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What is DHT and why is it important?

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a powerful androgenic hormone (much more powerful than testosterone) that is responsible for and aids in changes such as beard growth, body hair growth, and more. A portion of your testosterone is converted to DHT. It can bind with androgen receptors, such as receptors in undeveloped or early facial hair follicles to create a thicker, longer, visible beard hair. DHT is generally responsible for many of the more notable changes individuals may seek when starting testosterone hormone therapy. Testosterone just tends to be the little brother that gets all the credit, even if DHT did the heavy lifting!

Again, DHT is responsible for thicker, longer and deeper facial & body hair, among other changes. Testosterone can make these changes as well, but T rather than DHT leads to a thinner, smaller hair. This is why DHT is the preferred hormone when it comes to developing androgenic hair (beard & body hair.) Once DHT or T has caused a facial/body hair to terminalize (turn into a fully mature, adult, thick, maxed-out hair, this tends to take quite some time) the hair is permanent. Up until the hair is terminalized (in simpler terms, when it's a 'baby' (vellus), or 'teenage' (intermediate) hair), that hair will keep responding to androgens, and changing, thickening, and lengthening based on it's exposure to androgens overtime, and of course based on how you genetically respond to androgens.

If theses are features you seek, then you may want to consider avoiding inhibiting/blocking DHT, at least for a period of time when these attributes are still developing. As this is one of the factors you may be able to have some control over (i.e. obviously can't control your genetics.) Many products on the market do contain DHT blockers, to varying degrees, (intentionally or unintentionally) even most beard products. Which of course, doesn't make sense from a scientific stand point for those still changing on testosterone, and who seek to develop the thickest facial hair their genetics will allow, the soonest they can get it. But most beard companies cater to cis men who have had T/DHT in their systems for at least a decade or two, so they already have lots of permanent terminal facial hair going on, and don't need to worry so much about DHT blockers anymore. 

Rest assured, DR DHT's beard and face products contain DHT safe ingredients and ratios, so it won't negatively impact facial hair progression for those who are looking to fill in their beard, or simply starting from nothing, especially during this crucial time for many trans individuals still changing on testosterone. 

How can I optimize my DHT levels for facial or body hair growth?

1. Make sure your T levels are consistently in range. You'll have to check with your doctor in order to find out your levels and what is healthy for you depending on any health conditions you may have. Always consult with your doctor. These are general guidelines for those without underlying condition. Generally 300-1000 ng/dL is considered within range. Also generally speaking, the higher the T, the higher the potential DHT levels. Being on the higher end of that range could help optimize your blood DHT level. Though too high can make some T convert to estrogen instead of DHT, so keep an eye on this. There is a direct correlation with higher end (but not too high) T levels and higher DHT levels.

Having your T levels checked regularly is crucial (at least 3 to 6 times a year, as they can fluctuate.)

2.  Avoid regularly using products that contain DHT blockers. Particularly on your face/beard region, or systemwide oral meds.

Here is a list of common DHT blocking ingredients, check it out here.

Common DHT blockers include benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, rosemary oil and finasteride (oral/topical med.) There are various natural, and synthetic ingredients added to products, which could negatively impact DHT at the follicular level. 

If used regularly, these can alter how your facial hair progresses overtime, and even slow or stop new development, whether you realize it or not. Though, many of these ingredients may be great for head hair or other purposes, it's quite the opposite when it comes to gaining brand new facial/body hair (androgenic hair) since facial & body hair are androgen driven and require T or DHT to significantly develop, and develop to their full potential. 

3. This tip may not change the DHT level, however it helps circulate more nutrients & hormones through your face's subcutaneous layer for more chance of hormones binding with androgen receptors and creating an androgenic hair.

Regular blood flow stimulation! There are various way to do this.

First, my Beard Grower Oil is designed to naturally stimulate blood flow in your face's skin layer. This is needed because hairs require a good blood source in order to become independent and thick. It also innately circulates more androgenic hormones through the areas, again giving more potential of creating facial hairs over a given period of time. Apply this in a daily routine. 

Secondly, using a derma roller (must be .5mm.) This also doubles down on blood flow stimulation to help establish hairs, and can be used alongside the Beard Grower Oil. It helps the oil absorb even better too. Do this 2-3 times a week, apply the oil after.. if your skin type allows, otherwise, apply the oil later in the day, also apply the oil on days you don't roll.

