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Why Does Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) Trigger Hair Loss, and What Can You Do About It?

Why Does Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) Trigger Hair Loss, and What Can You Do About It?

Is Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) causing your hair to fall out? Learn why men and women experience pattern hair loss due to hormonal and genetic factors. Plus, treatment and prevention tips that can work to restore hair.

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)

Find out how DHT blockers like finasteride can combat hair loss. Image via Shutterstock

DHT—If you’re one of the millions of men and women combatting hair loss and frustrated enough to pull out what hair you have left, chances are you’ll come across these three letters sooner or later.

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the hormone derived from testosterone that is implicated in pattern baldness—the progressive, predictable hairline recession and classic bald spot that runs in families and affects an estimated two-thirds of men.

Women, surprisingly, aren’t far behind, with half reporting notable hair thinning by the age of fifty (source).

Testosterone and DHT are both androgens, hormones responsible for the development of male characteristics but present in both men and women. Yet not everyone experiences androgenetic alopecia (pattern hair loss).

So why does DHT trigger hair loss for some, and what can you do if it affects you? Read on for an overview of this common condition and the best methods for treating your thinning hair.

Luckily, there are more options for safe, effective hair growth and restoration than ever before.

What exactly is DHT, and why does it trigger hair loss?

Up to 10% of the testosterone[1] your body produces each day is converted to DHT by an enzyme called 5-AR (5-alpha reductase).

This amount is lower before puberty, so it’s thought that increased dihydrotestosterone is what triggers puberty in boys.

Here are some traits that DHT helps develop:

  • Body Hair
  • Muscle Mass
  • Growth Of Male Genitalia
  • Lowered Voice

There’s less information available about DHT in women, but it is known to have a role in determining when girls start puberty. It also causes the body and pubic hair growth during that phase.

What does DHT do to your hair?

While DHT does have benefits as you age, such as preserving muscle mass, too much of this hormone can present adverse effects like early hair loss.

Body hair grows out of follicles, structures under your skin that contain a single strand of hair.

Over two to six years, individual hairs go through a growth cycle before finally falling out, at which point the follicle produces a new strand and restarts the cycle.

What are the stages of a hair’s life cycle?

  • Anagen Phase—Hair Grows To Its Full Length
  • Catagen Phase—Hair Follicle Shrinks Until The Hair Detaches
  • Telogen Phase—Resting Phase As A New Hair Begins To Grow Under The Skin
  • Exogen Phase—New Hair Grows Out To Replace The Hair That Has Been Shed

When DHT is active in your bloodstream, it can link to hair follicle receptors, making them shrink and become less able to support healthy hair.

As well as shrinking your follicles, DHT can shorten the growth cycle, giving hair a more brittle appearance and a higher likelihood of falling out. Dihydrotestosterone can also slow the progress of new growth after the hair falls out.

Is DHT causing your hair loss?

Balding can be caused by several factors:

  • Medical Conditions Like Alopecia Areata Or Thyroid Issues
  • Hormonal Changes From Pregnancy Or Menopause
  • Medication Side Effects
  • Stress And Trauma

But the most common reason some people are more likely to suffer from androgenetic alopecia[3] is variation in their AR (androgen receptor) gene that is passed down through families.

These gene variations make your hair follicles more susceptible to binding with androgens like DHT, giving you a higher likelihood of experiencing pattern hair loss. It really does “run in the family.”

What causes high DHT levels in females?

Androgenetic alopecia affects men far more often than women. Still, around 40% of the female population experience hair loss from DHT.

Although androgens are considered male hormones, most are present in women in lower amounts. If you have a genetic predisposition to hormones like DHT, your hair can be affected.

Just like male pattern baldness, hair loss in women can start early and worsen with age. Pattern hair loss in men typically presents itself as balding, while women generally experience thinning hair overall.

How can you stop your hair loss?

