Black Tea For Hair: Benefits, Side Effects, and More
Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Black tea has long been known for its energy-boosting effects (thank you, caffeine) and health benefits, many of which can be attributed to its polyphenol content.
Produced from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, black tea has more recently become one of the most popular natural ingredients in skin and hair care products. These days, it’s an easy ingredient to find in shampoos, conditioners and other products for hair health.
It’s also a popular ingredient in home remedies for dry, damaged or thinning hair, such as tea rinses.
While the scientific research on black tea and hair loss is mixed, there is some evidence that black tea may offer real benefits for your hair. However, it generally shouldn’t be viewed as a replacement for proven, FDA-approved hair loss medications like minoxidil or finasteride.
Below, we’ve looked into the potential benefits of black tea, as well as the most recent studies on its effectiveness.
We’ve also discussed the possible side effects of using black tea as part of your hair care and hair loss prevention routine, as well as alternatives to black tea that you may want to consider using if you’re beginning to notice the early signs of hair loss.
Does Black Tea for Hair Growth Work?
Male pattern baldness is extremely common, with research suggesting that about 50 percent of men are affected by some level of hair loss by the age of 50.
Most evidence-based treatments for this form of hair loss work by lowering levels of DHT within your body, or by increasing blood flow to your hair follicles to promote reliable hair growth and a healthy scalp.
For example, the oral hair loss medication finasteride works by reducing DHT production, while the topical medication minoxidil is used to stimulate hair growth by accelerating your hair growth cycle.
So, what does this have to do with black tea? Understanding how and why hair loss happens in men not only makes it easy to understand what’s going on internally -- It also makes it easier to work out if a product such as black tea is likely to be an effective treatment for hair loss.
For example, if scientific research showed that black tea reduces DHT levels in skin, it would be reasonable to conclude that it might help to prevent male pattern baldness.
When it comes to black tea, although there’s no evidence that it directly promotes hair growth or prevents hair loss, there is a small amount of evidence that some natural chemicals in black tea may help to inhibit the hair loss process.
For example, black tea is a great natural source of caffeine -- the oh-so-popular stimulant that’s responsible for helping us wake up in the morning and stay alert throughout the day.
In a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology in 2007, a team of researchers looked at the effects of the hormone testosterone and the substance caffeine on hair growth.
As expected, testosterone -- a powerful androgen hormone that is converted in the body to DHT -- suppressed the growth of the hair. However, this suppression in hair growth was counteracted when the caffeine was applied to the hair follicles.
When the caffeine was applied to the hair follicles by itself, the researchers observed “significant stimulation” of hair follicle growth. The researchers concluded that caffeine may play a functional role in treating androgenetic alopecia due to its effects on hair growth.
While these findings are interesting, it’s important to note that this was an in vitro study, meaning it was carried out “in the glass” in a lab using extracted hair follicles, not on real humans.
Still, as black tea is rich in caffeine -- it has one of the highest caffeine content levels of any type of tea -- it’s certainly a point in its favor.
Another laboratory study of caffeine on hair shaft health and growth produced similar findings. In this study, researchers found that caffeine enhanced hair elongation and stimulated the creation of keratinocytes -- important cells that make up each strand of your hair.
In other words, research -- or the research that’s available right now -- tends to suggest that the caffeine in black tea might have positive effects on the growth of human hair follicles, at least in a lab setting.
With this said, there are still lots of unknowns about the overall effects of caffeine in black tea on hair growth and hair loss prevention. There may even be the possibility of some experiencing caffeine hair loss.
First, we don’t know how much caffeine is needed to stimulate hair growth or inhibit the effects of androgens such as DHT.
Second, we don’t know how caffeine compares to existing treatments for male pattern hair loss, such as FDA-approved hair loss medications.
Third, since the existing scientific research is confined to lab studies, we don’t know what other effects applying a caffeine-rich substance like tea to your hair could have on a healthy scalp.
