Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, MSCIS, MPhil, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/1/2022
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, science-based hair loss medications.
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 starting to lose your hair.
Before we get into the specifics of black tea and hair health, it’s important to quickly explain the basics of how and why hair loss happens.
The reason for this is that lots of natural hair loss treatments, from oils to dietary supplements, are marketed using misleading or outright wrong information about the factors that cause your hair to thin, recede and fall out as you get older.
In men, most hair loss is the result of androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness — a form of hair loss that occurs when the hair follicles at your hairline and the crown of your scalp begin to miniaturize due to the effects of androgen hormones.
When DHT binds to receptors in your scalp, it causes your hair follicles to gradually shrink until they stop producing new hairs. Not everyone is equally sensitive to the effects of DHT, which is why some men go bald in their 20s while others maintain a full head of hair later in life.
For example, the medication finasteride works by inhibiting the effects of the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, which is responsible for converting testosterone into DHT. This reduces DHT levels in the body and helps to either slow down or stop the effects of male pattern baldness.
Other hair loss medications, such as minoxidil, don’t target DHT directly. Instead, they work by stimulating hair growth locally through increased blood flow and accelerating your body’s natural hair growth cycle.
Our guide to male pattern baldness explains this hair loss process in more detail, as well as the effects that these medications can have on hair loss in men.
Less frequently, hair loss is caused by other factors, such as stress, anxiety, fungal infections of the scalp or autoimmune diseases. These health issues may cause everything from patchy hair loss to diffuse thinning that affects your entire scalp.
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 natural product is likely to be an effective treatment.
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, in a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology in 2007, a team of researchers looked at the effects of testosterone and caffeine on hair growth.
As expected, testosterone — a powerful androgen 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 effects of caffeine in black tea on hair growth and hair loss prevention.
First, we don’t know how much caffeine is needed to stimulate hair growth or inhibit the effects of androgens. Second, we don’t know how caffeine compares to existing, effective treatments for hair loss, such as FDA-approved hair loss medications.
Third, since existing 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 or prevents hair loss.
In addition to its potential benefits on hair growth, research suggests that black tea could also have other benefits on hair health and color.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Although research on black tea and hair loss is certainly interesting, there’s little in the way of high-quality evidence that black tea does much to promote hair growth right now.
However, if you’re starting to lose your hair due to male pattern baldness, proven options are available for preventing further thinning and promoting hair growth.
These include FDA-approved medications like finasteride and minoxidil. Finasteride works by reducing DHT levels throughout your body, while minoxidil works by stimulating growth at the follicular level.
Research shows that when used together, finasteride and minoxidil can prevent hair loss and even stimulate the growth of new hair. In one study, 94.1 percent of men affected by hair loss who used both medications showed improvements after 12 months.
We offer finasteride and minoxidil online as part of our complete range of hair loss medications for men, with finasteride available after a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
While research on the effects of black tea as a hair growth treatment is currently limited to in vitro studies, the results look promising.
Black tea also offers a few other potential benefits, such as improved scalp health and darker hair, that may make it worth adding to your hair care routine in certain situations.
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, science-based medication and more.