For many of us, our hair is our crowning glory. And there’s nothing like a cold beer to wind down at the end of a tough day.
But what happens when you put those two things together? What does beer do to your hair?
We’re going to find out the answer to that question! So if you want to know whether beer can help or hinder your quest for glowing tresses, read on …
How can beer affect your hair?
There are two ways beer is said to affect the health of your hair. The first is by drinking it, the second by washing your hair in it. There are plenty of claims for both, so we’re going to check them out.
Whether drinking or washing, the key thing to understand is what’s in beer. So let’s start by taking a look at the ingredients.
Different beers have different recipes, but they all make use of the same four basic building blocks: water, hops, malt and yeast.
The malt is malted barley. It provides a source of starch which is turned into sugars by the yeast. The hops add flavor and give the beer its foamy head. And there’s more water in beer than any other ingredient.
So what does all that mean for your hair?
Drinking beer and hair health
Like every part of our body, healthy hair needs to be well hydrated.
Too much alcohol, however, dehydrates your body. That means less moisture for your hair follicles, leaving them dry and brittle.
Beer can also reduce the level of nutrients in your system. These include zinc and copper, both of which have an important role in hair health. The same goes for proteins, which can be diminished by alcohol.
If you over-indulge occasionally, there are ways to fix the problem. Drinking lots of water is the obvious way to counteract dehydration.
And you can top up your mineral levels with a hair supplement too. There are lots out there specifically designed to restore your hair to its healthy best.
Beer and hair loss
Heavy alcohol consumption leads to all kinds of health problems. These can include damage to your hair.
We’ve already seen that alcohol can directly reduce nutrient levels. And people who are drinking too much may not be eating a balanced diet either. Some research suggests that deficiency in both iron and zinc can be linked to hair loss. The evidence, however – particularly for iron – isn’t clear.
There also appears to be a link between inadequate levels of copper and graying hair. But again, the evidence is inconclusive.
Heavy drinking can lead to thyroid problems, and inhibit the hormone reactions that control processes including hair growth. The results in both cases can be hair thinning and loss.
Overall then, high alcohol consumption can be associated with hair loss. But in reality, if you’re drinking at these levels, you’re risking far more serious health issues than a bald spot.
Washing your hair with beer
When it comes to beer as a hair treatment, there are all kinds of ways it’s recommended to use it.
The most extreme is the beer-only approach, as advocated by skincare expert Adina Grigore interviewed in Time magazine.
Adina bathes with only water and rinses her hair only with beer. She says that the B-vitamins and other nutrients in beer “are really great”. But she doesn’t go into detail about what they mean for your hair, other than giving it more body.
So is that true? Well, luckily someone called Hannah at drinks website vinepair.com put that claim to the test so you don’t have to! She rinsed her hair with beer only, no shampoo or conditioner, for 6 days straight and documented the results.
They weren’t impressive. To start with, her hair appeared greasy and she suffered appalling dandruff. Both effects diminished over time, but that extra “body” looked more like frizz. And indeed, Hannah’s normally wavy hair became noticeably straighter.
All in all, we wouldn’t give the beer-only approach the thumbs up. But there are plenty of other suggestions for mixing beer with other ingredients to condition your hair …
Beer plus …
As with so many diet and beauty regimens, you’ll often find a celebrity endorsement behind a beer-based recipe for haircare.
One of the strangest combinations we’ve found came courtesy of actress Catherine Zeta Jones. She claimed that the secret to her thick, dark mane was a combination of beer and honey. You could try putting this sticky concoction on your hair, but it sounds like a recipe for tangled locks to us.
Other recipes involve beer being added to hot water for the final rinse. You wash your hair as normal, with shampoo and conditioner doing the work of getting your hair clean and smooth. The idea is that the final beer rinse leaves behind a glossy sheen.
In some cases, there are extras too – cider vinegar, for example, is suggested to avoid your hair smelling like a bar. Other exotic additions include coconut or jojoba oil. Again, the reason is presumably that their strong aromas help overpower the smell of beer.
There’s even a recipe for mixing your beer with honey – thanks again, Catherine Zeta Jones – and banana. It’s all mashed together in a “mask”. Apply it to your hair, then cover it with a shower cap and leave for half an hour before rinsing.
Does any of this work?
But the truth of the matter is that there is precisely no credible evidence that any of this works at all. Look beneath the surface, and you’ll find a lot of the testimonials are backed by brewers. That suggests they’re worth taking with a pinch of salt.
Yes, beer contains B vitamins and proteins. But that doesn’t mean you’ll absorb them through your hair any better than by simply eating a balanced diet. And consuming plenty of fruit and veg has the advantage of not leaving your hair smelling like a frat house.
It will be a lot cheaper too. Pouring bottles of beer over your head is an expensive approach to haircare.
And if you try this with fizzy beer, you can actually make it harder to tame your hair. That’s because the carbon dioxide in the bubbles will interact with the water. That can leave behind limescale deposits in your hair, making it dull and rough.
It’s for that reason that many recipes for beer-based haircare will specify flat beer. But while it will avoid the limescale problems, there’s no evidence that it’s any more effective as a hair treatment.
Beer and dandruff
You’ll often see our good friend the beer rinse touted as a cure for dandruff. We’ve already seen that the beer-only approach actually seemed to increase dandruff for the intrepid Hannah. But does that change when it’s mixed with water? The theory goes like this.
Dandruff is caused by a yeast called Malassezia globosa. Beer contains yeast too, but it’s a different kind. So far, this is all true. But here’s where the story takes a less convincing turn.
The idea is that if you add beer to your hair, the brewer’s yeast will take up residence in your scalp. That will deprive the Malessezia globosa of its habitat. The brewer’s yeast controls the territory and the dandruff yeast has to retreat – hurrah!
But there’s another school of thought that claims that drinking beer increases yeast levels, so causes dandruff.
Fortunately, this isn’t true. The two different kinds of yeast are completely unrelated to one another. And even if they weren’t, the yeast in the beer you drink will stay in your gut. So it definitely won’t cause a flaky scalp.
As for the invading brewer’s yeast theory? Well, none of the dandruff treatments we’ve seen suggest leaving the beer on your hair. After all, the horrible smell would be at least as off-putting as dandruff.
If you’re rinsing off the beer, you’re rinsing off the brewer’s yeast too. There hasn’t been any kind of chemical reaction taking place on your scalp to separate out the yeast!
So even if the beer rinse worked in the way suggested, any retreat of the dandruff yeast would only be temporary. And since it exists naturally on everyone’s scalp, it’d be back before you crack open your next Bud.
Unfortunately, it’s not even that effective. There’s no evidence to suggest rinsing your hair in beer improves dandruff at all.
So what does beer do to your hair?
Moderate consumption of beer won’t make a lot of difference to your hair. If you’ve had a heavy night, you may pay for it with dull or brittle hair as a result of dehydration. But that’s fortunately a short-term issue.
Regular heavy drinking is far more serious. And hair thinning and loss are two of the myriad health problems that can result.
When it comes to putting beer on your body rather than in it – don’t waste a good beverage! There’s little to no evidence that it makes any difference to your hair. It’s far better to spend your money on a decent shampoo and conditioner.
So enjoy your beer as nature intended – in a chilled glass on a hot summer’s day. Cheers!