DHT and Hair Loss: A Comprehensive Guide
Is your hair starting to thin? Are you noticing slower growth than before, or a bit of a receding hairline?
You may be suffering from androgenetic alopecia, also known as male/female pattern hair loss. The culprit could be DHT. This comprehensive guide will cover what DHT is, how it affects you, and some options to combat it and regain control over your hair.
What is DHT?
DHT is an androgen hormone naturally produced in our bodies through testosterone conversion. An enzyme called alpha 5 reductase is responsible for this process. Alpha 5 reductase is found in the oil glands of hair follicles on the scalp. Scientists aren’t certain yet why DHT attaches to hair follicles specifically, but research is ongoing.
As we age, DHT becomes more prevalent in our systems because our hormone levels tend to become unbalanced. When our estrogen production starts to slow down our testosterone levels rise, allowing for more DHT to be created. In women, at least 5% of the testosterone in our bodies is converted to DHT.
Women who are nearing menopause or who are postmenopausal are at highest risk for female pattern baldness. There are plenty of instances where women who are genetically predisposed to it experience symptoms earlier on in life. The condition may start as early as just after puberty.
How does DHT cause hair loss?
DHT builds up in our hair follicles, shrinking them. As a follicle blockage occurs, the new hairs become finer and go through a shorter growth cycle.
There are three phases of the hair growth cycle. The first phase, the anagen phase, is when the hair is actually growing. This phase lasts anywhere from 3-5 years. The second phase, called catagen, lasts 2-3 weeks total. During this phase, hair detaches from its blood supply and is the body’s way of signaling the end of growth. The final phase in the hair growth cycle is the telogen phase. In this phase, the hair follicle rests and your individual strands fall out. Each hair grows independently of another, so you are only losing up to 100 hairs a day in a healthy scalp.
As DHT build up occurs, the growth cycle of each blocked follicle gets shorter and shorter. Abbreviated growth cycles don’t allow hair to grow as thick or as long as a normal cycle. Eventually, blockages can cause a follicle to stop producing hair altogether. This is why you’ll see gradual thinning of hair over time. Women don’t typically experience as exaggerated hair loss as men, but it can still be annoying and embarrassing.
Female pattern baldness will usually show up as overall thinning of hair, a receded hairline at the forehead or at the hair’s natural part.
How long does DHT stay in the scalp?
You may be wondering how long DHT will stay in your scalp once it is bound to a hair follicle. The good news is, it doesn’t stay there forever. Eventually, DHT reacts with other enzymes in our bodies and is metabolized into other testosterone by-products and moved on away from our scalp.
Does DHT Cause an Oily Scalp?
DHT can increase the amount of oil in the scalp. DHT triggers sebaceous glands to create sebum, or, oil. Therefore, an excess of DHT will cause an excess of oil in places like your scalp. Too much oil in your scalp does not necessarily cause hair loss, but it doesn’t help the problem.
Oil builds up in your hair follicle the same way that DHT does. This can further weaken the growth cycle of the hair and cause it to be thinner and more sparse. Regularly washing your hair will help to control oil build up. Brushing hair with a boar bristle brush like this one will distribute oil away from your scalp and keep the ends of your hair shiny and healthy.
Invest in a clarifying shampoo. Stronger than regular shampoos, a clarifying product will rinse out natural and chemical build up in your hair. You only want to use this 2-3 times a month because they do not discriminate when it comes to stripping your hair.
Clarifying shampoos will strip hair sprays, build up from free radicals in the air, and oil from your scalp. This will help prevent product build up and keep your pores from being clogged by oil. Be mindful of how often you use them. Over-use will have the opposite effect and increase oil production.
Of course, lowering the amount of DHT in your system may help lower the amount of oil that is produced at your scalp. Anything you can do to keep hair follicles from being blocked will help treat or prevent female pattern baldness.
What happens if I block DHT?
It is unlikely that women using safe, effective methods to block DHT production will experience negative side effects as strong as men. Our bodies do not use DHT for as many processes as men’s. If you do experience issues after beginning a DHT blocking regimen, they are likely to include a lower sex drive, lethargy or mood swings, and possibly an increase in body fat.
You can counter these effects by maintaining a healthy body weight, decreasing alcohol consumption, and taking mood boosting supplements like zinc and magnesium.
It is important to talk with your doctor about your whole hormone picture before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle. If you have started utilizing DHT blockers and you notice your sex drive waning, or that you are more easily annoyed than usual, you may want to discontinue treatment until you can visit your physician.
Can DHT Blockers Reverse Hair Loss?
Most women who begin a DHT blocking regimen will see a drastic slowing in thinning hair and will usually see regrowth begin to occur. Because the growth cycle of hair is so long, it can take up to 3 months to really start seeing results. Don’t get frustrated if results are not immediate.
