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DHT’s Role in Hair Loss

It’s one small thing that packs a powerful punch and has big consequences for a lot of people. There are many things that can cause hair loss but there’s no denying the shrinking effects of of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This potent chemical derivative of testosterone is the main cause of male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss and the bane of many people’s existence. But how exactly does it cause hair loss, who is at risk, and most importantly – how can it be stopped?

Dihydrostestosterone DHT diagramWhat is DHT?
Both men and women tend to lose hair due to some hormonal changes in the body and hair loss is mainly the result of alterations in the metabolism of the male hormones, called androgens. Androgens play a very important role in both hair growth and hair loss but when the metabolism of androgen gets involved with an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase, testosterone is converted into a chemical bi-product called DHT.

DHT is responsible for other characteristics often largely attributed to males like facial hair. The irony is that while DHT is putting hair on the face, it’s also taking hair off the scalp in many men, gradually thinning hair, and over time, leading to significant overall loss of hair. DHT is a natural metabolite of the human body, formed primarily in the prostate gland, testes, adrenal glands and hair follicles but is also the main reason for male and female hair loss.

How Does DHT Cause Hair Loss?
DHT doesn’t actually cause excessive hair shedding but gradually impedes hair growth by stifling the follicles ability to produce hair. The most important structure of a hair follicle is at the very base and called the dermal papilla. It is responsible for deriving nutrients for hair follicle growth and the cell of the dermal papilla divides and differentiates to form a new hair follicle. Proper nutrition is important in maintaining hair health but sometimes this won’t be enough.

Everyone’s hair goes through stages of growth, transition and shedding but some people’s hair lifecycle gets disrupted by DHT. An inherited tendency to hair loss means the hair follicles are particularly sensitive to the effects of DHT and when it attaches itself to the receptor cells of genetically predisposed hair follicles, it prevents proteins, vitamins and minerals from providing the needed nourishment to sustain life in these follicles and with this, also causes them to shrink. This miniaturisation leads to the hair being reproduced at a slower rate meaning it either shortens the growing phase of the hair follicles or lengthens its resting stage. The result is thinning hair as the hair shaft becomes finer with each new growth phase of the lifecycle and eventually the hairs stop emerging.

How DHT Shrinks Hair Follicles

Hair Miniaturisation – How DHT Shrinks Hair Follicles

Who is at Risk?
The effect of DHT varies between men and women. DHT is responsible for about 80% of hair loss in men and can cause complete baldness on the crown whereas there is no official figure for women (although roughly 40% will experience some form of hair loss) and hair loss is usually limited to overall thinning rather than baldness.

How Can It Be Stopped?
Clinically and scientifically proven treatments for hair loss can provide hope for many hair loss conditions. It’s the knowledge of the role that DHT plays in hair loss that has resulted in the creation of hair loss medications like minoxidil and Propecia which intervene in the process by either counteracting the symptoms to increase blood flow to the hair follicle, or directly inhibiting the production of DHT.

The main function of finasteride 1mg, sometimes known by one of its brand names – Propecia – is to inhibit the formation of DHT. Studies show that within a few months of using Propecia, the overall DHT levels will have remained low enough on a constant basis that their adverse effects on the hair follicles will stop, resulting in a cessation of hair loss.

But how do you get your hair to grow back once the loss of hair has stopped? Propecia has actually been proven to also induce hair growth in two-thirds of male hair loss cases but when used in combination with other hair loss treatments the results are significantly optimised.

Minoxidil focuses on increasing blood circulation to the hair follicle so it can begin to accept much needed nutrients again and the HairMax LaserComb helps to divide the hair cells and stimulate hair growth.  The different mechanisms of these treatments mean that a combination approach produces the best results.

Medroxyprogesterone (MPG) and azelaic acid (AA) can be added to minoxidil in cases where Propecia is not a suitable option, such as in treating female hair loss. When these ingredients are added to minoxidil it becomes a prescription-only medication which is why in most cases minoxidil is not issued with these beneficial ingredients.
Because MPG and AA are effective in inhibiting the formation of DHT, there is no reason for women to have to live with hair loss anymore.

How long will the hair take to grow back?
Hair shedding can actually occur just two weeks into beginning a course of treatment but this is, ironically, a good sign. As mentioned previously, the hair growth lifecycle is a generally a long process of growth, shedding and re-growth. Anytime after two weeks the follicle can generate new hair growth. If the hair was at the end of its lifecycle it would have fallen out eventually but the new growth is pushing it out to make way for the new growth. Visible results can be expected within three to six months. Patience is the key in new hair growth but the wait is well worth the result.

Circ - Belgravia Centre hair loss treatment hair growth boosterThe Belgravia Centre

The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.


26th August, 2015 at 2:16 am


dht is responsible for both facial hair as male patern baldness. i seem to be suffering from the latter but i lack any significant facial hair, how does this work?

28th August, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Eric,

You are correct in thinking that both scalp hair and facial hair is sensitive to both DHT and testosterone in those with a predisposition to male pattern hair loss. However, even if you know you are seeing signs of genetic hair loss on your head, this is completely separate to your face as the effect of DHT on facial hair depends on your distribution of receptors for DHT. You can find a fuller explanation from one of our hair loss experts, here.

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