Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, MSCIS, MPhil, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/30/2021
In addition to providing a boost of energy, coffee can offer numerous health benefits, from a lower risk of stroke, heart failure and Parkinson’s disease to a possible increase in life expectancy.
That’s right — coffee, at least in moderation, is pretty good for you. If you’ve ever spent time on natural health and beauty websites, you may have also heard that coffee offers real benefits for the growth, strength and appearance of your hair.
While the link between coffee and hair health isn’t rock solid, a few studies suggest that coffee and caffeine may be involved in hair growth.
Below, we’ve looked into this research in more detail and explained how you can use coffee as part of your hair care routine.
We’ve also shared other science-based options that you may want to consider to stop hair loss, promote hair growth and maintain healthy hair year-round.
Every hair on your body, from your scalp to your arms, legs and abdomen, grows out of a small pocket in your skin called a hair follicle.
Inside each hair follicle, cells form into a round hair bulb. As these cells harden, they produce a strand of hair that eventually breaks through the surface of your skin, resulting in the visible hair that we’re used to.
While hair growth may seem simple, each hair on your scalp and body goes through a complex, multi-stage process as it grows to its full length and eventually sheds. This process is referred to as the hair growth cycle.
During the anagen phase, each hair grows to its full length. This phase can vary in length, from several years for scalp hair to significantly less time for eyelashes, eyebrows and body hair.
As each hair comes to the end of its anagen phase, it moves into the catagen phase, or resting phase. Finally, as it detaches from the scalp and stops receiving nutrients, it enters the telogen phase and is shed, allowing a new hair to grow in its place.
When something disrupts this cycle, it can affect your hair’s growth and cause you to shed hair prematurely, or in some cases, lose hair permanently.
One of the most common forms of hair loss is female pattern hair loss, which can develop when dihydrotestosterone, or DHT — a type of androgen hormone — attaches to your hair follicles and causes them to gradually stop producing new hairs.
Other disruptions to your hair’s growth cycle can also cause you to shed hair. For example, one of the most common forms of temporary hair shedding is telogen effluvium, which can occur as a result of stress, nutritional deficiencies or sudden fluctuations in your hormone levels.
Research on the effects of caffeine on hair growth is limited. However, a few studies have found that coffee and its active ingredients, including caffeine, may offer benefits for your hair’s growth and appearance.
Dihydrotestosterone is an androgen that’s produced as a byproduct of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone.
As we mentioned above, if you’re prone to pattern hair loss, DHT can bind to receptors in your scalp and cause your hair to thin. In women, this is known as female pattern hair loss (for men, it’s referred to as male pattern baldness).
In a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology, researchers applied androgen hormones to human hair samples to assess the impact they may have on growth.
Not surprisingly, they found that testosterone — a powerful androgen and the precursor to DHT — suppressed hair growth.
Interestingly, they found that caffeine had the opposite effect and stimulated growth in the hair samples. The researchers concluded that this fact may have an “important clinical impact” in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia (a clinical term for pattern hair loss).
While this study is promising, it should be noted that it was performed in vitro, meaning it was carried out on hair follicle biopsies (tissue removed from the scalp) in a lab setting. It was also performed on biopsies from men with hair loss, with no female participants.
Luckily, other research has also looked at the effects of caffeine on female hair. In a similar in vitro study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, a team of researchers treated hair follicle biopsies with either testosterone or a combination of testosterone and caffeine.
This study found that samples treated with caffeine showed hair shaft elongation (growth of the hair shaft), prolonged anagen duration (a longer growth phase) and an increase in keratinocyte, or hair cell, production.
Like the research above, this study was performed in vitro, meaning it involved the use of coffee on hair follicles samples rather than on real, living people.
Researchers have long known that caffeine has positive effects on the health and appearance of human skin.
In fact, caffeine’s skin-related benefits have made it a popular ingredient in anti-aging creams and other skin care products for years.
Studies have found that caffeine helps to reduce transdermal water loss, which may help your skin maintain its smoothness and elasticity. It also helps to protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation, which can contribute to damage and premature aging.
Interestingly, research also shows that caffeine boosts blood circulation when it’s used directly on the skin.
