How to Deal with DHT
Updated: Jun 16
Hormones are your body’s messengers that travel directly in your bloodstream and carry out various body functions. However, as you may already know, sometimes hormone imbalances can cause undesired results, such as hair loss. We’ll look at the sex hormone DHT and how imbalances in your body’s production of DHT can cause pattern baldness in both men and women, especially those susceptible to its effect genetically. But fear not, because like any logical approach in combating hair loss, being informed is the first step to a well-balanced solution. So let’s get a leg up on learning about DHT and what you should know!
In the US, roughly 30 million women, and 50 million men suffer from pattern baldness, called androgenic alopecia. And about half of the men in the US experience this form of hair loss after the age of 50. The main culprit in causing androgenic alopecia is DHT. In this article, we will discuss what DHT is, it’s importance, how it causes hair loss, and what you can do about it. But before discussing DHT hair loss, let’s first take a quick detour into the world of science to understand more about DHT.
What is DHT?
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is called 5α-dihydrotestosterone, 5α-DHT, androstanolone, or stanolone (yes, that’s quite a lot of names for one hormone), is an androgen that is abundant in the male body but found in females as well. Androgens are a group of hormones that essentially give each sex their specific characteristics. It is produced in the testes of males, ovaries of females, and generally by the skin. DHT is a much more powerful form of Testosterone. About 10% of all Testosterone in the male body is converted into DHT. This conversion is done by an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase (5-AR).
What exactly does DHT do?
DHT is predominantly a male sex hormone since it has more functionality in the male body, but they also play an essential role in the female body.
In the female body, the most crucial function of DHT is the onset of puberty. Too much DHT can lead to weak and unnatural development of female reproductive organs. DHT is responsible for body hair and muscle mass in women as well.
However, in the male body, DHT has many vital functions. These are:
Development of male sex organs and the prostate
Making the voice deep
Increasing body hair
Increasing muscle mass
Decreasing fat storage in the body
Increasing libido and fertility
So essentially, DHT helps define male characteristics. But as with all good things, DHT also comes with some unwanted side-effects. Although hair on the rest of your body requires DHT to grow, DHT is the enemy of the hair on your head. But how does DHT contribute to hair loss? Let’s find that out next.
How Does DHT Cause Hair Loss?
Your hair grows out of small sacks in your scalp called the hair follicles. Each hair goes through a complete hair growth cycle over the course of 2 to 7 years. The hair growth phase is called the Anagen phase, and Telogen Phase is the phase in which the now fully mature hair rests inside the hair follicle before falling out. High levels of DHT make the Androgen Phase smaller and the Telogen phase longer. Hence your hair doesn’t grow as long; instead, it rests longer. DHT also shortens the hair growth cycle. This means that with each hair cycle, your hair becomes thinner and thinner. It also inhibits hair formation, so new hair takes longer to grow even after old hair falls out.
But DHT affects different people with different severity; this has to do with genetics. If genetically, the Androgen Receptors (AR) in your scalps are more sensitive towards DHT (due to variations in the AR gene), you will experience the effects mentioned above more severely. These Androgen Receptors are proteins that allow DHT and other androgens to bind to them and carry out certain body functions. If your AR gene increases the androgen receptivity of your hair follicles, it makes you more prone to early pattern baldness.
What Can You Do to Fight Hair Loss Caused by DHT?
So now that we know a little about how DHT affects our hair growth, what do we actually do about it? First off, let’s look at how we can impact DHT itself. By changing the amount of DHT in your body, you can fight pattern baldness with effective results. Two main ways to fight DHT hair loss are to use DHT blockers and DHT inhibitors.
DHT blockers prevent the 5 AR receptors in your hair follicles from binding with DHT and hence avert hair follicle shrinkage and changes in the hair growth cycle. DHT blockers can be found in both topical and oral treatments. The two most common are Finasteride and Minoxidil.