Unblocking hair follicles allows the growth cycle to restart, and hairs should grow in thicker and stronger. You want to make sure you adopt a regimen you can stick to and that does not cause many negative side effects. Once treatment has ended DHT may begin binding to hair follicles again and start the hair loss process over.
It’s important to note, though, that changing your diet, taking supplements, or starting a medication regimen may have side effects of their own-not related to a change in DHT levels.
Always review your female pattern hair loss, diet, and other medications before making a move to start blocking DHT.
What are some solutions?
There are plenty of ways to block DHT. Topical and oral medications and diet changes are perhaps the easiest. Treatments are offered in pill form, topical creams and serums, shampoos, and conditioners. You should adopt the best system for your personal situation. Let’s take a look at what is available.
There are medicinal topical creams and serums that are used to block DHT. One popular supplement Propidren (click the photo above for more info), utilizes many scientifically proven DHT blockers to stimulate hair follicles and improve regrowth. Other topical treatments include Amplixin Intensive Hair Growth Serum and RX 4 Hair Loss Restoration Scalp Cream.
Propidren Side effects
Propidren is made with all natural ingredients like saw palmetto, horsetail extract, and green tea extract. It is formulated with multiple DHT blocking ingredients that work together to stop hair loss and promote regrowth. This supplement is described as being drug free, safe, and effective for both men and women. It is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing, but negative side effects are not expounded upon.
It is available as both a topical serum and in pill form. The manufacturer recommends you take it for at least 3 months to start seeing results.
DHT Blocking Shampoo
DHT blocking shampoo is also an affordable and popular choice for women wishing to gain control of their hair loss. There are hundreds of these products on the market, which makes it easy to become a little overwhelmed. Some keywords you want to look for when reviewing product labels are those listed in supplements like Propidren. The powerful DHT blocking ingredients like saw palmetto, green tea, and even zinc should make the list.
If you want to minimize the number of different manufacturers you are purchasing from, Propidren and Amplixin are available in shampoo form. The companies making these products specialize in DHT blocking and growth stimulating formulas, so they know what they are doing. You want high quality products that will give you the best results possible.
Some DHT blocking shampoos contain ingredients that work double time. Ingredients like biotin and rosemary oil promote hair growth. There are plenty of chemical free ingredients that will stimulate freshly unblocked hair follicles to drastically increase the number of hairs you grow and their strength.
How to block DHT without Side Effects
You can block DHT naturally with little to no side effects through your diet.
There are many DHT foods you can add to your daily routine that block DHT taste great! Add the deep reds of tomatoes, watermelon and carrots to your day to drive down DHT production. Almonds or cashews are great salad toppers, and oysters are a fancy dinner treat with major DHT blocking benefits. As long as you enjoy the taste, using food to lower DHT in your body will have no negative impact on the rest of your system.
Green tea is another way to block DHT without side effects. Green tea is a natural DHT blocker. It also promotes hair growth. Stimulating blocked or dormant hair follicles is important to get your hair back to its healthy, thicker state. Have a cup of green tea mid day or replace a cup of coffee with it to start reaping the benefits.
Alkalize your blood
Recent studies are showing that alkaline conditions in the scalp reduce the ability of 5-alpha reductase to convert testosterone to DHT. We can create a more alkalized environment in our bodies by lowering the amount of acidic food we eat. Low acid foods include spices, nuts, raw vegetables, and grasses.
As we age, our hormones can get out of whack. Even young women who have hormonal imbalances show increased signs of high DHT levels. What can you do?
Get your hormones under control.
Start by visiting your doctor and having your hormone levels evaluated. Low estrogen or high testosterone both lend opportunity for increased DHT in the body. You can help your body balance your hormones by avoiding growth hormone enhanced meats, avoiding chemicals in household cleaners, lawn care, etc., and make sleep a priority. Your body needs a balanced environment to function at its highest potential. The more you do to balance your hormones, the less likely you are to experience issues like female pattern baldness.
DHT Blocking Exercise
Exercise is a great way to block DHT naturally. Women who exercise moderately 3-5 times per week will experience more balanced hormones, and lower DHT production.
Jogging, yoga, and aerobics are all low impact workouts that you can incorporate in to your routine to help regulate hair loss.
If you are suffering from female pattern baldness due to overproduction of DHT, you want to be mindful of the amount of high impact workouts you are doing. Bodybuilding and extreme weight lifting can actually increase the amount of DHT your body creates. This will obviously be counter-productive to your goals.
DHT does not have to rule your world. There are chemical and natural ways to prevent DHT production in your scalp and gain control of hair loss. You can slow or stop thinning hair and add products that will stimulate new growth naturally and with little to no side effects. Talk with your doctor about your concerns regarding hair loss and review all possible solutions. Most treatments are cost effective and can be used long term. Give the process time and you should have thicker, healthier hair in just a few months.
- Causes of hair loss – American Hair Loss Association
- The Hair Cycle – Journal of Cell Science
- Does exercise promote hair growth?
Photo Credits: DepositPhotos