DHT and Hair Loss
How DHT Ruins Hair and How to Treat It
DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is a hormone associated with balding in both men and women. It plays a significant role in hereditary hair loss or pattern baldness, which is estimated to impact 80% of men at some point in their lives. For women, less than about 45% make it through their lives without being affected by DHT. So how does DHT work, and why does it hate our hair so much? We’ll address this question and many others like it in this comprehensive review of DHT.
DHT’s Origin Story
DHT is a hormone, or androgen, similar to testosterone. While produced primarily in men, this hormone is also found in women. In the body, an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase is needed to transform testosterone into DHT.
Also known as 5α-dihydrotestosterone, or 5α-DHT, this is the primary hormone known to aid development of many male characteristics. However, this hormone is also found in women and is directly linked to hair loss and hereditary balding in both sexes within the X chromosome. Since the male X chromosome comes from the mother’s side of the hereditary line, it is commonly believed that hair loss is inherited from the mother’s side. This, however, is a severe oversimplification of a complex problem involving many other variables.
The AR Gene—Ruining Hair Since the Beginning of Time
In the case of androgenetic alopecia, one is typically born with a specific gene that makes them more prone to hormone-associated hair loss. This gene is called the androgen receptor gene and is often referred to as the AR gene. The gene hates your hair. While all the other genes are (hopefully) playing nice, this is the only known gene to provide the right hereditary coding for androgenic alopecia. Coupling this with your basic guy’s slew of DHT hormones, balding awaits.
DHT’s Evil, Follicle-Shrinking Techniques
Your hair follicles might not be something you’ve thought about greatly before you started to notice some level of hair fall, but these guys are working overtime for you. They’re responsible for the thickness and quality and color and shape of your hair, not to mention its very livelihood.
If there is a DHT buildup in the body, it is common for our follicular friends to shrink in size. They can become so small that the follicles become dormant and hair growth ceases altogether. Many people think that since most cases of hair loss are the result of heredity, there is little to be done to prevent thinning hair. It’s true, if you’ve got the AR gene and you’re a guy or a woman with lots of DHT, left alone your scalp is going into retirement in terms of productivity levels. But before the bags are packed and the flights to Bermuda are booked, it’s possible to get those follicles working again, especially if you start early. But for now, it’s important to focus on understanding a little more about DHT and causes of androgenic alopecia before assigning treatments.
The Equation for Hair Loss
Now, this isn’t the fun kind of math that provides satisfaction at the end. It’s the kind that sucks on all levels. But here it is:
Testosterone + 5-alpha reductase enzyme = DHT
DHT + AR Gene = pattern balding (Androgenetic Alopecia)
To beat hair loss, or reduce it sharply, you’ll need a treatment that can halt this chemical conversion. For this reason, 5-alpha reductase enzyme inhibitors are a popular way to slow hair loss and reverse balding for both men and women. But it’s not the only way. If you have pattern baldness, accept this equation, and only look at treatments that literally find a way to unbalance it.
Treatments for DHT-Related Hair Loss
Let’s talk more about disrupting that no-so-pretty little math equation above. The treatments listed below are the ones that do just that, by some means or another. These can be mixed and matched (sometimes) to good effect.
As you review these, keep in mind that choosing a treatment is personal—it has to fit your lifestyle in order for it to work. So if you’re not going to be able to deal with the side affects of the pharmaceutical options, don’t try them. If you have no ability to work towards long-term goals, maybe the holistic essential oils we’ve listed aren’t going to help you.
That said, pick something, fast. The quicker you get started, the more chance you have of restoring your follicular health before they are minimized beyond repair and specifically, beyond growing hair.
This popular FDA-approved hair loss medication works in a different way from Minoxidil. Known in the scientific world as a “5-alpha reductase type 2 inhibitor,” Finasteride is in a class of medications known as anti-androgens. As you can probably guess, this simply means that the drug works to inhibit androgens like DHT.
Acting as a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor, studies suggest that the inhibitory results may be due to Finasteride’s ability to block the conversion of testosterone into DHT. For this reason, Finasteride is also often included under the category of “DHT Blocker.”
