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Does Green Tea Work for Hair Loss? Debunking some Trending Myths.

Does green tea work for hair loss? Debunking some trending myths. 

It sometimes feels like new hair growth miracles are popping up faster than those phishing emails from far away princes who desperately need your help retrieving their misplaced fortunes. In the spirit of promoting education and saving your wallet, we’re spending today discussing and debunking some unproven hair growth trends we’ve seen making the social media rounds - green tea, soft water, stress reduction, to name just a few. To find out which ones are outright scams and which ones merit future research, keep reading.

The green tea treatment

Treating thinning hair is not as simple as buying a box of green tea from the grocery store

This purported hair treatment involves a trip to the grocery store, steeping a strong brew of green tea, and applying it to your scalp, and on the surface, we can see why this one is tempting. We all know green tea is full of antioxidants that are good for you, so maybe it’s good for the hair too? Unfortunately, bathing your scalp in green tea won’t help regrow hair. In fact, there isn’t anything in the grocery aisle that can halt hair loss, and anything that says otherwise is at best misinformed and at worst a scam. 

But that doesn’t explain the sudden interest in green tea as a hair loss treatment. Often with misinformation, it starts with a kernel of truth that goes through one too many rounds of telephone, and that’s what we think is the case here. Back in 2007, a study was published showing that one of the components in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a major component of polyphenols found in green tea and a well-known antioxidant, seemed to be beneficial to hair growth. It was hypothesized that it had to do with EGCG’s 5-alpha-reductase inhibition activity (which it does have though we’ll get to that in a sec).

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The big problem with this study is that it was done in vitro, meaning that the research was performed on cells in a Petri dish, not the scalp. But just because green tea is beneficial to isolated hair follicle cells, doesn’t mean it will work on your head. It may not be able to penetrate the skin or may react with other chemicals and tissue present. You just can’t assume that a chemical compound will behave the same way on skin as it does on isolated cells. Case in point, in a 2002 study researchers showed that though EGCG did have 5-alpha-reductase inhibition activity, but only when isolated away from cells (reference). In cells, EGCG did not inhibit 5-alpha-reductase activity, not until the chemical structure of EGCG was significantly changed. 

There hasn’t been a lot on EGCG and hair growth in reputable journals since the early 2000s (we checked so you don’t have to), and we suspect that’s because further studies on EGCG just didn’t pan out. Hair loss is a very competitive field, and if EGCG had shown promise as a topical application for thinning hair, I think we would have heard a lot more about it by now. 

Interestingly, green tea does have caffeine in it, which can, in proper concentrations, positively affect hair growth. That’s another thing you need to be careful about when looking at preliminary results – whether another compound in the substance you’re testing could be responsible for the results you think you see.

If you’re really set on trying nonconventional, topical 5-alpha reductase inhibitors that have been shown to positively affect hair growth, look for products formulated with caffeine and saw palmetto, both of which have been shown to positively affect hair growth. Later this year, we’ll be launching our own shampoo and conditioner at feelconfident.com.

Soft water versus hard water 

Are the minerals in your water sabotaging your hair?

Water hardness is determined by the amount of calcium and magnesium salts dissolved in the water, and researchers over the past fifteen years have been looking at whether hard water, with higher levels of both minerals, damages the hair and hair follicle, making it more brittle. The suspicion that hard water damages hair has been around for quite some time, and it’s been hypothesized that the culprit are mineral deposits on the hair. A variety of papers have compared hair strength when exposed to hard and soft water, with mixed, conflicting results. Tellingly, one paper scanned hair exposed to different water hardness with a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to look for differences in mineral deposits between control and test hairs, but was unable to find any. 

Still, some of the preliminary results are interesting; people who live in regions with hard water do self-report more hair breakage. This is an interesting area of research to keep your eye on – if it holds out that water hardness significantly affects hair strength, switching to a softer shower could be an option for some people worried about breakage. However, the research just isn’t there yet. We don’t recommend anyone run out to buy a fancy shower head just yet. 

Stress reduction

Just relax!

While it’s true that stress can cause hair to enter the resting phase (telogen effluvium) and shed, reducing stress is a very tricky thing. Many things cause stress to the body – illness, work, life – it can be very hard to pinpoint. In fact, telling someone to ‘relax’ often only piles on to the stress. Sure, meditation, exercise, spending quality time with friends and family can all help reduce stress, but it’s not a reliable way to address hair loss and in our experience doesn’t work. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), a special type of meditation, also falls into this category.  

So those are some of the trending hair treatments that recently crossed our radar. For more on treatments that really do work, such as first line medical therapies like minoxidil and finasteride, check out our videos and other blogs. 

 

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Written by
Kristi Charish
Edited by
Dr. Gary Linkov
The content of this newsletter is for entertainment and educational purposes only. This content is not meant to provide any medical advice or treat any medical conditions. Patients must be evaluated by an appropriate healthcare provider on an individual basis and treatment must be tailored to meet that patient’s needs. Results and particular outcomes are not guaranteed.

 

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