Skip to main content

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

  1. blog
  2. > Skin Concerns

What are DHT blockers for hair loss and how can they help?

Medicines and supplements that block this hormone may help slow or reverse hair loss. Here’s what you should know.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jan 22, 2024 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Maria Borowiec, NB-BC
DHT Blockers
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jan 22, 2024 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Maria Borowiec, NB-BC
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

What is DHT?
More

Summary

  • DHT is a potent androgen hormone that plays a major role in androgenetic alopecia, a type of hair loss. 

  • 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors block the effects of DHT on hair follicles and may help slow or reverse hair loss.

  • Finasteride is the only 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor FDA-approved for hair loss. 

  • Other off-label medications and supplements have been proven to have a DHT-blocking effect. 

If you’re looking into hair loss treatments, you'll frequently encounter DHT blockers. Understanding what DHT blockers are and how they work is important for understanding and treating androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male or female pattern baldness. So, Curology’s licensed dermatology providers are here to help! They’ll explain what DHT is, the role and risks of DHT blockers, and steps you can take to address hair loss. 

What is DHT?

You’ve probably heard of testosterone, right? It’s often referred to as the main male hormone. But there’s another hormone that’s actually even more powerful in certain ways, and that’s DHT or dihydrotestosterone.

Think of DHT as a close relative of testosterone. They’re both part of the androgen (a fancy term for sex hormones) family that plays a big role in male traits and reproductive activity.¹ Your body makes DHT from testosterone by converting it with the help of a mighty enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase.²

DHT really makes a difference early in life. When a baby boy is developing in the womb, DHT is the hormone that steps in to help form male-specific organs.³ As boys hit puberty and grow into teenagers, DHT has a few more jobs to do. It is an important growth promoter for certain parts of the body. It helps the prostate grow, a key gland for the male reproductive system. It also kickstarts the oil glands in your skin—so you can thank DHT for the beard you can grow or the body hair you might have.⁴

But here’s where things get a bit tricky: In adults, DHT doesn't have a lot of essential roles to play.⁵ However, it doesn’t just pack up and leave. It hangs around, and sometimes it can contribute to issues like prostate enlargement, which can affect urination, or male pattern hair loss, which is why some men find their hairline receding or thinning as they get older.⁶

How do DHT blockers affect hair loss?

DHT blockers, officially called 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, are designed to tackle problems caused by too much DHT activity in the body, such as androgenetic alopecia (also known as male or female pattern hair loss).⁷

Two common drugs in this category are finasteride and dutasteride.⁸ These medications are pretty clever; they work by putting the brakes on the 5-alpha-reductase enzymes. These enzymes are the ones that transform testosterone into DHT in your tissues. By inhibiting them, these drugs help reduce the overall production of DHT in your body.⁹

Now, why focus on DHT? In male or female pattern baldness, increased DHT activity plays a significant role. Patients with this condition often have higher levels of DHT, more active 5-alpha-reductase, and more androgen receptors in the scalp areas that are losing hair.¹⁰ DHT interacts with these androgen receptors and disrupts the normal hair growth cycle. It shortens the anagen phase, which is the growth phase of hair.¹¹

This excessive activation causes the hair follicles to miniaturize over time.¹² The result? The hair becomes thinner and shorter, and in advanced cases, these miniaturized hair follicles might not even reach the skin’s surface.¹³

The good news is that oral 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors like finasteride and dutasteride can be quite effective in slowing down this hair loss pattern and, in some cases, even reversing it.¹⁴

Common DHT blockers 

Here’s a look into four common DHT blockers: finasteride, dutasteride, saw palmetto, and pumpkin seed oil. 

