Though widely known for its nutritional benefits, black tea is also used as a hair care treatment. Many proponents state that it helps increase hair growth, enhance hair color, and boost hair sheen.
In particular, people have used black tea rinses, which apply black tea directly to the hair, as a beauty remedy for centuries. That said, you may wonder whether any scientific studies support these claims.
This article explains whether black tea is effective for hair health and tells you how to do a black tea rinse.
Potential benefits of black tea for hair health
Black tea rinses involve applying black tea to the hair and allowing it to sit anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. This natural beauty remedy has been used for centuries as a way to keep your hair looking its best.
May enhance hair color
Black tea contains a high concentration of tannins, a type of polyphenol antioxidant that neutralizes cell-damaging compounds called free radicals (2).
In particular, black tea contains theaflavins and thearubigins, which give it its characteristic dark color (2, 3).
Due to this dark pigment, black tea rinses may give naturally dark hair a temporary boost of color and help reduce the appearance of grey hairs. Yet, this short-term solution wonâ€™t last after you wash your hair a few times.
Furthermore, this treatment doesnâ€™t work well on those with blonde, red, white, light brown, or other lighter hair colors.
May support hair growth
Black tea hair rinses are widely used to promote hair growth, as the teaâ€™s high antioxidant and caffeine contents are believed to support a healthy scalp and hair (4).
Advocates claim that the caffeine found in black tea can reach hair follicles to block dihydrotestosterone (DHT) â€” a hormone linked to hair loss in people with a condition known as androgenic alopecia (4, 5).
High levels of DHT have been shown to shrink hair follicles and shorten the hair growth cycle, leading to weakened, brittle hair that falls out more easily (4, 5, 6).
A test-tube study in human skin samples suggested that the topical application of caffeine and testosterone may support hair growth by increasing keratin production and lengthening the anagen (hair-producing) phase of hair growth (7).
Another test-tube study observed similar results using a topical 0.2% liquid caffeine solution. However, this study was sponsored by the manufacturer (8).
Beyond these studies, no research is available to determine whether black tea can promote hair growth. Moreover, itâ€™s unknown how much black tea and caffeine are needed, nor how long you should keep this solution on your scalp to produce noticeable results.
As such, more human research is needed.
Finally, there are many causes of hair loss, including malnutrition, stress, hormones, genetics, and hair damage. Instead of relying on black tea to solve your hair loss concerns, itâ€™s best to go to a dermatologist who can help you figure out the root cause of your hair loss (9, 10).
May promote shiny hair
Hair shine comes from hydrated, undamaged hair. Light doesnâ€™t reflect well off of damaged hair, creating a dull appearance (11).
In theory, black tea rinses may promote sheen by improving hair color and supporting the growth of new, healthy hair. Nonetheless, despite anecdotal claims, no research backs this idea.
In fact, the caffeine in black tea may dry hair strands if left on too long, especially among those with low porosity hair â€” a hair type that doesnâ€™t easily absorb moisture. To overcome this problem, apply a conditioner after rinsing out the black tea (11).
Despite anecdotal claims, thereâ€™s no direct proof that black tea rinses promote hair growth or prevent hair loss. All the same, these rinses may temporarily enhance the color and shine of dark hair.
Do black tea rinses have any side effects?
Applying black tea to your hair and scalp is considered safe.
That said, the caffeine in black tea may dry your hair shaft, potentially resulting in a dry, damaged appearance. Therefore, itâ€™s best to apply black tea directly to the scalp using a spray bottle and use a conditioner after rinsing.
Though there are no known side effects of topical application, itâ€™s always best to do a skin patch test to make sure that youâ€™re not sensitive to black tea.
To do this, place a small amount of cooled black tea on the inner part of your forearm or upper arm. After 24 hours, check for signs of redness, skin discoloration, or irritation. If any of these signs appear, consider avoiding black tea rinses.
Although black tea is safe for most people, those with sensitive skin should try a skin patch test before applying it to their scalp.
How to do a black tea rinse
If you want to try using black tea for a hair rinse, hereâ€™s how:
- Place 3â€“4 black tea bags in 2 cups (475 mL) of boiling water. Steep them for at least 1 hour or until the water cools to room temperature.
- Next, funnel the black tea into a clean spray bottle.
- When youâ€™re ready to use the hair rinse, first wash your hair thoroughly with shampoo. Youâ€™ll want a clean scalp before applying the black tea.
- With your hair damp, separate your hair into small sections and spray a liberal amount of tea onto your scalp. Massage it in gently.
- Once your entire head is covered, place a bathing cap over your hair and wait 30â€“60 minutes.
- Rinse your hair with cold or lukewarm water and finish by using a deep conditioner to seal in hydration.
If youâ€™re using black tea to improve your hair color, you should apply it root to tip. If youâ€™re using it for hair growth, be sure to focus mostly on your scalp.
Itâ€™s also best to wear an old t-shirt or other old clothes, as black tea may stain your clothes.
You can make a black tea rinse with 3â€“4 black tea bags, water, and a spray bottle. Spray it onto your clean scalp and damp hair and leave it for 30â€“60 minutes.
The bottom line
Black tea is not only a delicious drink but also a popular hair care treatment.
Yet, only limited evidence suggests that applying black tea to your hair and scalp may improve hair color, shine, and hair growth, so more research is needed. It may work best on dark hair.
If you want to give it a try, steep 3â€“4 black tea bags in boiling water and let the water cool before spraying onto your clean scalp and hair. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes, rinse, and use a deep conditioner for extra hydration.
Though not a proven cure, black tea rinses are easy, affordable, and harmless to try.
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