What is DHT and how does it impact hair loss?

July 2nd, 2019

When the American Hair Loss Association (AHA) explains the causes of hair loss, it doesn’t cite the top hair loss myths. The docs at AHA cite dihydrotestosterone (DHT) as the main culprit behind both male and female baldness. What happens is that testosterone, a male sex hormone, becomes DHT after exposure to the enzyme Type II 5-alpha reductase. This chemical reaction sometimes occurs within the hair follicle’s oil glands, which causes hair follicles to shrink and, as a result, impedes hair follicle survival (resulting in hair loss). This means that it’s not the amount of DHT that causes baldness but the location of DHT. How’s that for an A-HA moment?!

What is DHT?

In communicating what you need to know about DHT and hair loss, Healthline explains that DHT is an androgen. Androgens are sex hormones that give people their male qualities. This includes the sound of one’s voice; the amount of body hair and muscle mass one has, the growth of one’s penis, scrotum, and testicles; and how fat is stored in the body. After you’ve finished laughing at the mere appearance of the word penis in an article (grow up!), listen up to what research has deemed to be some of the other dangers of too much DHT: your skin heals slower, your prostate gets bigger, your prostate gets cancer, or you develop coronary heart disease.

Too much or too little DHT

DHT might sound awful, but you can’t just suck all the DHT out of your body using little vacuum cleaner nanobots (sorry!). That’s because not enough DHT leads to late or incomplete development of sex organs, changes in fat distribution, and an increased risk of prostate tumors. Too much DHT is bad and so is too little! And if DHT can’t be gotten rid of, then it’s no surprise that half of all men over the age of 50 experience some form of hair loss. That’s around 50 million men in the United States!

DHT & Balding

As Men’s Health explains, scientists discovered that DHT is responsible for balding by testing the amount of DHT in the hairs of balding men ( a consistently high amount of DHT was discovered). Scientists also noticed that decreases in the amount of DHT can slow or even reverse hair loss. For this reason, one treatment for hair loss is using a drug that decreases the presence of 5-AR, preventing testosterone from becoming DHT. This makes far more sense as an approach than attempting to decrease the presence of testosterone since testosterone is necessary for many bodily processes, such as regulating emotions and preserving bone density.

Healthline also highlights the importance of genes when describing the connection between hair loss and testosterone. The sensitivity of hair follicles, which is determined by genetics, plays a significant role in who goes bald. The more baldness in your family the more likely you yourself are to go bald. Additionally, the more sensitive your hair follicles the less DHT it takes to trigger hair loss.

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