Hormonal Hair Loss: What Is DHT and How Does It Cause Hair Loss?

  • 5th October 2023
  • 12 min read

Whether you're grappling with hair thinning or simply seeking a better understanding of how hormones influence your locks, we're here to shed light on the relationship between DHT and hair loss. 

We'll take a closer look at what DHT is, how it affects hair follicles, and what you can do to prevent and manage DHT-related hair loss.


What is DHT?

Dihydrotestosterone — also known as DHT — is a sex hormone. It's created when an enzyme (a protein that speeds up chemical reactions in the body) converts a portion of testosterone (another sex hormone) into DHT. Research found around 10% of testosterone is converted to DHT every day!

This hormone has a key role in puberty, developing features typically linked with males, like body hair, a deeper voice and muscle mass. After puberty, DHT continues to influence things like hair thinning, fat distribution and even your mood.

We all have DHT in our bodies, but it affects each of us differently. Much of this is down to our unique genes.


Does DHT cause hair loss?

The short answer is yes, high DHT levels can be a significant factor when it comes to hair loss, according to the NHS.

Your hair goes through a growth cycle that includes various phases — the anagen (growth), catagen (transition), telogen (resting), and exogen (shedding) stages. Elevated levels of DHT can impact this cycle, especially the anagen phase. When there's too much DHT around, it binds to receptors in the hair follicles, causing them to shrink. This shrinking means that the anagen phase becomes shorter, and hair has less time to grow before it falls out.

As this process continues, the hairs that do grow become finer and weaker. Over time, the affected hair follicles can stop producing hair altogether, leading to thinning and, eventually, baldness.

But here's the thing: just because you have high levels of DHT doesn't mean you'll definitely lose hair — if pattern baldness runs in your family, you're more at risk of seeing the effects. Plus, even though it's a big culprit for a lot of people, not all hair loss comes from DHT, and there are many other factors that can contribute, from diet to stress and more.


Can women experience DHT-related hair loss?

While DHT is often associated with men, it can also play a role in female pattern hair loss. 

Just as with men, some women might be genetically predisposed to hair loss. Menopause can also cause high DHT levels. In fact — the NHS found that 40% of women over 70 experience hair loss. During this transition, estrogen levels tend to drop, amplifying the impact of DHT on hair follicles. This can lead to thinning of the hair on the scalp.

Then there's polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that a lot of women deal with during their reproductive years. One of its symptoms can be an increase in male hormones, including DHT, which can contribute to hair thinning or loss in women.

Read our guide to learn more about the main causes of female hair loss.


Symptoms of DHT-related hair loss

While there are a whole range of factors that could lead to hair loss, these symptoms could point towards DHT-related hair loss.

Symptoms in men may include:

  • Receding hairline — One of the most common signs is a receding hairline. This often starts as a slight movement backwards at the temples, making the forehead seem slightly larger. Over time, this recession might deepen, forming the characteristic "M" shape. To understand the different stages of pattern hair loss, read our guide on The Norwood Scale.
  • Thinning crown —The hair at the top back of the head, also known as the crown, begins to thin out, sometimes leading to a bald spot.
  • Fine and short hair — Hair strands may become finer and shorter due to the shrinking of hair follicles caused by DHT. Over time, these hairs may become so fine that they're hardly noticeable.
  • Increased hair shedding — While it's normal to lose around 50 to 100 hairs daily, according to the NHS, those with DHT-related hair loss might notice more hair falling out than usual.
  • Itchy or oily scalp — Some people with DHT-related hair loss also report an increase in scalp itching or oiliness.

Women often experience hair loss differently than men, both in presentation and pattern. While women can experience significant thinning, they rarely go completely bald or lose their frontal hairline.

Signs of DHT-related hair loss in women include:

  • Diffuse thinning — Unlike men, who often experience pronounced receding hairlines or bald spots on the crown, women typically face a more diffuse thinning. This means hair loss occurs more evenly across the scalp, maintaining the hairline but reducing overall volume.
  • Widening part — One common sign of androgenic alopecia in women is a widening of the part. As hair thins, more scalp becomes visible.
  • Reduced hair volume — Many women report a decrease in ponytail thickness or overall hair volume as an early sign of hair loss.
  • Increased shedding — While everyone naturally sheds hair daily, increased shedding can be a sign of DHT-related hair loss in women.


How to reduce DHT levels 

Navigating the world of hair loss can be a bit overwhelming, especially with so many remedies and solutions floating around. When it comes to DHT-related hair loss specifically, there are a few proven strategies you might consider.


Finasteride, the active ingredient in the widely recognised brand Propecia, is a prescription medication that's been a game-changer for many facing hair loss. Research found it effective in reducing hair loss in 90% of men over five years!