A quick web search provides a long list of products and treatments that claim to slow or reverse balding. It can be overwhelming to know where to start, so here’s an overview of some of the most popular treatments to get you started:

  • DHT blockers and inhibitors – Can have an excellent success rate. Inhibitors lower DHT production, while blockers prevent DHT from binding to your hair follicles.
    • Finasteride[2] (brand name Propecia) is an oral prescription DHT blocker
    • Dutasteride (brand name Avodart) inhibits DHT production.
  • Minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) – Is a medication used primarily to treat blood pressure, but research has shown it can speed up the hair growth cycle when applied topically to the scalp.
  • Biotin – a 2015 study suggests that biotin can help hair regrow and keep existing hair from falling out.
  • Pumpkin seed oil – A 2014 study of 76 men with male pattern baldness showed a 40 percent increase in average scalp hair count after taking 400 milligrams of pumpkin seed oil every day for 24 weeks.
  • PRP (platelet-rich plasma) – Is a component of your blood that contains growth factors, or proteins, that promote cell growth. PRP treatment for hair growth injects a plasma formulation derived from your blood into balding areas on the scalp.
  • A hair transplant – Is an outpatient surgery that transfers growing hairs from a follicle-rich donor area to regions where the hair is falling out or absent.
    • FUT (follicular unit transplant) – It requires a strip of tissue to be removed, dissected into follicular units, and then implanted into the transplant area.
    • FUE (follicular unit extraction) – It meticulously punches out follicles and reimplants them using a microsurgical needle.

Modern techniques and leading-edge equipment allow both methods to provide natural-looking hair regrowth with minimal scarring.

Other popular treatments

  • Light therapy (Theradome)
  • Scalp micropigmentation
  • Hair systems/wigs
  • Supplements—be wary of these, as many are misleading. While they may provide hair-healthy nutrients, they are not proven to stop DHT.

Are you ready to stop hair loss and fight back against DHT?

With so many hair regrowth treatments, there is an option for everyone.

Whether it be medication, injections, or transplants, we suggest discussing the possibilities with your physician to find the best solution for you. You and your hair are unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

The final alternative is to embrace your bald beauty. Not everyone wants to spend time or money trying to reverse thinning hair.

Public perception is changing as more and more men and women choose to forgo wigs or surgery in favor of the stylish, shaved look.

Whatever you decide to do, know that you’re not alone. There’s a wealth of information available and health experts to turn to, regardless of whether you choose to prevent hair loss or rock your natural look.

Feedback:

References

[1] Dihydrotestosterone | https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/dihydrotestosterone.aspx
[2] J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017 Jul;77(1):136-141.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2017.02.054. Epub 2017 Apr 7. The effectiveness of treatments for androgenetic alopecia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21980923
[3] Endocrine. 2017 Jul;57(1):9-17. doi: 10.1007/s12020-017-1280-y. Epub 2017 Mar 28. Androgenetic alopecia: a reviewhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28349362
[4] Ablon G, et al. (2015). A 3-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the ability of an extra-strength marine protein supplement to promote hair growth and decrease shedding in women with self-perceived thinning hair. DOI: 10.1155/2015/841570
[5] Cho YH, et al. (2014). Effect of pumpkin seed oil on hair growth in men with androgenetic alopecia: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. DOI: 10.1155/2014/549721
[6] Guo EL, et al. (2017). Diet and hair loss: Effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/
[7] Amory JK, Wang C, Swerdloff RS, Anawalt BD, Matsumoto AM, Bremner WJ, Walker SE, Haberer LJ, Clark RV. The effect of 5alpha-reductase inhibition with dutasteride and finasteride on semen parameters and serum hormones in healthy men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 May;92(5):1659-65. doi: 10.1210/jc.2006-2203
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Heather Hauka, RPN

Heather Hauka, RPN, is a licenced nurse and medical, health and wellness writer based in Toronto, Canada. She’s developed in-depth ex...

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