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Dermatologists say that this surprising ingredient could help with hair loss

Caffeine isn't just for your morning cup of coffee.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

From hormones to illness, there are numerous reasons why you might be experiencing hair loss. But regardless of the cause, for many people, seeing those extra strands make their way down the drain can be a serious cause of stress. And while experts tend to recommend remedies like minoxidil or in-office treatments to help regrow hair and prevent further loss, a number of natural remedies have been entering the conversation recently.

Rosemary oil is one. And caffeine is another. While we already know that the latter ingredient can be beneficial for your skin (and your productivity, when consumed in your morning cup of coffee), evidence shows that it might also have a positive effect on hair growth. Here, everything you need to know, according to experts.

Can caffeine help with hair loss?

Short answer: Potentially.

"Caffeine is a stimulant that increases circulation, allowing beneficial nutrients and oxygen to be delivered to the hair follicles to keep them healthy," explains Dr. Michele Green, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. Research has also shown that caffeine can help block the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone — a hormone that has been linked to hair follicle damage, which can lead to androgenetic alopecia, otherwise known as male or female-pattern hair loss, she says.

Also, Green adds, in another study, when caffeine was topically applied to hair follicles in vitro (aka in a lab environment), researchers noticed a longer anagen stage (growth stage) and growth of the hair shaft as well. That being said, other hair loss treatments, like minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia), have shown more reliable evidence of "successfully blocking DHT or preventing the conversion of testosterone to DHT," Green says.

Still, Dr. Chesahna Kindred, a board-certified dermatologist in Maryland, says that studies show that the ingredient may be most helpful for people who suffer from androgenetic alopecia and stress-induced hair loss. However, it's always best to see your dermatologist who can help determine the cause of your hair loss and proper treatment methods.

Kindred says that there are also no obvious side effects or contraindications to using hair products with caffeine. So, for those who are wary of the potential side effects of minoxidil or finasteride and are looking for a more gentle option to potentially help tackle thinning hair, using a product with caffeine could be a way in.

Caffeine benefits for hair

Beyond its potential for helping with hair growth, the ingredient has other benefits for the hair. "Caffeine contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants," Green says. Antioxidants can protect the hair and scalp from environmental damage, such as UV rays and pollution. "Caffeine has also been shown to reduce frizz and produce softer, shinier, and healthier hair."

"Caffeine does not strip the natural oils and helps lock in moisture to create hydrated, shiny, and healthy hair," Green adds.

How to use caffeine for hair

If you're into DIY beauty, you can actually make your own coffee hair rinse at home. To do this, Green says you should let your brew completely cool, put it in a spray bottle and apply the rinse on the scalp and hair and leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing.

Or, you can try one of the many products on the market that contain the ingredient. "You can use caffeine shampoos and conditioners, which are safe for light-colored hair," Green says. She adds that there are also caffeine-infused hair serums, which can be left on the scalp overnight for maximum absorption. Serums and scalp masks can be used one to two times per week.

"Massaging the product into the scalp will further stimulate circulation and allow more of the ingredient to be absorbed," she says.

When it comes to any hair growth treatment, consistency is key. And you shouldn't give up if you don't see results within a few uses. "It may take around four months to see any signs of improvement or hair growth," Green says.

Here, we're sharing some top-rated and popular products that contain the ingredient.

Caffeine products for hair growth

The Inkey List Caffeine Stimulating Scalp Treatment

Green says that this stimulating scalp treatment from The Inkey List is one example of a serum that features the ingredient. Made to be applied before bed, the treatment features ingredients like caffeine powder and Redensyl, which the brand says work to stimulate your scalp and hair follicles as you sleep to promote new growth.

Alpecin C1 Caffeine Shampoo

"Alpecin is a popular, highly-rated brand that offers caffeine shampoos and liquids," Green says. Founded in 1930 in Germany, the brand says that decades of research went into creating the Alpecin caffeine shampoos. And this specific one is designed to both cleanses the scalp and nourishes hair to help promote a thicker, stronger feel.

Ogx Anti-Hair Fall + Coconut Caffeine Strengthening Shampoo

Not only are shoppers obsessed with the "fantastic" scent of this shampoo, but some have also noticed improvements in hair growth and loss since they started using it. "I've been battling post-surgery hair loss for a month or so and after a week, my hair isn't falling out at such a shocking rate anymore," one person wrote. "All the stars. I give this shampoo all the stars."

Pura D'Or Scalp Therapy Energizing Scalp Serum

Pura D'Or is best known for its popular anti-thinning biotin shampoo and conditioner, but the brand also makes a scalp serum that's designed to increase hair volume. It's said to be formulated with 16 active ingredients, including niacin, biotin, argan oil, coffee extract and DHT blockers.

Briogeo Destined For Density Caffeine + Biotin Peptide Density Shampoo

Designed to be safe for color-treated, keratin-treated and relaxed hair, this shampoo is said to help stimulate the scalp, strengthen the hair and follicle and encourage microcirculation to the scalp and hair roots to help your hair look fuller and healthier. The brand also makes a conditioner and serum and suggests using them together for best results.

Revivv For Her 3-Month Hair Growth Support Serum

Associate SEO editor Fran Sales says she's been using this caffeine-infused serum for a few months now, and is seeing results. "Unlike some other hair growth-promoting serums I've used, this one has the easiest and quickest application," she says. So that really makes it easy to do it every day. The roller ball that dispenses the serum doesn't dispense too much so you can apply just to the areas you want (mine is the top of my head near my forehead and also the crown)." She adds that while that she hasn't reached "full growth" status yet, "there are so many baby hairs coming in."

Meet our experts

  • Dr. Michele S. Green, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. She treats a range of skin issues, from premature skin aging to hyperpigmentation, rosacea, acne and skin cancer.
  • Dr. Chesahna Kindred, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of the Kindred Hair & Skin Center in Columbia, Maryland, where she treats patients of all ages and ethnicities. Her focus is on hair loss and ethnic skin.