What is caffeine?

Caffeine is everywhere in modern society. Many of us take it for the cognitive boost and alertness we feel after ingesting caffeine, but did you know that caffeine also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects?1 Caffeine has also been shown to improve how our blood vessels function.2 Caffeine directly stimulates cell metabolism due to increasing the availability of energy by freeing fat from fat stores.3 These mechanisms are thought to be how caffeine positively affects hair growth. 

Why is caffeine part of my treatment plan?

Your genetic pattern indicated that strategies to increase IGF-1 might benefit hair regrowth.4 Caffeine application has been shown to increase IGF-1 and improve hair growth.5

Is topical caffeine effective for alopecia?

Caffeine has been studied in androgenic alopecia in men, women, and women with telogen effluvium. Those studies revealed that caffeine helped strengthen hair, decrease hair shedding, and decrease the progression of balding.5 A 2017 study compared a topical 0.2% caffeine solution with minoxidil 5% and found similar results regarding hair growth between caffeine and minoxidil.6 

Are there adverse effects when using caffeine?

Systemic absorption with topical caffeine is low. A study using a more concentrated topical caffeine solution showed minimal blood levels after administration, much lower than one would see after drinking coffee.7,8 Topical caffeine is well tolerated with few reported adverse effects. 

Why do I need to keep using caffeine for hair loss?

Topical caffeine should be used once or twice a day as your physician prescribes. Continuous use for four months is recommended before evaluating treatment response. Hair shedding may occur at the initiation of treatment as hair follicles are being stimulated to reenter the growth phase, but this frequently subsides within two months. Hair growth usually occurs within four to eight months and stabilizes over 12 to 18 months. Hair loss will occur over several months if treatment is stopped because of the nature of the hair growth cycle. Topical caffeine is not a cure for hair loss; it is a treatment.


  1. Arnaud MJ. The pharmacology of caffeine. Prog Drug Res. 1987;31:273–313.
  2. Noguchi K, Matsuzaki T, Sakanashi M, Hamadate N, Uchida T, Kina-Tanada M, et al. Effect of caffeine contained in a cup of coffee on microvascular function in healthy subjects. J Pharmacol Sci. 2015;127(2):217–22.
  3. Fischer TW, Herczeg-Lisztes E, Funk W, Zillikens D, Bíró T, Paus R. Differential effects of caffeine on hair shaft elongation, matrix and outer root sheath keratinocyte proliferation,and transforming growth factor-β2/insulin-like growth factor-1-mediated regulation of the hair cycle in male and female human hair follicles in vitro.
  4. Albani D, Batelli S, Polito L, et al. A polymorphic variant of the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) receptor correlates with male longevity in the Italian population: a genetic study and evaluation of circulating IGF-1 from the "Treviso Longeva (TRELONG)" study. BMC Geriatr. 2009;9:19. Published 2009 May 21. doi:10.1186/1471-2318-9-19
  5. Völker JM, Koch N, Becker M, Klenk A. Caffeine and Its Pharmacological Benefits in the Management of Androgenetic Alopecia: A Review. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2020;33(3):93-109. doi:10.1159/000508228
  6. Dhurat R, Chitallia J, May TW, Jayaraaman AM, Madhukara J, Anandan S, et al. An open label randomized multicenter study assessing the noninferiority of a caffeine-based topical liquid 0.2% versus minoxidil 5% solution in male androgenetic alopecia. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2017;30(6):298–305.
  7. Otberg N, Teichmann A, Rasuljev U, Sinkgraven R, Sterry W, Lademann J. Follicular penetration of topically applied caffeine via a shampoo formulation. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2007;20(4):195–8.
  8. Otberg N, Patzelt A, Rasulev U, Hagemeister T, Linscheid M, Sinkgraven R, et al. The role of hair follicles in the percutaneous absorption of caffeine. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2008; 65(4):488–92.