Best Shampoo For Thinning Hair

green tea leaves

Caffeine shampoos are the best shampoo for thinning hair. Using a caffeine shampoo is invaluable when your hair starts to thin – as it eventually will. A few lucky people maintain a thick head of hair throughout life, but most of us notice our hair becoming finer from middle-age onwards.

Caffeine shampoo for thinning hair

Caffeine, when applied directly to the scalp, penetrates directly into your hair follicles and stimulate hair growth in two main ways:

  • Caffeine hair products relax smooth muscle fibres surrounding the hair follicles; this reduces scalp tension and allows small blood vessels to dilate and deliver more oxygen, vitamins, minerals and protein needed for optimal hair growth.
  • Caffeine topical applications inhibit an enzyme, 5-α-reductase, which converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) within scalp hair follicles; DHT switches off scalp follicles and is associated with both male and female pattern hair loss.

Although testosterone is often referred to as the ‘male’ sex hormone, it is present in women, too – usually at levels that are around 20 times lower than those in men. For women, the relative influence of testosterone becomes greater as oestrogen levels fall as the menopause approaches. That’s why many women notice their hair quality and quantity reducing from around the age of 40.

Caffeine boosts hair growth

Even at low concentrations, topical caffeine inhibits the effects of DHT to stimulate follicles and promote a more luxuriant hair growth. Just two minutes contact with your scalp is all that’s needed for the caffeine to penetrate deeply into your hair follicles and get to work.

shining hairOnce stabilised within the hair follicles, caffeine stays there for up to 48 hours, even if you wash your hair again – although for best results, use a caffeinated shampoo each time.

Researchers have found that a leave-on combination of caffeine plus key B vitamins stimulates hair growth enough to increase the cross-sectional area of scalp hair by as much as 10%, producing a noticeable thickening effect.

Don’t reach for a cup of tea or coffee however – caffeine that is ingested is processed and diluted before it reaches the hair follicles and will not have the same effect! Drinking too much caffeine can also have unwanted effects on your blood pressure.

I’m often asked if you can apply used tea leaves or coffee grounds to your scalp for a similar effect.

Apart from being rather messy, caffeine is water-soluble and quickly seeps from the leaves or coffee grounds when steeped in hot water. It’s likely that little caffeine will remain. The caffeine present in hair products is also complexed with a carrier base to maximise absorption into your follicles. Don’t let me stop you if you really want to take the ‘au naturel’ approach, but I really recommend using products specifically designed to go on your hair instead!

What is the evidence that caffeine shampoos are effective?

Researchers have stated that ‘Follicular drug delivery is the prerequisite for an effective treatment of androgenetic alopecia or other reasons for premature hair loss.’ The penetration of active caffeine into hair follicles has been proven to occur from a 2 minute shampoo application.

caffeine shampoo reviewAn Italian study involving 33 men with male-pattern hair loss (known medically as andogenetic alopecia) compared the effects of caffeine shampoo against a placebo shampoo in 2012. They concluded that caffeine shampoo was significantly more effective than placebo, with more than twice as many people randomised to use caffeine shampoo stating they were satisfied with the results (84.8%) compared with 36.4% using placebo.

A study comparing the effects of combining caffeine shampoo with the medically prescribed treatment, minoxidil 5% solution, found that caffeine improved the effects of minoxidil in terms of hair density. From day 120 onwards, the combined treatment showed statistically significantly better results than using minoxidil solution alone.

A 2017 clinical trial involving 210 men with male-pattern hair loss then directly compared the effects of a topical caffeine liquid against minoxidil solution in a ‘head to head’ trial. Half the men applied minoxidil 5% solution regularly, for six months, and half used an 0.2% caffeine-based topical liquid. The number of scalp hairs in the growth (anagen) phase were assessed before and after the trial.

