Updated: Mar 12
As a precursor to reading this article: it is important to make sure that DHT is the cause of your hair loss. Thyroid issues, stress, vitamin deficiencies, and a number of other things have been linked to hair loss. It is best to consult your doctor before starting treatments for pattern hair loss.
Even if you have done little to no research regarding hair loss you have most likely come across the term DHT. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT for short) is the hormone responsible for male and female pattern hair loss. It is also an androgen which is where the term for pattern hair loss androgenic alopecia comes from. It attacks the hair follicles causing miniaturization and eventually death of the follicle.
Blocking DHT is the most efficient way to reduce and sometimes even reverse hair loss. This is what 5-alpha reductase (5AR) inhibitors do. 5AR is the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into DHT. When there is something actively inhibiting 5AR, the damaging effects of DHT on the hair are reduced.
The most common 5AR inhibitor is finasteride, commonly sold under the brand name Propecia. It has been shown in clinical studies to block upwards of 70% of DHT and is one of the only FDA approved treatments for hair loss. Almost as common as finasteride itself are the knowledge of the potential side effects. Although they are rare, some of the side effects include decreased sex drive, impotence, and other sexual side effects. These can be scary for someone who is considering hopping on finasteride, which is understandable. Luckily there are several natural DHT blockers that you can take.
Since DHT can be blocked both topically and through supplementation, we have narrowed it down to what we have identified as the 3 most effective topical solutions and the 3 most effective internal solutions:
Note: It is important to note that none of the treatments on this list are FDA approved and most lack significant scientific evidence supporting them. FDA approved treatments are still likely the best option for treating hair loss
Best Topical DHT Blockers
1. Saw Palmetto
Saw palmetto, a palm native to the southeastern United States, is one of the most popular alternatives to FDA hair loss treatments and is still gaining popularity. It is not entirely known whether or not saw palmetto inhibits DHT or if it reduces the amount already present in the scalp.
There are several studies floating around the scientific community that show evidence in favor of saw palmetto being able to help hair loss. This study in particular was conducted on 34 men and 28 women, it showed that in three months there was an overall increase in density of 35% and a 67% reduction in sebum production (overproduction of sebum can cause inflammation).
Although there needs to be more research done on saw palmetto, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting it. Again, if you are not willing to go the finasteride route, it could be a viable alternative.
How to use it: What we recommend is to find a hair loss shampoo that includes saw palmetto in it (Lipogaine is what we recommend around here, it’s awesome).
2. Rosemary Oil
Rosemary is a medicine that has been used for centuries for various ailments, hair loss being one of them.
Several scientific studies have shown very good results for its efficacy for combatting hair loss. One study showed that rosemary oil had inhibitory activity between 82.4% and 94.6%, which was tested against finasteride in the same study and showed to be more effective. In another study, rosemary showed to be as effective as 2% minoxidil regarding regrowth.
Both studies are certainly a reason to be optimistic, but again the research is lacking. Also, this is just one study, minoxidil has much more scientific evidence supporting it.
How to use it: For the easiest use, you can mix it into your shampoo, using about 5 drops per ounce of product. If you have a bit more time on your hands you can massage the rosemary into your scalp (make sure to leave it on for 10 minutes).
Note: Women often use 2% minoxidil while men commonly use 5%
3. Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seed oil may also be a viable option for blocking DHT.
When researching pumpkin seed oil for hair loss there is one study that is often mentioned. That study showed that over a 24 week period 44.1% of the 76 males it was conducted on showed moderate improvement in hair. But there is a problem with this study. The supplement being tested contained more ingredients than just pumpkin seed oil. This means that one cannot scientifically concur that it was pumpkin seed oil that affected the hair.
Though that study may not be entirely conclusive, it is still important because it was done on humans. Most studies are done on rats so to show that amount of statistical significance in humans is very promising.
It also may be easier to single out pumpkin seed oil as the primary cause of change in hair loss due to other studies, one of which showed that it prevented prostate enlargement in rats. This is significant because prostate enlargement and high DHT levels have been known to be linked.
How to use it: This article shows you better than we ever could
Best Internal DHT Blockers
1. Nettle Leaf
Nettle leaf is a perennial that was originally native to Europe but can now be found pretty much everywhere (including in my backyard, ouch).
It is one of the first nutrients you hear about when talking about natural hair loss remedies. This is because there is a decent amount of evidence supporting its ability to block DHT.
This study showed that nettle leaf may have a positive effect on enlarged prostates or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH for short). This is significant because it has been shown that one of the main contributing causes of an enlarged prostate is high levels of DHT. Often, when someone takes a 5AR inhibitor, they will experience a reduction is prostate size as a side effect. One other study was actually able to show its effectiveness for reducing DHT.
Although it is not FDA approved, there is a relatively large body of evidence supporting nettle leafs use for hair loss. Our hair loss supplement Follicle Foundation targets many aspects of scalp health, one being DHT, which is why we chose to include nettle leaf in it. It is also available on its own on Amazon.
2. Reishi Mushroom
The reishi mushroom has been used for thousands of years in ancient Chinese therapies, only recently were its effects on hair loss discovered.
When talking about the reishi mushroom in regards to hair loss, there is one study that is almost always referenced. This study compared the inhibitory effects of 19 mushrooms on 5AR. Reishi came out at the top of the list with over 75% inhibition.
Though no human studies have been done yet this is very promising and likely one of the reasons reishi is gaining traction in the hair loss community. It is available in capsule form or if you are feeling crafty there are several recipies you can make with it.
3. Pygeum Bark
It comes from the Pygeum Africanum tree and has been used in native Africa for centuries as a treatment for enlarged prostate.
In case you didn’t believe us earlier, DHT is one of the leading causes of enlarged prostate. You can probably guess where this is going. If something is shown to treat enlarged prostate there is a good chance that it has an effect on DHT in the body. This study tested the effects of pygeum on men with BPH. After it was over it was shown that men were twice as likely to show improvement in symptoms after supplementing pygeum into their diet, which is quite significant.
There is unfortunately a lack of clinical testing for pygeum, but there is a whole lot of anecdotal evidence. No seriously some people swear by this stuff. The best you can do is be optimistic that new research will surface soon. It is available in capsule form which is how it is most commonly taken.
Whether you’re willing to utilize FDA approved hair loss treatments or not there is one thing that is certain: unless you do something about it your hair will keep falling out. With that said, although rare, the side effect profile of some of the more scientifically proven hair loss treatments may not be something that you are willing to risk, totally understandable. There are many viable natural options at your disposal, some of which may have a drastic effect on your hair loss. But without sufficient scientific evidence to back them, don’t be disappointed if you don’t get the results you were hoping for.