The relationship between testosterone and hair loss is a complicated one. Some testosterone boosters claim that low testosterone causes male pattern baldness, while other supplements like DHT blockers associate it with high testosterone levels. So, which of these is true?
Let’s answer this question by deep diving into testosterone's effects on hair health in both men and women.
Why is hair loss often connected to testosterone?
Testosterone and hair loss are connected due to a type of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and its effects on tiny hair-producing organs called follicles.
These hair follicles contain androgen receptors that are sensitive to hormones like testosterone and its derivatives. The main purpose of these receptors is to activate the follicles during puberty to increase hair growth in the axillary and nether regions. They are also responsible for increasing the growth of facial and chest hair in men.
The thing is, these receptors remain sensitive to androgen hormones even after the follicle transformation. This sensitivity is not entirely detrimental, as some studies show a link between androgen hormones and hair growth, even after puberty. But, it can also lead to hair loss disorders like androgenic alopecia, wherein the receptors link with DHT, causing hair follicles to shrink over time. This link shortens hair growth-cycle duration in follicles and makes them increasingly unproductive with each cycle until they stop producing hair completely.
Moreover, male pattern baldness gets worse with age because dihydrotestosterone production increases as you get older.
Free testosterone helps with hair growth
Does free testosterone increase hair growth? Yes, it does. Sadly, the positive effects of free testosterone are only limited to facial hair. Free testosterone does not reduce the risk or severity of male pattern baldness, so taking testosterone boosters won’t help hair growth either. In fact, increasing the amount of free testosterone can be detrimental to your scalp hair as it boosts the production of DHT as well.
That said, its effects on facial hair are quite pronounced. Beard hair can get thinner or fall out for men over 19 if their testosterone levels go below the normal amount of 264-916 ng/dl.
DHT can impact hair loss
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a variation of testosterone responsible for boosting body hair density, increasing muscle mass, and promoting prostate growth throughout puberty. Unfortunately, DHT is also the biggest reason behind hair loss. It shrinks hair follicles and makes new hair thinner and more brittle. This causes existing hairs to fall out quicker than they would under a normal hair growth cycle — leading to baldness in certain areas of the scalp.
How does this happen? DHT causes this damage by linking to androgen receptors in hair follicles and inhibiting dermal papilla cells from generating healthy hair shafts. It also prevents compounds like caffeine from reaching the follicles and stimulating hair growth.
What kind of baldness can I expect?
Baldness in men is not random. It follows a distinct shape called male pattern baldness, or MPB for short.
The initial stage of male pattern baldness is a shrinking hairline from the front. The sides usually recede faster than the middle, forming an “M” shape above your forehead. Simultaneously, the hairs around the crown/vertex of your head start thinning as well.
If MPB continues to grow, these two bald sections eventually join and form an inverse “U” shape on top of your head. Oddly enough, the hairs above your ears and on the back of your head are unaffected by male pattern baldness.
Do common ingredients T boosters impact baldness?
The main goal of T boosters with ingredients like Maca, Fenugreek, Zinc, and Magnesium is to increase the amount of free testosterone produced by your body. They also aim to counteract the negative effects of testosterone deficiency and bring energy levels back to normal.
Using these T boosters can increase the amount of hair on your body and face, but we do not recommend them as a cure for baldness. The higher testosterone levels can increase the amount of DHT crafted by the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, which further increases the rate of baldness.
That said, T boosters can have a positive impact on baldness with one indirect method. This method involves ingredients like Ashwagandha or Melatonin that can halt the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Reduced cortisol levels eliminate unnecessary stress, which often accelerates hair loss in both men and women.
What other factors can influence baldness?
Increased concentration of dihydrotestosterone is the biggest factor behind hair loss, but it is not the only one. The other potential causes of hair loss are:
Genes play a bigger role in hair loss than you might think. Studies show that about 80% of male pattern baldness cases can be linked back to genetics. If your father had male pattern baldness, there is a very good chance that you will too.
This inescapable connection exists because the sensitivity of androgen receptors on follicles is determined by genetics. Higher sensitivity leads to faster and more severe hair loss, while people with low androgen-sensitive follicle receptors might not experience balding at all.
Both physical and mental stress can accelerate balding. It can force your hair into a resetting phase through a process called telogen effluvium. This makes existing hairs fall faster than they should and halts the growth of new hair stems. Stress can also lead to a disorder known as alopecia areata, which causes your immune system to attack hair follicles — destroying them permanently.
Your diet can increase the rate of baldness if it does not include enough protein or nutrients like biotin, zinc, and iron. All of these are essential for healthy hair growth, and their deficiency can have the opposite effects.
Your scalp hosts a very delicate hair growth system, and any disruption in this system can lead to increased hair fall. Many times, such disruptions are caused by shampoos, conditioners, or other hair care products that are not compatible with your scalp. If you’re unsure about which products to use, you should consult a dermatologist.
Do women need to be worried?
Yes, they do. Women can also experience rapid hair loss, even if it isn’t as severe as it is for men. The biggest factor behind hair loss for women — just like men — is DHT. Especially for women undergoing testosterone therapy. Not only that but higher than normal estrogen levels can also lead to female pattern hair loss through androgenic alopecia.
Other factors that can cause hair loss in women include pregnancy, hormonal imbalance, stress, and incompatible hair care products. Some studies show that aging can also accelerate hair loss after menopause, especially in the frontal scalp.
There is an extensive list of factors that can lead to hair loss and balding, but DHT is still the most significant one. Genetics also play a massive role in accelerating hair loss alongside DHT, making MPB look like an inevitability for a lot of men.
Luckily, it is possible to go against these seemingly insurmountable odds and prevent hair loss completely. You can find meds that block the production of the 5-alpha-reductase enzymes by up to 95%. This lowers the concentration of dihydrotestosterone and prevents it from damaging hair follicles. Even certain foods like green tea, pumpkin seeds, grape seeds, and coffee can decrease DHT production — lowering your odds of developing baldness.
It depends on the damage. DHT shrinks hair follicles and reduces hair growth-cycle duration over time. It might be too late if you already have a visibly bald spot with zero hair. But, if the baldness is in its early stage, it can be prevented and even reversed with DHT-blocking medication and diet. Though, it is important to mention that these “early stages” occur way before you start seeing visible bald spots on your head.
Yes, it can. The hair growth process is a delicate balance that’s supported by a large number of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. A lack of any of these components can cause hair loss issues and lead to quicker balding. The most common examples of nutrient deficiencies that cause hair loss are riboflavin, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12 deficiency.
Some evidence points towards a link between high testosterone levels and gray hair. But, the validity of this claim is still in question without any concrete studies or proof to back this connection.
The biggest symptom of high DHT concentration is rapid hair loss and male pattern balding in men. For women, high DHT signs include acne and increased facial & pubic hair growth.