Androgenic alopecia is a common cause of hair loss in women (1). Known as female pattern hair loss, it occurs due to conversion of testosterone (male sex hormone) to DHT (dihydrotestosterone) (2). It affects about 30 million women and it is characterized by hair thinning from the frontal region of the crown in an “M” shape (3).
Thankfully, a few treatments have shown promising results to combat hair loss due to excessive DHT (4). Here’s a complete rundown of the treatment options and how they work. Read on!
Table Of Contents
What Is DHT? How Does DHT Cause Hair Loss?
DHT or dihydrotestosterone is a potent version of the male sex hormone, testosterone (5). Excessive production of DHT results in facial hair in women and female pattern baldness, which is characterized by gradual hair thinning. It may not cause complete baldness, but it can certainly affect the quality of life.
Testosterone gets converted to DHT by an enzyme, 5-alpha reductase (5-AR) (6). DHT binds to the receptors in the hair follicles and makes them shrink. When the follicles shrink, the growth cycle of the hair reduces and leads to premature hair fall. DHT also prevents the quick growth of new hair.
Hair loss due to DHT is also common in men as they have more testosterone than women. However, overproduction of testosterone in women can lead to a deep voice and thick hair on the face, chest, abdomen, arms, and legs.
Various DHT blockers and inhibitors can help reduce hair fall caused by the overproduction of DHT. Let’s find the treatment options in the next section.
DHT Hair Loss Treatment Options
There are two ways to reduce hair loss due to DHT:
- Blockers –Block the DHT from binding with the 5-alpha reductase (5-AR) receptors.
- Inhibitors –Inhibit the conversion of testosterone to DHT.
Note: Although these are non-surgical treatments, consult a dermatologist before using them.
Here’s a list of the medications your doctor may suggest.
- Minoxidil – Minoxidil is an FDA-approved topical solution for androgenic alopecia. It affects the hair cycle by terminating the telogen phase and prolonging the anagen phase(7). A study shows that 44% of women who applied 2% minoxidil solution achieved new hair growth (8).
- Spironolactone – Spironolactone is prescribed for women with androgenetic alopecia and hirsutism (facial hair). It blocks the androgen receptors and ovarian androgen production. A dose of 200 mg/day of spironolactone helps restore hair growth and prevents hair thinning (7).
- Cyproterone acetate– Cyproterone acetate helps treat hyperandrogenism and hirsutism. It inhibits gonadotropin-releasing hormone (the hormone responsible for the secretion of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) and blocks the androgen receptors(7).
- Flutamide– Flutamide is an androgen receptor blocker. It is a new treatment for female androgenic alopecia. A study showed that the intake of 250 mg/day flutamide for a year led to a greater reduction in hair loss compared to cyproterone acetate and finasteride (7).
- Finasteride –Finasteride inhibits the 5-alpha reductase II enzyme, which converts testosterone to DHT. However, it is not prescribed for women of childbearing age as it increases the risk of external genital deformity in male offspring(9). Learn more about it Finasteride hair loss.
You should also be aware that these drugs may have a few side effects. The next section lists the possible side effects of these treatment options.
Possible Side Effects
- Propylene glycol in minoxidil formulation may cause scalp irritation(10).
- Spironolactone may cause menstrual irregularities, fatigue, breast tenderness, hematological disturbance, and electrolyte disturbance (2).
- Finasteride increases the risk of birth defects. Thus, it is not recommended for women of childbearing age.
Your doctor will suggest whether you need medication or a cosmetic procedure. Scroll down to know the cosmetic procedures for reducing hair loss in women.
Other Options To Reduce Hair Fall
- PRP Treatment
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment is a regenerative treatment for hair loss. It harnesses the power of platelet-stimulated hair growth to make your hair thick and healthy. Platelets from your blood are separated and injected into your scalp where the hair is thin. Research shows that localized platelet injections increase the number of hair without any adverse reactions (12). Check out the before and after results of women who tried PRP treatment here.
- Laser Light Treatment
Laser treatment helps reduce hair fall and stimulates hair growth. It is a non-invasive and painless method to rejuvenate the hair follicles and enhance blood flow to the scalp (13). The low-level laser irradiates photons into the scalp tissue. These photons are absorbed by the hair follicles, stimulating blood circulation. Increased blood circulation leads to increased nutrient supply to the hair follicles, which increases cellular activity. You can avail this option at a laser treatment center or buy a laser cap that you can use at home. Here’s how much each would cost.
- Hair Transplantation
Hair transplantation is a surgical procedure where a skin graft containing viable scalp follicles is transplanted into the bald areas. It may leave scars and can be painful. This procedure also requires sufficient downtime for recovery. It is costlier than other hair treatments.
Apart from taking medicines and going for cosmetic procedures, you can also consume foods that help control DHT levels.
Foods That Block DHT
- Biotin-Rich Foods – Egg yolk, whole grains, and nuts.
- Lysin-Rich Foods–Coffee, green tea, black tea, boiled eggs, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and peanuts.
- Lycopene-Rich Foods – Tomato, watermelon, banana, mango, beetroot, and grapefruit.
- Zinc-Rich Foods – Spinach, kale, and white mushroom.
- Protein-Rich Foods–Soy, soybeans, edamame, tempeh, fatty fish, and legumes
- Quercetin-Rich Foods–Apple, berries, asparagus, kale, and spinach.
Hair thinning can be caused due to hormonal imbalance or high levels of DHT. If hair fall is due to DHT, opt for the right medication or cosmetic procedure after consulting your doctor. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, sleep well, and practice these yoga poses. You will notice a difference in your hair density sooner than you have anticipated.
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
How can I reduce DHT in my scalp?
Consult a dermatologist and take the prescribed medications to block/inhibit DHT production. You can also opt for cosmetic procedures to restore the hair growth.
What causes DHT to increase?
The enzyme 5-alpha reductase (5-AR) converts testosterone to DHT (dihydrotestosterone).
Which vitamins help block DHT?
Vitamin B or biotin helps block DHT. You can consume biotin supplements or biotin-rich foods like egg yolk, whole grains, and nuts.
Does exercise reduce DHT?
No, exercising may increase DHT levels. However, exercise increases serotonin levels (feel-good hormone), which reduces inflammation. This, in turn, may help reduce stress and protect the hair follicles.
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- Female Androgenetic Alopecia: An Update on Diagnosis and Management
- Female pattern hair loss: A clinical, pathophysiologic, and therapeutic review
- Androgenetic alopecia
- Hormonal therapy in female pattern hair loss
- The effectiveness of treatments for androgenetic alopecia: A systematic review and meta-analysis
- Alopecia in Women
- Female pattern hair loss: Current treatment concepts
- Use of topical minoxidil therapy for androgenetic alopecia in women
- Finasteride and Its Potential for the Treatment of Female Pattern Hair Loss: Evidence to Date
- Allergic contact dermatitis to topical minoxidil solution: etiology and treatment
- Adverse Effects and Safety of 5-alpha Reductase Inhibitors (Finasteride, Dutasteride): A Systematic Review
- A Meta-analysis On Evidence Of Platelet-rich Plasma for Androgenetic Alopecia
- Low-Level Laser (Light) Therapy (LLLT) for Treatment of Hair Loss