Blocking DHT and Stopping Hair Loss

young woman with long braided hair smiling and holding up one hand blocking part of the camera's view

DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is a hormone that can cause male and female pattern baldness when its levels become too high in the body and on the scalp. DHT causes hair loss when DHT binds itself to the hair follicles, causing them to shrink. The impact of excess DHT on hair follicles can lead to thinning of the hair and eventually balding.

 

Fortunately, there are many different strategies for blocking DHT induced hair loss, including natural remedies, pharmaceuticals, and lifestyle changes. In this guide, we will discuss the root causes of DHT hair loss and the best, clinically supported, strategies for blocking DHT hair loss.

What is DHT?

DHT is a derivative of the sex hormone testosterone, and it’s important to understand the relationship between the two hormones. Testosterone is an anabolic hormone responsible for many bodily functions, including sexual development and libido. DHT is a byproduct of testosterone and has been linked to balding when its levels become too high in comparison to other hormones such as estrogen.

Androgenetic Alopecia and DHT

Androgenetic alopecia, also known as female or male pattern baldness, is the most common form of hair loss in both sexes. It affects up to 70% of men and 40% of women during their lifetime. Androgenetic alopecia is caused by the interaction between DHT and receptors in the scalp, leading to miniaturization of the hair follicles and eventual hair loss. Specifically, people with this type of alopecia may have DHT sensitivity, which can make them more likely to experience hair loss when their scalp hair is exposed to large amounts of this androgen hormone.

DHT and Male Pattern Baldness

bearded middle aged man looking in mirror at his receding hairline

Though there are many potential causes of hair loss, male pattern baldness is most frequently linked to a mix of genetic and hormonal elements. In particular, it’s commonly believed that this kind of hair loss can be inherited from one’s parents. Additionally, male sex hormones called androgens are thought to contribute to the development of androgenetic alopecia. Specifically, DHT is an androgen that has been found to be directly associated with male pattern baldness.

 

Male pattern baldness typically starts with a receding hairline, followed by thinning of the hair at the crown. In some cases, this can eventually lead to complete baldness. The speed of progression and amount of hair loss associated with male pattern baldness will differ from person to person.

DHT and Female Pattern Hair Loss

Though it’s less common than male pattern baldness, female pattern hair loss is also caused by DHT. Women typically experience a diffuse thinning of the hair on their scalp rather than the receding hairline that men often have. In some cases, female pattern hair loss can cause bald spots or a completely bald scalp. In fact, there are at least 15 different types of alopecia and more than a few of them are linked to androgenic factors including DHT.

How DHT Affects Hair Follicles

In order to understand how DHT affects hair follicles, it’s important to understand the different stages of the hair growth cycle. The anagen phase is the active growth stage where new hairs are formed and existing ones get longer. During this stage, cells in the follicle divide rapidly while nourishing the newly formed strand with essential nutrients.

 

The catagen phase is a transition period that follows during which the cells stop dividing and shrink back up into a club shape. This prepares them for the telogen phase, or resting phase, when no new hairs are made and older hairs eventually fall out. Eventually, a new anagen phase begins and the whole process starts over again.

 

When DHT levels become too high on the scalp, the hair follicles can shrink and stop producing healthy strands of hair. This is known as miniaturization, and it’s one of the main effects of DHT on hair follicles. Eventually, this process leads to thinning and then complete loss of the affected hairs. In other words, DHT plays a key role in causing male pattern baldness and female hair loss.

 

It’s also important to note that DHT levels don’t need to be abnormally high for this effect to occur – even regular or normal levels can cause issues if your scalp is sensitive enough to it. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to block DHT-induced hair loss and prevent further damage to your locks.