Both groups of men showed similar improvements with an average increase in the anagen ratio of 10.59% with the caffeine solution, and 11.68% with the minoxidil solution (a non-statistically significant difference of 1.09%). The researchers concluded that a caffeine-based topical liquid was not inferior to minoxidil 5% solution in reducing hair loss in men with male pattern hair loss.

On a personal note, I have used Plantur caffeine shampoo and conditioner for over 2 years and would not want to switch – my hair growth is massively improved.

For women: Dr Wolff’s Plantur 39 shampoo, condition and scalp tonic

I noticed a dramatic improvement in the thickness and strength of my hair soon after starting to use Dr Wolff’s range of caffeinated shampoo, conditioner and scalp tonic.

The original range, Plantur 39, is designed for women over 40

A new range, Plantur 21, is designed for younger hair that is noticeably thinning before that age, in which poor hair growth is associated with lack of energy, stress, or nutritional deficiencies.

The Plantur 39 Shampoo and conditioner come in two varieties.

The Plantur 39 Shampoo for coloured and stressed hair contains natural wheat extracts and provitamin B5 (panthenol) to smooth damaged hair and improve shine and lustre.

The Plantur 39 Shampoo for fine, brittle hair has lower amounts of hair softening ingredients so that fine hair retains its volume.

Both shampoos contain similar amounts of caffeine plus Camellia sinensis (green tea leaf) extracts and vitamin B3.

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The Plantur 39 conditioners contain caffeine to maximise the time caffeine remains in contact with your scalp after washing.

The Plantur 39 Conditioner for coloured and stressed hair contains avocado oil to smooth hair and help it feel softer and more supple.

The Plantur 39 conditioner for fine, brittle hair contains hydrolyzed wheat protein to condition the surface hair scales without weighing down your hair with residues.

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The Plantur 39 Phyto-Caffeine Tonic is ideal if you want to treat your hair without washing it every day, or if you prefer to use another shampoo rather than the ones in the range.

Apply the tonic directly to your scalp, preferably in the morning, and gently massage it in. Allow to dry briefly, then style your hair.

As well as supplying caffeine, the tonic contains soy isoflavones (genistein) plus vitamin B3 and zinc to boost hair growth.

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Plantur 39 really works 

I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my hair since using Plantur 39 caffeine shampoo, conditioner and tonic and would not personally want to be without them.

At one time my hair was so thin I needed hair extensions, invisibly woven in at the sides, so my scalp did not show through. This produced an amazing, glamorous result (thanks to the inimitable Lucinda Ellery and her team in London, New York and Los Angeles) but now my hair is back to normal thanks to Dr Wolff’s revolutionary discovery that topical caffeine blocks the action of DHT to allow hair to grow back.

I have heard similar good reports of Plantur 21, designed for younger women.

For men: Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo and Caffeine Liquid

I knew my other half wouldn’t want to use a product designed for females, so I went in search of a more manly range for him. The Alpecin caffeine range of hair products is also from  the Dr Wolff stable and makes a noticeable difference within a few weeks. My husband has to have his hair cut monthly now, rather than every 6 to 8 weeks as before!

 Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo contains caffeine plus zinc and vitamins A and B3 to stimulate hair growth.  

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If you also have problems with dandruff, the Alpecin Double Effect Caffeine Shampoo is for you. This helps to loosen scaly cells, reduces inflammation, discourages growth of the yeasts which trigger dandruff (through an immune effect) as well as providing the all important caffeine to stimulate hair growth.

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For men who are turning grey, there is Alpecin Tuning Shampoo which promotes the formation of natural melanin pigment and tints early grey hairs to help make hair look darker and fuller. It also contains the all-important caffeine to stimulate hair growth.

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And finally, there is an Alpecin Caffeine After Shampoo Liquid Hair Energizer, 200ml which you can apply in the morning, after washing, to your towel-dried scalp to massage in. Leave in place to dry, briefly, then style as usual.

This product boosts the caffeine action on hair follicles for 24 hours.

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If you haven’t yet discovered caffeinated shampoos then you are in for a pleasant surprise. They really do work – but as hair grows relatively slowly, it might take a few weeks before you notice a significant difference or less scalp showing through your hair.

