People will give you a whole range of reasons for why men lose their hair, from excessive hat wearing to masturbation – and the vast majority of explanations are wrong.
And if you want to understand the science of hair loss, a good place to start is with the molecule called DHT.
You’ve probably heard before that genes play a big role in male pattern baldness – and they do. But if genes are the architects of hair loss, then DHT is the construction worker. Sounds credible, right? But what does that even mean?
We feel like we could write a whole book on DHT – otherwise known as Dihydrotestosterone – but for this article we’d like to keep it simple. Our aim here is to give you the core knowledge about DHT and what you can do to stop it from making you bald.
DHT is a male steroid hormone which your body synthesises from another molecule that you’ve probably heard of – testosterone. Both DHT and testosterone belong to a class of hormones known as androgens. DHT is produced through the action of an enzyme called 5a-reductase, which converts a certain percentage of your testosterone into DHT in places like your liver, prostate and skin.
DHT causes hair loss by binding to receptors located in your hair follicles, causing them to weaken, shrink and eventually die. Here’s the thing – the extent to which DHT binds to receptors in hair follicles depends on your genetic predisposition to hair loss. Medical professionals call the process which follicles undergo in the presence of DHT ‘miniaturisation’. The DHT-affected hair follicles will eventually stop growing new hairs, which causes the all-too-common thinning crowns and receding hairlines.
But once again, the speed and extent of this process depends at least in part on your genetics.
Ironically, DHT appears to stimulate hair growth in other areas of the male body. Hence why it’s possible to be bald or thinning on your head while simultaneously being a rather hairy fellow.
Stopping DHT at the source is one of the most effective ways to stop hair loss. There is a medically approved and clinically proven drug called Finasteride which blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT. It does this by binding to the 5a-reductase enzyme we mentioned earlier, rendering it incapable of producing DHT. Think of finasteride as a shield that keeps stops DHT from being produced, protecting those precious hair follicles.
Not many people know this, but Finasteride was actually developed as a treatment for prostate enlargement. However, during medical studies researchers were surprised to find that the patients actually started growing more hair. Before long, the drug was being prescribed as a hair loss treatment under the brand name Propecia.
Even if you are experiencing hair loss, many people don’t want to start using medicinal treatments in order to reduce DHT levels in hair follicles. This is completely understandable, and you should always feel comfortable with the treatment that you undertake.
Natural solutions for hair loss do exist, although it’s worth pointing out that many of these have not been scientifically tested in a rigorous way, so there’s no guarantee that these will effectively treat the hair loss that you are experiencing.
Generally speaking, Minoxidil and Finasteride are considered to be the most effective treatments for hair loss, as these have both been scientifically proven to prevent hair loss and even re-grow hair in many cases.
That said, you may want to try some of the more ‘natural’ ways of reducing DHT mentioned below.
Some companies promote DHT-blocking shampoos which claim to help prevent the DHT binding to your hair follicles. There isn’t a lot of evidence for the effectiveness of these shampoos or their active ingredients – even though this would make it a more ‘natural’ solution for re-growing hair. That doesn’t mean they don’t work – only that further studies are needed. We always recommend that men start with the treatments that have been proven through rigorous scientific studies: Minoxidil and Finasteride. We think of DHT-blocking shampoos as a nice add-on that you can try if you want to feel like you’re doing everything you can to keep your hair.
Obviously, genetics and DHT only tell part of the story. Lifestyle factors such as stress and diet can have a significant effect on your hair. In addition to a balanced diet, we recommend taking a daily vitamin supplement to ensure that your hair follicles get all the support they need. Just remember that these interventions aren’t likely to be as effective as medical treatments if your hair loss is caused by genetic predisposition and DHT.
When looking in the mirror, it can be very upsetting to see your hair start to thin out and your hairline recede. Fortunately for us there are scientifically-proven treatments available that can slow down hair loss and can even regrow hair. What’s important to remember is that there is no magic cure for baldness. So your best bet is to take action now and prevent hair loss from happening in the first place. The sooner you take action and get treatment the more hair you are likely to keep!
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.