How to Block DHT for Hair Growth

The good news is that there are a number of hair loss treatments designed to reduce or even reverse the effects of DHT on your hair. For example, one strategy is to use DHT blocking medications such as finasteride (Propecia) or dutasteride (Avodart). These drugs work by blocking the 5-alpha reductase enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. Alternatively, you can also try other hair loss treatments, including topical minoxidil, which helps stimulate hair growth and lengthen the anagen phase for thicker locks.

 

Additionally, certain lifestyle choices can help to keep DHT levels under control. For instance, maintaining a healthy diet full of vitamins and minerals like zinc and iron can combat hair loss by promoting strong hair follicles and reduce shedding. Additionally, exercise is important for overall health and can help reduce stress levels, which can promote healthier hair growth.

 

Finally, it’s important to note that some natural ingredients are known to have anti-DHT properties. For example, research suggests that saw palmetto might be able to block the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, while green tea and nettle root extract may also work as DHT blockers.

DHT Blocking Medications

In some cases, your doctor may recommend DHT blocker medications to block help stop hair loss. There are a few DHT blocking hair loss medications that are available in the US over-the-counter or by prescription:

Finasteride

Finasteride is a common prescription hair loss medication that targets androgens such as DHT in order to prevent or slow down miniaturization. It works by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into DHT. This DHT blocker can help reduce thinning and improve hair growth over time. While Finasteride is an effective DHT blocking medication and hair loss treatment, it also comes with some serious potential side effects that are worth considering, including decreased libido.

Dutasteride

Dutasteride is another hair loss treatment medication that has been clinically shown to improve hair density in patients with alopecia. Interestingly, dutasteride prevents testosterone from converting into both DHT or estradiol 17-beta. While less commonly discussed, estradiol 17-beta is another androgen that has been clinically linked to hair loss.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is a topical solution that has been approved for treating hair loss. It works by stimulating the growth of new hairs and preventing hair thinning. While Minoxidil has been shown to be a clinically effective tool for fighting hair loss caused by androgenic alopecia, it’s worth noting that Minoxidil does not have DHT blocking properties. You may also want to consider the side effects of minoxidil before using this topical medication.

Ketoconazole

Ketoconazole is an antifungal agent that has been shown to reduce DHT levels in the scalp. It is believed to work by inhibiting the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, which converts testosterone into DHT. This means that Ketoconazole is not a DHT blocker in a direct sense, but rather that it may inhibit DHT production by limiting the enzyme involved in DHT production. This effectively blocks DHT production and may result in a reduction in DHT related hair loss. Additionally, the antifungal affects of ketoconazole can help reduce scalp itching, flaking, and redness associated with certain hair disorders.

Natural DHT Blockers

Some people also choose to use natural DHT blockers in order to fight against androgenetic alopecia caused by DHT. Certain herbs and supplements have been used as alternative treatments for years due to their potential anti-androgenic effects on the body. Some of these natural remedies include saw palmetto, beta-sitosterol, pygeum africanum, and green tea extract. While there is still more research needed to understand their full effects, studies have suggested that some of these DHT blockers may be an effective way to reduce thinning caused by androgenic alopecia.

Pumpkin Seed Oil

photo of table with pumpkin seeds in a bowl, a slice of pumpkin, and a jar of pumpkin seed oil

Pumpkin seed oil has gained recent attention as a potentially effective DHT blocker. Pumpkin seed oil is believed to inhibit DHT production by blocking the action of 5-alpha reductase, which is the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. By blocking 5-alpha reductase, pumpkin seed oil has been clinically shown to effectively promote hair growth in a significant amount of patients with thinning hair.

 

A 2014 double-blind placebo controlled study gave placebo and pumpkin seed oil pills to two groups of patients with thinning hair. The patient group that received pumpkin seed oil showed significant improvements in hair thickness and hair density!

Saw Palmetto

jar of supplements spilling onto white surface with white background

Saw Palmetto is a natural DHT blocker that is often promoted as a supplement for hair growth and for treating female and male pattern hair loss. While there is a very limited amount of research on saw palmetto for hair loss, some published studies do indicate that this herbal supplement can reduce DHT levels in the body.