It works by reducing the effects of DHT on the hair follicles, so it's often referred to as a DHT blocker. By reducing the production of DHT, it can slow hair loss and even lead to regrowth in some people.

However, the NHS suggests women shouldn't be using finasteride. This is because women have a different hormonal profile than men, and altering testosterone levels could have unpredictable effects.


Dutasteride, commercially known as Avodart among other brand names, is primarily used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is an enlargement of the prostate gland. However, it is also used "off-label" to address the issue of androgenetic alopecia, more commonly referred to as male-pattern baldness, in men.

Dutasteride belongs to a class of medications known as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. It works by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by blocking the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. DHT is a hormone that plays a significant role in hair thinning and loss by shrinking hair follicles. By reducing the levels of DHT, dutasteride helps in maintaining existing hair and could sometimes also stimulate regrowth in some individuals.

Dutasteride, commercially known as Avodart among other brand names, is primarily used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is an enlargement of the prostate gland. However, it is also used "off-label" to address the issue of androgenetic alopecia, more commonly referred to as male-pattern baldness, in men.

Dutasteride is typically not recommended for use in women, especially those who are pregnant or may become pregnant, due to the potential risk of causing birth defects. It can be used successfully in post-menopausal women.


Minoxidil, which is available over the counter as Regaine, is a hair treatment for both men and women that can treat hair loss. In fact — research reported that 88% of women using Regaine Regular Strength every day for 48 weeks saw a halt in hair loss.

It comes as a lotion, liquid or foam and should be massaged into thinning or balding areas of the scalp. Although Minoxidil doesn’t target DHT directly, it works by increasing blood and nutrients to the hair follicles. This boost in nourishment helps strengthen existing hair and encourages new growth.

Manage stress

Chronic stress can increase male hormone production, including DHT. That’s why finding ways to unwind and relax — whether that’s meditating, exercising, or even avoiding stressful situations — is so important to help reduce hair loss.

Read our guide on how to stop hair loss from stress to learn more.

A hair transplant 

A hair transplant is a surgical procedure that moves healthy hair follicles from one part of the body to balding areas.

While a hair transplant doesn't actually change the body's DHT levels or prevent its effects, it can be a long-term solution to hair loss. This is because hairs are typically taken from the sides and back of the head, areas where hair is often more resistant to DHT. 

To learn more about how hair restoration works, read our guide on what to expect from your hair transplant.


Other causes of hair loss

While DHT is a major factor, it's not the sole cause of hair loss. Many other elements, including stress and diet, can play a role.


Juggling the demands of everyday life, work, and personal challenges can take its toll. While most people recognise the mental and emotional strain of prolonged stress, not everyone realises its physical manifestations. Chronic stress can disrupt the hair growth cycle, leading to increased hair shedding. And some people may even develop trichotillomania — a hair-pulling disorder linked to stress and anxiety. 

Diet and nutrition

Your diet can impact the health of your hair. Inadequate intake of essential nutrients like protein, iron, and certain vitamins can weaken your hair and slow its growth. 

Medical conditions 

Hair loss can sometimes be an unexpected symptom of underlying medical conditions. Here are a few examples:

  • Thyroid disorders — An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can disrupt the normal hair growth cycle. This disruption often leads to hair thinning or loss. Fortunately, addressing the thyroid condition can often reverse this hair loss.
  • Autoimmune diseases — Conditions like alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder, cause the immune system to mistakenly attack hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Managing the underlying autoimmune condition can help prevent further hair loss and may encourage regrowth.
  • Nutritional deficiencies — Medical conditions that affect nutrient absorption in the body, such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease, can lead to deficiencies in key hair-boosting nutrients like iron, zinc, and biotin. This can weaken the hair strands and contribute to loss.

The way you style your hair

Your hair care routine and styling choices can also result in hair loss. For example, certain hairstyles that put constant tension on the hair follicles, such as tight ponytails or braids, can lead to a condition called traction alopecia, increasing hair loss in areas under strain. 

Plus, frequent use of heat-styling tools like straighteners and curling irons can weaken hair strands, stripping them of essential moisture and proteins. This leaves them more susceptible to breakage and thinning.

To learn more, read our guide on 8 ways you’re damaging your hair and how to stop it.


Choose FUE Clinics for your hair transplant

A hair transplant can be a permanent solution to DHT-related hair loss, and at FUE Clinics, we're experts in treatment for alopecia that produces natural, realistic results. 

We offer two methods of transplantation, including Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transfer (FUT). Both involve moving healthy hairs from the donor site and planting them in balding areas. 

Get in touch with our team of hair transplant specialists today, or take a free online consultation. Our surgeons are here to help you understand the process and whether you're the right candidate for a hair transplant. Or, head over to our FAQs for more information. 

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