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DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is the most common cause of hair loss in men. DHT causes our hair follicles to shrink, weaken, and ultimately stop producing hair. Finasteride is the only clinically-proven DHT-reducing treatment, reducing the DHT in your system by as much as 60%.
There are many possible causes of hair loss. Stress, autoimmune illnesses, and vitamin deficiency can all cause your hair to thin. However, there’s one thing responsible for over 90% of hair loss cases in men — dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT is a perfectly natural substance that’s produced from testosterone, the more well-known male hormone. The trouble is that, as you age, it tends to cause your hair follicles to weaken, shrink, and ultimately stop producing hair altogether.
So, what can you do about this hormone? Here, we look at 6 ways to reduce DHT, introducing you to Finasteride, the only proven method to reduce DHT. We’ll also explore some possible natural remedies, too. But first…
What Does DHT Do?
DHT is the primary cause of male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, the condition that causes 85% of men at 50 to lose their hair. But what is this hormone? And why does it affect your hair growth?
What’s important to know is that DHT is perfectly natural. It’s produced by your body during the process in which you break down testosterone, the famous ‘male’ hormone. DHT is a more powerful male hormone (or androgen) than testosterone and, as a result, it plays a vital role in giving you male characteristics during puberty, such as:
- A deep voice
- Facial and body hair
- Male genitals
- Increased muscle mass
However, once DHT has been produced, it circulates in your bloodstream and ends up in places like your hair follicles. And, over time, this is when problems can start.
How DHT Affects Your Hair
In most men, your hair follicles are sensitive to DHT. And when the hormone accumulates close to these hair-producing capsules in your scalp, they can often no longer do their job. In practical terms, DHT impacts your process of hair growth in two ways:
- Miniaturisation. In the presence of DHT, your hair follicles slowly shrink, weaken, and ultimately stop producing hair. This process is known as follicle miniaturisation. Even if you haven’t fully lost your hair, you may notice your hair thinning or becoming coarser — and this miniaturisation process is responsible.
- Growth cycle changes. Your hair follicles usually follow a cycle of growth and rest. However, DHT interferes with this cycle, shortening the growth phase and lengthening the period in which your hair doesn’t grow at all.
If you’re a man experiencing gradual hair loss, the chances are it’s due to too much DHT.
How to Reduce DHT
Luckily, there are effective ways to tackle the effects of DHT. In most cases, this involves reducing the levels of DHT in your system. The less DHT, the healthier and stronger your hair follicles can stay for longer.
Here are 5 possible ways to reduce DHT — one conclusively backed by science, and 4 natural alternatives that, according to studies, may help.
Finasteride (often sold as Proscar or Propecia) is the only reliable DHT blocker on the market. It inhibits the production of DHT at its source, by blocking the process involving the conversion of testosterone.
In more detail, DHT is produced thanks to an enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase, which breaks down testosterone. However, Finasteride is what’s known as a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor, meaning it intervenes to stop the enzyme from doing its thing.
And it works wonders, too. As a result of Finasteride use, science has shown that there will be much less DHT in your system. According to one study from the American Academy of Dermatology, Finasteride reduces the amount of DHT in your body by as much as 60%.
And how does that affect your hairline? A 2012 study found that Finasteride treatment encouraged hair regrowth in 87% of men who tried it.
If you want a reliable way to block DHT and stop balding in its tracks, it could be Finasteride.
2. Other Medical Options: Dutasteride
While it’s the only one licenced for the treatment of male pattern baldness, Finasteride is not the only 5-alpha reductase inhibitor out there. Dutasteride, a common treatment for an enlarged prostate, has a similar function. It just hasn’t been comprehensively studied on male hair loss.
The research that has been done on Dutasteride suggests that it could be just as effective as Finasteride. However, more information is needed before it can be prescribed to tackle DHT-induced hair loss.
Other Treatments that May Reduce DHT
Finasteride is not the only medicine that may have DHT-blocking properties. Here are those 4 natural treatments which may help to reduce DHT. However, be aware: the jury is still out on how effective they might be.
3. Saw palmetto
Saw palmetto is the commercial name for the medicinal extract from Serenoa repens, a type of palm that grows in the United States. It’s thought to be a bit of a wonder drug these days — with claims around that it can increase testosterone levels, improve the health of your urinary tract, and treat an enlarged prostate.
But can saw palmetto reduce DHT? According to a two-year study, 40% of those treated with the extract saw hair regrowth. Not as good as Finasteride, but not bad for a humble plant.
4. Pumpkin seed oil
Pumpkin seeds are another substance believed to be a natural DHT blocker. Originally found to be a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor in rats, studies have now explored the potential of pumpkin seed oil to reduce DHT in humans too.
The good news? Participants in the study who were treated with pumpkin seed oil had 40% more hair and no side effects. The less good news? It was a very small study, which isn’t hugely reliable.
5. Green tea
Another natural substance with a reputation as a miracle cure, green tea has been found to have possible 5-alpha reductase-inhibiting powers. That’s down to a chemical known as epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC), which has been found to reduce the impact of DHT on your hair follicles.
However, scientific studies have not yet been conclusive. One study even found that green tea increased the amount of DHT.
Finally, caffeine has also been credited with certain powers in the battle against balding. However, it’s not as simple as drinking coffee. Rather, caffeine may have to be applied topically — such as with a hair growth shampoo — for it to be useful.
What do the studies say? One lab study found that caffeine applied to hair follicles led to a “significant stimulation of hair follicle growth”.
Minoxidil: An Alternative Way to Stop Hair Loss
Blocking DHT is not the only effective method for hair loss treatment. In fact, Minoxidil — which, along with Finasteride, is one of the two most effective hair loss treatments — works in a completely different way.
Minoxidil is a topical hair growth stimulant that encourages blood flow to the scalp. With more blood comes more oxygen and more nutrients, i.e. the things that keep your hair follicles healthy.
While Minoxidil is not quite as effective as Finasteride, it has been found to work in two-thirds of men. And the best bit? To maximise your chances of growing new hair, you can use Minoxidil and Finasteride together.
How to reduce DHT? The most reliable way is Finasteride, the medical hair loss treatment that’s effective in nearly 90% of men. It blocks the enzyme that’s responsible for the production of DHT, which enables you to hang on to your hair for longer.
Possible DHT-reducing alternatives include green tea, saw palmetto, and caffeine. However, let’s be frank: these are nowhere near as effective as Finasteride. If you want reliable action against hair loss, choose Finasteride.
DHT is a perfectly natural hormone derived from testosterone.
Yes, DHT is an important hormone, especially during puberty. DHT causes males to gain a deep voice, facial and body hair, to develop the male genitalia, and increase muscle mass. However, in later life, it also contributes to the weakening of hair follicles, ultimately resulting in hair loss and balding.
There are a few popular natural products for the treatment of hair loss, including: saw palmetto, topical caffeine ointments, green tea, and pumpkin seed oil.
The only medically-approved DHT-reducing drug available is Finasteride. However, a close second might be Dutasteride, though this hasn’t been studied enough yet to know the full effects on DHT levels and hair loss.