By Paul Taylor
Can Alpecin shampoo really stop hair loss? This review reveals the results and benefits of caffeine shampoo, as well as ingredients and possible side effects.
This section analyzes three popular hair loss shampoos:
The first three pages review these very different shampoo products. The fourth page gives a comparison chart of these, and other dedicated hair loss shampoos, to help you decide which might work best.
Here’s why I chose to review these three particular products:
* Many people
don’t really consider medicated shampoos to be drugs. So, for that
reason, Nizoral appears in this (shampoo) section and not the drug
section of my hair loss product reviews.
When I first heard about Alpecin shampoo, I wondered whether it was simply the latest example of a gimmicky product which tries to tackle hair loss by adding an ingredient that’s had some, perhaps limited, success in stimulating hair regrowth.
I had my doubts simply because there are so many substances
that are said to be able to help hair regrowth through topical
application. For example, the following foods and drinks are all known
to contain such substances:
Almost everything, it seems, can stop hair loss!
Sarcasm aside, research into caffeine-containing products (including a spray and Alpecin shampoo) has shown that applying caffeine to the scalp can result in beneficial help to hair growth (1).
And given that the advertising for Alpecin shampoo states that: "over one million bottles have been sold" in the UK alone, this does confirm its popularity as a hair loss product, and also suggests that there do seem to be many satisfied customers.
Caffeine, it seems, is amazing stuff. Apparently, it can stimulate the hair follicles back into hair regrowth, reduce inflammation within scalp tissue, and also counteract the damage that testosterone does to the skin.*
* It does seem very odd to me that testosterone can, somehow, damage the skin. But, apparently that’s what studies carried out in Germany seem to show. According to the Alpecin website, testosterone will:
And caffeine almost miraculously seems to be able to undo all these things!
What I find particularly interesting is that, whilst caffeine shampoo does tackle testosterone, it doesn’t stop the conversion of testosterone to DHT (i.e., unlike the DHT blocker shampoo reviewed on the next page).
If you want to know exactly how caffeine does counteract the negative effects of testosterone, here's the answer:
I wrote to the manufacturer of Alpecin shampoo and asked:
"Your website states that caffeine can suppress testosterone. So does this mean that caffeine can also block conversion of 5-alpha reductase into DHT? Or is there some other mechanism in which caffeine protects against testosterone?"
Here's their reply:
"Caffeine does not inhibit the 5-alpha reductase which is responsible for the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Caffeine counteracts the negative effects of testosterone by stimulating adenylyl cyclase, which regulates the conversion of ATP to cAMP. In addition the phosphodiesterase is inhibited, which regulates the conversion of cAMP to 5'cAMP. This leads to an increase of the cAMP concentration. cAMP is an energy supplier for the hair root and counteracts the negative effects of testosterone this way."
So now you know!
No, not really. The research into caffeine shampoo is quite clear - its use is intended specifically for androgenetic alopecia.
However, I have read a review from a young woman who was suffering from patchy hair loss (which sounds like alopecia areata) who said that Alpecin shampoo definitely did help her.
So, given that caffeine appears to be able to stimulate scalp follicles into hair regrowth, perhaps Alpecin shampoo might help people with other types of hair loss too.
Most shampoos have a lot of ingredients (including Alpecin which has 28). And some of these fulfill important roles such as foaming agents, preservatives, perfumes, etc.
However, whilst somewhat controversial, it’s often been said that certain shampoo ingredients can cause side effects including: skin irritation and allergies, eye irritation, hormone disruption and damage to hair follicles (which can be harmful to hair growth).
Such potentially dangerous ingredients include:
I don’t know about you, but even the names sound dangerous to me!
And if you think that dedicated hair loss shampoos like Alpecin would not include potentially harmful substances like these, you’d be wrong.
Alpecin shampoo contains SLES, parabens and sodium benzoate.
In fact, all three hair loss shampoos in this review contain one or more of the substances listed above.
Of course, to avoid any potential risk to your health, you can always look for a shampoo with the word "organic" in
the ingredients list. This should make sure the product you use is mostly (or
even completely) free from that list of chemicals above.
Caffeine is the active ingredient in Alpecin shampoo, so the bigger the dose, the greater its effect will be. You’re also supposed to leave Alpecin on your scalp for two or more minutes to help it work.
The amount of caffeine you’ll be exposed to from a single hair wash
every day should be perfectly safe unless your body is particularly
sensitive to this substance – some people have reported a strong burning sensation.
Having researched the use of caffeine shampoo as a possible approach to counteract hair loss, I do get the impression that caffeine can help (although the actual mechanism as to how it stimulates the hair roots does seem a little strange).
But, given that coffee-junkies are not immune to hair loss, if caffeine does help, clearly you can't drink your way to a full head of hair! It must be applied topically within a suitable carrier to deliver it down into the hair follicles.
However, from researching online reviews, I don’t believe any topical caffeine product can really stop hair loss to any great extent.
Unfortunately though, many people seem
to raise their expectations of products like this far too high. And when they don’t work, their disappointment is clear to see. From
the reviews I’ve read, quite a few state that Alpecin shampoo did not result in any noticeable benefit at all, even after two years.
So, whilst caffeine shampoo might benefit some people to some extent, would a DHT blocker shampoo prove more successful? Find out on the next page.
This page 1 of 4.
Read next page? Nisim DHT blocker shampoo review.
Effect of caffeine and testosterone on the proliferation of human hair follicles in vitro. Fischer TW, Hipler UC, Elsner P. Int J Dermatol. 2007 Jan;46(1):27-35. Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17214716
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