DHT Shampoo: What You Need To Know

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Using DHT shampoo (also known as a DHT blocking shampoo) is a popular hair loss solution. There are hundreds of different DHT shampoos and products on the shelves, and they all claim to be able to reverse hair loss or improve growth while making your hair healthy. The question is, do these DHT blocking shampoos work? 

What is DHT?

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a hormone responsible for many types of hair loss, including some cases of male- or female-pattern baldness. DHT is created by an enzyme in the body that changes testosterone into a byproduct. 

Hair loss can occur when DHT receptors bind to androgen receptors associated with the follicle. This binding causes miniaturization, which is when the follicles shrink until they stop producing hair. People can be more genetically susceptible to DHT miniaturization and may consequently experience male- and female-pattern baldness. 

In women, DHT can cause hair loss when testosterone is converted to DHT, which attaches to the hair follicles to stimulate miniaturization. 

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Does DHT Shampoo Actually Work?

As with many hair growth and hair loss products, the answer depends. Some things work for some people and not for others. That being said, DHT blocking shampoos could be effective for you. DHT is considered by many to be the root cause of genetic hair loss, so blocking DHT may result in reduced hair loss and a higher likelihood of future growth

For a DHT shampoo to be effective, the hair loss has to be caused by DHT. This may be due to genetic hair loss, such as male- or female-pattern baldness. Other genetic predispositions to increased DHT levels or production can cause hair loss or thinning — and a DHT blocking shampoos may help. Some others might have a DHT sensitivity. This results in hair loss as well, and those with a DHT sensitivity can benefit from blocking the hormone. In some cases, shampoos formulated with DHT blockers have helped hair loss from alopecia and a few other conditions. 

An important thing to remember about DHT-related hair loss is that blocking DHT won’t reverse hair loss that has already occurred. Once the follicles have miniaturized, they won’t be able to grow more hair, as the skin that used to produce hair is replaced by skin which no longer can. But blocking DHT is effective in slowing or stopping future hair loss or thinning. When DHT can’t attach to the hair follicles, then the follicles will continue to produce hair. DHT shampoos will be most effective when used as early into the hair loss process as possible. 

If your hair loss is caused by high levels of DHT, then a DHT blocker could be effective to prevent future loss. By blocking the DHT from attaching to the follicles, your hair may be able to continue to grow. But not all DHT shampoos are created equal. To have a DHT shampoo actually work, it needs to be a shampoo with effective ingredients.

Ingredients To Look For In A DHT Shampoo

There seems to be no end to the amount of DHT shampoos available, and not all of them are effective. A typical DHT shampoo will include a wide variety of ingredients that may or may not actually block DHT. That being said, there are some ingredients that may help make a DHT shampoo effective. 

  • Ketoconazole. Though ketoconazole is normally used as an anti-fungal medication, it has been shown to disrupt the DHT pathways and prevent DHT from attaching to hair follicles.
  • Biotin. This B vitamin doesn’t block DHT, but biotin is an important ingredient in hair growth. DHT blocking shampoos that include biotin may help promote overall hair growth in areas already affected by loss and thinning
  • Pumpkin seed oil. This natural oil blocks enzymes from producing DHT from testosterone, which can lower DHT levels and reduce hair loss. One study found that pumpkin seed oil has been known to increase the overall hair count on the scalp.
  • Rosemary oil. This zingy oil can increase hair growth by improving the scalp’s circulation, which can also treat an itchy scalp
sulfates in shampoo

DHT Shampoo Ingredients To Avoid

Certain ingredients are not recommended in a DHT blocking shampoo. Try to avoid the three ingredients below:

  • Parabens. Make sure the shampoo is marked as paraben-free or doesn’t have it on the ingredient label. Parabens contain synthetic estrogens that can actually cause more hair loss. So read ingredients labels completely to make sure this preservative isn’t in your hair products.
  • Sulfates. Shampoos with sulfates can dehydrate the scalp and remove the natural oils that help keep hair healthy. Sulfates are also known skin irritants. Make sure there are no sulfates in your shampoo to keep your scalp healthy. 
  • Synthetic chemicals. While not all chemicals are going to harm your scalp and hair, some synthetic chemicals can make hair loss worse. Try to find shampoos with natural ingredients.

How To Choose A DHT Shampoo

The hair product aisle at your local pharmacy or beauty store might have dozens of DHT shampoo products to choose from. So which one is the best? It’s hard to determine a clear winner, but here are some tips to help you choose an effective shampoo. 

  • Always read the ingredients label. Check to see if the shampoo contains ketoconazole, biotin, pumpkin seed oil, or rosemary oil as an active ingredient. If the label doesn’t list which ingredients are active, make sure the crucial ingredients are high on the list because that indicates a higher concentration.
  • Read the claims on the bottle. Most shampoos will make some type of claim about how much it will help your hair. But if the claims are along the lines of “restoring your hair completely in only a few weeks” or “preventing all hair loss,” it probably isn’t true. To verify these ambitious claims, check for studies and see what the research says.
  • Don’t choose products based on the cost. Some people assume that expensive shampoos must be more effective. Why else would it cost so much? Sadly, this isn’t necessarily true. While some extremely effective shampoos are more expensive, not all expensive shampoos are effective. So don’t just buy the most expensive shampoo.  
  • Try it. The only way to truly know if a shampoo will work for you is to try it out. Most DHT shampoos are affordable already, but many brands offer a money-back guarantee if you’re not seeing results within 90 days (though some specialists recommend use for six months to see results). So consider trying the shampoo for three months to six months to see if a product will work for your unique hair and scalp. 

A rule of thumb for choosing a DHT blocking shampoo is if it doesn’t have a DHT blocker in it, it probably won’t be effective. But if your hair loss is caused by genetics and the shampoo has the right ingredients, then it could provide effective support for hair loss.

How To Use DHT Shampoo

The nice thing about DHT blocking shampoos is that they can be used just like regular shampoo and still be effective. Below, some additional tips on how to successfully use a DHT shampoo:

  • Shampoo generally has a short amount of contact with the scalp, which can reduce its effectiveness. Try leaving the shampoo in for a few minutes before rinsing. 
  • Consider using the shampoo twice a day, unless the label indicates you shouldn’t. But if the label doesn’t, consider using it twice to allow more contact between the shampoo and the scalp.
  • Don’t use it more than twice a day. Using the shampoo twice a day can be beneficial, but using it more than that can actually be counterproductive. Sometimes less is more.

When used correctly, DHT blocking shampoos can help reduce levels of DHT attaching to hair follicles. This can prevent future hair loss and promote more potential for growth. 

Doubling Up On DHT Blockers 

While the right DHT shampoos can be effective on their own, there are ways to increase the effectiveness. The main way is to take a DHT blocker supplement in addition to using a DHT shampoo. The dietary supplement can block and lower DHT to promote hair growth. Though the supplements are called DHT blockers, they don’t actually block DHT. The ingredients block the enzyme that produces DHT; blocking that enzyme, in turn, reduces DHT levels. Together, DHT blockers and shampoos can often result in even better results and healthy hair follicles. 

Just as with DHT shampoo, DHT blocker supplements may be effective for those who are suffering from genetic hair loss.

MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY
DR. MARA DAVIDSON, ND

on August 28, 2019

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