Most men suffer from hair loss, sometimes as early as in their 20s and sometimes as late as 60. But in 9/10 cases this hair loss happens due to hereditary reasons which people call genetic hair fall and think nothing can be done about it. Well, it's true that this hair fall is genetic, but how exactly is it genetic? It's caused by a spike in a hormone called DHT or dihydrotestosterone. Find out how exactly DHT is linked to genetic hair fall in this blog.
What Is DHT?
Many people assume DHT to be a very complicated hormone. But in reality, the role DHT plays is very simple. DHT or Dihydrotestosterone is a hormone more in men and less in women. It is particularly a sex hormone and falls under androgens. It’s basically like a younger brother of testosterone, which means testosterone and DHT hormone have more or less the same responsibilities. It is mainly involved in bringing out male characteristics like muscular strength, a hoarse masculine voice, and hair growth like beard. And, as you get older, DHT and testosterone take up more responsibilities like maintaining muscle mass and promoting sexual health and even taking care of fertility. As mentioned earlier testosterone and DHT hormone are like brothers. Testosterone gets converted to DHT during conversion, this is done with the help of the enzyme 5 alpha reductase.
DHT And Hair Loss
According to dermatologists, a spike in DHT levels has a reversal effect on scalp hair and beard hair. When DHT levels rise in the body, they increase beard hair growth but as for hair on the scalp, they begin to thin and fall off. Now you might be wondering how DHT increases in the body. Well, Genetics. If anyone in your family has hair loss, then you should know that your hair fall is hereditary and may fall off due to DHT. So basically, when you have a genetic sensitivity to DHT or in scientific terms a genetic predisposition to DHT when DHT hormone levels in the body rise. This DHT goes and attaches to the receptors on and around the hair follicles and hair cells. The binding of this excess hormone causes hair to shrink, as in, the diameter of the follicle reduces and hair gets thinner. So with every new natural hair growth cycle, the hair gets thinner and thinner and begins to fall. This is why men notice their hair thinning and balding at the temples or forehead. This is called a receding hairline and this type of hair loss caused by DHT is known as Male Pattern Hair loss.
Now, if this hair fall goes unnoticed, it ends up creating bald patches on the crown or the top of the head and eventually leads to balding in Stages. The most advanced being Stage 7 of Male Pattern Hair loss. During Stages 1-4 or even Stage 5 for some people, this hair fall is reversible with the right diagnosis but once you hit the latter stages, you might have to then turn to a hair transplant.
Hair Fall In Stages Caused By DHT
Stage 1: In men, the initial 2 stages are considered to be very mild where hair starts to become weaker with every hair cycle and stops growing at the temples also called a receding hairline. This could start anywhere from teenage to early adulthood and the trigger factors for the same are listed in this blog.
Stage 2: At this stage, the receding hairline gets extended further back to form an M-shaped hairline. This is observed towards mid-adulthood in the life of a man i.e. between the ages of 25 to 32.
Stage 3: This is the stage wherein hair thinning gets more visible not at the frontal hairline anymore but now at the crown area of the head which is called the top portion of the hair. Along with this stage, the receding hairline still keeps progressing.
Stage 4: It is between Stages 3 and 4 that balding can be easily diagnosed. This is the spot where now the shape of the remaining hair on the head begins to look like a ‘U’ and the hair thinning at the crown has reached its max.
Stage 5: From this stage onwards is when it gets difficult to regrow hair with the help of hair treatment. This is because the amount of actively growing hair follicles begins to reduce to 30% and goes on reducing as the stages progress. The advanced stage is when the follicles if not taken care of properly start sealing and closing completely. This stage is when balding becomes very advanced and is very visible as a horse-shoe pattern.
Stage 6: A fine thin strip is what is visible at the back of the head indicating an advanced form of hair fall. The number of sealed follicles now overtakes the number of actively growing follicles.
Stage 7: The 7th is the most advanced and severe stage of hair fall with very fine hair strands. This forms a horse-shoe pattern of hair which was earlier visible in stage 5 and then becomes severe at the 7th stage.
Factors That Aggravate DHT And Hair Loss
- Lack Of Sleep: The Circadian cycle also called the sleep-wake cycle plays an important role in hair health. This is why sleep is of utmost importance when it comes to literally any organ activity. Irregular sleeping patterns also aggravate stress and cause hair thinning. A hormone called melatonin is released during sleep which is also essential for the smooth functioning of the hair cycle. This also works against DHT - the main hormone responsible for hair fall which causes DHT to unbind from the hair follicle receptors. Lastly, if melatonin is not produced in equal amounts due to not getting proper 8 hours of sleep, this can hamper the cycle and cause hair thinning in men.
- Low Energy Levels: The body's ability to convert the food we eat to energy is what determines how much or how less energy we have. This is called metabolism. A good metabolism is required for the body to break down nutrients from food and supply it through the blood to the follicles. If the metabolism is slow that means most of the body's energy is being utilized to break down nutrients and supply it to other parts of the body other than hair. This is when hair gets neglected and causes DHT to carry out its regular activity of causing hair thinning in men.
