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DHT Blocking Shampoo: How It Works

By Jon McKenna
Reviewed by Jennifer T. Haley, MD, FAAD on March 03, 2021
If you wonder whether the right shampoo could help reverse your hair loss, it’s smart to consult your dermatologist and research ingredients before making a purchase.

A trip to the drugstore may present enough brand choices for DHT blocking shampoo to make your head spin. These products may cost anywhere from $18 to $30 a bottle. Should you spend that much on a DHT blocking shampoo to help stop your receding hairline or thinning hair? If so, what should you look for on the ingredients label?

What is DHT?

DHT stands for dihydrotestosterone, a hormone produced in both men and women by the male sex hormone testosterone. If you have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, certain receptors in your scalp’s hair follicles will encourage DHT to bind to them. Then, DHT stimulates an enzyme to shrink the follicle.

Over time, follicle shrinkage leads to hair becoming thin and fine like a baby’s, and then vanishing completely, dermatologist Sharleen St. Surin-Lord, MD, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

How Does DHT Blocking Shampoo Work?

Assuming your hair loss is associated with DHT and the shampoo’s ingredients are effective blockers, a DHT blocking shampoo can prevent the hormone’s harmful effects on your scalp’s follicles, resulting in less hair loss.

It’s important to remember that researchers have not identified any single ingredient in DHT blocking shampoos as a magic bullet against hair loss. But a label including one or more of these ingredients can boost your confidence in a DHT blocking shampoo:

  • Ketoconazole, an anti-fungal ingredient normally used in dandruff or psoriasis shampoos but that also can disrupt DHT from attaching to hair follicles
  • Saw palmetto, an herbal ingredient in which DHT-blocking characteristics have been found
  • Biotin vitamins—including vitamins H, B7 and B8—or lavender oil to promote hair growth
  • Rosemary oil to improve circulation in your scalp
  • Pumpkin seed oil to discourage testosterone from producing DHT
  • Tea tree oil to fight fungi that can irritate the scalp

St. Surin-Lord says she was skeptical at first but has come around on the potential of DHT blocking shampoos, as long as studies show its blocker ingredients compare to a topical medication for your scalp. Still, she thinks these shampoos are more effective when consistently used along with a topical such as minoxidil.

DHT blocking shampoos can be more effective if you let them sit on your scalp for several minutes before rinsing, and if you use them twice daily (unless their labels recommend otherwise). You should be careful with shampoos that contain sulfur or synthetic chemicals that can irritate your scalp, or preservatives like parabens that some experts have linked to health issues.

“Remember that once you’re on a DHT blocker, you’re on it for good, or the hair loss will return to its baseline,” St. Surin-Lord says. She also cautions pregnant women and prepubescent boys dealing with hair loss against using DHT-blocking shampoos.

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.