DHT and Hair Loss
What is DHT?
DHT stands for dihydrotestosterone and it is a sex steroid, meaning it is produced in the gonads. DHT is considered an androgen hormone, which means it influences biological characteristics that exemplify males - deep voices, hair chests, and increased muscle mass.
When DHT levels are balanced, they positively influence health. During fetal development for example, DHT plays a vital role in the development of the penis and prostate. However, when men reach adulthood, high levels of DHT can wreck havoc, especially relating to hair loss.
How is DHT Produced?
To produce DHT, certain enzymes in the body must convert free testosterone into DHT. Around 5% of free testosterone levels are converted into DHT for the average adult male, although this can vary widely between different men. As an androgen, DHT is five times more potent than testosterone. It attaches itself to the same sites as testosterone, but DHT can bind to these sites easier and remain bound for longer periods of time.
The enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into DHT is known as 5a-alpha-reductase, or 5-AR. During this process, 5-AR reduces the 4,5 double-bond of testosterone, which creates DHT.
DHT & Hair Loss
Research has shown that DHT is the direct cause of hair loss in upwards of 90% of men suffering from male pattern baldness. Through an unknown mechanism, DHT inhibits and reduces proper growth oh hair in a process known as "miniaturization."
Miniaturization is the steady decline of the length and width of hair follicles. As DHT inhibits proper growth, hair follicles became weaker, causing thinner, shorter hair follicles to grow. Eventually, hair stops growing all together leading to a bald spot.
DHT also attaches itself to the receptor cells of hair follicles known as the dermal papilla (roots). By attaching itself to the root, DHT effectively blocks nutrients from being absorbed by hair follicles, further inhibiting their growth. This decreases the "anagen" (growth) phase of hair follicles and increases the length of the "telogen" (resting) phase.
Does DHT Cause Female Hair Loss?
We are certain that DHT is the main cause of hair loss in men, but the same cannot be said regarding hair loss in women. DHT may be one of the causes of female hair loss, but hair loss experts agree there are likely several different possible causes for female hair loss, while it remains the primary cause of nearly all cases of male hair loss.
Solutions for Hair Loss
The good news for those suffering from hair loss is that there are treatments out there to lower DHT levels. Minoxidil (Rogaine) is approved for over-the-counter use and is commonly used to treat male pattern baldness. Another drug, finasteride (Propecia) comes in pill form and is only available to men with a prescription.
A variety of herbal supplements may also be able to inhibit the production of DHT. Saw palmetto and primrose oil are two common herbal supplements used to limit DHT production and to reverse the effects of hair loss.