There are several factors that can potentially cause hair loss in both men and women, including family history, hormonal changes, radiation and cancer therapy, and medications. Even excessive stress and certain hair treatments can cause hair loss or thinning. If you can pinpoint the underlying cause of your hair woes, you’re more likely to find a solution (or at least a way to slow your hair loss), but for many people there is no obvious environmental answer.
For many, it’s dihydrotestosterone (DHT) or “The Hair Loss Hormone” to blame. Here’s what you should know about this fascinating hormone, how to block DHT, and where to get started.
What Is DHT?
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a modified form of testosterone that’s active and has stronger effects (especially on the hair) than testosterone. In fact, some experts estimate that DHT is five times stronger than your standard testosterone. DHT is imperative for the normal development of internal and external male genitalia. It is an endogenous androgen sex hormone.
The male body converts up to 10% of regular testosterone to DHT with the help of the 5-alpha-reductase (5-AR) enzyme. If it does this at a higher rate than normal, it can lead to baldness in some people. For reasons that aren’t fully understood, DHT plays a key role in hair growth over most of the body (including pubic, armpit and beard hair) but can be detrimental to hair growth on the head.
Put most simply, DHT has an enhanced effect on some men’s and women’s hair follicles due to genetic predisposition, and too much DHT at the scalp can contribute to slowing hair growth, thinner hairs, and follicles slowly losing their ability to grow healthy hair.
How Does DHT Contribute to Baldness?
Some people can have high levels of DHT and still enjoy a full head of hair while others can’t. What makes the difference? Chalk it up to genetics. While there’s still much that scientists don’t understand about the link between genetics and hair loss due to DHT, it’s clear that there is a connection between the two.
Some scientists theorize that DHT attaches to hair follicles on their androgen receptors before triggering the receptors through an unknown mechanism to start miniaturizing. The catch is that this only happens in some people. Those who are genetically more susceptible to DHT and other types of circulating androgens can’t seem to handle normal levels of DHT without losing hair.
What Can I Do About Hair Loss From DHT?
There are enough treatments for hair loss to make your head spin, but what type will work for you? Unfortunately, there’s no way to reverse hair loss from a genetic sensitivity to DHT. However, you may be able to slow the process by taking certain medications as prescribed by your doctor and using hair care solutions that can help to fight DHT.
For men, medication that targets the 5AR enzyme responsible for converting testosterone to DHT may help you maintain the hair you have, and in some cases, it can stimulate hair regrowth on the scalp as well. Finasteride is the only oral drug approved for the treatment of hair loss, in men only.In fact, studies show that a dose of finasteride caused DHT levels at the scalp to drop significantly in nearly 70% of men who take it. If treatment of finasteride stops, hair loss continues. Adverse effects of this medication include a decrease in ejaculate, loss of libido and a reduced ability to achieve and maintain an erection.
Finasteride is available to men only because of the way it ineracts with the sex hormones. As a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor, it cuts down on the 5AR’s ability to convert testosterone to DHT. In women, this can have some dangerous side effects, which is why the FDA has never approved finasteride for women.
Finasteride is the only way to block DHT from the inside out. For some people, medication may not be a viable solution for baldness. If this is the case for you, there are other things you can do to potentially slow down or at least cover up your hair loss. A few available treatment options include:
- Supplements: Supplements for hair loss commonly contain vitamins and minerals like biotin, zinc, folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin C. These ingredients are used for their ability to strengthen the hair’s infrastructure and aid in tissue regrowth.
- Shampoos: It’s easy to switch out your usual shampoo with a brand that contains DHT fighting ingredients to potentially help sweep this hormone from the scalp. DHT fighting shampoos can improve the look and feel of hair without the dangers of an oral medication.
- Foams and topical treatments: Minoxidil is one of the most popular topical ointments for baldness. It’s FDA-approved and isn’t linked to decreased libido or erectile dysfunction like finasteride. It has a proven track record and can lead to hair regrowth in most people.__
You can also opt for surgical procedures like hair transplantations or scalp reductions. However, if the underlying cause of hair loss isn’t treated, it will likely continue to occur.
Find the Best Hair Loss Solution For You
Some hair loss solutions work better for some people than others, and one product isn’t best for everyone. To find the ideal solution for your thinning or balding scalp, Shapiro MD connects patients with physicians using telehealth to prescribe and advise on the right solution for you. You can get started with a free visit at ShapiroMD.com and get custom prescription solutions sent to your door, if appropriate.