A chemical in our bodies, DHT, can contribute to the increased likelihood of male pattern baldness. Blocking DHT can help counteract the effects of balding.
If you’re a male or female suffering from baldness, you may think that the cause is due to poor genetics.
You’ve likely accepted the fact that you drew the short straw, and that your options for correcting your hair loss are slim. However, there is a chemical compound in our body that can change over time and potentially contribute to the increased likelihood of male pattern baldness.
That chemical, known as dihydrotestosterone or DHT for short, is a derivative of testosterone. The production of DHT is the primary cause of hair loss for both men and women. If you can block the production of DHT, you may be able to help counteract the balding effects that you’ve seen recently.
Baldness in the United States
In the United States alone, there are over 50 million men who suffer from some form of hair loss. Of this, approximately 70% suffer from a condition known as male pattern baldness. Male pattern baldness, known by its scientific name androgenic alopecia, is the most common type of hair loss in men.
The disease is prevalent in men, especially as they age. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says that over half of men older than 50 will suffer from male pattern baldness, although the extent to which they experience symptoms may vary.
However, older males are not the only ones who can suffer from male pattern baldness. Both younger men and females of all ages are susceptible to balding. Studies have found that a quarter of men will begin to exhibit signs of balding before they turn 21, while 67% of men of men will suffer from hair loss by the time they turn 35.
Additionally, research shows that roughly 33% of women will suffer from hair loss at some point in their lives. As women age, this number increases. Two-third of women have reported that after going through menopause, they found bald spots or noticed that their hair was thinning.
While statistics show that men are more susceptible to balding, it could potentially have a more significant impact on women.
Women’s hair is longer and thicker, so it may be more noticeable when they exhibit signs of balding. Furthermore, society has deemed it more acceptable for men to lose their hair than women, which is why balding in women can have a significant impact on their emotional state.
Having said that, both men and women seem to want to take efforts to stop the effects of balding. Americans spend over a billion dollars annually attempting to fight baldness.
To do so, they will try anything they believe may help, including:
- Follicle Transplants
- Hair Pieces
However, one of the most effective ways to fight baldness is by identifying the primary cause of the issue, which is where DHT comes into play.
What is DHT?
DHT is vital in early pubescent stages of teenage life.
It is more potent than testosterone and is the chemical compound needed for many testosterone processes to be successful. Because of that, it is necessary for growth as young people shift from their formative teenage years to their adult years.
DHT is responsible for the development of many male characteristics, like facial hair and Adam’s apples.
Once we have gotten through puberty, however, DHT begins to work against us.
Testosterone takes over as the essential component that our body uses to build proteins and produce new, healthy blood cells. DHT no longer has anything to do, but it still tries to find proteins and minerals to sustain itself. DHT can cause a host of adverse effects, including causing enlarged prostates, acne, and balding.
How Baldness Occurs
A common misconception of balding is that hair begins to fall out.
In reality, the hair follicle is suffocated, which restricts the follicle’s ability to grow hair. DHT works its way into hair follicles, where it seeks out proteins, vitamins, and minerals. When this occurs, these components cannot make their way to the hair follicle. The follicles cannot survive without these nutrients, so they wither and die.
Although it can happen faster in some people than in others, the timeline at which DHT destroys a hair follicle is gradual.
Hair from a follicle thins as DHT begins to cut off the nutrient supply to that healthy follicle. That’s why many people notice that their hair is thinning before they go entirely bald. Over time, DHT will continue to attack the follicle until it no longer can produce hair.
There is some truth to the fact that genetics causes hair loss, but there is no gene that signifies that you will lose your hair.
Instead, you may have received genes that could make you more sensitive to the effects of DHT. If you are more sensitive to the effects of DHT, you are more likely to lose your hair. But, it’s also possible that you don’t lose your hair even though you are DHT-sensitive.
There is also a myth that bald men have higher testosterone levels than men with hair. This is not entirely true. Remember that we said that DHT was a by-product of testosterone and that it is much more potent than testosterone itself. Men that suffer from male pattern baldness tend to have higher levels of DHT.
Fighting Male Pattern Baldness
Gimmicky products are often ineffective when it comes to fighting male pattern baldness. Practically the only way to combat male pattern baldness is by decreasing levels of DHT in the body.
One of the best ways to do this is by taking medication that targets 5-alpha-reductase.
By eliminating this enzyme, your body will not be able to convert testosterone into DHT. Imagine having a dish of food that you cook in the oven. In this case, the enzyme is the oven. Without the oven, the food would not be able to undergo the chemical changes necessary to produce a new dish.
A popular medication to help block DHT is Propecia, which you may find in your local drug store under the name Proscar. Studies have shown that a single dose of Propecia stopped hair loss for more than 85% of men who took it. Perhaps even more eye-opening is the fact that nearly two-thirds of men were able to regrow hair.
This goes against many of the myths surrounding hair loss.
Many people believe that once you have lost your hair, the only way to get it back is through a hair transplant. But the fact that men were able to regrow hair after restricting the amount of DHT in their system makes some sense.
When DHT suffocates a hair follicle, the follicle loses what is necessary to produce hair. But the follicle itself may not die. When you remove DHT from the picture and nutrients can begin flowing into the follicle freely, the follicle should maintain some ability to produce hair again.
If you are suffering from baldness and are interested in Propecia, you will have to visit a doctor to get a prescription.
Taking a trip to see your primary care physician and keeping them in the loop about any medication you are taking is crucial, especially as you age. Your doctor will be able to evaluate your health profile and have a better understanding of how you may react to the medication.
Also, you never know how your body will react without DHT.
Although DHT is not needed later in life, you are still altering the chemical makeup of your body. If you begin taking a medication that blocks DHT and notice any physical or psychological changes, you should contact your doctor immediately. Re-growing your hair is not worth taking years off your life!
If you do not feel comfortable taking medication to block DHT, or your doctor advises against it, there is another option available.
You could also purchase over-the-counter Rogaine. Rogaine is the only other medicinal DHT blocker that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Rogaine is a topical solution that you should never ingest.
If you are a woman suffering from baldness, you too should also consult your doctor. Unfortunately, women cannot take Propecia, but your doctor may have other recommendations to help cure your baldness. However, women can use Rogaine.
But unfortunately, Rogaine is not a medication that is safe for use by all. You should not use Rogaine if you are allergic to minoxidil. Doing so could cause painful skin reactions. Also, you should not use Rogaine if you suffer from psoriasis, eczema, or any other scalp conditions.
Lastly, you should not use Rogaine if you have high blood pressure. Odds are you can see the problem with this because the same people that suffer from baldness also suffer from high blood pressure.
That’s why consulting your doctor is so important, as they can prescribe the best treatment plan for you.