Consistent blood flow stimulation is one of the best things a person can do (besides being on T & in addition to being on T) to stimulate facial hair growth, this includes individuals not on T, or pre-T. 

Pre-T (or not on T) individuals can also see progress while applying these ideas, but note that it tends to develop slower and less intense, this is due to the hairs nature, and likely the user has low or very low natural testosterone levels. Remember, this type of hair is androgen driven, and part of this mechanism is to help circulate more of your DHT and T to the subq layer of your face. Therefore if you have less T/DHT in your blood to circulate, there is less for your body to use, therefore less intense growth.  

Consistency is key! It will take time regardless. Be realistic. 

Genetics always play a role, no matter what you do. They decide your peak, and how easy or hard it is for you to react to androgens in various cells. We can't change our genetics. But exposure to more androgens (not too much or it can convert to estrogen or cause other problems) can give someone a better shot of development. Whether that be having mid to higher T levels regularly (of course, within what is safe for you, this varies depending on your health & conditions), and/or stimulating more blood flow in the area seeking more androgenic hair development, as it exposes the area to more hormones & nutrients over a given period of time, aiding in the development & advancement of facial and body hair. 

extremely important factors to consider
 

In the simplest terms, everyone is a big, HUGE math equation and the product is facial hair development. Certain numbers in your individual, unique equation are changeable, and certain numbers are not. You can take away negative numbers, add positive numbers or alter some numbers (negatively or positively.) An example of adding a positive number (factor) to your equation would be derma rolling a few times a week. It adds a positive factor that wasn't there before. An example of adding a negative number, or removing a factor, would be to stop taking T. An example of taking away a negative number (yay!) would be stopping use of finasteride or a DHT blocking face wash. An example of altering an existing number (positively) would be if someone raised their T/DHT levels. 

Take a look at some of these factors that come into play in your unique beard development math equation:

 

 

1. Genetic factors. Clearly my beard oil and derma rolling won't change your genetics, nothing will, BUT it may give you a better chance vs. leaving your body/genetics alone to do the work.

Examples of genetic factors: 

Androgen receptor sensitivity. This can be one of the toughest factors, and there is currently no way to change it. When you hear people say "oh, it's my genetics." This is what they're talking about.

Some people don't have sensitive receptors, some have very sensitive receptors, and some people fall somewhere in between. This is a genetic trait that is predetermined. Areas on the face or body can have varying sensitivity on the same person. It doesn't necessarily mean they'll never grow hair in the places where the receptors are insensitive, but it could mean that for some folks. However it probably means it will take much longer and be harder to grow hair there. Still, one of the best things you can do is to keep stimulating blood flow so you essentially are "rolling the dice" more often in hopes of DHT/T eventually binding with the receptors and creating notable hairs overtime. T levels overtime also play a big role. 

DHT conversion. How much of your T is converted into DHT. 

Note that meds like finasteride can effect this conversion, it lowers it, therefore, lowering the amount of DHT in your blood.

SHBG Levels (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin.) SHBG circulates and binds to free sex hormones that would normally be available for your body to use. Therefore, any androgens it binds to can't be used to create beard/body hair etc. If you have high SHBG levels then less of your androgenic hormones are able to bind with receptors and make facial hair, or other changes. You can ask your doc to check these levels alongside your T levels & ask them advice on what you (specifically) may be able to do to lower these levels. 

Hair follicle density.

How many follicles are in a determined space. Follicles are there, even when you don't have a beard. They're just very small and undeveloped. How many follicles per square-inch is something that can change the appearance of your matured beard. It's also something we can't genetically change. You could, however, alter it indirectly via beard transplant. 

 

Hair pattern/color/texture. Also determined by genetics. Have hairs that go in a certain direction? What about a beard that's a different color than your head hair? That's all down to genetics. Though some medical conditions can change the color of hairs, or patches of hair.

Hairs can terminalize (fully mature) as a different color than they used to be (they can turn darker OR lighter.) You vellus or intermediate androgenic hair color may not match your fully terminal color.  

THESE ARE NOT ALL OF THE FACTORS INVOLVED, BUT SOME OF THE NOTABLE ONES. THERE ARE SEVERAL OTHERS.

