DHT or dihydrotestosterone is an androgen, a sex hormone that gives men their “male” sex characteristics. But it also leads to male pattern balding. This condition is also known as androgenic alopecia and is one of the primary reasons why men lose hair as they grow older. Some women can also experience this type of pattern baldness, but it is less common. DHT is considered the enemy of hair follicles as it kills the hair follicles on your head, preventing it from producing hair. While there are many treatments to slow down the process of male pattern baldness, you cannot entirely prevent it from happening. But what is DHT and what is its primary function? How it triggers baldness in men?
This post will explain everything you need to know about dihydrotestosterone, what it is, and its role in baldness.
What is DHT?
Dihydrotestosterone is derived from testosterone. You may already know what testosterone is. It is a hormone that is present in both men and women, predominantly in men. Both DHT and testosterone are androgens, which are hormones that contribute to male sex characteristics at puberty. The traits that these hormones are responsible for activating include:
- Changes in how fat is stored around your body
- Growth of the testicles, scrotum, and penis as sperm production begins
- Increased muscle mass and body hair
- Deep voice
As you get older, DHT and testosterone play a vital role in your overall health like promoting sexual health and fertility and maintaining your overall muscle mass. Males have more testosterone production than females typically. About 10% of testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone. This occurs with the help of 5-AR (5-alpha reductase). It is an enzyme that breaks down testosterone and converts it into DHT. Once DHT gets into your bloodstream, it can link to the receptors on your follicles in your scalp. This can cause the hair follicles to shrink and become less competent in supporting healthy hair growth. Therefore, an individual may experience male pattern baldness.
But DHT is not just linked to causing baldness in men; it can have other harmful effects. According to research, abnormally high levels of dihydrotestosterone has been linked to causing:
- Coronary heart disease
- Prostate cancer
- Enlarged prostate
- Slow healing of the skin after a wound or injury
Why DHT Causes Balding?
Hair follicles are tiny capsules present underneath your skin that goes through a growth cycle and last for about 2-6 years. Even if you cut or shave your hair, the same hair will grow back out of the hair follicle. As the cycle ends, the hair enters a resting phase before completely falling out from the follicle. When the hair falls out, the follicle again produces new hair, and the cycle continues.
High levels of dihydrotestosterone can shorten the growth cycle as it shrinks the hair follicles. This may cause your hair to grow more brittle and a lot thinner. As each cycle passes, the follicles continue to shrink and ultimately stop growing new hair.