If you have any questions, comments or feedback, please use in the form below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. In the meantime, there are other things you can do to improve hair growth, too.

Read more about nutritional approaches to thinning hair by clicking this link to my Nutritional Medicine blog.

Image credit: ranjithsiji/pixabay; betsy_jons/flickr;

About Dr Sarah Brewer

Dr Sarah Brewer qualified from Cambridge University with degrees in Natural Sciences, Medicine and Surgery. After working in general practice, she gained a master's degree in nutritional medicine from the University of Surrey. Sarah is a licensed Medical Doctor, a Registered Nutritionist and a Registered Nutritional Therapist. She is an award winning author of over 60 popular self-help books and set up this site to showcase all that is good in the world of self-help.

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31 thoughts on “Best Shampoo For Thinning Hair

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi Raven, There is a version of Plantur shampoo designed for used on coloured hair. Best to do a small patch test first. Thanks, Sarah B

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi Jake, That is an excellent question to which I do not have an answer. You will need to ask the people who will be administering the hair follicle drug test whether or not a caffeinated shampoo could affect the results. Best wishes, Sarah B

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      HI Jenny, yes it’s certainly worth a go. It is designed for women aged 40+ to help improve hair thinning associated with the hormone changes (lower oestrogen, higher relative testosterone0 that exists in perimenopause and post menopause. Let me know if it helps – you shoud lnotice a difference within 3 months. Best wishes, Sarah B

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi Gaz, Yours is the first report I’ve heard of caffeine shampoo not slowing hair loss. Its possible that you need a stronger dose (eg Caffeine Liquid) or that there is another cause for your hair loss other than DHT switching off follicles (eg iron deficiency, underactive thyroid, alopecia). Have you sought advice from a trichologist? Best wishes, Sarah B

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi Pamela, sorry to hear about your hair loss. Thyroid conditions can cause diffuse loss of hair, but in most cases scalp and eyebrow hair loss is temporary, and resolves with treatment. There is some good advice on the British Thyroid Foundation website here. I can also recommend Lucinda Ellery’s approach to weaving in really natural looking hair – her team can even create real looking partings. I’ve used her system myself and the Intralace system she has perfected is astonishingly realistic. She has salons in London, Manchester, Edinburth, Bristol, Midlands, Los Angeles and New York. LucindaEllery-Hairloss The Plantur caffeine shampoo range may help if you are also 40+ and have age-related hair thinning in addition to that caused by the overactive thyroid. Best wishes, Sarah B

  • Lucky

    I am only 19 (female). And my hair is thinning very fast …I am very much worried about my hair….I cant deal with it anymore …it’s like I m going to be bald soon

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi Lucky, Do see your doctor if you haven’t already, to assess possible causes and test for PCOS, iron deficiency and thyroid function. I do hope you find a solution soon. Best wishes, Sarah B

  • Anne

    I watched Rip Off Britain and an expert was on it stating that caffeine shampoos are definitely not proven to have any effect on the hair it has only been tested on hair which has come out of the scalp no tests ha e been conducted on a living scalp

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi Anne, That is not correct. A clinical trial involving 210 men has shown that an 0.2% caffeine-based topical liquid is as effective as a 5% solution of the drug, minoxidil, in reducing hair loss in men with male pattern hair loss, after 6 months use. Another study found that caffeine shampoo was more effective than placebo in 33 people – in addition, 84.8% of those randomised to use caffeine shampoo were satisfied with the results, compared with 36.4% using placebo. Caffeine has been shown to improve teh effects of minoxidil in terms of hair density in 30 men, too. From day 120 onwards, combined treatment showed statistically significantly better results. Researchers have stated that ‘Follicular drug delivery is the prerequisite for an effective treatment of androgenetic alopecia or other reasons for premature hair loss.’ The penetration of active caffeine into hair follicles has been proven to occur from a 2 minute shampoo application. I have used Plantur caffeine shampoo and conditioner for over 2 years and would not want to switch – my hair growth is massively improved. Best wishes, Sarah B

