Caffeine is an excellent morning jolt, or even an afternoon pick-me-up. But what if I told you that it might also be a great ingredient to add to your hair care routine?
In this post, I’ll introduce the caffeine-based hair care brand Alpecin. This will include an introduction to its products, as well as a look at the product’s claimed benefits and ingredients.
I’ll also look at the research which supports caffeine use for men and women with pattern hair loss. This can help you to decide whether caffeine is really as powerful as many people claim.
NOTE: I’ve previously featured another range of hair care products from the same company on this blog. You can learn more about Plantur 39 here.
What Is Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo?
Alpecin is a hair care brand with a line of caffeine-based hair care products.
The product line consists of two shampoo formulations, C1 and CTX, as well as an after-shampoo solution.
What Are Its Claims?
The Alpecin brand doesn’t go so far as to say that their line of products will stop hair loss and regrow your hair.
They do say, however, that their products are meant to “wake up the hair” and that their shampoo formulations in particular “helps hair to feel stronger.”
The active ingredient within Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo is caffeine. But why caffeine, and what benefits might it possess?
As you likely know, caffeine is a stimulant that’s found naturally in many plants (e.g. coffee beans, cocoa beans, tea leaves, etc.).
The stimulant is also used in both prescription and over-the-counter medications to promote alertness and even to treat migraines.
But what does caffeine have to do with hair?
There’s actually a growing body of research on caffeine’s benefits, and one of those is hair growth.
Study: Friedrich-Schiller-University, Germany (2007)
Perhaps the most convincing study on the topic was published in 2007 by researchers from Friedrich-Schiller-University in Germany (1).
This in-vitro study retrieved scalp biopsies from the scalps of 14 men with Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA). The hair follicles were then cultivated in either a concentration of testosterone, a concentration of caffeine, or a combination of both for 120 to 192 hours.
It’s well understood at this point that testosterone, the male sex hormone, plays a role in genetic hair loss. As such, the researchers expected the hair follicles cultivated within the testosterone to show poor hair shaft growth.
But what the researchers wanted to know was 1) could caffeine stimulate elongation of the hair shaft; and 2) could caffeine stimulate elongation of the hair shaft even after it’d been exposed to testosterone.
As the researchers expected, the caffeine concentration did elongate the hair shaft.
And even more importantly, the extent of the elongation was directly related to the amount of time the follicle was exposed to the caffeine.
What about the hair shafts that were first exposed to testosterone and then to caffeine?
Interestingly, those showed a marked increase in length, too.
So not only has caffeine been shown to stimulate hair growth, but it can even do so in response to androgenetic hair loss.
Even better, these results were confirmed by another study with a similar focus.
Study: University of Lübeck, Germany (2014)
The second study was published in 2014, and it proved once again that the presence of caffeine can elongate the hair shaft (2).
But it also showed that caffeine can promote prolonged anagen phase.
Let me explain.
There are three major phases of the hair growth cycle: anagen (active growth), catagen (transition), and telogen (rest).
For healthy individuals, the anagen phase will last anywhere from two to six years. The hair will then cycle through catagen (a few days to a few weeks) and telogen (a few months) relatively quickly.
In men and women with androgenetic hair loss, though, the anagen phase is cut short.
This often results in too many hairs in telogen phase at once, which increases the number of hairs shed per day. This will also significantly reduce the length of the hair shaft, and the reduction in length will worsen over time.
The researchers in the 2014 study discovered that caffeine significantly increased the percentage of hair follicles in anagen phase even after they’ve been exposed to testosterone?
By how much?
When exposed to testosterone, the male hair follicles were shown to have just 39 percent in anagen phase. The hair follicles retrieved from female scalps weren’t as affected with 59 percent in anagen phase.
But when the hair follicles were co-incubated with caffeine, the amount in anagen phase jumped to 70 percent in men. A difference was seen in women, too, though not as significant with levels increasing to anywhere from 63 to 65 percent.
Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo Ingredients
When considering whether a hair product is the right fit for you, it’s always best to take a good look at the ingredients list.
There are actually two different shampoo formulations marketed by Alpecin.
They first is Alpecin C1 Caffeine Shampoo, and the second is Alpecin Sport CTX Caffeine Shampoo.
The ingredients in Alpecin C1 Caffeine Shampoo are as follows:
Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Laureth-2, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Sodium Chloride, Caffeine, Panthenol, Fragrance, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Menthol, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Potassium Sorbate, Polyquaternium-7, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Benzoate, Zinc PCA, Niacinamide, Limonene, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Blue 1, Ext. Violet 2.
You’re sure to notice a few “natural” ingredients, including caffeine, castor oil, menthol, panthenol, and tocopherol.
There are also quite a few ingredients that you may have seen present in other over-the-counter shampoos and cosmetics, such as the detergent and surfactant Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).
So, how do the ingredients in Alpecin CTX Caffeine Shampoo compare? Let’s take a look:
Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Laureth-2, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Sodium Chloride, Taurine, Caffeine, Panthenol, Propylene Glycol, Citric Acid, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Fragrance, Sodium Citrate, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Potassium Sorbate, Polyquaternium-7, Sodium Benzoate, Calcium Gluconate, Disodium EDTA, Magnesium Gluconate, Zinc PCA, Hexyl Cinnamal, Niacinamide, Tocopherol, Linalool, Glycine Soja Oil, Limonene, Biotin, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Sodium Sulfate, Yellow 5, Yellow 6.