Propecia is the going brand name for this FDA-approved medication for hair loss. It is most commonly prescribed in 1mg-5mg doses. Finasteride is not without its list of common side effects, including chills, dizziness, faintness, weight gain, itchy skin, and even breast problems.
Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
Designed to address all of the causes of hair loss without the use of any additional medications, Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT has been shown through numerous clinical trials to strike at the root of hair loss. This has proven true whether the experience of hair loss is due to genetics, surgery, illness, iron deficiency (anemia), thyroid disease, malnutrition, and medications.
LLLT works in a few ways:
- Inhibits 5-alpha reductase
Laser treatment inhibits the production of 5-alpha reductase (the enzyme
responsible for converting testosterone into DHT) .This in turn slows and
eventually halts the loss of hair due to DHT.
- Activates shock proteins
specific shock protein known as HSP27 is utilized. The LLLT technology
works to activate this specific shock protein and others, allowing them to
boost hair follicle stem cell growth.
Essentially, this process encourages hair re-growth at the innermost layer
of the cell, the outer root of each sheath, and within the top layer of skin
(at the epidermis cells where a structural protein called keratin is
- Boosts oxygen delivery
Laser therapy boosts oxygenation to every cell of the scalp. When the
low-level infrared lights interact with your scalp, the laser separates two
key factors of the hair loss equation: nitric oxide (NO) and an enzyme
known as cytochrome c oxidase (CCO).
These elements then bind together, moving oxygen on a cellular level and
lowering cellular respiration. As a result, more life-giving oxygen is
delivered to hair follicles along with essential nutrients for new hair growth.
- Increases blood flow
As the cells of your scalp begin to receive more oxygen, the small
capillaries of your scalp are finally allowed to “breathe”. Nitric oxide acts
as a vasodilator, helping to widen the tiny blood vessels. Old blockages
are released and the flow of blood increases even as the delivery of
oxygen is improved.
This process is often referred to as vasodilation and, as you might imagine,
it is vital to the growth of new hair and considered a foundational
requirement for sustainably healthy hair.
- Causes acute inflammation (in a good way)
Inflammation is a natural response of your immune system and can be
used to encourage hair regrowth. While too much inflammation can
actually contribute to hair loss, smaller “doses” can be significantly
beneficial to the hair growth process.
The focused effect of red light on the scalp helps to instigate this helpful
form of inflammation, this aiding in the growth of new hair without
becoming uncomfortable or resulting in any negative side effects.
Holistic Treatments for DHT-Related Hair Loss
Most of our medicines are based on properties found in herbs already existing on our planet, so why not go straight to the originals for answers? While our society is understandably suspicious of anything that gets called “ancient wisdom” so frequently, the fact is that the chemical makeup of these plants are effective against hair loss, and the science is there to prove it. Just for the short list, supplements like biotin help the strength and thickness of hair and studies have proven that essential oils such as lavender oil, peppermint oil, and rosemary oil effectively stimulate growth by repairing and stimulating the follicle and often show results within three to six months.
Lifestyle choices such as a nutrient-poor diet, lack of sleep, piling on stress, and failure to exercise have negative effects on your hair, however small those effects may be in comparison to the havoc that DHT and the AR gene are responsible for. The point is to consider the whole body.
The holistic approach works to stimulate the follicle and restore scalp health often through LLLT and essential oils, flood in healthy nutrients and block DHT whether through supplements, essential oils, or even medications and increase blood flow to the scalp through all of these means in addition to possibly massage or needling. Holistic hair health gets you fixing the problem while also improving other aspects of your life. It requires a certain dedication however so if you’re one for the quick fixes, this might not be your game.
Turn a losing battle into a challenge
Getting informed empowers us to meet the challenge of fighting hair loss in a smart, scientific way. Using actual facts is the only way worth fighting this type of problem. We can’t use our cunning, charm, or strength to fight hair loss. So let’s all turn our anger and frustration about genetic hair loss in the right direction and hate on DHT together. The solutions are there, it’s just a matter of finding the treatments that disrupts the problem and sticking with it.
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