2. Exogenous factors, essentially external factors.

 

Examples of exogenous factors: 

Testosterone and DHT levels.

Since we are specifically talking about trans folks, I consider this an exogenous factor, since we are applying testosterone that comes from outside our bodies. 

T and DHT levels overtime play a huge role in facial hair development. You could say T/DHT are the sparks/heat that lights the fire. You can have all the fuel (awesome beard genetics) and air (awesome other exogenous factors) you want, but without these androgens + time with them, your beard won't express. Otherwise, most female women you know would have a full beard too. Everyone, no matter sex, carries genetics for some sort of facial hair. Even if it's only 5 chin hairs, a fuzzy lip, or sideburns. 

Sub-factors of Testosterone & DHT levels:

- A sub factor of T/DHT levels is how consistent said levels are. Do you have levels that are 300ng/dl one week then the next 100ng/dl, then the next 550ng/dl? This can impact how development happens overtime

- Another sub-factor of T/DHT levels is how long you've had these levels. Changes due to hormones are an accumulation. Don't expect to have a full beard (actually full, not just appearing sorta full) in a year or 2, unless you have some phenomenal genetics and awesome exogenous factors. But for most people, that won't happen.

- Age can also be a sub-factor of T/DHT levels because age can impact SHBG levels, higher SHBG levels = more T and DHT stolen and not able to be used to create beard hair. Additionally, folks of young age who don't have a matured body (bones esp.) may have less T or DHT available for facial hair development because much of it is being used for growth.

Medications.

Some meds can negatively impact T/DHT, or the conversion of  T into DHT.

Finasteride and Dutasteride are popular hair loss meds that significantly negatively impact DHT levels. Remember DHT is great for beard and body hair, but at the same time can be bad for head hair IF your scalp follicles are genetically sensitive to DHT.

Take into account that there are other medications beyond this that can impact hormone levels as well.

Personal care & other products that negatively or positively impact growth.

Personal care products such as face washes, serums, moisturizers, shampoos, beard oils, and more, often negatively impact DHT at the follicular level. That was a big reason why we created DR DHT's beard & facial products, to have a product that is neutral to the hormone DHT and does not disrupt it, so that's one less negative factor you have to worry about while trying to grow facial hair on HRT. 

Some products can have a positive effect on facial hair development. Topicals that stimulate blood flow (which our 'Beard Grower' line does), derma rollers that stimulate blood flow, as well as products that help maintain a healthy atmosphere for facial hair growth such as boar brushes, washes etc. (preferably ones that don't block DHT.) Being consistent is important either way, whether you are negatively or positively impacting DHT with the use of personal care products.

 

But in terms of facial hair in particular, consistently using products that negatively impact DHT is not good for optimizing development (getting facial hair, and getting the BEST facial hair your body allows.) 

Environmental Exposures.

 

DHT and head-hair loss

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a powerful androgenic hormone responsible for changes such as beard growth, body hair growth and more. 

However, higher levels of DHT can, at the same time, trigger androgenic alopecia in some people, if their genetics say so. Look at the men on your mom's side AND your dad's side. Do they bald? Contrary to popular misinformation, this is not limited to "just looking at your mom's side" for trans masculine folks. Why? Because this major balding genetic is linked to the X chromosome and many trans masc folks get one X from mom, and one X from dad. Therefore, they may have hair loss patterns that look like mom OR dad's side.

Note when they started balding. Was it early on? 20's to 30's? Was it later? 40's, 50's, 60's? Then you have a chance of balding overtime as you are on testosterone. Please note that this major genetic is NOT the only cause of hair loss.

A big difference to note in the case of trans individuals on T vs. their family balding, is how high your T levels are (consistently, over years.) Since we tend to have more control over our levels than someone who naturally makes T in their body, we could bald faster, or slower than our family members did!

For example, lets say only your mom's brother and your brother started visibly balding. This happened in their mid 20's, pretty early on. They've had notable amounts of T & DHT in their system for about 13 years when they started seeing significant hair loss. Lets say their average T levels were 500-600ng/dl.

You're noticing that after only 5 years on T you have visible balding, just as they did in their mid 20's, but you've only had T for 5 years, not 13! But lets say your levels were 800-900ng/dl during those entire 5 years and your SHBG was low. Having higher T levels than the men in your family, therefore causing your body to express hair loss sooner than them. This is an added factor many trans people forget about.

