Channel 4’s consumer programme Supershoppers has weighed in to the long-running debate over whether or not caffeine-based shampoos can help hair loss.
The show’s investigators reported on their 21st November 2016 show how the well-known brand Alpecin appeared to be doing brisk trade with shampoos that were said to reduce hair loss. The snippet was picked up by the Daily Express which said that when the Supershoppers team investigated the claims they “found that the £5.50 bottles were lacking in evidence to support their claims.”
Short contact time
Supershoppers spoke to consultant dermatologist Dr Martin Wade for the segment who said: “One of the issues with a shampoo is the short contact time, so it goes on and then it washes of quite quickly so that has been a limiting factor with their effectiveness.”
The doctor then goes on to say that while Alpecin have shown in test tubes in the lab that their products can cause stimulation of the hair follicle, “we’re not so sure whether that equates to real-life patients.”
This echoes Belgravia’s advice to clients regarding any brands of shampoos or hair care products which claim to treat hair loss. Superintendent pharmacist Christina Chihaker of Belgravia’s flagship hair loss clinic explains, “There have been studies which show that caffeine can stimulate hair follicle growth. However, these tests were done using topical applications and not shampoos. Even if a shampoo is left on the scalp for two minutes, I feel that this is an insufficient amount of time to stimulate hair growth. Many people only shampoo their hair once or twice a week. I think it is highly unlikely that a caffeine shampoo used at this frequency would stimulate hair growth.”
A May 2016 report in top UK consumer magazine, Which? investigating claims made by various brands selling shampoo for thinning hair. Its findings also backed the Supershoppers views. The magazine editor, Richard Headland, said of brands in this category at the time: “It is simply not good enough to say their evidence is commercially sensitive and expect us to be satisfied with being told their products live up to claims on packaging, especially when they make substantial claims such as reducing hair loss.”
Effects of caffeine on hair loss
The Express reports similar scepticism from cosmetic scientist Colin Sanders who said that the only way to prove that caffeine does what has been claimed would be to do a double-blind trial. Sanders is quoted as saying: “Currently there is no published trial – and I would assume Alpecin haven’t done one, as if they had I would imagine they would be shouting it from the rooftops.” The newspaper advises that, when approached by Channel 4, Alpecin responded: “We kindly ask you to refrain from further inquiries, as we are not available for this kind of request.”
The paper’s article further states that the company stopped running an advert which said their product promoted hair growth three years ago. The reasons for this are unclear though and there is no record of any complaint – upheld or otherwise – with the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority. This could potentially be a reference to the brand’s previous ad campaign which included the strapline ‘doping for hair’; this was pulled after the brand became the sponsor of the Tour de France.
It is, however, a fact that there are currently only two clinically-proven genetic hair loss treatments designed to inhibit shedding and promote hair growth- and neither of these are a shampoo.
The MHRA and FDA have both approved finasteride 1mg and minoxidil for the treatment of genetic hair loss. Although finasteride – a once-a-day prescription pill – is only suitable for men, minoxidil is a unisex topical treatment which is recommended to be left on the scalp for a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes in order to allow it to fully sink into the scalp. There are currently no other medications proven to effectively deal with either Male Pattern Baldness or Female Pattern Hair Loss.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.