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Hair needs food too. Biotin, iron, zinc, etc as in all macro and micronutrients are required by the hair for it to grow in an ideal manner. This means that when any of these nutrients fall short in the body, it aggravates the hormone DHT and the excess of it has a negative effect on the hair strands and reflects as hair thinning along with looking dull, and lifeless.
Treatment To Fight Against DHT Hair Loss
Thankfully, there are a number of dermatological drugs that are clinically tested to act on DHT. These drugs or natural ingredients could be available in the form of a serum, foam booster, spray, or even tablets. These include the following:
This is an FDA-approved drug to treat male pattern hair loss or DHT-related hair loss. This is known as a stimulator, which means it stimulates or promotes hair growth. Here’s how it reverses DHT’s effect. MInoxidil, once applied, penetrates into the scalp and carries out a vasodilating effect by which it increases the diameter of the blood vessels and promotes nutrient-rich blood flow to the scalp. This increases the diameter of the hair follicles giving stronger and thicker hair growth. It is a topical medication which means it has to be applied and not consumed. It is also available as an OTC (over-the-counter) medication in concentrations of 2% or 5%. However, the stronger dose is given only to men and not women.
Sometimes, people who are prescribed minoxidil stop after a few initial months of application because they notice hair shedding. But this is how minoxidil works. The hair goes through a natural growth cycle where it eventually falls off. So, minoxidil works by speeding up the shedding phase of the weak hair that was already about to fall off naturally and replacing them with new and thicker hair growth and increasing the growth phase of the cycle. By doing so, the old ones fall off and the new stronger ones are on the head for a longer time.
Finasteride is now a DHT-blocker. It is available as a topical medication and in the form of tablets. It works by blocking the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase that converts testosterone to DHT. This in turn reverses the shrinking of hair follicles caused by the hormone DHT. Finasteride is also an FDA-approved medication to treat male pattern hair loss or hair loss caused due to the effect of the DHT hormone. Here, it is important to note the side effect of consuming the finasteride tablets, which can cause erectile dysfunction and decreased sex drive. On the other hand, the topical form is completely safe to use.
Capixyl is another drug to inhibit the functioning of excess DHT hormone on the hair follicles. Specifically, it works on hair quality and renews the ECM or extracellular matrix of those attached to the hair cells. This helps to renew hair cells and proteins involved in ideal hair growth and helps in overall hair damage reduction.
Procapil is another drug similar to minoxidil in its vasodilating effect. It stimulates hair growth by supplying nutrient-rich blood flow to the follicles for stronger hair growth. It reverses DHT hair loss by making thin hair strands thicker.
Natural DHT Blockers
DHT blockers that are in the form of food also help significantly to treat hair fall in males caused due to DHT is also known as male pattern hair loss or Androgenic Alopecia. Pumpkin seeds are the biggest and major ingredient to block DHT. It contains phytosterols that block enzyme 5 alpha-reductase and prevents the conversion to DHT. The second is Green tea leaves, which contain EGCG that protects hair follicles and prevents the death of hair cells caused due to DHT's miniaturization of hair follicles. Next, pygeum seeds have DHT-suppressing abilities and help follicles stay thick and healthy. Lastly, amla has powerful antioxidant properties - quercetin, that prevents DHT production by blocking the converting enzyme which is 5 alpha-reductase.
After all, this said, it is important to remember that in the ideal state DHT is a good hormone, so it can never be completely removed from the body. Just the levels of the hormone have to be balanced. Since it is the main factor responsible for male pattern hair loss or genetic hair loss, it should be treated by either of the above medications. However, it’s always best to diagnose yourself properly first before starting your own medication. Do consult a dermatologist or take Traya’s free hair test.
Q1 - What happens if DHT is high in males?
Ans - When DHT rises in males, it affects the hair follicles by attacking/binding to the receptors present near the hair cells. This makes hair cells weaker by shrinking the diameter of the follicles causing hair thinning.
Q2 - Can hair loss due to DHT grow back?
Ans - Hair loss due to DHT occurs gradually. This is why male pattern hair loss has stages of 7. Hair loss in the earlier stages between 1-4 can easily grow back with proper diagnosis and the right treatment. However, the more advanced cases need to undergo heavy treatments like a hair transplant.
Q3 - How can men reduce DHT?
Ans - Depending on their stage, most men can use minoxidil, an FDA-approved treatment to tackle the effect or damage done by DHT on the hair follicles. But along with that, they need to live a healthier lifestyle and a balanced diet that is rich in natural DHT blockers like pumpkin seeds.
Q4 - Does DHT cause hair loss in men?
Ans - In an ideal state, DHT is good for the body. But excess DHT definitely causes hair loss in men. DHT is one of the main factors that cause hair loss in men which most people refer to as genetic hair loss due to a genetic predisposition to the hormone DHT. Excess of this hormone attacks the hair follicles and makes them weaker and thinner in every hair growth cycle.