies diseases of the hair and scalp) Dr. Sergio Vañó is one medical expert who thinks all of this caffeine-shampoo talk is nothing more than snake oil. "Over the last two years, I've frequently seen patients resorting to caffeine shampoos for hair loss," he told Esquire. "And no, they don't work, because the amount of caffeine that targets the hair root where the hair follicle grows is scarce, and its treatment of androgenetic alopecia is doubtful." Androgenetic alopecia is the medical term for male pattern baldness.


Esquire also reported that the aforementioned German caffeine shampoo pioneer Alpecin has since been put under strict advertising rules in the U.K., after one of their regulatory bodies in 2018 ruled that Alpecin's claims of hair-loss reduction were never backed up by "an accurate and objective analysis of hair growth, in a well-designed and well-conducted trial," according to a spokesperson for the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority.

Popular U.K. pharmacy Lloyds even advises on their website that there is simply not enough evidence to definitely state that caffeine shampoo can reverse or prevent hair loss. So maybe your Starbucks is still best served hot in your cup, not cold on your head.