What is DHT and how does it cause hair fall?
What is DHT?
A receding hairline and thinning crown can induce stress in just about everyone. And it often leaves us scouting for answers about what is causing this? Is this stress, diet (When was the last time you ate lauki?), lifestyle (money heist binges and FIFA nights no more!) or genetics? Unfortunately the more you look the more confused you get, let us try and save you some surfing time and some wifi usage (it is keeping us going during quarantine).
Here’s the deal, Male Pattern Baldness or Androgenic Alopecia is primarily caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male steroid hormone or androgen (however it is present in females too in less percentage). For those who are genetically susceptible the effect can start as early as our late teens (yes! MPB has nothing to do with age!), although it may not be apparent until much later. The impact starts with shortening of the hair life cycles and gradually follicles start to shrink over time as the DHT binds to the hair follicles and stops them from being able to absorb the nutrients (this is why we try to fix your absorption) they need to create and grow hair.
This is what DHT does to hair. The point is though DHT is responsible for those defining male characteristics including hair, it is also responsible for males losing their hair quicker. Although women can also suffer from hair loss of this type, it is less common among them.
Okay, but what does testosterone have to do with my hair?
DHT or dihydrotestosterone is an androgen produced as a by-product of testosterone (like tiredness in the morning is a byproduct of midnight binges). Not only that, it is also responsible for the formation of male genitalia during pregnancy.
What is DHT hormone?
DHT is produced as a byproduct of testosterone through the 5α-Reductase enzyme -- an enzyme that converts a certain percentage of your testosterone into DHT in tissue such as the skin, liver, prostate and hair follicles.
What is DHT in hair ?
If you have the genetic component for MPB (if you received it as a gift to your parents, yes not all of us are lucky enough to get iPhones), DHT can bind to receptors in your hair follicles (cling to them, as we cling to snacks in the quarantine) then cause them to weaken, shrink and eventually die - which makes your hair fall. This process is called “miniaturization” (another word for your quarantine scrabble).
This is why most MPB or Androgenic Alopecia treatments use DHT Blockers or solutions like minoxidil which allow more blood flow to your follicles so they can receive nutrients and grow hair.
So what causes DHT to increase ?
The DHT in the body depends on the testosterone levels. When the testosterone level increases, more of it is converted to dihydrotestosterone and the corresponding DHT levels also increase.
What Does DHT Do?
What is DHT hair loss ?
Hair has a growth cycle of 2 -6 years. During this period the hair grows back even if you cut the follicle. There comes a resting phase at the end of the cycle after which the hair falls out, only to be replaced by new hair. If your body has a high level of DHT, the duration of the cycle is further reduced and the hair follicles are shortened. This leads to a loss in quality of the hair, it becomes weak & brittle and the life is curtailed. This makes the hair fall out faster.
The presence of DHT also makes it more difficult for new hair to grow once old hair falls out. Another factor that makes a difference is the type of androgen receptor gene you have. If the particular variant of your androgen receptor makes it easy for the DHT to attach itself to them, then you have a greater possibility of experiencing hair loss.
There are also many advantages of DHT. DHT helps maintain the muscle mass in the body and ensures sexual health. The lack of DHT in men could be responsible for
- Slow or late development of sexual organs
- Breast enlargement in men because of changes in distribution of body fat
- Increased risk of prostrate tumours, enlarged prostrate and prostrate cancer
- Coronary heart disease
DHT vs. Testosterone
Testosterone is one of the most crucial androgens present in the human body and is responsible for a number of vital functions. This includes:
- Controlling the hormone levels in the body
- Sperm production
- Maintaining bone density and muscle mass
- Distributing fat throughout the body
- Balancing mood and emotions
DHT plays the same functions as testosterone but it is believed to be more at least 5 times more potent. It is used by the body mainly in the prostrate, skin and hair follicles. It is an offshoot of testosterone and is made from it by an enzyme present in the prostrate, skin, liver and other areas of the body, called 5-alpha-reductase.