Finasteride

Finasteride is a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor that is approved for treating an enlarged prostate as well as male pattern hair loss.¹⁵ Research has shown that both topical and oral forms of finasteride can be effective in promoting hair regrowth, offering a viable treatment option for these conditions.¹⁶

Dutasteride

Dutasteride is a medication that acts as a 5 alpha-reductase enzyme inhibitor and is more potent than finasteride.¹⁷ While it’s officially FDA-approved to treat benign enlargement of the prostate,¹⁸ dutasteride is sometimes used off-label to treat male pattern hair loss when treatment with finasteride has failed.¹⁹

Saw palmetto

Saw palmetto is a naturally derived substance that’s quite popular as a botanical 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor.²⁰ One study comparing saw palmetto and finasteride found that, while both were effective and well tolerated, saw palmetto wasn’t as effective as prescription finasteride.²¹

Pumpkin seed oil

Pumpkin seed oil (PSO) is a natural product that’s been found to block the action of 5-alpha reductase.²² Its effectiveness is thought to be due to natural compounds found in plants (phytosterols), which inhibit 5α-reductase and have antiandrogenic effects.²³ One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial showed that taking PSO for 24 weeks can positively affect hair growth in men with mild to moderate androgenetic alopecia.²⁴

Are there any risks to using DHT blockers? 

It’s important to be aware of the potential risks when considering DHT blockers—such as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors—for treating conditions like hair loss. While these medications can be effective, they do come with some possible side effects that you should know about:²⁵

  • Sexual dysfunction: These include erectile dysfunction, a decrease in ejaculatory volume, reduced sex drive (or libido), and in some cases, gynecomastia, which is the development of breast tissue in men.

  • Orthostatic hypotension: This is a form of low blood pressure that happens when you stand up from sitting or lying down, and it might make you feel dizzy or lightheaded.

In rare instances, some individuals have experienced that these side effects didn’t go away even after they stopped taking the medication.²⁶ This is not common, but it’s something to be mindful of.

Another important point is regarding who should avoid these medications. DHT plays a significant role in sexual development, so certain groups need to be particularly cautious.²⁷ Children should not use these drugs, and they are not recommended for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. DHT blockers can have harmful effects on the development of a fetus, so it’s critical to avoid them in these cases.²⁸

So, while DHT blockers can be beneficial in treating hair loss, you should be aware of these potential side effects. It’s always a good idea to discuss these risks thoroughly with your healthcare provider to make an informed decision that’s right for you.

Curology is here to help

We’re known for our personalized skincare formulas, but did you know that Curology now also offers a personalized prescription solution that tackles hair loss and improves hair growth? Curology’s Hair Formulaᴿˣ combines up to 3 clinically proven ingredients, like minoxidil or finasteride, that help you start to regrow hair in 4 to 6 months, though it can take up to a year to see its full results. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

curology bottle
curology bottle

Getting started is easy. Just take a quick hair quiz and answer some medical questions. If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with a licensed dermatology provider who can answer your questions and create your personalized Hair Formulaᴿˣ to help you meet your hair goals.

FAQs

What blocks DHT naturally?

You’ll find many products on the market that claim to be able to block DHT naturally. Unfortunately, there’s not much scientific evidence to support how well they actually work. However, there are two options that have been shown to be effective. Saw palmetto is known to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase. Another option is pumpkin seed oil (PSO), which also has properties that can block the action of 5-alpha reductase.

What does blocking DHT do?

Blocking DHT, typically with 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, helps treat conditions linked to high DHT activity, like benign prostate enlargement, prostate cancer, male pattern hair loss, and hirsutism (excess body hair in women).²⁹ By reducing DHT levels, DHT blockers can slow or prevent the hair loss associated with high levels of DHT.³⁰

What does DHT do to your body?

DHT, a potent androgen hormone, plays a key role in your body, especially in male development. It’s crucial for the sexual differentiation of organs in the embryonic stage. During adolescence, it promotes prostate growth, activates sebaceous glands, and stimulates the growth of body, facial, and pubic hair. In adults, its common effects are prostate enlargement and male pattern hair loss.³¹

Do DHT blockers cause weight gain?

