What is DHT & Why Does It Cause Hair Loss?
DHT is one of those acronyms you never hear about until you struggle with hair loss. Indeed, you may have heard of it briefly in freshman biology, but you likely brushed over it because it’s plain confusing. However, if you are struggling with hair loss, you do need to know about DHT.
Sure, you can probably get by without understanding exactly how 5-alpha-reductase type 2 reduces testosterone with two isoenzymes. (Did we lose you there?). But a basic understanding is critical for helping you fight hair loss caused by male- and female-pattern hair loss.
Ready to get down to the nitty-gritty details of DHT and hair loss? Read on. (Don’t worry, we will keep it light.)
What is DHT?
DHT is the acronym used when referring to dihydrotestosterone. Testosterone is a male sex hormone (also called an androgen). DHT is a more potent form of testosterone that is partially responsible for developing male sex characteristics, especially during puberty. DHT:
- Deepens the voice
- Increases muscle mass
- Stimulates hair to grow on the body
- Controls the development of male sex organs and initiates sperm production
- Distributes fat content
Women also have DHT, although in lesser quantities. While we do not know precisely how DHT serves women, we know that the ovaries produce small amounts of testosterone, which is necessary for making estrogen. Also, it may play a role in determining the age a girl enters puberty.
About 10% of the testosterone in a male is converted to DHT by the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme. When DHT is in your bloodstream, it links to receptors all over your body, including in your skin and hair follicles.
What Happens When DHT Is Too High?
DHT has many benefits in men as they get older. For example, it can help you maintain your body muscle mass and boost your sexual health and fertility. However, when DHT levels are too high, it can also cause some problems. High DHT levels may lead to:
- Heart disease
- Slowed healing after injuries (especially skin injuries)
- Enlarged prostate and prostate cancer
- Male-pattern baldness
Women can also be affected by high DHT levels. Remember, DHT is responsible for male secondary sex characteristics. So, women with higher DHT levels may exhibit hirsutism (abnormal hair growth on the body), irregular menstrual cycles, and difficulty conceiving.
What About When DHT Is Too Low?
When DHT is too low, it can increase your risk for some health conditions and cause delayed sexual development during puberty. Women usually do not demonstrate too many consequences of low DHT, but men may encounter:
- Changes in body fat distribution (such as increased body fat in the breast area)
- An increased risk of aggressive prostate tumors.
In general, some people are more affected by high or low DHT levels, whereas others are less affected. Likely, it comes down to your genes.
The Link Between DHT and Hair Loss
DHT shrinks your hair follicles and changes the hair growth cycle when it attaches to follicles beneath your scalp. When DHT binds to hair follicles, it causes the hair to become thin and brittle, making it fall out more quickly. Furthermore, it takes longer for a new hair strand to grow once an old one has shed.
The hair growth cycle occurs in three main stages: the anagen phase, the catagen phase, and the telogen phase.
- Anagen: This is the growing phase that typically lasts 4-7 years. The length of anagen generally depends on your genetics but may be altered in the presence of higher levels of DHT.
- Catagen: This short transition period marks when the hair stops growing and begins detaching from the bulb. Generally, this phase lasts about two weeks.
- Telogen: As the final stage in the hair growth cycle, telogen is where the hair remains planted in the scalp for a three month resting period before shedding. Most people lose between 50-100 hairs per day. This may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t when you consider that the average head has about 100,000 hairs on it. Some conditions, like telogen effluvium, cause you to temporarily lose more hairs than normal.
Some people are more sensitive or receptive to the effects of DHT on their hair follicles. This sensitivity is based on different variations within the androgen receptor gene, which is one plausible reason why male- and female-pattern hair loss tends to run in families.
How to Reduce the Effects of DHT on Your Hair Follicles
There is little you can do to change your genes. So, if you have genes that make you more sensitive to DHT binding to your hair follicles, you may feel like you have few options. Fortunately, we have many more options than our parents and grandparents had when they started battling hair loss.
Here are some treatment options that may be familiar to you.
Finasteride - Also called Proscar or Propecia, this oral prescription medication helps suppress DHT by preventing DHT from binding to receptors on your hair follicles. This treatment is highly effective, but it can come at a price. Because it is a medication that is absorbed all over your body, it can lead to disruptions in your ability to get an erection, decreased libido, and may cause a skin rash. Furthermore, women cannot take this medication, so it is only an option for men at this time.
Minoxidil - You likely have heard of (or seen) Rogaine. This popular, topical solution contains minoxidil, which can promote hair growth when applied to your scalp. Originally, minoxidil was a blood pressure medication, but people noticed that it had a (pleasant) side effect of increased hair growth on the head.
The reason it helps boost hair growth is that it widens and loosens blood vessels that can stimulate more blood flow, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the scalp. Like many hair loss solutions, it does have some side effects, including skin irritation. Additionally, you will resume losing hair once you stop this product.
Nanoxidil - For a hair loss product that works to suppress losses, stimulates regrowth, and keeps your hair and scalp healthy, use a product that contains Nanoxidil. Dermatologists and scientists at DS Laboratories created Nanoxidil 5% as a powerful alternative to minoxidil with no known side effects.
Nanoxidil works to prevent hair loss and stimulate regrowth by blocking the action of DHT in hair follicles. It is incredibly effective because it works through nanosome technology, which allows it to penetrate deeper into the scalp to reach the blood vessels that nourish the follicles. You can find Nanoxidil 5% in the SPECTRAL product line at DS Laboratories.
Aside from using Nanoxidil, you can help support hair regrowth with some lifestyle changes that promote better overall health and wellness. Hair growth requires a healthy, wholesome diet that is rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals. For many people, a hair growth supplement is a perfect way to guarantee they are getting the nutrients they need to support their hair. Finally, stress reduction is vital if you want to prolong your hair growth cycle and prevent unnecessary shedding.
Ready to say no to early balding? Shop the entire line of hair loss products at DS Laboratories today.