The opposite could be true as well. You balding SLOWER than the men on both sides of your family due to you having notably lower T levels than them over said period of time, therefore expressing less hair loss in X amount of time on T vs. your family members having T for that same period of time with more hair loss. Of course, it's not the only factor to think about, but surely one to note alongside the rest.

What can i do to help slow down dht related hair loss?

1. Keep your T levels at a range that doesn't trigger, or triggers less hair loss for you. This will vary from person to person. You'll have to figure out with trial and error & your doctor's guidance. Some people have very powerful hair loss genetics and even low levels could still trigger a notable amount of loss, keep this in mind. 

2. Use products that block DHT on the scalp (and keep them off/away from the beard zone.). This can include certain shampoos, topicals, or natural oils if you want to either go the natural route, minoxidil and/or topical finasteride. Not all products are created equally and know that they aren't the end-all be-all to hair loss, but instead, a tool to help slow it down over time. the earlier you start, the better. Once hair is significantly lost, it will become more difficult, and less likely for it to return to how it used to be. Always talk to a doctor before trying minox or any med. 

COMBINATION THERAPY IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE.

Combination therapy is using various resources and treatments at once (regularly) to attack, slow, or reverse hair loss. Example: Someone uses a DHT blocking shampoo daily, they apply a natural anti-DHT hair oil daily (and allow it to absorb), after derma rolling their scalp in problem areas (2-4x a week), then later that day they apply a medication hair loss treatment such as topical finasteride or minoxidil (always talk to a doc before using/considering meds.)

 

Consistency, daily, is what's best. Since DHT is circulating DAILY, you'll constantly need to block some of it at the scalp to prevent it from having such a negative effect on your head hair over time. Unless you get off  T, or drop your dose so low that you notice little to no hair loss. DHT is also secreted in your scalp's sebum, so washing regularly to remove that excess DHT can help.

3. Use oral DHT inhibiting medications. These are the most powerful at blocking DHT but there are 2 catches. One, they block DHT through your ENTIRE BODY. Therefore, much of that DHT you needed to get your beard to develop at its thickest, is no longer there for use. It can lower your DHT levels by up to 70%. Therefore, if you start finasteride right when you start T, it will likely stunt or change your facial hair development over time. One option is to start finasteride after a couple years on T (if you aren't noticing significant hair loss earlier than 2 years) this will help some beard hairs start to develop (depending on your genetics) so you have some facial hair going on, before you start the med. The med will not reverse any terminal, adult beard hairs you grew prior to taking it. But some folks may see younger facial hairs fall out or not thicken as much as they could. The second catch is that it tends to be expensive for these treatments, and they may require a prescription. Some people may not be able to use them if they have underlying health conditions. Always discuss this with a doctor, before starting a med. 

Topical finasteride does exist as well. It has less of a systemwide effect, therefore you can apply it to your scalp without it impacting you system's DHT levels as much. It is also quite expensive and requires a prescription. 

4. Use topicals that stimulate blood flow to help with regrowth. Any hair regrowth product requires consistency, preferably daily. A strong blood source is what can keep a hair going, or reverse a hair from miniaturization; that's when a follicle shrinks & hair falls out.

Topicals that stimulate blood flow include minoxidil. Though, it does NOT block DHT (unless it has DHT blocking additives, some do but most standard minox doesn't.) Talk to your doctor before using this. It is a vasodilator and used as a heart med, so it is not safe for everyone. It's also dangerous to use if you have cats, as it can be fatal to them. It is not safe for pets in general.

Many people respond to minoxidil, but understand any regrowth treatment will take time (time isn't' only 2 or 3 months, time is usually 6 months to 2 years!), and some may not work for you at all.

There are also natural products, such as the head hair regrowth and loss prevention oil I'm working on. These are a safer alternative tools to aid in hair regrowth. The one I'm working on will also include natural DHT blockers to help block DHT at the scalp, as you apply it daily. This would be great for someone who can't or won't use minoxidil or meds, or can be even used alongside minoxidil, or finasteride for that extra layer of protection (called combination therapy) It also would help with regrowth by simulating blood flow, and contain vitamins to help build stronger hair.

 

 

This article does not intend to give any medical advice. Always talk to your doctor when it comes to medications including but not limited to testosterone or finasteride. 

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