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi Ann, Any of the Plantur 39 range will help. If the hair is coloured, then opt for the coloured and stressed hair range. Other wise, the fine and brittle range wil be best for someone aged 60 as the follicles will naturally be shrinking to produce finer hair. The scalp tonic will also provide additional benefit. This is such an excellent range which has made a great difference to many women’s hair. Best wishes, Sarha B

  • June Anderson

    Hi, I have thinning hair mostly on my crown and it’s begging to upset me a lot. I tied using nioxin shampoo and conditioner 6 months ago but it’s simply not working. Is it worth my while to spend more money on products that ,any not work?

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi June, Nioxin is not a hair loss treatment but is designed to ‘increase the health of the scalp’ and condition the hair with increadients such as silk amino acids. The Plantur 39 range contains active ingredeents that swtich off the hormone, DHT, in hair follicles that is associated with follicle shrinking. If you haven’t already tried a caffeinated shampoo it is definitely worth trying – they are not that expensive. I noticed improvements within a couple of months. Hope that helps, best wishes, Sarah B

  • Penny

    Hi Dr Sarah, great review! I have a history of hair loss and recently started losing alot hair after finishing a long course of medication. I’ve started using the Plantur 39 shampoo and have noticed a reduction in hair loss but wanted to check if it’s safe to use during pregnancy?

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi Penny, Hair usually grows luxuriantly during pregnancy due to the high circulating levels of hormones and growth factors present, so you probably won’t need to use a caffeine shampoo during pregnancy. It’s in the weeks and months after pregnancy when hair thinning can occur, as all the life cycle synchronise and reach the end of the growth cycle at the same time so more hair than normal is shed (telogen effluvium). According to the manufacturer, the amount of caffeine present is safe even for people who are caffeine sensitve, as only tiny amounts are needed to sink into the hair follicles. Given that drinking one or two cups of coffee is acceptable during pregnancy, a caffeine containing shampoo is unlikely to cause any concerns. Best wishes, Sarah B

  • Matt

    Thanks for all the information here. I have been seeing caffeine shampoos pop up for sale at my gym recently, and never really understood what the point was. Your post has been really helpul 🙂

  • Scott

    Hi Sarah –

    I found this article so interesting! I am a coffee-a-holic and even have a coffee blog about making good coffee at home Any use for caffeine is something I am interested in. I have never heard of caffeinated shampoos! I became gray at a young age (23) and wonder if something like this would have helped me.

    I was amazed to learn how this also helps with thinning hair and dandruff. I have a daughter that uses a lot of dandruff shampoo and loses a lot of hair. I have thought that maybe the medication in the shampoo could be leading to these problems. I am wondering if this product would be a better alternative? Do you know if these shampoos are available in the US?

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi Scott, they are definitely worth ago. Yes, you can get them on and I’ve included a few links to help you find them. They really do work.

  • Bruce

    What a great post Dr Sarah! My family have a huge history in trying different kind of shampoos throughout our lives. We always look for the best and it takes a big stressing time. I’ll show this to my mother and sister, I’m pretty sure that they will love it. Thank you for the thorough details, I really like your site! 🙂

  • Farshid

    Hi Dr. Sarah, This is great information. I had never heard that caffeine stimulates hair growth. I’ve been dealing with thinning hair since my late 20s. I have tried Rogaine, Nioxin, with no real effect. Currently I’m using a shampoo called mane and tale, originally was made for horses and now has become popular as part of a solution for thinning hair. Not sure if it works either. Does the shampoo with caffeine have any unusual effects on people who don’t drink coffee? such as increase heart rate?

    • Dr Sarah Brewer Post author

      Hi Farshid, As the caffeine in shampoos is absorbed directly into the hair follicles you shouldn’t notice any systemic symptoms like you can with drinking strong coffee. Definitely worth a go!