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Exploring the Science Behind Hair Loss

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Hair loss is a common concern for many individuals, and understanding the underlying factors that contribute to this issue is essential. The exact reason is unknown but it might be due to genetical, hormonal, environmental alterations. Though, the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is not surprisingly a major contributor, there are some other crucial factors like microbiome dysbiosis, nutritional deficiency, metabolism, genetics, stress can lead to hair loss. In this article, we will be focussing on DHT and Microbiome Dysbiosis. Understanding the intricate workings of DHT and other factors on hair follicles and the scalp's environment is critical in exploring effective strategies for managing and addressing hair loss.


Phases of Hair Growth

To understand hair loss, let's first understand the four phases of hair growth :

  1. Anagen Phase : The rapid division of the hair root, which lengthens the hair shaft, marks the beginning of the hair follicle active growth period, or anagen. During this stage, hair grows about 1 centimeter every 28 days. Hairs in this phase genetically set to be for 2 to 6 years.

  2. Catagen Phase : There is a brief transitional stage known as catagen following the anagen phase. It signifies the end of the active growth cycle of a hair. This stage of the hair growth lasts for two to three weeks.

  3. Telogen Phase : It is the resting phase where the hair follicle are not actively growing. It is about three month long.

  4. Exogen Phase : Hair strands fall out after being released from their follicles. Now the entire process can start over!


DHT and Hair Loss

Baldness seenon a man

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a hormone derived from testosterone through the action of the enzyme

5-alpha reductase. While both men and women produce DHT, its levels are notably higher in males due to greater testosterone production. DHT is more powerful than testosterone. It attaches to the same sites as testosterone, but with a great ease and remained there for longer.


Hair loss mediated by DHT is commonly referred to as male-pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia. The presence of elevated DHT levels leads to the miniaturization, or shrinking, of hair follicles, the anagen phase is reduced, and the telogen phase becomes longer. This miniaturization process disrupts the normal hair growth cycle, causing thinning hair and ultimately hair loss.


The gradual shrinking of the follicles, the lengthening of the telogen phase, and the reduction of the anagen phase all contribute to hair loss. With each growth cycle, the hair shaft gets thinner due to the shrinking follicles. The remaining hairs eventually become vellus hairs, which are the soft, light hairs that cover a child and largely vanish during puberty in response to androgens.


Some people are more susceptible to these effects of DHT on scalp because of variations in their androgen receptor (AR) gene. Androgen receptors are proteins that allow hormones; testosterone and DHT to bind to them. This binding activity typically results in normal hormonal processes like body hair growth. But variations in the AR gene can increase androgen receptivity in your scalp follicles, making you more likely to experience male pattern hair loss.


Addressing DHT-Related Hair Loss

Given the central role of DHT in hair loss, it becomes crucial to develop effective strategies for managing its effects. Here are some evidence-based approaches that can help address DHT-related hair loss:

  1. Topical DHT Blockers: One approach is the use of topical formulations containing DHT-blocking agents such as finasteride or minoxidil. These formulations work by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to DHT or counteracting the effects of DHT on the hair follicles. While these medications can be effective, they should be used under the supervision of a dermatologist or physician to avoid potential side effects.

  2. Dietary Modifications: Certain nutrients have been shown to have a positive impact on hair health and may help mitigate DHT-related hair loss. For instance, incorporating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds, can promote hair growth and reduce inflammation. Similarly, eating foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries, leafy greens, and citrus fruits, can help improve blood circulation, which is essential for optimal follicle health.

  3. Scalp Care: Proper scalp care plays a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy environment for hair growth. Regular cleansing with mild shampoos and gentle massaging of the scalp can improve blood circulation and ensure optimal follicle health. Additionally, avoiding harsh chemicals and minimizing heat styling can prevent damage to the hair shaft and minimize hair breakage.

  4. Lifestyle Factors: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can contribute to managing DHT-related hair loss. Regular exercise improves circulation, which can aid in maintaining hair follicle health. Additionally, managing stress levels and avoiding tobacco and alcohol can help reduce DHT production. Getting enough restful sleep is also crucial for optimal hair health, as inadequate sleep can lead to increased stress levels and hormonal imbalances that can exacerbate hair loss.


How to Test Your DHT Levels ?

Visit a dermatologist or physician to determine your DHT levels. They may advise a saliva or a blood test. You should get the test after seeking expert advice, particularly if you are worried about DHT and hair loss.


Microbiome dysbiosis and Hair loss

The research on the scalp microbiome and its role in hair loss is an emerging field, and not all aspects of this relationship are fully understood. However, there is evidence to suggest that scalp microbiome dysbiosis, which refers to an imbalance or disruption in the natural microbial community on the scalp, may play a role in hair loss.


The human scalp is home to a diverse community of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These microorganisms form a delicate balance that helps maintain a healthy scalp environment. Disruptions to this balance, such as an overgrowth of certain harmful bacteria or a decrease in beneficial microbes, can potentially contribute to various scalp and hair issues, including hair loss.


There are several potential ways in which scalp microbiome dysbiosis may influence hair loss:

  1. Inflammation: Imbalances in the scalp microbiome can trigger an inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation may negatively impact hair follicles, leading to hair thinning or hair loss.

  2. Nutrient Absorption: Microorganisms in the scalp can affect the absorption of nutrients necessary for hair growth. Dysbiosis may impair the ability to absorb vital nutrients, thus impacting hair health.

  3. Barrier Function: The scalp microbiome contributes to the skin's barrier function. An imbalanced microbiome can compromise the barrier, leading to increased susceptibility to infections or environmental damage that can impact hair follicles.

  4. Metabolite Production: Microbes produce metabolites that can influence hair growth and follicle health. An altered microbial balance may result in the production of metabolites that adversely affect hair growth.

  5. Autoimmune Factors: Some studies have suggested a link between scalp microbiome dysbiosis and autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata, where the immune system attacks hair follicles.

The Victims

Several scalp microbiome investigations have indicated a link between dandruff and bacterial and fungal dysbiosis.

The two predominant bacterial species were Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis, with the former being linked to a healthy scalp and the latter to a scalp covered with dandruff. Dandruff is remarkably strongly associated with the two fungal species of Malassezia that are frequently seen on the scalp (M. restricta and M. globosa).


How to Create a Microbiome Balance ?


1. Probiotics are worth a shot : You can 'feed' the scalp's good bacteria, just like your gut microbiome, by taking probiotic supplements or consuming probiotic-rich foods like yoghurt. Probiotics are living bacteria and yeast that help your microbiome stay healthy. Oral and topical probiotics may help to alter the microbiota of the scalp.


2. Focus on Nutrition : Diet and nutrition are important factors in the health of the scalp microbiome. Nutrients like Vitamin D3, iron, and zinc help the immune system fight off bacteria on the scalp that are out of balance. A scalp-healthy diet rich in dark leafy greens and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, as well as meat or meat alternatives like beans and tofu, and plenty of nuts and seeds, will help to maintain a healthy microbiota. Sugary meals, on the other hand, tend to aggravate an out-of-balance scalp microbiota.


3. Reduce Tension: While stress is frequently unavoidable, limiting it where possible can aid in the health of the scalp microbiota. Stress affects the body's natural defenses against germs in the scalp, causing dryness and flakiness. Cortisol, the stress hormone, also impairs the scalp-skin barrier function and can cause inflammation and discomfort.


For comprehensive care and personalized advice, seeking guidance from professionals in the field is highly advisable. With the right approach and guidance, individuals can maintain a healthy head of hair that enhances their overall appearance and boosts their confidence.

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