If your hair is falling out, your dermatologist may tell you that your hair loss is genetic or linked to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). If so, you’ll want to explore the range of medications, products, treatments and foods known informally as DHT blockers. Keep in mind that while some have proved quite effective, the jury remains out on others.
How Does DHT Cause Hair Loss?
DHT is a common factor in both male pattern baldness and hair loss in women, according to the American Hair Loss Association. Although DHT is a sex hormone associated with masculine characteristics, such as facial hair and a deep voice, it is created in the ovaries in women as well as in the testes and prostate in men.
If DHT attaches to hair follicles for very long, it can trigger receptors to shrink those follicles, which eventually leads to increasingly fine hair and, finally, to hair loss.
DHT Blocking Treatments
DHT blockers are available in a variety of forms. Some of the most common treatment options include:
- Prescription medications. The FDA has approved oral finasteride, a medication that inhibits conversion of testosterone to DHT, for use by men. Topical finasteride “significantly decreased” DHT in the scalp, according to a 2019 article published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. Spironolactone is a similar option available for women in both oral and topical forms, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Oral Finasteride may be associated with decreased sex drive, gynecomastia, and depression.
- Shampoos. Drugstore shelves are lined with competing DHT blocking shampoos that use ingredients like ketoconazole or saw palmetto to disrupt DHT. Miami dermatologist Anna Chacon, MD, tells WebMD Connect to Care that, for best results in preventing hair loss, you should use the shampoo regularly and leave it on your scalp at least five minutes before rinsing.
- Vitamins. Your dermatologist may suggest biotin, iron or zinc supplements, or a multivitamin for your hair loss treatment, according to the AAD.
- Natural products. Lycopene, pumpkin seed oil, rosemary oil, green tea and an extract called Oriental thuja are just a few of the naturals experts view as promising. However, further study of their efficacy is needed with many of these products, Chacon says.
- Foods. Chacon says foods rich in zinc (e.g., kale, white mushrooms and spinach) or lycopene (e.g., carrots, mangos and tomatoes) can be added to your diet in proper amounts to help prevent hair loss. These nutrients are thought to act as DHT blockers.
Chacon says she is optimistic the FDA will approve more DHT blocking treatments “if studies and investigation are promising.” She says that although available treatment options can provide great results, there are significant unmet needs.
Don’t Wait. Get Help Today
The sooner you address the symptoms of hair loss, the more likely you are to prevent irreversible damage. Speak to a medical professional today to begin your journey to a fuller head of hair.