Our hair is often a window into our physical and mental health. Indeed, there are so many factors that can affect our hair growth and distribution. From diet and stress to health conditions and emotions, our hair is one of the first, obvious signs that something is amiss or off-balance in our bodies. And, speaking of balance, hormones that are off-balance are frequently to blame, and testosterone is often the main culprit behind hormonal hair thinning. And, it’s not just prevalent in men. Women can experience testosterone hair thinning as well. Let’s take a look at how testosterone causes hormonal hair thinning.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through the bloodstream to deliver critical information to target cells. These molecules play a role in several crucial functions in your body, including:
- Growth and development
- Cognitive function
- Cellular metabolism
- Maintenance of body temperature
- Regulation of thirst
- Sexual function
- Growth of reproductive organs and secondary sex characteristics
As you can see, hormones play a critical role in our overall health and wellbeing. Therefore, when they get even slightly off-balance, it can affect every system in our bodies.
We have several different hormones in our bodies, and the normal level of many of these hormones is dependent on whether or not you are male or female. Endocrine glands secrete hormones, and these glands are located in various areas in the body. Each gland is responsible for secreting specific hormones. Here is a look at the major glands and some of the hormones they release:
- Pituitary gland - Growth hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, prolactin, oxytocin, and vasopressin.
- Pineal gland - Melatonin
- Thymus - Thymopoietin
- Thyroid - T3, T4, calcitonin
- Pancreas - Insulin, glucagon
- Adrenal - glucocorticoids (like cortisol), adrenaline, androgens
- Ovaries - Estrogen, progesterone
- Testes - Androgens, estradiol, inhibit
What is testosterone?
Testosterone was not specifically mentioned above in the examples of endocrine glands and their associated hormones. This is because testosterone is a part of a group of hormones called androgens. Secreted by the testes and adrenal glands (which sit on top of the kidneys), androgens are a group of hormones that play a significant role in producing male traits and controlling male reproduction. However, androgens are also important in females, although they are present in much smaller quantities in a woman’s body.
Five different hormones are considered androgens: testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), androstenedione, and androstenediol. Testosterone and it’s is biologically active derivative dihydrotestosterone (DHT) are the only androgens that directly affect male (and female) characteristics. The other androgens are precursors to creating testosterone.
In males, testosterone is likely responsible for regulating the following characteristics and processes:
- Bone mass
- Muscle distribution and strength
- Fat distribution
- Sex drive
- Sperm production
- Hair distribution
- Production of red blood cells
Both men and women need androgens. Women use androgens in the ovaries to convert to estrogen, which is the main female sex hormone responsible for numerous processes alongside female reproductive health.
Why does testosterone cause hormonal hair thinning?
We know that testosterone impacts hair distribution and growth all over the body. Indeed, this androgen has several effects on our skin and skin appendages (like hair). Not only does it determine where hair grows on your body, but it also impacts the hair growth cycle. DHT is responsible for hair growth and loss in certain areas of the scalp. It also plays a role in hair growth in other areas of the body, especially in older men.
In males, excessive levels of DHT causes scalp hair loss in several different areas. Men can lose hair along the hairline, the vertex, and the crown. DHT can cause partial or complete baldness in men.
In females, high DHT levels can lead to a widening part, thinning near the temples, and overall hair loss on the scalp. DHT can also cause hirsutism, where women have hair in areas where men experience hair growth, such as the face and chest.
What hair conditions are caused by testosterone?
DHT is the leading cause of male and female pattern hair loss. Also known as androgenic alopecia, male pattern hair loss is associated with higher DHT levels and often runs in families. Male pattern hair loss is the primary cause of hair thinning and baldness in men. Indeed, more than 50% of males over age 50 will be affected by this condition. Initially, men with this condition start to notice shorter, finer hairs growing all over the head. Then, hair thinning progresses to specific regions of the head, including a patch on the top-back portion of the head (called the crown) and a receding hairline that can make the shape of an “M”’ or “V” as it progresses. Sometimes, men will only lose certain areas of their hair, whereas others can become completely bald.
Female pattern hair loss is surprisingly common as well. However, this condition is not talked about widely, as hair loss in women is less socially acceptable. Also, women tend to have an easier time hiding it with longer hairstyles, which also helps women mask this condition. Yet, one-third of women struggle with hair loss at some point in their lives, and most women will experience hair thinning after menopause. In women, the hairline rarely recedes, and baldness from androgenic alopecia is extremely rare. Rather, women tend to notice hair loss by a gradual thinning of their part line followed by thinning across the top of the head.
Of course, there are other conditions aside from excessive DHT levels that cause hair thinning in both men and women. Other hormones, such as thyroid hormones, can cause hair loss. Certain medications, stressors, and chronic health conditions can also affect the hair growth cycle.
Is there any way to correct testosterone to stop hair thinning?
One of the leading ways to prevent hair loss caused by testosterone is to block DHT. Remember, DHT shrinks the size of hair follicles and shortens the hair growth cycle. Preventing DHT’s action at the site of the follicle is often the best way to combat this type of hair loss.
Some therapies provide systemic modification of DHT, such as through oral medications like finasteride. However, this medication has many side effects that can worsen your quality of life, such as erectile dysfunction. Furthermore, finasteride only approved for use in men, and hair loss will continue to occur once you stop taking this medication.
Minoxidil is another common treatment option used to treat hair loss in both men and women. Also known by the brand name Rogaine, minoxidil has been used since the 1950s and is available for purchase over-the-counter. However, like finasteride, minoxidil stops working once you stop using it. It can also take between 6 to 12 months to see results from minoxidil. Also, this solution can cause scalp irritation and dryness, which can affect the color and texture of your hair.
Correcting hair loss through testosterone therapy is not quite an option at this time for either men or women. One of the major roadblocks of testosterone therapy is that it has systemic effects that can adversely affect your health.
Fortunately, there are effective topical solutions that utilize modern technological advancements like nanosome delivery. The Spectral product line through DS Laboratories contains Nanoxidil 5%, a breakthrough treatment for hair thinning caused by testosterone. Nanoxidil treats hair thinning by:
- Suppressing DHT at the site of the follicle
- Preventing follicular fibrosis
- Increasing vascular endothelial growth factor (to encourage your hair to grow)
- Suppresses protein-kinase-C (which causes hair loss)
- Blocks chronic inflammation
- Contains antioxidants
- Prolongs the anagen (growth phase) of the hair cycle
To correct hair thinning caused by DHT without unpleasant systemic or local side effects, try the Spectral.DNC-N (for men) and the Spectral.CSF (for women).