Is caffeine a weapon the hair-loss arsenal?

We all think of thinning hair as a mid-life man’s worry, but millions of women worldwide are plagued by it or complete hair loss. In a fascinating turn of events, new scientific research has shown caffeine might be a weapon in the anti hair-loss arsenal. We spoke to world-renowned German expert Dr Adolf Klenk, who specialises in the physiology of hair, during his recent visit to Australia about happy healthy locks, how to combat baldness and exactly how caffeine might help!

So, does caffeine prevent hair-loss?

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Q: What are the main reasons women suffer thinning hair or hair loss, and how common is it really?

Dr Klenk: “The most common form of hair loss is hereditary predisposition which often occurs in the onset of menopause. Another reason is because of iron deficiency, which leads to chronic effluvium. Strong diets or high performance… [and] stress [are other triggers] of female hair loss. It’s usually a diffuse type of hair loss without characteristic pattern.

“The hair roots have to recover after several years of continuous hair growth. Usual loss of 40-50 hairs per day is normal without risk of [thinning hair]. Only an increase of more than 60-100 hairs per day can result in serious hair problems.”

Q: Is there really anything women can do about it and what are the most typical treatments used if so? Any others you’d recommend?

“Well calculated diets and sufficient supply of trace elements is crucial. There are also some drugs recommended for anti-hair loss treatments, but one has to consider the risk of continuous drug treatment for mainly cosmetic issues. Caffeine products are approved as well tolerated and safe.”

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Q: Can you tell us about these findings with caffeine in your own words?

“Caffeine is known as an energy enhancer. It improves the metabolism of hair within a very short period of time. Reduction of hair loss is a typical signal of the preventive and protective effects. The hair is one of the most power demanding organs in humans and it’s very sensitive. Any negative impact might lead to premature hair loss. Caffeine prevents hair exhaustion. After a short time of regular treatment the number of daily lost hair drops and the quality of hair improves.”

Q: On a practical level, how can women use these findings for themselves? Drink more coffee?

“Drinking caffeine might be a comfortable way out, but in fact it is not. The number of cups of coffee one must intake [is more] than 50 a day to reach the suitable level in the hair organ that an external treatment can offer. Such a high number is necessary because coffee is diluted into every part of the body when consumed, not concentrated onto the scalp. Therefore specially developed caffeine cosmetics such as a leave-in treatment (liquid formula) or a rinse off treatment (shampoo) are options.”

Q: For many women, hair thinning is a temporary thing (such as stress or post pregnancy). Is there anything they can do to speed up their hair growth or encourage a return to the thickness they had before?

“Yes, they can shorten such temporary periods of misperception of hair loss. Caffeine products supply additional energy and suppress exceeding hair loss very quickly. After three months of treatment they should see the improvement of hair quality.”

Q: And what about women who haven’t suffered thinning? Is there anything they can do to make hair even thicker?

“Healthy hair usually lasts for periods of 6 to 7 years. After that period the hair organ has to recover, which takes a few months… Hair grows approximately 1cm per month and is very sensitive to internal and external factors. The hair organ can be compared to a high power engine – without sufficient support it stops working, so it’s important to have a well-balanced diet of fresh vegetables, as well as meat and fish to ensure right supply of trace elements like zinc and iron.”

FACT: Dr Klenk became well known in Europe’s scientific scene after the discovery of caffeine as an active substance in keeping hair healthy. He also developed the world’s first baldness calculator, which has been widely praised by media and users across the world.

Image credit: iStock