Finasteride: Amongst DHT blockers, Finasteride (aka Propecia, Proscar) is the most heavily researched. According to a study published by the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 83% of men that took Finasteride preserved their natural hair follicle count, and 66% experienced hair regrowth. According to another study, 87% of the 3177 test subjects (men) experienced using Finasteride positively. Finasteride works by binding to the 5-AR proteins in your hair follicles and prevents them from binding to the DHT; this helps fight follicle shrinkage. However, Finasteride has a range of negative side-effects for men (i.e., sexual dysfunction, decreased libido, decreased arousal, etc.), and Finasteride must never be taken by women, children, and teenagers due to its adverse side effects.
Minoxidil: Also called as Rogaine, Minoxidil is a known Peripheral Vasodilator. It improves circulation in the scalp and hence helps clear the DHT build up in the hair follicles. It does so by loosening the blood vessels in your scalp. You can use minoxidil, both orally and topically. Again, be warned of possible side effects including, chest pains, swelling, severe scalp irritation, and more.
Biotin: Biotin, also known as Vitamin H, is a super vitamin when fighting hair loss. It improves nutrient absorption of the hair by improving metabolism and enhances the keratin structure of the hair. Biotin can be taken as a supplement or applied as a topical treatment. There are no known side-effects of Biotin.
DHT Blocker Shampoos: DHT blocker shampoos contain compounds that help decrease the production of DHT in your scalp. They reduce the production of 5-alpha-reductase and hence lower the production of DHT. Usually, they have active DHT blocking ingredients like Nettle extract, Aloe Vera, and Saw Palmetto. These shampoos also help unclog the pores, improve blood flow in the scalp, and cleanse the scalp. Although, the results of such topical treatments vary from one individual to another.
DHT Inhibitors reduce the production of DHT by your body. As mentioned earlier, DHT is created when 5-alpha-reductase converts Testosterone into DHT. By taking compounds that prevent the 5-alpha-reductase from making this conversion, you can bring your DHT levels down and consequently treat pattern baldness. DHT inhibitors include medication like Dutasteride and natural extracts like Saw Palmetto extract. Although these inhibitors do come with various side effects and some must never be taken by women, teenagers, and children. Some side effects of DHT inhibitors include sexual dysfunction, changes in the breasts, and emotional instability. So be sure to consult your dermatologist before taking any DHT inhibitors.
Natural DHT Blockers and Inhibitors
Some certain natural foods and herbs act as DHT blockers and can help fight DHT hair loss. These include:
· Saw Palmetto
· Stinging Nettle
· Pumpkin Seed Oil
· Watermelon (Lycopene)
· Green Tea
· Tea Tree Oil
· Lavender Oil
By including these natural DHT blockers and inhibitors to your diet, or topical hair loss treatment, you can get some impressive results in fighting DHT hair loss.
Other Ways to Fight DHT Hair Loss
You can also control the DHT build up in your body by making some changes to your diet (eating a more balanced diet), adopting a healthy lifestyle, managing stress (stress causes hormonal imbalance). Exfoliation is a good trick to fight DHT hair loss, as it removes the present build-up of DHT from the scalp, and chemical stimulation (topical treatment using DHT blockers).
Side Effects of Low DHT Levels
It is important to note that DHT has some essential functions in the human body, especially the male body. The side effects in women are only the delayed onset of puberty, which means that females with less DHT will experience a delay in hitting puberty. In men, however, low DHT can have the following side effects:
Delayed or incomplete development of reproductive organs
Increase in growth of prostate tumors
Delay in hitting puberty
Infertility and Erectile dysfunction
DHT is a vital hormone when it comes to puberty. It ensures that people gain the proper characteristics of their gender and helps in the development of various organs. However, as you grow old, DHT starts to have adverse effects on your hair. It causes pattern baldness by shrinking your hair follicles and making your hair thinner and brittle. That being said, there are various measures you can take to help fight this issue such usage of: DHT blockers and inhibitors, changes in your diet and lifestyle, and natural topical treatment can all help in fighting DHT hair loss. You just need to keep an eye out for the onset of pattern baldness; because the earlier your start, the better the results. However, it is to be noted that given the side effects to low DHT levels, and DHT medication itself, it is always a good idea to consult your dermatologist for professional advice.
We hope this article gave you a preliminary overview of DHT and its connection with hair loss and helps you get acquainted with tips and techniques to fight it and what to avoid when pursuing treatement.
Keep yourself updated by checking back regularly and wishing you the best in your quest for natural, healthy hair!