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DHT: Why This Hormone Is Wreaking Havoc On Your Hair Follicles

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is an androgen, a type of hormonal steroid, often painted as the arch-villain in the tale of hair loss. This potent derivative of testosterone plays several key roles in male development. However, when it comes to hair follicles, DHT seems to be more foe than friend. Here, we will dive into what DHT is, its effects on hair follicles, and what can be done to mitigate its more unwelcome impacts.

What is DHT?

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a hormone created from testosterone by the action of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. It is significantly more powerful than its precursor, testosterone. This transformation occurs in various tissues, including the prostate, skin, and hair follicles.

The biochemical pathway from testosterone to DHT:

Testosterone → 5-alpha reductase enzyme → DHT

The 5-alpha reductase enzyme can be thought of as a facilitator, converting the relatively benign testosterone into the more potent DHT.

DHT’s Role in the Body

In males, DHT is essential for the development of characteristic male traits during puberty. These include body hair growth, deepening of the voice, and increased muscle mass. It plays a role in the health of the prostate and supports the libido.

A balance of hormone levels is crucial; too much or too little can lead to issues, which brings us to the topic of hair.

Understanding Hair Follicles

Hair follicles are the tiny pores from which hair grows. They are responsible for the generation of new hair strands and go through a cycle comprising three phases:

  • Anagen phase: The growth phase.
  • Catagen phase: The transition phase where growth stops.
  • Telogen phase: The resting phase before the hair falls out.

Hormones, including DHT, interact with hair follicles, affecting this growth cycle.

The Impact of DHT on Hair

DHT binds to androgen receptors on hair follicles. In individuals with a genetic predisposition, this binding can cause miniaturization, a process where the anagen phase is progressively shortened. Over time, the hair follicle shrinks and produces thinner, shorter hairs until, eventually, it ceases to produce hair at all. This process is at the heart of androgenetic alopecia or common hair loss patterns in men and women.

Typically, hair loss starts at the temples and crown for men, progressing to partial or complete baldness. In women, it usually presents as a widening of the part or overall thinning without a receding hairline. Genetics play a significant role in DHT sensitivity—those with family history of hair loss are more likely to experience it themselves.

Diagnosis often involves examining the pattern of hair loss and may sometimes require a doctor’s evaluation, as other conditions can cause hair loss too.

Combating DHT’s Effects

Pharmaceutical options:

  • Finasteride and Dutasteride: Medications that inhibit the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, thus reducing DHT production.

Topical treatments:

  • Minoxidil: Applied directly to the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
  • DHT blocker shampoos: Aim to reduce DHT levels on the scalp.

Lifestyle changes and natural remedies:

  • Diet modification, stress management, and the use of certain supplements are among the holistic approaches adopted to manage DHT levels.

Recent studies continue to explore further potential treatments for DHT-induced hair loss.

Prevention and Maintenance

Regular scalp care, maintaining hormonal balance, and leading a healthy lifestyle can help in preserving hair health. Understanding one’s genetic predisposition and monitoring changes in hair patterns can allow for early intervention, which is often key in preventing further loss.


Understanding DHT’s significant role in hair health is crucial. While it performs vital functions in male development, its impact on hair follicles can be challenging. A balanced approach combining clinical treatment with lifestyle modifications offers the best chances for those looking to manage DHT’s impact on hair loss. Always seek professional advice before starting any treatment, as a tailored approach is often necessary.