Understanding the Relationship Between Hair Loss & Testosterone
You may have heard before that testosterone plays a major role in hair loss, specifically androgenetic alopecia, also known as male or female patten baldness, but the truth is a bit more complicated than that. Below we’ll take a look at testosterone and the role it plays in hair loss.
What Is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a sex hormone that fulfills a number of functions in the human body. For men it plays a key role in the development of the sex organs, bones, and muscles. Testosterone is also what governs the male sex drive, deepens the male voice during puberty, and brings on the growth of facial hair.
One may not think it, but testosterone is also important in a woman’s body where it plays a part in the normal functioning of the ovaries and impacts bone strength.
There are different types of testosterone in the human body. First, there is what’s known as free testosterone. “Free” testosterone refers to the fact that this type of testosterone is not bound to proteins in the body. This is the type of testosterone that has the most potential to act within the body.
Another type of testosterone is bound to a protein in the blood called albumin. The majority of testosterone is bound to the sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). This type of testosterone is not active within the body.
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is an androgen (male sex hormone) created from testosterone by an enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase (or by the enzyme DHEA in women). DHT can be three to six times stronger than testosterone and is used in the body primarily in the skin, prostate and hair follicles.
While DHT is important in sexual function and development, it can also have undesirable effects on other systems within the body. High DHT levels can cause an enlarged prostate, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia BPH). It can also cause hirsutism, or unwanted facial hair in women, while also causing androgenetic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness.
DHT and Hair Loss
It may seem impossible that one hormone can cause both too much hair growth, as in hirsutism, and not enough hair growth, as in male or female pattern baldness, but such is the complicated role of DHT in the body. Ironically, DHT is essential the normal growth of human hair – just not the hair on your head.
When we talk about male and female pattern baldness, it’s important to understand the role of heredity in hair loss. In short, your potential for hair loss has a genetic component. This basically means that if you are a man, and your father had male pattern baldness, it is likely that you, yourself, will experience male pattern baldness. In this way, hair loss is passed down the generations of a family. If this is the case in your family, then it’s likely that DHT will have an even bigger impact on your hair loss. Even the shape and size of your head may also play a factor in the extent to which DHT will contribute to your hair loss.
Eliminate and Prevent DHT Buildup
So, How Exactly Does DHT Play a Role in Hair Loss?
All of the hair on your body is grown from follicles, which are miniscule capsules beneath the skin. Each follicle will grow one strand of hair, and each hair will undergo a growth cycle that can take anywhere from two to six years. When you shave, you only cut the hair above the surface of skin – there will still remain a root of hair in each follicle. This root of hair will then grow through the layer of skin, and the process of shaving will be repeated.
At the end of a growth cycle, hair will enter the resting, or telogen, phase. After a few months in this resting phase, the hair will fall completely out of the follicle. The follicle then produces a completely new hair. This growth cycle of hair will be repeated again and again throughout one’s life.
When your body produces too much DHT, it can cause your hair follicles to shrink. This causes the hair growth cycle to shorten, which then results in hair that will be thinner and more brittle. An overabundance of DHT can also lengthen the amount of time between a hair falling out and the follicle growing a new hair.
Some people find that they are even more sensitive to the effects of DHT simply because of variants in the androgen receptor gene. It is a normal bodily function for receptors to bind to hormones, and in doing so send signals to the body to perform any number of functions. (Think of the hormone as a key and the receptor as a lock – once the key goes into the lock, the door will open, and the body receives a new signal to perform one of many essential functions.) However, in those with an increased sensitivity to DHT, the signals can be corrupted, and the body can actually be instructed to shrink the hair follicles.
Luckily, there are a number of medications formulated to deal with hair loss associated with excess DHT. These include medications that block DHT from binding to certain receptors, so the signal that instructs your hair follicles to shrink is never sent. Other medications inhibit how much DHT your body can make.
DHT-Blocking Shampoos such as Revita Shampoo are able to reduce DHT buildup in the hair follicle and counteract the effects of miniaturization. Revita also employs several active ingredients that optimize hair and scalp health, while blocking the conversion of DHT and reducing buildup, leaving your hair healthier and fuller than competing shampoos.
For those who are looking to fortify their daily hair care regimen, a DHT blocking topical such as Spectral.DNC-N, which contains 5a-Reductase inhibitors such as caffeine and azelaic acid can be a good choice. Spectral.DNC-N is formulated to block DHT and promote hair growth, making it one of the most complete redensifying options available.
Finasteride is an oral prescription medication that helps prevent DHT from binding to receptors and keeps the body from shrinking hair follicles. This medication boasts a high success rate, with low incidents of adverse side effects.
Minoxidil is actually a medication used to treat high blood pressure, but when used in a topical solution it is believed to increase blood and nutrient flow to hair follicles, which may stimulate new growth. While minoxidil itself does not block DHT, it can be paired with other DHT blocking solutions to provide a more complete and effective treatment. Please note that the oral minoxidil cannot be used in the place of the topical solution, which is formulated specifically to treat male and female pattern baldness.
There are any number of supplements on the market that claim to have an impact on hair growth. It is advisable that you consult with your physician before starting any new supplement as they may have adverse side effects or interact with other medications that you routinely take.