If you’ve done any research into male pattern balding, you’ve probably come across DHT. It’s the number one culprit responsible for male pattern hair loss. As such, scientists have studied DHT and its effects on male hair loss for decades, and they’ve found ways to treat hair loss by reducing DHT levels. It’s all very smart, but it can be complex, so we’ve broken it down for you. Here’s everything you need to know about DHT, the mastermind behind male pattern hair loss.
What Is DHT?
DHT is a powerful male sex hormone. It’s responsible for developing the male genitalia during pregnancy, and it comes into play in the bodies of men later in life by helping build and maintain muscle mass, triggering the growth of body hair, and even aiding in the process of deepening the voice during puberty. Essentially, DHT contributes to making men, well, manly.
Don’t be fooled by the hormone’s name. Short for Dihydrotestosterone, DHT is an entirely separate hormone to testosterone. It forms when testosterone is converted by an enzyme called 5α-reductase (read five-alpha reductase). This process occurs in certain tissues such as the skin, follicles, prostate gland, seminal vesicles, epididymides (in the testes), liver and brain. This is all well and good, until the DHT in your scalp and follicles start to interfere with your hair growth.
Does DHT Cause Hair Loss?
In the scalp, DHT binds to receptors on your hair follicles, and causes them to shrink and weaken until eventually, they can’t support a hair. As this happens, you’ll notice thinning of the hair, often first at the hairline and then elsewhere. If left untreated, you’ll likely experience balding along the male pattern.
Not all men will experience this reaction to DHT, because your susceptibility to male pattern hair loss is thanks to the genetic lottery. But, a whopping 66% of guys experience some degree of male pattern hair loss by 35. That’s two-thirds of men losing their hair before they hit 40, all because they were dealt that hand in the genetics department.
DHT causes male pattern hair loss by shortening the hair growth cycle. On a typically healthy head, every hair strand undergoes a growth cycle that lasts about 2 to 6 years. During this cycle, hair first pushes out of a hair follicle, then it grows for a while, and finally, it falls out, after a long and happy life on your head. Your follicles rest for a few months before starting the cycle again.
If you’re genetically predisposed to hair loss, DHT can diminish the hair growth cycle and cause the follicles to deteriorate. This causes your hair to regrow as fragile and thin hairs that fall out sooner than usual. It also increases the resting phase between cycles until, eventually, your follicles grow their last hair and you’re faced with baldness.
How Long Does It Take For DHT To Make You Bald?
It’s reasonable to think that DHT’s interference in the hair growth cycle could make you go bald in a matter of months, but that’s an incorrect assumption.
The effects of DHT on hair growth are often gradual, and it could take years to reach the point of no return and go full Dr Evil. This is good news for us guys who are just starting to shed or still have some strands to work with, because it means the majority of our follicles are not completely desolate and have a good chance of revival with the right treatment.
How To Stop DHT From Causing Hair Loss
When it comes to male pattern hair loss, stopping DHT from affecting your scalp is the key to both preventing it and slowing it down. Because of the way DHT works, dermatologists prescribe DHT blockers to reduce the amount of DHT your body makes, and essentially prevent it from binding to the receptors on your follicles and causing hair loss.
You may have heard about a range of so-called ‘DHT blockers’, but there’s only one FDA-approved DHT blocker for hair loss, and it’s called Finasteride. Finasteride has been on the hair loss treatment scene since 1997. That’s as old as the Harry Potter enterprise to give you an idea. So, it’s been around for a while, and its impact on society has been about on par with the young wizard, albeit in a different way.
Finasteride prevents DHT from reaching your follicles by decreasing the amount of DHT your body makes. It does this by binding to the enzyme responsible for converting DHT from testosterone, 5α-reductase. If the enzyme can’t bind to testosterone, it can’t form DHT, and DHT can’t bind to your hair follicles and slowly kill them.
But what about the side effects? If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that DHT is responsible for a range of male characteristics like your body hair, voice, and muscle mass, so do DHT blockers affect other things?
The short answer is, yes, but rarely, and any side effects of Finasteride are predominantly reversible.
Numerous studies have found that Finasteride is not only effective in hair loss treatment but safe to use as well. As with any drug, Finasteride has a suite of potential side effects, but they are very rare. A study of over 3000 men found that 87% experienced improved hair growth and a mere 0.7% reported adverse side effects.
The side effects included sexual side effects like erectile dysfunction, decreased volume of ejaculate, and decreased libido. Other side effects of Finasteride include depression, anxiety, and decreased use of alcohol (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). It’s important to remember that while any side effects are daunting to think about (especially when it comes to romancing 😉), they’re super rare and largely reversible.
While there are risks to using Finasteride, there may be a range of benefits. Apart from its proven efficiency at treating hair loss, Finasteride has also been shown to help treat and prevent prostate enlargement and prevent prostate cancer.
The good news with any Finasteride side effects is they will most likely wear off if you stop taking it, and because Finasteride for hair loss is cosmetic, you can weigh up the benefits and risks. Should you decide not to take it, your overall health won’t suffer.
You could also consult your doctor about your concerns and use a lower dosage, that may minimise the risks.
DHT is the mastermind behind male pattern balding, but through science, we’ve been able to learn more about it and figure out how to stop it from turning your hair into past tense. Finasteride is a highly effective anti-hair-loss fighter, and it’s been on the scene long enough to garner some serious props. The side effects are rare and reversible, and dosage is customisable. So with pros like that, who wouldn’t give it a try?
The articles published by &BAM are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. If you have any medical questions or concerns, you should contact your doctor.