 

Saw Palmetto supplements are believed to treat hair loss in men and women due to their impact on 5 alpha reductase production. By limiting the production of this enzyme responsible for turning testosterone into DHT, saw palmetto effectively acts as a DHT blocker. A systematic review study published in 2020 suggested that based on the available evidence, saw palmetto supplements can effectively improve hair health and even help reverse hair loss in a significant amount of people with androgenic hair loss.

Beta Sitosterol

Beta Sitosterol is a plant sterol found naturally in some plants and fruits. It has been shown to inhibit 5-alpha reductase, effectively making it a DHT blocker in the body and promoting healthy hair growth. In addition to its potential effects on reducing DHT, Beta Sitosterol may also help to keep scalp skin hydrated and healthy, resulting in improved scalp health and reduced hair shedding.

Green Tea Extract

photo of a table with a cup of green tea, surrounded by green tea leaves and a spoon with dried green tea

Green Tea Extract is often used as a natural supplement to help improve hair health and reduce thinning. Green Tea Extract is believed to act as a DHT blocker by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase, which is the enzyme involved in DHT conversion. In addition to its potential effects on reducing DHT levels in the body, green tea extract may also have antioxidant benefits that can help protect scalp skin from environmental damage caused by free radicals.

Curcumin

tumeric roots and tumeric powder on a white background

Curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric, is believed to be a natural DHT blocker. Curcumin has been shown to block 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme involved in DHT conversion. By during so, curcumin lowers DHT levels, which may help fight hair loss. Additionally, curcumin may also protect scalp skin from damage caused by toxins in the environment while improving scalp health and promoting healthy hair growth.

Topical Caffeine

photo looking down at a cup of coffee on burlap surrounded by coffee beans

Recent studies have suggested that topical caffeine may also be an effective natural DHT blocker. Caffeine is believed to promote hair growth by blocking the action of 5-alpha reductase and reducing the production of DHT in the body. Additionally, it can also help improve circulation to the scalp, providing more nutrients and oxygen for healthy hair growth.

DHT Blocker Shampoos

There are shampoos that contain various DHT blocker ingredients. These shampoos are often made with natural ingredients like saw palmetto, pumpkin seed oil, green tea extract, and curcumin as well as DHT blocker pharmaceutical chemicals like ketoconazole. These DHT blocker shampoos can be an effective way to reduce DHT levels on scalp hair once or twice per day during a shower.

Does Exercise Affect DHT?

backlit photo of woman doing a forearm plank in a gym

Exercise can indirectly affect DHT levels in the body through its impact on hormones. Strenuous exercise has been shown to temporarily increase DHT levels in the body. However, this does not have the impact that you might expect. Although this article has been discussing how effective DHT blockers can protect hair follicles, there is also evidence to suggest that raising DHT levels through exercise can actually help prevent hair loss. This 2021 peer-reviewed study demonstrated that men with male pattern hair loss tended to have more hair if they engaged in regular strenuous exercise.

 

This study suggests that there is more involved in combating thinning hair than just relying on DHT blockers. Testosterone and DHT are vital hormones in our bodies that server a number of important biological functions. So while it is true that DHT blocking may prevent androgens from damaging hair follicles in some instances, it’s also worth recognizing that DHT blockers may not always be the best solution for treating hair loss.

Alternatives to DHT Blockers for Thinning Hair

It is also important to keep in mind that there are other treatments for thinning hair available besides DHT blockers. Alternative hair growth treatments like Laser therapy and PRP injections work by stimulating hair follicle growth without the need to block DHT production.

 

Similarly, hair loss can be treated by taking a hair growth supplement that may help with reversing hair loss for people suffering from a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Adding supplements to your diet to prevent hair loss and grow more hair doesn’t rely on the need to block DHT. You can learn about which supplements can be an effective part of your hair loss treatment in this guide.

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