Those who suffer from hair loss do not have abnormally high levels of DHT, it is just their hair follicles (and the dermal papilla) are more sensitive to DHT than those who do not suffer from it.
This is why blocking DHT entirely is not recommended.
Some vitamins work directly to block DHT, while others promote overall good health that can then lead to lower DHT sensitivity. Both will be discussed here.
If you prefer watching rather than reading, check out our video below:
How DHT Blockers Work
To understand the benefit of the vitamins listed below, you need to understand how DHT blockers typically work.
DHT, or Dihydrotestosterone, is an androgen sex steroid and hormone present in men and women (1). It is catalyzed from the enzyme 5α-reductase and testosterone (the male sex hormone).
The main role of DHT is the development of secondary sexual characteristics in men. These include facial hair, pubic hair, increased muscle mass, and a deeper voice.
As DHT freely flows throughout the body, it can attach to hormone receptors in various organs and structures, like the skin, hair follicles, and brain.
In men and women predisposed to pattern baldness, their hair follicles are particularly sensitive to DHT and its effects (2). When it attaches to the follicles as it naturally does, it can lead to inflammation and hair miniaturization.
The vast majority of DHT blockers actually work to inhibit the enzyme 5α-reductase which thereby reduces the production of DHT. So they are not so much blocking DHT as they are limiting its production.
Just as too much DHT can have negative effects, so can too little DHT (3). The effects are especially pronounced in men with symptoms such as loss of libido, inability to get or maintain an erection, and low ejaculatory volume (4).
Can Vitamins and Minerals Block DHT?
When you think of DHT blockers, you may think of the hair loss drug Propecia (finasteride). This drug inhibits 5αr so as to lower DHT levels. Vitamins and minerals aren’t so direct.
The vast majority of vitamins and minerals for hair growth are more like Rogaine (minoxidil) than Propecia. That is, they create a healthier environment for hair growth in spite of DHT. This has a few benefits over DHT blockers.
For one, vitamins and minerals are a natural and essential part of your health. The vitamins listed here are necessary for many things other than hair growth, so ensuring proper levels will benefit you as a whole (5).
The most obvious benefit is the reduced risk of adverse side effects. Unlike DHT blockers, vitamins and minerals will not put your sexual life or health at risk when used as directed.
The Best Vitamins for Hair Growth
Here is a closer look at the best vitamins for hair growth.
Niacin – Vitamin B3
Niacin (vitamin B3) is an essential human nutrient and one which can be found in high quantities in a variety of foods. Its main claim when it comes to fighting hair loss is its ability to increase blood circulation in the scalp (6).
There are many hair loss causes, but a major factor in your hair’s health is its access to a continuous blood flow. When blood flow is restricted, it can lead to brittle hair which easily breaks. This can also compound the effects of DHT, as no blood flow means there is no way for chemicals (including DHT) to be removed from the follicle.
And did you know that men with early Male-Pattern Baldness (MPB) had subcutaneous blood flow that was 2.6 times less than their healthy counterparts (7)? The concept of poor blood flow leading to hair loss is well established (8).
All of this to say, blood flow is critical to hair health and niacin can help.
A common side effect of niacin supplementation is flushing. This occurs because niacin is known to dilate the blood vessels, and this increases blood flow to the face. Niacin can even reduce the viscosity of blood, so it flows more easily through your body (9).
So, how can you get more niacin into your diet? Include these foods:
You can also take a daily niacin supplement, but it is best to speak with your doctor before doing so.
Biotin – Vitamin B7
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, plays a major role in the metabolism of food. It is also been shown to be a major component of the hair, skin, and nails, as biotin functions as a protein synthesizer (12). As keratin is the protein found within the mentioned three structures, it makes sense that the presence of biotin is important.
To name just a few of the symptoms of biotin deficiency, they are:
- Nail weakness;
- Dermatitis; and
- Hair loss
So, how can you be sure you’re getting an appropriate amount of biotin in your diet? Include foods such as:
You can even find biotin in a variety of multivitamins, especially those aimed at hair, nail, and skin health.
Zinc and Selenium
Zinc and selenium are two trace elements that are often discussed together and for good reason. They are often found together in many cosmetic formulations (such as face wash), and both play a critical role in the human body.
As antioxidants, zinc and selenium are vital in the fight against free radicals. They protect the skin (and other organs) from aging and keep many cellular processes functioning properly as a result. Interestingly, both zinc and selenium also play a role in the keratinization process (14, 15).
As outlined above, keratin is a protein. In fact, it is the main protein found within hair.
However, proteins aren’t just naturally present within the body. Instead, they must be synthesized. This is done through various processes, and protein synthesizers such as zinc and selenium help to make this happen.
