If you've noticed that your hair is starting to fall out, it's easy to get stressed thinking about the cause. Is it stress? Is it bad diet? Is it genetics? Can I fix it by changing my behavior?
The reality is that hair loss in men is primarily caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male steroid hormone that binds to receptors on the scalp and is responsible for men with susceptible genetics going bald.
The role of DHT in hair loss is fairly easy to understand once you have a basic understanding of how the body produces DHT and the effect it has on hair follicles.
What is DHT?
Dihydrotestosterone is an active androgen of testosterone. DHT is a fairly potent male sex hormone that is responsible for things like the formation of male genitalia during pregnancy. But it is different from other male sex hormones like testosterone in several important ways.
Your body produces DHT as a byproduct of testosterone through the enzyme5-alpha-reductase, this is an enzyme that converts a certain percentage of your testosterone into tissues like skin, liver, prostate and hair follicles.
If you are genetically susceptible to hair loss DHT can bind to the receptors in the hair follicles and cause them to shrink, weaken and eventually die. This process eventually results in the complete end of hair growth in DHT-affected hair follicles.
Interestingly, DHT is an important hormone for hair growth in other areas of the body, which means that the same hormone responsible for baldness is also responsible for driving hair growth on the chest, back and other areas.
Since DHT is the main hormone responsible for hair loss in men, the most effective way to slow and prevent hair loss is to block DHT.
There are several methods, from shampoos and topical treatments, which help a lot, although they do not solve the problem, to drugs that block your DHT.
What are the side effects of blocking DHT?
The vast majority of topical DHT blockers do not experience any negative effects, but notice thicker and healthier hair. However, when we talk about DHT blocking drugs, some side effects usually appear:
- Increased testosterone. Since DHT blockers, such as finasteride, prevent the conversion of testosterone to DHT, they can cause a slight increase in testosterone production.
- Decreased sex drive. Most of the time, it has no positive or negative effect on your sex drive. However, in a small number of men, DHT blockers can cause a noticeable reduction in sexual desire.
- Weak erections. Like reduced sex drive, this is a rare side effect that affects a small number of users.
To put things in perspective, a 2012 study of finasteride in Japanese men found that of the 3,177 men given finasteride, only 23 had adverse reactions. Even at five times the usual dose to prevent hair loss, side effects are rare. And it should be noted that in the event that side effects do occur, they mostly disappear when the drug is stopped.
Should I block DHT?
It is always difficult to answer this question, if you notice your hair falling out it is true that DHT blockers are one of the fastest and most efficient solutions, but like any drug it has its risk. Taking it or not is your decision.
Of course, the quickest, simplest and healthiest solution is to take care of your sleep and stress levels, eat healthy, do some sport and live happily, with or without hair.