This is similar to the mechanism of action of minoxidil, a topical hair loss medication that works by encouraging hairs to move into the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle and improving the flow of blood to the scalp.
Some researchers believe that these effects may help to improve scalp health and prevent hair loss when caffeine is applied topically. However, there isn’t yet any research that looks at the direct effects of topical caffeine on hair growth.
The first, and easiest, way to access the hair benefits of caffeine is to use shampoo, conditioner and other hair care products that contain coffee.
You can purchase these products online and in most drug stores. Many shampoos and hair care products contain coffee with argan oil, coconut oil, niacin and other natural ingredients to soften, nourish and strengthen your hair while cleansing your scalp.
The second way to use caffeine as part of your hair care routine is to make your own coffee hair mask or stimulating rinse at home.
To make a coffee mask, try mixing coffee powder with lemon and yogurt, coconut oil or an egg yolk.
Other popular coffee mask recipes include lemon and cinnamon, honey, olive oil and other carrier oils.
To prepare a coffee hair rinse, brew two to four cups of fresh coffee. Avoid using instant coffee or sweetened coffee, as these usually contain preservatives and sweeteners that you may not want to apply to your scalp.
Allow the coffee to cool. To bring it to a comfortable temperature faster, you can add lukewarm water to the coffee rinse.
After shampooing and conditioning your hair in the shower, apply the rinse to your hair while it’s still nice and wet.
To make applying the coffee rinse easier, try pouring it into a spray bottle, then spray it directly onto your hair’s roots, shafts and tips.
To help the rinse soak into your hair, wear a shower cap. It’s best to rinse the coffee out of your hair after 20 to 30 minutes.
Make sure to carefully rinse all of the coffee out of your hair before drying with a towel or blow dryer.
Before applying any type of homemade coffee treatment to your hair, it’s important to be aware of two things.
First, hot coffee can burn your scalp and damage your hair. Make sure to give your fresh coffee enough time to cool down to room temperature before applying it to your scalp. Use a lukewarm or cool coffee mix to avoid burning your scalp.
Second, because of its dark brown color, coffee may darken your hair if you have a light natural hair color.
While this might be a benefit if you have gray hair that you’d like to darken, it’s better to proceed with caution if you have light-colored red, blonde or brown hair that may be affected by the dark, strong color of brewed coffee.
While the current research into coffee’s potential effects on hair health is interesting, there aren’t yet any studies that show a direct link between coffee and improvements in hair growth.
However, if you’re starting to experience female hair loss, there are real, science-based options available that you may be able to use to slow down or stop hair loss, prevent thinning and even stimulate the growth of new hair.
If you’ve started to notice thinning around your part line (a common sign of female pattern hair loss), you may want to start using minoxidil to stimulate growth and stop hair loss.
Minoxidil is an FDA-approved hair loss medication. It works by moving hairs into the anagen, or growth, phase of the hair growth cycle. It also stimulates blood flow to your scalp to supply your hair with the nutrients it needs to grow to its full potential.
Although your diet doesn’t play a role in female pattern hair loss, diets that are lacking in certain vitamins, minerals and nutrients may contribute to temporary hair shedding and give your hair a thin, weak appearance.
To promote optimal hair growth, try to eat a balanced diet that’s full of fruits, vegetables, healthy protein sources and other nutrient-rich foods.
Several vitamins play important roles in the hair growth process, including folic acid (vitamin B9) and biotin (vitamin B7). While you can find these vitamins in certain foods, maintaining a steady intake from your diet isn’t always easy.
Enter hair growth vitamins. Vitamin supplements like our biotin gummy multivitamins are formulated specifically to promote the growth of thicker, stronger and healthier hair.
While vitamin supplements shouldn’t be thought of as replacements for a balanced diet, adding a multivitamin supplement to your daily routine is a quick, convenient and effective way to make sure that you always supply your hair follicles with the micronutrients they need.
The benefits of coffee are numerous, from increased energy to a longer lifespan and a reduced risk of stroke, diabetes and coronary heart disease.
However, while research is promising, there currently aren’t any studies that show that coffee is effective at treating female pattern hair loss or stimulating hair growth in real, living people.
In the future, we may see new evidence that reveals that coffee is a great option for stimulating hair growth and preventing hair thinning.
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