DHT Explained: What is DHT and Does It Cause Hair Loss?

DHT Explained: What is DHT and Does It Cause Hair Loss?

Table of Contents

We know that hormones play a huge role in maintaining bodily functions, and that also happens to include your hair growth cycle.  But as it turns out, there’s one type of male hormone connected with hair loss that not many have heard about. And no, it’s not testosterone—or at least, not exactly. We’re talking about DHT.

What is DHT?

If you’ve been researching ways to get ahead of impending hair loss, then you may have come across questions and discussions on how testosterone can be a mane villain. While one could argue this isn’t entirely false, it’s also not the full story. 

See, the hair loss effect that some may blame testosterone for is actually caused by DHT or dihydrotestosterone. It’s a type of male sex hormone that’s created when testosterone gets together and reacts with a specific enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. This process—which occurs in your prostate, skin, and liver—is important, as the androgen DHT is also responsible for the development of your manly features and male characteristics even before you’re born. 

In particular, DHT is a key player during puberty and is in charge of some of the many changes your body goes through during this period. Think facial and body hair, bone structure and muscle growth, voice changes, and sexual development. As you become an adult, DHT’s role changes and shifts to helping you maintain your sexual health and functions.

How Does DHT Work?

The amount of DHT converted by your glands depends on how much testosterone you have. This means that although girls also have testosterone, the DHT level in their bodies is not significant enough to play a vital role in their physiological development. 

In guys, however, about 10 percent of testosterone is converted to DHT. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you take into account the fact that DHT is considered the most potent of all androgens (even more powerful than testosterone itself), it makes sense as to why its effects on the body are so significant and noticeable.

As you get older and your body fully develops, DHT production declines, but certain factors like smoking, stress, medication, and health conditions can cause your testosterone levels to fluctuate. This hormone imbalance can lead to a spike in DHT production that can affect your overall health, particularly your heart, prostate, and yes, your hair growth. It becomes even more of a problem if you happen to be a gene-carrying member of the male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia) club.

How Does DHT Cause Hair Loss?

There are four phases to the hair growth cycle that begins with the follicle producing a strand and growing it to its full length. This is known as the anagen phase. Hair stays in this growth period for years before it slows down and gradually detaches from the follicles during a two-week period known as the catagen or transition phase. Despite being released from the follicles, hair doesn’t fall off during the catagen phase. Instead, they enter the telogen or resting phase when hair growth is completely halted while your follicles begin the process of producing new hair. After a few months of “rest,” the cycle finally reaches its end during the exogen phase, and hair starts shedding before eventually being replaced by new strands.

Hair loss occurs when you lose more hair faster than you can grow it back. In the case of DHT hair loss, it’s due to a condition called follicular miniaturization, or the shrinking of hair follicles.

Once produced, DHT travels through your bloodstream, looking for androgen receptors to attach to so it can begin its job of regulating your hair growth and sexual function. The bad news is that high levels of DHT lingering in your body can shrink hair follicles and shorten the growth cycle of your hair. As a result, hair falls out faster, grows slower, and appears thinner and weaker. Over time, this can lead to a receding hairline and a thinning crown.

For guys who are more susceptible to male pattern hair loss, the genetic variations in their androgen receptors—millions of which are located around your head—can make the tell-tale signs of hair loss more pronounced. 
In women, DHT’s effects on female pattern hair loss can look vastly different from that of men’s, owing to the fact that girls produce much lesser amounts of testosterone and DHT.

How to Prevent DHT Hair Loss

While it may seem like there’s just no getting around DHT hair loss, the condition isn’t actually as hopeless as it sounds. In fact, there are effective steps you can take to prevent DHT from wreaking havoc in your hair follicles. 

One way to do that is by using DHT blockers and inhibitors, which prevent DHT from binding to androgen receptors and slow down your body’s conversion of DHT, respectively. Finasteride, a prescription-only medication, is one of these. However, it also comes with a long list of side effects.

The good news is, there are gentler and safer ways to stem DHT’s damage on your hair, starting with the right hair care products and ingredients. Although current studies are still limited, ingredients like saw palmetto extract, green tea, and pumpkin seed oil have been found by researchers to have DHT-blocking capabilities.

Fight Hair Loss With Clutch

DHT-related hair loss doesn’t have to spell the end of your good hair days. Clutch Thick AF Hair Density Serum is a natural hair growth serum packed with nothing but the cleanest and most effective ingredients to give your hair the ultimate root-to-tip nourishment—everything you need to stop DHT-related hair loss on its tracks without the unsexy side effects of medications.