At the end of a long day or the beginning of an easy one, there's nothing quite as delicious and tasty as a cup of tea. Seriously, there's a reason why cultures upon cultures—Turkish, Irish, and British, especially—have made it a must-have component to their daily activities for centuries. And while drinking tea remains the most traditional and popular way to enjoy it—and its myriad benefits—that doesn't mean it's the only way.
In fact, there are plenty of things you can do with tea, leftover tea, or tea leaves (tasseography, anyone?). However, one option you may have never even considered is doing a tea rinse on your hair. Curious? We were too. That's why we reached out to experts Dr. Debra Jaliman, Anabel Kingsley, and Gretchen Friese to find out more.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD, is a board-certified New York City-based dermatologist and author of the book "Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist."
- Anabel Kingsley is a consultant trichologist and brand president at Philip Kingsley.
- Gretchen Friese is BosleyMD's trichologist and stylist. She is also a hairstylist and salon director at Foushee SalonSpa in Denver.
When it comes to hair treatments, we love the prospect of a DIY remedy that doesn't require a trip to the salon. And as it turns out, "A tea rinse is an easy at-home treatment that anyone can do to help with their hair and scalp health, as well as appearance," says Friese. Of course, the type of tea you use for your rinse and your method will affect your results—but more on that below.
Tea Rinses for Hair
- Type of ingredient: Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
- Main benefits: Stimulating hair growth, fighting hair loss, and promoting a healthy scalp.
- Who should use it: In general, those with irritated scalps, thinning and/ or dull hair.
- How often should you use it: Weekly.
- Works well with: As an additional booster to your hair mask.
- Don't use with: Ingredients and products, such as alcohol and sea salt sprays, that may dry out hair.
Benefits of Tea Rinses for Hair
Green and black tea are full of all the antis (and no, not the Rihanna album): antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties, which make them fantastic for naturally boosting your hair health. "Black tea and green tea are most commonly used for tea rinses because of their high caffeine content, which can help with hair growth and may prevent shedding. They also help enhance color and add shine to the hair," Friese tells us. Even more, the flavonoids found in tea may wield additional hair perks:
- Rejuvenates dry hair: According to Jaliman, green tea is a good source of the B vitamin panthenol, (aka vitamin b5). As a moisturizing agent, panthenol can keep strands healthy and hydrated.
- Acts as a natural hair dye: Some people use black tea to refresh darker hair colors, says Kingsley. Using black tea as a natural alternative to give extra black color to your hair is a great way to revive a color between sessions.
- Fights hair loss: The caffeine and polyphenols in green tea may improve hair loss. Jaliman cites that studies have also demonstrated that Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, (found in green tea) can play a role in helping those with alopecia. However, it is important to remember tea rinses aren't a substitute for seeking medical attention for hair loss, which can be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
- Enhances shine: Anecdotal evidence suggests that green and black tea can lend luster to dull strands.
- Promotes a healthy scalp: Due to the antioxidant properties of both black and green tea, they're great for soothing an irritated scalp. "Green tea (specifically the polyphenols it contains) has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can be beneficial to the scalp when applied topically," explains Kingsley. "Green tea has also been known to fight dandruff," adds Friese.
Hair Type Considerations
According to Jaliman, anyone with dry hair, thinning hair, or dull hair should consider tea rinses. They can also benefit those with irritated scalps or dandruff, too. However, keep in mind that you shouldn't overdo it, especially if you've got strands that lean toward either extreme of the hair porosity spectrum. High porosity hair doesn't retain moisture well while low porosity hair isn't great at absorbing moisture so overtreating either with tea rinses may dry out strands even further.
How to Use Tea Rinses for Hair
Whipping up a tea rinse is an easy DIY hair remedy—as long as you remember to prepare it in advance, that is. When selecting your tea, Friese says, "Any black tea will do the trick. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on anything fancy." And as for how often you should do a tea rinse, "About once a week should be good. Anything more than that might dry out your hair," Friese tells us. Here's what you'll need, plus Friese's DIY recipe below:
- Tea of your choice: Green for treating dandruff and stimulating growth or black for hair loss and shedding.
- Spray bottle or jar
- Boil 2 cups of water
- Steep 4 black or green tea bags in the water for at least 1 hour (make sure the tea has cooled).
- Pour the tea into a clean spray bottle.
- Wash your hair with shampoo
- Towel dry
- Spray a good amount of the tea onto your scalp and into your hair then massage it in.
- Wear a shower cap or plastic bag for up to 60 minutes.
- Rinse your hair with lukewarm water.
- Use a deep conditioner to lock in the moisture.
Can drinking black tea benefit hair?
According to Kingsley, black tea, when consumed, may not be good for your hair. "In terms of its benefit for the health of your hair, drinking black tea can actually be damaging," she says. "The tannins found in black tea can bind to iron in your body, depleting your iron levels and iron stores—iron and ferritin, or stored iron, deficiency are very common causes of hair loss."
Can a tea rinse dry out hair?
"If used too often the caffeine may dry out the hair a bit. Or If you have a hair type that doesn’t absorb moisture well, black tea might actually dry out your locks more," says Friese.
Are non-caffeinated teas good for hair rinses?
Although caffeine can help with hair growth and shedding, herbal tea, such as chamomile, is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that can promote a healthy scalp. It is also used by those looking for a natural way to lighten their hair.
Bansal M, Manchanda K, Pandey SS. Role of caffeine in the management of androgenetic alopecia. Int J Trichology. 2012;4(3):185-186.