Until you start researching hair loss (and how to stop it), you don’t hear a lot about DHT. But then, when you do start researching the topic, “DHT” and “DHT blocker” is everywhere. And you finish your internet search with questions that range from “Um, but what is DHT exactly?” to “Can this really stop me from balding?” to “Why didn’t I pay more attention in biology class?”
While we can’t provide tons of insight into your biology class, we can help you understand DHT and DHT blockers a little better.
Long story short: DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is a male sex hormone that binds to receptors in your scalp and causes hair loss that leads to male pattern baldness in genetically-susceptible men. DHT blockers are medications that, yep you guessed it, block DHT.
Want more quick facts on this topic? Keep reading and we’ll answer all your questions.
DHT is an androgen (male sex hormone) which is made from testosterone in the prostate, testes, and certain other tissues. It’s needed to develop and maintain male sex characteristics, such as a deep voice, facial hair, and muscles.
Testosterone converts to DHT with the help of 5α-reductase (pronounced 5-alpha-reductase), an enzyme that is held in the oil glands of a hair follicle.
If you’re genetically prone to male pattern baldness, DHT binds to receptors in your hair follicles, causing the follicle to miniaturize (which basically means shrink) and, eventually, to stop new hair growth altogether.
While research has proven that genetics plays a big role in male pattern baldness, we still don’t know why this runs in some families and not others.
The good news is that this doesn’t happen overnight. To fully explain this, we should take a step back to discuss the four stages of hair growth that are always happening on your head:
The hair is lost during the exogen phase when the follicle produces a new hair that pushes out the old one.
As male pattern baldness sets in, hair follicles gets smaller and smaller making it harder for hair to grow (thanks DHT), the anagen phase gets shorter (less time for hair to grow), and the telogen phase gets longer (more time for hair follicle to rest without producing a new hair).
However, baldness is a slowly progressive process that usually takes place over several years.
That means you have time to stop DHT from shrinking those hair follicles and that the earlier you take action, the more hair you’ll keep.
That’s where DHT blockers come in.
We can! While you can go down an internet rabbit hole and read about all kinds of “DHT blockers” (shampoos, green tea, pumpkin seed oil, saw palmetto, pygeum, emu oil—yeah, that one made us pause, too), there’s only one that’s proven to work. And that one is finasteride.
Finasteride (generic Propecia®) is a prescription tablet that effectively blocks DHT and stops further hair loss, including receding hairlines. It works by binding to the 5α-Reductase enzyme, effectively inhibiting your body from producing DHT in the first place.
Not only does it halt hair loss, but it can even help with future growth. Another study, this one published by the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, showed that up to 83% of men taking finasteride 1mg preserved their original hair follicle counts and 66% experienced some regrowth.
Those are pretty great numbers when it comes to both stopping hair loss and kickstarting healthy hair regrowth.
DHT is the primary hormone responsible for male pattern baldness, so the best way to prevent hair loss and stop the impact of male pattern baldness is to use finasteride, the only DHT blocker proven to work.
So, are you ready to stop your hair loss?
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Finasteride is an oral medication used to treat male pattern baldness in men only. It is not for use by women. When used by men, finasteride is generally safe but it can also cause serious side effects, including but not limited to allergic reactions, sexual dysfunction, and high-grade prostate cancer. Most patients find that problems with sexual function resolve when they stop taking the medicine. For full prescribing information, view the drug label information.