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Everything You Need To Know About DHT & Hair Thinning

Hair Health

8 Min Read

By Dr. Anya Arthen, ND2020-03-18

Medically Reviewed by


“DHT” are three letters often seen on products marketed at improving hair growth and decreasing hair loss, but what do these letters stand for? Is DHT actually important?

DHT is an androgen that helps give male characteristics like muscles and body hair. DHT is not a “bad” hormone; however, problems may arise when the DHT androgens attach to the hair follicles on your head. Below, we’ll explain how DHT can trigger follicle miniaturization, which ultimately leads to thinning and permanent loss.

What is DHT?

DHT is an abbreviation for dihydrotestosterone, a hormone created in certain parts of the body as a result of testosterone metabolism. Like testosterone, DHT is considered an “androgen,” meaning it contributes to the development and presence of male sex characteristics (except DHT is much more potent than testosterone itself).

DHT is super important during two life phases. First, in embryonic and fetal development, the secretion of DHT contributes to the differentiation of the sex of the fetus as male. Second, during puberty, DHT contributes to the maturation of male sex characteristics. After puberty, DHT does not contribute much to the functioning of the body, yet it is still made in various tissues.

What does DHT do to your hair?

Tissues including the prostate, liver, brain, skin, and hair follicles have high amounts of an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase (5-AR), which makes DHT from testosterone. But let’s focus on the hair follicles: Once made, DHT is able to interact with androgen receptors in the follicles. This interaction produces a different result depending on where the follicle is located. In axillary (armpit) and pubic regions, DHT causes an increase in hair growth and thickening of the hair. On the scalp, however, DHT causes a shrinking of the hair follicle and changes the hair growth cycle to a shorter growth (anagen) phase.

While everyone produces DHT, some individuals have receptors that are more sensitive to the presence of DHT. Even the presence of DHT in normal ranges can cause hair follicles to shrink and shut down in these people. Though DHT is not the only causal factor behind hair loss and hair thinning, it does play a hugely important role.

Natural ingredients to balance DHT

The DHT problem can be approached in two ways. The first is by decreasing the activity of 5-AR, thus reducing the production of DHT from testosterone. Next is by blocking the androgen receptors and preventing DHT from binding to them.

Nutrafol uses a proprietary Synergen Complex® formulated with patented stress adaptogens, super antioxidants, and, of course, botanical extracts that target DHT. The two herbs added to Nutrafol Core products (Nutrafol for Men, Nutrafol for Women, and Nutrafol Women’s Balance) to help solve the DHT hair problem are saw palmetto and curcumin:  

  • Saw Palmetto (serenoa repens): This herb has been studied widely for the treatment of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), a disorder linked to increased DHT activity. The different compounds of this botanical have been shown to bind to and block the actions of 5-AR enzyme, preventing DHT from being formed. As a side benefit, saw palmetto may even have some positive effects on individuals struggling with erectile dysfunction, as animal studies have shown that certain compounds of the herb can increase nitrous oxide synthase important for the widening of blood vessels.
  • Curcumin (curcuma longa): This is an extract from the culinary herb turmeric, a golden spice you might be most familiar with in curry. Alongside its culinary use, turmeric has been a long-standing part of Ayurvedic medicine. The actions of curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, are vast. In current practices, curcumin is best known for its ability to reduce inflammation and has been shown to decrease the formation of androgen receptors in the hair follicle. (Fewer receptors = fewer places for DHT to interact with.) It also has been shown to block DHT production by having an effect on that pesky 5-AR enzyme.

These DHT-balancing natural ingredients can be taken internally to circulate through the bloodstream and arrive at the hair follicle, depositing there to interfere with the function of DHT. Applying these natural ingredients topically might not do much, as the first layer of skin acts as a protective barrier; however, supplements like Nutrafol make it easy to get the ingredients you need to balance out your DHT levels and protect the health of your hair.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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