One of the biggest concerns most guys have when starting any testosterone regimen is regarding hair loss. Male pattern baldness is one of those things that everyone fears, and thanks to some of the more popular myths floating around, the reason behind it has been over-simplified to one common theory: high testosterone causes male-pattern baldness.
The actual answer is much more complex, and can’t be chalked up to one huge generalization. While mainstream medicine has managed to convince the majority of the population that dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the bad guy when it comes to hair loss, the causative factors aren’t so cut-and-dry.
DHT is an androgen synthesized from regular testosterone by an enzyme known as 5 alpha reductase . It stands to reason that the higher our testosterone levels, the more DHT we have circulating in our bodies.
What Is DHT Exactly And What Does It Have To Do With Balding?
DHT is a stronger androgen than testosterone, and acts as the primary male sex hormone in pretty much everything but your muscle. That includes your skin, your testes, your central nervous system—basically most of your body. These parts of your body only have DHT receptors, so testosterone isn’t much use to them, except for as a DHT pro-hormone .
DHT, while commonly claimed to be an unfortunate result of testosterone therapy, actually acts to counter estrogen-caused hormone imbalances. Depending on your body, DHT can have different effects on you, and shouldn’t be summarily written off.
So why does the whole world believe that DHT is the ultimate bad guy when it comes to hair loss? Let’s take a look at the history behind it.
The year is 1942, and doctor James B. Hamilton started experimenting with androgen therapy on eunuchs. His results were pretty conclusive in indicating that testosterone administration was causative of balding in certain subjects. This was equivalent to sowing the seeds of the idea that balding is caused by high testosterone.
So What Else Could Be Causing My Hair Loss?
Besides obvious genetic predispositions to male pattern baldness, hair loss is more commonly cause by other bad guys, which are known testosterone-blockers. Cortisol, prolactin, and estrogen are actually primarily causative in restricting circulation to the scalp, which aids balding.
These three key culprits are responsible for skull calcification, which greatly diminishes blood circulation to hair follicles in the scalp. This is probably the most likely theory behind hair loss, and in my opinions, trumps that of DHT being the singular evil in regards to male pattern baldness.
Calcium deposits in the skull bone work to diminish blood flow to scalp veins called diploic veins. Hair follicles in the scalp shrink as a result of this and cause hair loss over time.
Now, avoiding skull calcification doesn’t mean “stop your dietary calcium intake!” Calcium is actually an essential mineral that can actually boost your testosterone levels if you take the right dosage and pair it with synergistic nutrients . So by no means, should you attempt to prevent calcification by altering your calcium consumption through dietary means.
To help offset calcification, you should actually attempt to increase your vitamin K intake, whether it be through dietary supplementation or just eating sufficient vitamin K-rich foods (green veggies are always a safe bet).
Combined with a solid nutritional and fitness regimen, this can reset the body to a nice homeostatic situation and calcification of your skull, with subsequent hair loss, will be a fleeting and distant worry.
Vitamin K prevents calcification in two major ways.
Osteocalcin, a protein present in bone that binds calcium, is rendered incapable of binding its substrate when vitamin K levels are too low. This results in the buildup of calcium elsewhere, causing loss in circulation. The other way has to do with MGP, a protein that serves to inhibit calcification very efficiently, which is actually stimulated by the presence of vitamin K2.
But in addition to consuming vitamin K, we have to do something about that pesky trio of cortisol, estrogen, and prolactin.
Too much PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) in addition to too-high levels of lactic acid in your body tissue can actually increase the synthesis of estrogen in your body. We all know that estrogen is a total bummer when it comes to boosting T levels, as it is biologically the opposite of testosterone.
Not only does excess estrogen diminish T, but it also stimulates the production of cortisol, a big baddie in the testosterone-blocking department as well. Cortisol, the stress hormone can even catabolize bone tissue, and is found to be quite present in patients with pattern baldness, both male and female. Cortisol can deplete nutrients like magnesium and calcium in tissues where they are actually needed. This depletion results in increased parathyroid hormone levels, a big proponent in the calcification process.
Prolactin, is also notorious for upping parathyroid hormone levels, and works in a positive feedback situation with excess estrogen. Too much prolactin can even cause molting in animals.
Parathyroid hormone is the common link between the three bad guys and calcification. Vitamins D,K, magnesium, and sodium all counteract increased parathyroid hormone levels, so it’s super important to get sufficient dietary exposure (you don’t—and shouldn’t—have to take abnormal amounts of supplements to get your levels where they need to be).
What’s The Real Answer?
So what’s the takeaway? Does higher testosterone actually cause male pattern baldness?
It’s probably not the main reason behind hair loss, and is likely not as prevalent as skull calcification. Claiming that too much testosterone will make you go bald is a gross over-simplification of the actual issue.
Taking a DHT blocker might actually do you more harm than good, depending on who you are and how your body reacts to DHT. If you’re younger and are still growing, DHT is a big, necessary player for proper hormone levels during maturation.
Older guys might have different or adverse reactions to super high DHT levels, which can harmfully affect the prostate during aging (think of BPH—benign prostatic hyperplasia) by contribution to cellular growth in the prostate of older men [?].
Honestly, DHT probably isn’t the simple answer, or the main causative factor behind male pattern baldness. Calcification seems to be an equally, if not more probable explanation, and it can be remedied easily and naturally.
1. Nordqvist, C. (2014, September 26). What is DHT (dihydrotestosterone)? What is DHT’s role in baldness? Retrieved July 10, 2015.
2. Reform Magazine. (2015, April 6). The Facts And Myths About: DHT! Retrieved July 10, 2015.
3. Kuoppala, A. (2014, August 31). Calcium and Testosterone: Not Only For the Bones. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
4. The Family Health Guide. (2005, September 1). Testosterone, prostate cancer, and balding: Is there a link? Retrieved July 10, 2015.