There are a few differences, though perhaps the most noticeable is the addition of propylene glycol in this formulation.
Why exactly does this particular ingredient matter?
Propylene glycol is an alcohol and, as such, it has drying effects on the scalp (3).
This has been documented numerous times, and its issues have even resulted in other brands (such as Rogaine) creating an alternative product without it present.
Does this mean that you’ll have a similar reaction to the CTX formulation. No, not necessarily.
If you have sensitive skin, however, it’d be best to steer clear of the Alpecin CTX Caffeine Shampoo and instead use the C1 formulation or another brand.
Alpecin Reviews: What Real Customers Have to Say
It makes sense that the company would have only great things to say about their products. But the best place to look is to real customers.
The reviews for the C1 formulation are good overall.
The product has 3.8 out of 5 stars and 58 reviews.
There are many customers who claim they began to see less hair shedding in just a few weeks. There are also those who claimed to use the product as directed for months with no results whatsoever.
While the customer reviews can be a helpful place to look for common threads – e.g. side effects, product quality and texture, etc. – it’s important to remember that they’re highly subjective. They can offer a glimpse into the product’s efficacy, but they don’t tell the whole story.
Caffeine Shampoo Versus Minoxidil: A Research Case Study
If you’re looking to slow hair loss and stimulate hair growth, you’ve likely heard of the hair loss product minoxidil. This drug is known by its brand name of Rogaine.
Minoxidil has been proven effective at growing hair in men and women with AGA. However, there are some side effects associated with its use and many people prefer to take a natural approach to hair growth.
In 2018, researchers from India and Germany published a study that compared the efficacy of a caffeine-based topical liquid 0.2% versus minoxidil 5% in men with pattern baldness (4).
The study started with 210 male subjects with AGA. The list of men were randomized and assigned to one of two groups:
- The control – 5% minoxidil at 1 mL twice per day.
- The test – 0.2% caffeine solution at 2 mL twice per day.
The study consisted of four visits to the study center. They included:
- Visit 1 – Screening, which was conducted three days prior to the baseline visit.
- Visit 2 – The baseline visit, which the researchers counted as day one.
- Visit 3 – The treatment visit, which occurred at day 90.
- Visit 4 – The end-of-study visit, which occurred at day 180.
As noted by the researchers, there was a three-day hair wash quarantine before visits three and four.
The primary outcome that researchers hoped to assess was the percentage change in proportion of anagen hairs, or the Anagen Rate (AR).
After six months of treatment, the results were as follows:
The minoxidil 5% solution was associated with a non-significantly higher increase from baseline in AR, compared with the caffeine-based topical 0.2% liquid (11.68 ± 12.44 percent vs. 10.59 ± 12.02 percent).
Those results are when the researchers used the Per-Protocol (PP) analysis, which does create some bias (5).
So, what about the results from the Intention-to-Treat (ITT) analysis?
The results weren’t significantly different with the minoxidil 5% group seeing an increase of 11.27 ± 13.02 percent, and the caffeine-based topical 0.2% liquid group seeing an increase of 11.89 ± 11.78 percent.
What do these results suggest for men and women hoping to use caffeine-based products to regrow their hair?
They ultimately show that caffeine-based solutions may be a non-inferior solution to minoxidil 5%. But there is one important factor to note:
This study was funded by Dr. Kurt Wolff, the creator of Alpecin.
That doesn’t mean that the results of the study are biased, or in anyway false. However, it’d be helpful to see a larger sample size study carried out by a non-associated entity.
Side Effects of Caffeine Shampoo
NOTE: This section takes a general look at the side effects that may occur as a result of using caffeine shampoo. The side effects mentioned below are in no way attributed to Alpecin.
Because caffeine is a stimulant, there is a possibility of side effects even when it’s applied topically.
The two most severe side effects to keep in mind are associated with the cardiovascular and vascular systems (6).
In regards to cardiovascular effects, caffeine has been shown to increase blood pressure and heart rate (7). This is why men and women with cardiovascular disease should limit their caffeine intake, and they should perhaps consider a different topical solution for hair growth.
When it comes to vascular effects, caffeine is a vasoconstrictor (8). The stimulant narrows the blood vessels which increases blood pressure and may increase the risk of coronary artery disease.
If you suffer from a cardiovascular or vascular disease, it’s best to avoid caffeine-based hair care products.
The less severe side effects of caffeine include irritability, anxiety, and shakiness.
If you notice any of these side effects when using a topical caffeine solution, you should discontinue use until you’ve spoken with your doctor.
Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo: The Final Verdict
If you’re interested in taking a natural approach to hair growth, then a caffeine-based shampoo may be what you’re looking for. Do I recommend Alpecin, though? Not necessarily.
It’s true that Alpecin products contain caffeine. But that’s not the only thing they contain. They also consist of preservatives and detergents that may strip your scalp of its natural oils and ultimately cause further irritation.
So if you think caffeine shampoo may be right for you, I highly suggest you do your research. You should consider all of the options available to you so you can pick the best products for your needs.