Can applying coffee to the scalp restore hair growth? The evidence looks promising

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Hair loss can be attributed to a number of external and internal processes and teasing these apart can be tricky. It can be a response to stressful situations, for example, or genetics. In fact, genetics plays a more prominent role. It is behind the leading cause of hair loss in men – male pattern baldness.

Researchers believe that male pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopeci, is the result of the sex hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) damaging hair follicles.

Testosterone is thought to facilitate this process, which eventually leads to baldness.

Confronted with the power of genetics, hair loss of this nature can seem like an insoluble problem, but you can address it.

Research suggests you do not have to undergo an invasive procedure or opt for expensive drugs with nasty side effects to halt it either.

Why? Applying caffeine in coffee has shown promise in stimulating hair growth and stopping male pattern hair loss.

It is thought to block the DHT mechanism by inhibiting testosterone.

In one study, researchers used scalp biopsy samples from male AGA patients which were cultivated using different concentrations of testosterone and/or caffeine for a period of 120-192 hours.

The addition of caffeine in concentrations of 0.001 percent and 0.005 percent were found to counteract the suppressive effects of testosterone on hair growth, with a higher hair shaft elongation seen at 120 hours after caffeine administration, compared to the control group.

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The researchers concluded that this “clearly demonstrates that caffeine is a stimulator of human hair growth which may have importance in the treatment of AGA”.

Why is the scalp application the preferred method?

A recent study assessed the “follicular penetration of topical caffeine in hair follicles” and found hair follicles to be a faster route of drug delivery for topically applied drugs.

Bolstering the claim, another study assessed the follicular penetration of caffeine on a topical application in a shampoo formulation for two minutes and showed that penetration via hair follicles was faster and higher compared with the interfollicular route (situated between follicles) and that hair follicles were the only pathway for faster caffeine absorption during the first 20 minutes after application.

More conventional approaches

According to the NHS, finasteride and minoxidil are the main treatments for male pattern baldness.

“Minoxidil can also be used to treat female pattern baldness. Women shouldn’t use finasteride,” warns the health body.

It is important to note that there are a number of drawbacks to consider before taking these drug treatments, it explains.

These treatments:

  • Don’t work for everyone
  • Only work for as long as they’re used
  • Aren’t available on the NHS
  • Can be expensive.

Some wigs are also available on the NHS, but you may have to pay unless you qualify for financial help.

Other more costly options include:

  • Steroid injections – injections given into bald patches
  • Steroid creams – cream applied to bald patches
  • Immunotherapy – chemical applied to bald patches
  • Light treatment – shining ultraviolet light on bald patches
  • Tattooing – tattoo used to look like short hair and eyebrows
  • Hair transplant – hair cells are moved to thinning patches
  • Scalp reduction surgery – sections of the scalp with hair are stretched and stitched together
  • Artificial hair transplant – surgery to implant artificial hairs.

Some of the above treatments may not be available on the NHS.

“If your hair loss is causing you distress, your GP may be able to help you get some counselling,” says the NHS.

You may also benefit from joining a support group, or speaking to other people in the same situation on online forums.

Try these online support groups:

  • Alopecia UK
  • Alopecia Awareness.

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