Does Masturbating Cause an Increase in DHT Production and Thus Hair Loss?
So does this mean masturbating causes an increase in DHT production and thus hair loss?
NO! There is no evidence (and believe us, we looked - what with all the time on our hands right now) and nothing suggests that masturbation can increase hair loss. It is a healthy habit and you should do it however, you please.
Despite many theories to that effect there is no scientific evidence to suggest that masturbation causes an increase in DHT production and consequent hair fall. This is mainly due to the popular opinion that masturbating leads to a release of hormones including DHT. Studies have totally contradicted the claim that masturbation has any effect on DHT or other hormones.
A study that compared the testosterone levels of a group of men indulging in frequent sexual activity with another group that did not participate in any sexual activity at all showed no difference in the testosterone levels between the two. And since, DHT is a metabolite of testosterone, it follows that sexual activity has little or no impact on DHT levels.
How to Reduce DHT
DHT has been the single greatest enemy responsible for triggering hair loss and that has bought many different medicines into the market to counter its negative effects. These medicines are used to inhibit DHT production and its tendency to cling on to receptors. There are 2 main varieties:
- Blockers: These prevent DHT from attaching itself to 5-AR receptors and that also includes the ones present in the hair that reduces the growth of follicles.
- Inhibitors: These help decrease the production of DHT.
- Finasteride: Finasteride which is an oral, prescription-only medication has achieved great success as a blocker. This has very few side-effects and binds itself to 5-AR receptors to stop DHT from attaching itself to them.
- Minoxidil: This helps widen the blood vessels by relaxing the muscle cells within the walls, particularly the large veins, large arteries and smaller arterioles. This facilitates an increase in the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients and keeps the body running normally.
- Biotin: This is also known as vitamin H and helps convert some of the food that we consume into energy that can be used by the body. Biotin also increases the keratin levels in the body which is used in hair and found in eggs and nuts; they can also be taken as oral supplements. Biotin helps in the regrowth of hair and also strengthens existing hair.
- Pumpkin seed oil: This has been fairly useful as a DHT blocker and no side-effects were detected in users.
- Vitamins B-12 and B-6: Apart from being very important for your general health, one of the potential benefits of these vitamins is stronger and thicker hair.
You can also incorporate a number of foods into your diet to reduce the DHT levels in your body including watermelons, carrots, mangoes, tomatoes, white mushroom and spinach among other things.
Should I Use a DHT Blocker to Stop My Hair Fall?
The issue with DHT is that while excess levels are harmful for the hair and cause hair loss it is also essential for the some important body functions. DHT plays an important part in puberty and helps in preserving characteristics typical of the male species like facial hair, muscles and deep voice. As we grow older they also help in enhancing sexual fertility. Lack of DHT, on the other hand, may delay the development of sexual organs and increased risk of prostrate tumours. The normal required levels of the DHT hormone can be restored with DHT blockers. This helps slow down hair loss or stops further hair loss. They are widely recognised as the most efficient way to control hair loss.
Also Read : How To Reduce Dht Level In Scalp Naturally
Side Effects of DHT Blockers
Like with other medicines even DHT blockers have been known to produce unwanted side-effects. While at times the potential benefits might significantly outweigh the complications, on other occasions it could be the other way round. This situation presents a bit of a problem for the affected party and needs to be taken ahead with expert medical advice.
- Erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or taking too long to ejaculate.
- Excess collection of fat around the breast area
- Darkening and thickening of upper body hair
- Salt and water retention resulting in cardiac failure
Does this mean I should use a DHT Blocker to stop my hair fall?
Well, tune in to read about that. We can’t give away all our Traya Gyan at once!
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Dr. Jaspreet Sarna, M.D
Dr. Sarna is an MD (Skin & VD) with a decade-long experience in treating hair loss and working on hair regrowth. She believes stress management is the key to good health.