This article was originally written on Beard Profile, which is merging with the Beard Wiki. It is written by the same author and founder of both websites, but uses a different voice from what the Beard Wiki traditionally uses. Some of these transferred articles may or may not have sources included.
Dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, is an androgen hormone derived from testosterone. Years ago, and even to some extent still today, DHT was inappropriately considered a bad hormone that merely caused things such as male pattern baldness and prostate cancer. According to a study, prostate cancer may not even be caused by DHT. While it may be one cause of baldness in men prone to it, the hormone itself is responsible for a number of health benefits in men.
One of these responsibilities includes developing secondary sex characteristics like facial hair and the male reproductive system. This is especially important during puberty. For adults, DHT is the primary androgen for our beard growth and our prostate’s wellness. In fact, using DHT blockers like finasteride has been shown to lower libido in men that are trying to combat baldness. The trade-off is, essentially, loss of manhood for head hair.
Like we’ve discussed in the article “Why We Shouldn’t Use Scalp-Related Products to Grow Our Beards,” androgenic hair requires dihydrotestosterone. Without DHT and by inhibiting the enzyme (5AR) that converts it from testosterone, we are not helping facial hair growth at all. This seems to be highly misunderstood by many people, including those that sell beard oils that contain anti-androgens. DHT, locally, for balding men is bad only in the sense that it’s part of the reason that causes them to bald. It is, otherwise, still very good for everything else.
A higher level of serum DHT does not not correlate with balding.
. . . Yet the absolute serum androgen concentrations in men with a disposition to balding is lower than in men with no reduction of scalp hair. The widespread assumption that androgen levels are in general elevated in bald-trait men must therefore be rejected. In accordance with this finding, men with a disposition to balding are morphologically (with regard to anthropometric measures) no more masculine than those with good scalp hair growth . . .
Technically, it’s the free testosterone in your system along with the local 5-alpha reductase enzyme at your scalp that causes hair to thin, not necessarily the amount of DHT you have.
DHT is converted from testosterone via 5-alpha reductase and is at least three times more potent than testosterone itself. What’s great about DHT is that it cannot be converted into estrogen like testosterone can; it quite literally blocks the conversion of testosterone into estradiol, which is why DHT is known as an aromatase inhibitor.
We rely on hormones (test, estrogen, DHT) to feel healthy, happy and stress-free. DHT has a neural effect that lasts longer in our brains compared to testosterone because of its vastly superior potency to it as an agonist to the androgen receptor.
Take libido as one example. Men with healthier sexual appetites are, in general, happier and less stressed than those with low libido. DHT = libido.
DHT has little anabolic effect on skeletal muscle compared to testosterone, so it’s not necessarily going to be your muscle builder (which, in turn, the extra muscle would burn more fat). However,
. . . statistical analysis indicated that DHT, but not T, was independently negatively associated with different measures of fat mass and insulin resistance . . .
Fat, particularly that around the midsection, has been shown to increase aromatase enzyme activity, which converts testosterone into estrogen. Being more lean leads to higher testosterone levels, as well as higher DHT, as less testosterone is being converted into estrogen. This aromatase enzyme is found in fat cells.
Because leptin is also associated with fat, the more fat you have means higher levels of leptin and lower levels of testosterone. In short, leptin controls our satiety and tells us when enough is enough when it comes to food. Being fatter means having less control over eating reasonably.
DHT blockers should be avoided when possible. While it’s common to say “DHT blocker,” the actual mechanism of blocking DHT is through the reduction of 5AR, the enzyme that converts DHT from T.
There are topical and oral products that inhibit 5AR, as well as foods. Here is a short list of some of the most common DHT blockers. This is not an exhaustive list.
- Tea Tree
- Pumpkin Seed
- Saw Palmetto
- Saw Palmetto
- Rice bran
There are some great foods that increase 5-alpha reductase activity. Things that increase testosterone are also good to keep in mind. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are a no-no; go for saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.
When possible, eat organically. In studies, agricultural pesticides have demonstrated anti-androgenic effects, with a reduction in 5AR activity.
Coffee (and the caffeine that goes with it) is a great addition to one’s active lifestyle, as it can work as a fat burner while also increasing performance and endurance in the gym. Remember, the less fat you have, the easier it is to raise your testosterone levels. The more output you can work into your intense exercise routines, the more your T levels raise. The majority of your caffeine benefits will come from your exercise, so if you’re a sedentary person, consider getting up off that chair; caffeine also raises cortisol levels, which you want to avoid, so don’t drink a bunch of coffee and laze about thinking it’s only beneficial.
For some carbs, think about picking up some whole grain sorghum or sorghum flour which can increase 5AR by over 50%. With the grain, you can pop it like popcorn and with the flour, you can add a tablespoon or two to your post-workout shake to make things easy. Or for you chefs out there, bake some bread with it!
Stay healthy, active and stress-free.
Now that you know why DHT is so important, and a little bit about how to avoid inhibiting it and continue promoting it, let’s spread the word: DHT is good. Get the body you want and grow the beard you aim for.
Make the most of the plethora of knowledge we’re blessed with today. And beard onward.
For quicker reference back to the products we’ve listed in this article, you can find them easily below.