As such, it’s best to think of these findings as promising evidence in a positive direction, not as definitive proof that black tea treats male pattern baldness or has other benefits for stimulating hair growth.
Other Potential Hair Benefits of Black Tea
In addition to its potential benefits on hair growth and function, research suggests that black tea could also have other benefits on hair health and color.
Black Tea May Help to Darken Gray Hair
Black tea’s dark color comes from its large amount of theaflavins (TFs) and thearubigins (TRs), natural pigments that provide tea with its staining effect.
Theaflavins and thearubigins are known to protect against oxidative stress and may play a role in promoting good cardiovascular health.
As pigments, they also act as natural dyes, including for human hair. If you have naturally dark hair and have started to spot a few gray hairs developing in certain parts of your scalp, using a black tea rinse might help to temporarily darken these hairs and improve your hair color.
Just be aware that the effects of black tea rinses are temporary. For longer-lasting results, you’ll want to visit your local hair salon or pick up something more reliable from a drugstore.
The Antioxidant Properties of Black Tea Might Support Scalp Health
Black tea, green tea and other popular types of tea are rich in antioxidants, including some that are linked to improvements in skin health.
While there aren’t any studies on the exact effects of black tea on scalp health, some scientific research suggests that the strong antioxidant activity of certain tea extracts may help to protect the skin from UV radiation and delay the effects of aging.
There’s also some evidence that the compounds in tea extracts may improve microcirculation, or local blood flow in the skin.
These effects may contribute to a healthier scalp by improving your skin’s integrity and limiting the effects of sun exposure.
How to Rinse Your Hair With Black Tea
Rinsing your hair with black tea is usually a simple process, although there is some preparation involved. Follow these steps to create and use a black tea rinse:
Brew strong black tea by placing three to four tea bags in approximately two cups of hot water. Steep the tea until it reaches a comfortable temperature, then transfer it to a spray bottle for application to your scalp and hair.
Before applying the black tea rinse, wash your hair with shampoo. Concentrate shampoo on your scalp to wash away any sebum, dead skin cells and other debris that can reduce the effects of the chemical compounds in black tea.
Separate your hair into sections, then spray the tea onto your scalp and hair. Using your fingertips, massage the tea into your scalp and hair. Once you’ve fully applied the tea to your hair, wear a shower cap for 30 minutes to one hour to let the tea soak in.
Rinse the black tea out of your hair with lukewarm or cool water. You might need to rinse several times to remove all of the tea. After you finish rinsing, use a deep conditioner to hydrate and protect your hair.
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Side Effects and Safety of Black Tea for Hair
As a natural hair care ingredient, black tea is generally considered safe, with few reported side effects. Allergies to caffeine or the natural chemicals in black tea are rare, making it unlikely for a black tea rinse to cause any type of allergic reaction.
You can also test a small amount of black tea on your skin (called a skin patch test) to see if it causes any irritation before applying a black tea hair rinse to your scalp.
Although homemade black tea rinses are generally safe, some hair care products that contain black tea, green tea or other tea extracts may have ingredients that can irritate your scalp and cause hair issues.
Make sure to check the ingredients list for any shampoos, conditioners or hair growth products before applying them to your scalp and hair.
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The Bottom Line on Using Tea for Hair Growth
While research on the effects of black tea as a hair growth treatment is currently limited to in vitro studies, the results appear to be promising.
Beyond potentially stimulating hair growth, black tea also offers several other potential benefits that may make it worth adding to your hair care routine, including improvements in scalp health and darker hair.
Depending on your hair type, these benefits may make it easier for you to maintain healthy hair and avoid common issues that can contribute to hair damage.
However, if you’re starting to notice signs of moderate or severe hair loss, you’ll likely get better results from evidence-based treatments such as finasteride or minoxidil than from products that solely contain black tea.
Interested in learning more about caring for your hair? Our list of men’s hair care tips explains how to simplify the process of caring for your hair by combining the right products with helpful habits, evidence-based medication, and more.