Deciphering hair loss can be like unlocking a Pandora’s box. The internet will present you with a whole array of different forums, claims and products. All proclaiming to have found the next solution, the latest technology or the most bizarre new treatments.
The truth is that male pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia) is predominately caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male sex hormone. When your hair is falling out, it is mainly the result of genetics and your hair follicle’s sensitivity towards DHT.
Once you understand how DHT is produced and what it does to your hair follicles, it’s much easier to understand how it causes your hair to fall out.
Read on to learn what DHT is, how it is produced and what can be done to reduce the effect it has on your most precious asset – your hair.
What is DHT?
DHT (or Dihydrotestosterone), is an androgen (or male sex hormone) which is produced from testosterone. Androgens are responsible for typically ‘male’ characteristics, including a deeper voice, body hair, and increased muscle mass. DHT also plays a vital role in the development of the penis and prostate gland during foetal development.
The enzyme 5α-reductase (5AR) is responsible for converting up to 10% of testosterone into DHT. The catalysation takes places in the testes, prostate, liver, skin but also in the hair follicles.
Men suffering from male pattern baldness have hair follicles that are genetically more sensitive to DHT. When testosterone is converted into DHT in the hair follicles it can bind to the androgen receptors, preventing nutrients from being absorbed by hair follicles. As a result, they begin miniaturising, a process where the hair follicles shrink and eventually stop producing hair altogether.
Can DHT be blocked?
Given DHT is predominately responsible for causing male pattern baldness, the best possible way to stop hair loss is by blocking (or inhibiting) DHT.
The most effective way to block DHT is by preventing the conversion of testosterone into DHT in the first place. 5α-reductase is the enzyme responsible for catalysing the conversion from testosterone into DHT. Hence, so-called 5α-reductase inhibitors are medications which bind to the 5α-reductase enzyme and hence prevent the conversion of DHT.
Finasteride, better known under its brand name Propecia, is the most commonly prescribed 5α-reductase inhibitor for treating hair loss in men. Read on to learn more about Finasteride, its effectiveness and its connection to DHT.
Finasteride and DHT
Finasteride was developed by Merck and approved as a treatment for male pattern baldness in 1997. It was originally developed as a treatment against enlarged prostate, but the researchers of clinical trials found that Finasteride also stopped hair loss and even stimulated hair growth in some men.
It belongs to a class of medication known as 5α-reductase inhibitors. It works by blocking the 5α-reductase from converting testosterone into DHT, the hormone that is responsible for hair loss. Hence Finasteride is also commonly referred to as a DHT-blocker.
Finasteride is generally regarded as the most effective treatment for male pattern baldness. A study from 2003 found that 90% of finasteride-treated men either maintained (no further visible hair loss), or sustained visible improvement in hair growth over a five year period. 65% of men have seen an increase in hair count after taking 1mg finasteride daily over a five year period.
A study from 1999 found that a daily use of 1mg of Finasteride was effective in reducing scalp skin DHT levels by 64%, which is enough to effectively stop hair loss and in some cases miniaturised hair follicles can start producing hairs again.
Generally speaking, the earlier you start a hair loss treatment, the higher the chance of a successful outcome.
What are the Side Effects of Finasteride
While the majority of men using Finasteride do not experience any noticeable negative side effects, some men may experience side effects from taking it over a longer period of time. We are taking a closer look at the more common side effects of blocking DHT in your body.
Common side effects (more than 1 in 100 men):
- Reduced sex drive: about 1.5% of men that use finasteride might experience side effects such as a reduced sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction: A study from 2017 found that about 3.2% of young men experienced ED as a side effect.
- Decrease in the amount of ejaculated semen: A 10-year follow up study from 2011 found that only 1.7% of men found a reduction in ejaculated semen.
While the side effects may seem severe it is important to highlight how rarely these occur. Additionally, for 99% of men, stopping the Finasteride treatment solved the occurrence of side effects and it was highly unlikely for them to persistent in the long run.
Should I Start a Finasteride Treatment?
Out of The Big Three in Hair Loss, Finasteride is the most effective treatment for men experiencing male pattern baldness. Whether or not Finasteride is the right choice for you is something for you to consider, however, remember that the earlier you start with a treatment the higher is the chance of success in preventing hair loss.
The best possible outcome will be achieved when Finasteride is used in conjunction with Minoxidil and a DHT blocking shampoo like Ketoconazole. Get started by signing up to find out more about Many hair loss treatments.