Hair loss is something that we all tend to worry about at some point in our lives. Whether our hair is starting to thin due to old age, bad diet, or just stress, no one wants to see their hair falling out from where it belongs – on the top of their head.
Although hair loss is stressful, it’s something that the majority of us will have to experience at some point in our lives. If you’re male, you’re unfortunately much more likely to experience hair loss. Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss there is, affecting 85% of men by age 50, with many men starting to notice the effects of hair loss by their 20s and 30s .
If you’re a man experiencing hair loss, chances are that it could be attributed to genetic factors and something known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male steroid hormone.
DHT can play a big role in hair loss, but it can be tricky to understand just how this hormone works. Below, we’ve explained everything you may need to know about DHT, including what it is, what it does, and how you can treat DHT-induced hair loss.
What does DHT do?
As we’ve said, DHT is created from testosterone. An enzyme called 5-alpha reductase is responsible for converting a very small amount of testosterone into DHT. This process happens in various areas around your body, including in your hair follicles.
This doesn’t mean that all your testosterone is being converted into DHT that could potentially lead to hair loss. According to research, the level of DHT is normally only around 10% of the level of testosterone .
DHT can be very potent, which is why it can have so many noticeable effects in the body. DHT can bind to receptors that are found in your scalp and prevent your hair follicles from being able to produce new hairs which can then lead to a receding hairlines, bald patches, or more severe male pattern baldness.
The positive effects of DHT
The effects of DHT aren’t all bad for your body, it is there for a reason after all. Here are just some of the positive effects that DHT can have on the body.
- Improve your memory 
- Regulates your blood sugar levels 
- Reduces the likelihood of penile dysfunction 
- Ensures heart health and lowers the amount of fat deposits in men with coronary artery disease 
- Helps to maintain a healthy sex drive in men 
- Can reduce the likelihood of having an autoimmune condition 
- Protect against anxiety and depression 
- Ensures healthy cognitive function 
- Promotes higher bone density 
- In some animal trials, DHT was found to relieve the pain caused by diabetes 
The negative effects of DHT
On the other hand, DHT can cause some complications in the body that can have some negative impacts. Here are some of those negative effects:
- Men with male pattern baldness often have higher levels of DHT 
- High levels of DHT can contribute to benign prostate enlargement , or even prostate cancer 
- For women with high levels of DHT they are more likely to experience depression  and male-like hair growth 
- DHT can be a trigger of acne 
Does DHT cause hair loss?
The short answer is that, yes, DHT is one of the common causes of hair loss, especially in men. This is because this hormone can shrink the hair follicles around your hairline and scalp – and because men produce more DHT that is the reason why they bald more than women.
Usually, your hair grows according to the hair growth cycle, which is made up of three phases :
- Anagen (growth)
- Catagen (transition)
- Telogen (rest)
DHT shortens the anagen phase, which prevents your hair from being able to grow properly. Then, over time, your hair continues to become thinner and shorter, starting around the crown and hairline.
What happens if you have too little DHT?
The levels of DHT in the body can vary from person to person, but having too much or too little of the hormone can vastly affect the impact it has on the body.
If you have very low levels of DHT in your body, the most common effect is delays in the onset of puberty, which can affect both men and women.
For men specifically, low levels of DHT can meet late or incomplete development of sex organs, changes in body fat, and an increased chance of developing prostate tumors .
DHT levels can be increased by regular exercise, losing body fat, improving your diet, or taking supplements.
What happens if you have too much DHT?
Equally, having too much DHT in the body can also make you more susceptible to certain health conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia – as well as a heightened risk of hair loss.
If you’re a woman with high levels of DHT, you may experience female pattern hair loss, increased growth of facial hair, a stop to menstrual periods, or increased acne.
Does DHT affect people differently?
Every one of us is completely different, so it’s not easy to understand how hormones and genetics can affect us all in vastly different ways – the same goes for DHT.
Male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, all comes down to genetics. Some men are more sensitive to DHT than others, which is why hair loss can present itself very differently from person to person.
It all depends on the levels of DHT you have in your body and how susceptible you are to converting testosterone into DHT. Normally, DHT is also determined by the level of androgen receptors across the body and hair follicles. If only a few are present, DHT will have relatively little effect, even if the levels are very high.
DHT vs Testosterone
Although DHT and testosterone are both important in male development, it’s important to not get them confused as they are two very different things.
Here are some of the main differences that separate testosterone and DHT
Plays a major role during childhood and adolescence, but isn’t so important in adulthood
Critical for well-being throughout the life, not just during childhood or adolscence
Doesn’t play a role in mental function, muscle mass, or bone health
Helps to maintain a normal sex drive
DHT’s main impacts on the body involve potential prostate enlargement and hair loss
Maintains muscle mass and bone health
Ensures optimal mental function
Can control red blood cell production and energy levels
How to reduce DHT and cure hair loss
Although there is no permanent cure for DHT-induced hair loss, there are a number of ways that you can slow down hair loss and stop a receding hairline progressing by blocking DHT.
There are a few ways that you can block DHT, both by using medication and by using natural DHT blockers:
Finasteride is a hair loss medication that can slow hair loss and promote hair growth, it’s an oral medication that you take daily. There are also other Finasteride alternatives that work in a similar way to block DHT.
Similar to Finasteride, Dutasteride is also an oral medication that prevents testosterone from converting into DHT.
DHT shampoos often contain natural DHT blockers that stimulate hair growth like ketoconazole, pumpkin seed oil, caffeine and rosemary essential oil. However, the research into these ingredients is limited and aren’t thought to be as effective as other over the counter drugs.
Green tea is another natural DHT blocker that is thought to inhibit the process of converting testosterone into DHT.
Side effects of DHT blocker
Most people don’t experience any severe side effects when using DHT blockers, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
A small percentage of people who use DHT blockers, like Finasteride and Dutasteride, mentioned above may experience some side effects, for example:
- Lower sex drive
- Higher testosterone levels
- Weak erections
Importantly, even if you are one of the few who do experience side effects from taking DHT blockers, you can expect these side effects to stop once you stop taking the DHT blocker.
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