Currently, there’s no evidence to suggest that DHT blockers cause weight gain. It is not one of the commonly listed side effects.³² The known side effects of these medications, primarily 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, include sexual-related issues like erectile dysfunction, decreased ejaculatory volume, reduced libido, and gynecomastia, as well as orthostatic hypotension.

Can hair loss due to DHT grow back?

Hair loss due to increased DHT activity can sometimes grow back. Increased DHT contributes to pattern hair loss.³³ Treatments like oral 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors can slow or even reverse this pattern of hair loss by addressing the underlying hormonal issues, thereby potentially restoring some hair growth.³⁴

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Salisbury, B.H. & Tadi, P. 5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitors. StatPearls. (2023, April 14).

  2. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. (2023, July 30).

  3. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  4. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  5. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  6. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  7. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  8. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  9. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  10. Ho, C.H., et al. Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. (2022, October 16).

  11. Ho, C.H., et al. Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  12. Ho, C.H., et al. Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  13. Ho, C.H., et al. Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  14. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  15. Salisbury, B.H. & Tadi, P. 5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitors. StatPearls. Ibid.

  16. Nestor, M.S., et al. Treatment options for androgenetic alopecia: Efficacy, side effects, compliance, financial considerations, and ethics. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (December 2021).

  17. Ho, C.H., et al. Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  18. Salisbury, B.H. & Tadi, P. 5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitors. StatPearls. Ibid.

  19. Ho, C.H., et al. Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  20. Furhad, S. & Bokhari, A.A. Herbal Supplements. StatPearls. (2023, July 19).

  21. Rossi, A., et al. Comparative effectiveness of finasteride vs Serenoa repens in male androgenetic alopecia: a two-year study. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology. (October-December 2012).

  22. Cho, Y.H., et al. Effect of Pumpkin Seed Oil on Hair Growth in Men with Androgenetic Alopecia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2014, April 23).

  23. Cho, Y.H., et al. Effect of Pumpkin Seed Oil on Hair Growth in Men with Androgenetic Alopecia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Ibid.

  24. Cho, Y.H., et al. Effect of Pumpkin Seed Oil on Hair Growth in Men with Androgenetic Alopecia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Ibid.

  25. Salisbury, B.H. & Tadi, P. 5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitors. StatPearls. Ibid.

  26. Salisbury, B.H. & Tadi, P. 5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitors. StatPearls. Ibid.

  27. Salisbury, B.H. & Tadi, P. 5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitors. StatPearls. Ibid.

  28. Salisbury, B.H. & Tadi, P. 5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitors. StatPearls. Ibid.

  29. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  30. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  31. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  32. Salisbury, B.H. & Tadi, P. 5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitors. StatPearls. Ibid.

  33. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

  34. Kinter, K.J., et al. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Ibid.

Maria Borowiec is a certified Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She received her Master in Nursing from University of California, Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA.

Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Maria Borowiec headshot square

Maria Borowiec, NB-BC

Related Articles

How to change your Curology formula Navigating the world of oil-free moisturizers: Our top 4 picksChoosing the right sunscreen: Why non-comedogenic options are a game-changer for clear skinWhat is pomade acne? How to treat breakouts around your hairlineWhich moisturizer is best for you?

Popular Articles

Ask Curology: Is my cold breaking me out?Slugging: The dermatologist-approved skincare hack going viral on TikTokTretinoin vs retinol: What’s the difference?How to create a self-care routine that actually sticksYour 2023 skincare horoscope
Try prescription skincare
30-day trial. Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get routine essentials
A display of Curology Custom Formula bottles on a white shelf.

Good skin days ahead

Join the 1M+ patients who’ve tackled everything from acne, to fine lines, to hair thinning with prescription-powered treatments, personalized by a Licensed Dermatology Provider.
Ingredients proven to tackle
  • Breakouts
  • Redness
  • Fine lines
  • Dark spots
  • Hair thinning
$29.95/month
*Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get StartedShop ProductsWhy CurologyGuidesOur StoryCommunity
All Rights Reserved 2014-2024 Curology Inc.
Terms of ServicePrivacy Notice
Do Not Sell My Personal Information