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What is caffeine shampoo?

Caffeine Shampoo - Picture 5

Treatment Summary

Effectiveness: No evidence
Avg. Cost: £72 per year
Time to take effect: Unknown


Caffeine shampoo is a treatment designed to stimulate hair growth using caffeine extract. It can be found in high street pharmacies and supermarkets.

The best known caffeine shampoo is Alpecin, a German product which emerged from a study in 2007. The study showed that caffeine stimulated hair follicles to regrow in a laboratory dish. Researchers developed a shampoo that aimed to repeat this effect on the human scalp.

Does caffeine shampoo work?

It is unclear. Whilst the study above showed that caffeine does stimulate hair growth in a laboratory dish; there is not enough evidence to prove it works with hair on the scalp.

There is a lot of debate surrounding whether caffeine shampoos can actually match the success of this initial study to prevent hair loss. Generally speaking, caffeine shampoos are not endorsed by the medical community to treat hair loss.  Instead, most UK doctors recommend medical treatments such as finasteride or minoxidil, which have been proven in clinical trials.

Further research is being done every year on caffeine shampoos, and it is possible to find many reviews across the internet which claim caffeine shampoos have a positive effect on hair loss.  Despite this, it is important to take these reviews with a pinch of salt. Some people may be experiencing a placebo effect, whereby simply using the shampoo gives them greater self-confidence when looking in the mirror. Lastly, it is important to bear in mind that some types of hair loss come and go, and so in some cases, experiencing regrowth after using a caffeine shampoo may simply be a coincidence.

Compare caffeine shampoos with other more effective options using our hair loss treatment comparison tool >

Clinical evidence for caffeine shampoos

Currently, there is no clinically viable evidence that caffeine shampoos have a long-lasting effect on male pattern baldness. This type of hair loss occurs in men who have a sensitivity to the hormone DHT (a form of testosterone), which causes the hair follicles in the scalp to weaken and shrink. Caffeine shampoo has not been proven to negate the effects of DHT in the long term.

Caffeine shampoo side effects

Scan any negative reviews for caffeine shampoos such as Alpecin, and you’ll also see mention of some unpleasant side effects, such as redness and burning of the scalp. Whilst it is also important not to believe every word of a negative review, it is important to bear in mind that your hair and scalp may react badly to caffeine shampoo. Please check the label of your chosen shampoo for side effects before use, and consult a doctor at the first sign of an issue.

Effective alternatives to caffeine shampoo

Currently in the UK, there are only two hair loss treatments that are clinically proven to treat hair loss: a prescription tablet called Finasteride, and a lotion/foam called Minoxidil.

Prescription tablets: 
Finasteride (Propecia) >

Clinically speaking, the most effective treatment is called Finasteride (often sold as “Propecia”). Finasteride is not available on the NHS, but it can be ordered via private prescription through affordable online services like our own LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor. Finasteride is proven to stop hair loss in 90% of men, and can even cause regrowth in two thirds of men. To learn more about Finasteride/Propecia or make an order visit our online hair loss clinic.

Medicated lotion: 
Minoxidil (Regaine) >

The second most effective treatment is minoxidil: a foam or lotion that is rubbed into the scalp every day. Minoxidil can be used for various types of hair loss, including male pattern baldness, female pattern baldness and alopecia areata. It is effective at stopping and reversing hair loss in 60% of men with male pattern baldness. You can buy Regaine through our website >