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What is DHT & Its Role In Hair Loss? A Complete Overview
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Updated on May 9, 2024

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 [1].

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-related hair loss.

Table of Contents

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 which could potentially lead to hair loss. According to research, the level of DHT is normally only around 10% of the level of testosterone [2].

DHT can be very potent, which is why it can have so many noticeable effects on the body. DHT (a male sex hormone) 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 receding hairlinesbald patches, or more severe male pattern hair loss.

miniaturisation leading to hair loss informational graphic

What are 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.

  1. Improve your memory [3]
  2. Regulates your blood sugar levels [4]
  3. Reduces the likelihood of penile dysfunction [5]
  4. Ensures heart health and lowers the amount of fat deposits in men with coronary artery disease [6]
  5. Helps to maintain a healthy sex drive in men [7]
  6. Can reduce the likelihood of having an autoimmune condition [8]
  7. Protect against anxiety and depression [9]
  8. Ensures healthy cognitive function [10]
  9. Promotes higher bone density [11]
  10. In some animal trials, DHT was found to relieve the pain caused by diabetes [12]

What are 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 (also known as androgenetic alopecia) often have higher levels of DHT [13]
  • High levels of DHT can contribute to benign prostate enlargement [14], or even prostate cancer [15]
  • For women with high levels of DHT they are more likely to experience depression [16] and male-like body hair growth (Ex. excess body hair, facial hair growth, and pubic hair growth) [17]
  • DHT can be a trigger of acne [18]

Does DHT cause hair loss?

The short answer is that, yes, DHT is one of the common causes of hair loss, especially in men who suffer from male pattern hair loss. 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 [19]:

  1. Anagen (growth)
  2. Catagen (transition)
  3. 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.

hair growth cycle

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 cause late or incomplete development of sex organs, changes in body fat, and an increased chance of developing prostate tumors [20].

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 production 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 adulthoodCritical for well-being throughout life, not just during childhood or adolescence
Doesn’t play a role in mental function, muscle mass, or bone healthHelps to maintain a normal sex drive
DHT’s main impacts on the body involve potential prostate enlargement and hair lossMaintains 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 from progressing by blocking DHT.

Some ways in which you can block DHT is by using medication and/or by using natural DHT blockers, such as the following:


Finasteride is a 5α reductase inhibitor that can slow hair loss and promote hair growth. This hair loss treatment is available as an oral medication that you take daily. There are also other Finasteride alternatives that work in a similar way to block DHT.

Topical Finasteride and other anti-DHT creams and solutions may also work and can help you avoid systemic side effects.


Similar to Finasteride, Dutasteride is also another 5α reductase inhibitor that prevents testosterone from converting into DHT. Just like Finasteride and Minoxidil, Dutasteride is available in both topical Dutasteride and oral medication forms.

Dutasteride results in androgenic alopecia
Before and 24 weeks after Dutasteride treatment for hair loss

DHT-blocking shampoo

DHT shampoos often contain natural DHT blockers that stimulate hair growth like ketoconazolepumpkin seed oilcaffeine and rosemary essential oil. However, the research into these ingredients is limited and isn’t thought to be as effective as other over-the-counter drugs.

Green tea

Green tea is another natural DHT blocker that is thought to inhibit the process of converting testosterone into DHT. DHT blockers aren’t suitable for everyone. DHT blockers for women are often not recommended, as they can cause irregular periods and other health concerns.

What are the side effects of using a 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.

What should I do if I am worried about hair loss?

If you are worried about hair loss or going bald, you don’t have to suffer alone. Hair restoration treatments have come a long way over the years and there are a variety of treatments available.

Whether you are looking to try hair loss medications, alternative treatments such as laser light therapy, or even a hair transplant, there is a solution available to help restore your lost hair.

Our hair restoration specialists at the Wimpole Clinic are dedicated to treating you based on your needs and hair restoration goals. Our specialists will help diagnose the cause of your hair loss and work with you to create a personalized treatment plan.

Visit our reviews page to read more about what we can do for you or check out our gallery page to see the type of hair transplant services we provide. To learn more about what we can do, book a consultation today.

What is DHT & Its Role In Hair Loss? A Complete Overview, Wimpole Clinic

  1. Why Do Men Go Bald and What Can You Do About It?
  2. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone
  3. The benefits and risks of testosterone replacement therapy: a review
  4. Testosterone and DHEA activate the glucose metabolism-related signaling pathway in skeletal muscle
  5. Dihydrotestosterone is the active androgen in the maintenance of nitric oxide-mediated penile erection in the rat
  6. Testosterone, dihydrotestosterone and estradiol are differentially associated with carotid intima-media thickness and the presence of carotid plaque in men with and without coronary artery disease
  7. Male sexual function can be maintained without aromatization: randomized placebo-controlled trial of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in healthy, older men for 24 months
  8. Sex bias in CNS autoimmune disease mediated by androgen control of autoimmune regulator
  9. Testosterone’s anti-anxiety and analgesic effects may be due in part to actions of its 5alpha-reduced metabolites in the hippocampus
  10. Longitudinal Relationships between Reproductive Hormones and Cognitive Decline in Older Men: The Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project
  11. Dihydrotestosterone is a determinant of calcaneal bone mineral density in men
  15. Dihydrotestosterone synthesis bypasses testosterone to drive castration-resistant prostate cancer
  16. Testosterone, androstenedione and dihydrotestosterone concentrations are elevated in female patients with major depression
  18. Effect of dihydrotestosterone on the upregulation of inflammatory cytokines in cultured sebocytes
  19. Physiology, Hair
  20. Dihydrotestosterone: Biochemistry, Physiology, and Clinical Implications of Elevated Blood Levels
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)Updated on May 9, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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