Many men face hair loss in their lifetime. Male pattern balding is due to hormonal causes. One of the male hormones responsible for this type of alopecia is DHT.
What is DHT-related hair loss? Is there a way to prevent it?
Here is everything you need to know.
The most common type of hormonal-induced hair loss in males is androgenic alopecia. 70% of men face it in their lifetime. This type of alopecia may also concern women, often in the case of hormonal imbalance after menopause. In females, female sexual hormones protect hair follicles, preventing hormone balding action.
Male hormones are the leading cause of androgenic alopecia. Male sex characteristics, such as body hair or sex functions, are due to androgens. There are several types of androgens, and DHT is one of them.
The functions of DHT
DHT is a type of testosterone. Both men and women have testosterone in different amounts. In males, the body starts producing more testosterone when they reach puberty.
- manly voice
- body hair
- muscle mass
- penis, scrotum, and testicles enlargement
- sperm production
- fat storage changes
DHT helps maintain muscle mass, sexual health, and fertility in older males. This hormone is helpful for men to be healthy; however, it also causes the hair follicles to shrink, leading to hair loss.
Research linked DHT high levels to other health problems:
- coronary heart disease
- enlarged prostate
- slow healing of the skin after an injury
- prostate cancer
Reducing DHT level
DHT is one of the leading causes of hair loss in males, the most efficient way to prevent this type of alopecia would be to reduce the DHT level. However, having too little DHT may cause many health problems in males.
It may mess with the normal development during puberty for teen males, such as slowing or inhibiting sex organs development (penis and testicles). Not enough DHT also leads to a feminine repartition of fat in the body, causing gynecomastia, a feminine-like development of breasts in males. It also increases the risk of aggressive prostate tumors.
DHT-related hair loss: everyone is not equal!
DHT does not affect all males the same way. Its effect on hair loss is genetic. People with male relatives (father, grandfather) concerned by androgenic alopecia are more likely to experience it as they grow older.
Some studies linked the size and shape of the head to the speed of DHT-induced hair follicles shrinking, which causes DHT-related hair loss.
DHT-related hair loss: the process
Both hair and body hair grows from a hair follicle located under the skin. Hair follicles are tiny capsules containing a single strand of hair.
Follicles grow hair according to the hair life cycle. This cycle counts three phases and lasts two to seven years, depending on genetics and the hair location. Shaving or cutting the hair does not affect the follicle.
The first stage of the hair life cycle is known as the anagen phase. It is the growing and the most extended step of the process. It lasts 2 to 6 years. During the anagen phase, the hair grows one centimeter per month.
Then, the hair follicles enter a transitional phase known as the catagen phase. The follicles retract under the skin, and the hair stops growing but remains attached to the follicles. This step lasts for about three weeks.
The last phase is known as telogen. At this point, the hair is dead but still attached to the follicle. This phase lasts about three months and ends when the dead hair falls.
Then, the cycle starts over.
High levels of DHT affect the cycle’s length, leading to hair thinning. The hair also falls faster and takes longer to grow back, causing alopecia.
People react to DHT depending on their androgen receptor (AR) gene. The DHT attach themselves to the AR proteins. AR genes variation may increase follicles receptivity, increasing the risk of male baldness, also known as DHT-related hair loss.
Testosterone and DHT
Testosterone has many functions in males. It regulates all the androgen hormone levels in the body.
This male hormone plays a crucial role in many processes. It regulates the levels of androgen hormones, as well as sperm production. Testosterone is helpful to preserve muscle mass and bone density. The manly distribution of fat in the body also depends on testosterone. This hormone regulates mood and emotions.
DHT has a more substantial effect than testosterone.
Reducing DHT production
Many medicines reduce DHT to treat hair loss. There are two different types.
- The DHT blockers prevent DHT from binding to AR receptors, preventing hair follicles from shrinking.
- The DHT inhibitors reduce DHT production.
DHT blockers have many side effects. Some are benign, while others may be tough to manage and severe.
It includes skin rash, darkening facial and upper body hair, sickness and vomiting, gynecomastia, ejaculation issues, erectile dysfunction, congestive heart failure.
DHT-related hair loss medication
Here are some medicines and substances that may help with DHT-related hair loss.
This molecule is sold as Proscar or Propecia, both oral and prescription-only drugs. It has a high success rate but many side effects, including sexual dysfunction and suicidal behavior.
The most common form of Minoxidil is Rogaine. This medicine is a peripheral vasodilator: it helps loosen and widen blood vessels to improve blood circulation. It was manufactured as a blood-pressure medicine, and then doctors found out it helped with hair loss when applied to the scalp.
Minoxidil can have adverse effects.
This vitamin is also known as vitamin H. It is part of the B vitamin group and plays a crucial role in turning foods into energy.
Biotin helps with keratin production, maintaining healthy and luxuriant hair.
Biotin is naturally present in various foods such as egg yolks, whole grains, and nuts. It is possible to take biotin supplements to ensure a proper intake.
This herb extract comes from the bark of an African cherry tree.
This substance has DHT blocking abilities and is a well-known natural remedy for prostatitis and enlarged prostate. However, there is not enough scientific proof it is an efficient DHT blocker on its own.
Pumpkin seed oil
It is another natural DHT blocker. A 2014 study proved pumpkin oil is an efficient treatment for hair loss. This study was conducted on 76 men suffering from androgenic alopecia. 40% of the subjects got more hair while taking 400 mg of pumpkin seed oil daily for 24 weeks.
There is not enough research on caffein as a remedy for hair loss. However, a study conducted in 2014 suggests that caffein would be an efficient product to prevent hair loss. Caffein would help the hair to grow longer by extending the anagen phase. It would also improve keratine production.
Vitamin B-6 and B-12
The B-vitamin group is crucial for hair growth. A deficiency in those vitamins causes hair thinning and hair loss, among other health problems.
An excellent way to ensure a proper intake of vitamin B-6 and B-12 is to take supplements. Many people who take those supplements notice their hair thicker and healthier, as those vitamins play a crucial role in blood circulation.
Non-DHT-related hair loss causes
Androgenetic alopecia is the leading hair loss cause in males. However, there are plenty of types of alopecia, and all of them are not DHT-related.
Here are a few other types of alopecia:
- Alopecia areata
This type of alopecia is an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune condition means the immune system wrongly attacks a regular part of its body. In the case of alopecia areata, the immune system targets hair follicles, either on the head or elsewhere in the body, causing bald patches. In the most extreme cases, alopecia areata causes the loss of all the hair on the head and body.
- Lichen planus
It is another autoimmune disorder. The immune system targets skin cells. In some cases, this condition leads to follicle damage and hair loss.
- Thyroid-related conditions
There are several thyroid-related conditions. The thyroid is a gland that is crucial for many things in the body. In some cases, the thyroid produces too little or too many hormones, leading to hair loss and eventually baldness.
- Celiac disease
This disorder is another autoimmune condition. People suffering from celiac cannot eat gluten. Hair loss is a symptom of this condition.
- Infections of the scalp
Fungal infections, such as tinea capitis cause the hair of the infected follicles to fall.
- Bamboo hair
This condition has a funny name but is not precisely amusing: it is a common symptom of a genetic disorder known as Netherton syndrome. This disease leads to irregular hair growth and excessive skin shedding, among other symptoms. People with bamboo hair have thin, segmented, and knotty hair.