It is not actually necessary to take these vitamins daily, as an overabundance of zinc can lead to thinning and hair loss. You should speak with your doctor about your nutrient levels, and they can prescribe a course of action if it is found that you have a zinc or selenium deficiency.
A better course of action is to ingest foods rich in these vitamins. These include:
- Red meats
- Pumpkin seeds
- Wheat germ
- Egg yolks
- Soy products
You can easily add many of these ingredients to a delicious smoothie, or make a bone broth that will satisfy your hunger and nutritional needs.
As a major regulator of biochemical processes within the body, magnesium is a crucial nutrient (16). It is also been shown to play an important role in hair health and growth.
Magnesium is sometimes linked to calcium, and here is why: magnesium is often used to ‘regulate’ calcium’s presence.
This is because too much free calcium within the body can lead to calcium deposits. In people with hair loss, this can even lead to calcification of the scalp. If not treated, this can lead to fibrosis of the tissues, which results in irreversible baldness.
Calcium is found in many foods, and you may even be getting an oversupply of it from your own water supply.
You can take a magnesium supplement if you are deficient, though it does not need to be taken daily. You should speak with your doctor if you suspect a deficiency, as well as to find the best treatment plan for you.
Antioxidants play a vital role within the body by ridding it of free radicals. These are molecules that essentially break down the body over time, as they steal electrons from surrounding molecules. Perhaps one of the best-known antioxidants is Vitamin E, and here is why.
Vitamin E is actually a generic name for a group of compounds that are known for their antioxidant properties. This group can be further broken down into two: tocopherols, and tocotrienols.
Tocotrienols in particular have been proven beneficial for hair growth, and just eight months of supplementation led to a 34.5% hair count increase in the studied area (17).
Vitamin E, especially tocotrienols, is found in a few common foods (18). These include:
- Wheat germ
- Palm oil
- Rice bran
- Olive oil
- Sunflower seed oil
You can also take vitamin E as a supplement every day, but it is better to look for foods that have high quantities of it. These are absorbed more readily by the body.
Folic Acid – Vitamin B9
Folic acid, also known as Vitamin B9, is commonly associated with prenatal vitamins. However, folic acid is an important nutrient even for men and non-pregnant women.
Folic acid and folate are often confused, but folic acid is the synthetic (i.e. created in a lab) form of folate. On the other hand, folate is naturally found in foods and is much better absorbed by the body. That is not to say that folic acid cannot be used though, as it is methylated in the liver and then able to be used throughout the body (19).
But what role does folate, and as a result, folic acid play?
Namely, it synthesizes and repairs DNA (the cell’s genetic material) while also ensuring it functions as it should. This is important for a wide variety of biochemical processes, including hair growth.
It is best to consume foods high in Vitamin B9, as the majority of this is folate (unless it was intentionally added, then it is folic acid). Foods that have naturally high quantities of vitamin B9 include:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Collard Greens
- Turnip Greens
- Mustard Greens
- Romaine Lettuce
- Pinto Beans
- Garbanzo Beans
- Black Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Green Peas
- Green Beans
NOTE! It is possible to have too-high levels of folate within the body, and this can increase the risk of cognitive decline (20). If you suspect you suffer from Vitamin B9 deficiency, or to learn more about the proper supplement dosage, consult with your doctor.
Although not strictly a vitamin or a mineral, this herb is well known in the ayurvedic tradition and has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties (21). While these properties alone can be beneficial in the treatment of hair loss, including AGA, it may also block DHT directly.
Bhringaraaja, known by its Latin names Eclipta alba and Eclipta prostrata, is one ingredient in a commonly used Chinese medication to treat AGA. It is called BeauTop, and it has been shown to block DHT and stimulate hair follicle activity (22).
While further research still needs to be performed, especially on Bhringaraaja alone, its other properties can make it a beneficial addition to your current hair care routine.
Speak With Your Doctor Before Supplementing
As always, you should speak with your doctor before you begin supplementing with any of the above recommendations.
It is important that you understand daily recommended amounts of each vitamin, and that you know where your body’s vitamin levels currently are.
While rare, there may also be adverse effects to supplementing with the above vitamins when taking certain medications or for individuals with specific medical conditions.
Keep in mind that vitamins are not specifically monitored by the FDA for quality, quantity, or purity. Do your homework on brands. Choose supplements that are voluntarily meeting the industry standards set by an outside agency.
If you are wary of DHT blocker drugs like finasteride and dutasteride, you are not alone. The use of such hair loss medications can have negative side effects in some men, and they are not recommended for use by women.
So what is the alternative?
Other medications, like minoxidil, exist. But just like minoxidil which enables hair growth even in the presence of DHT, there are natural supplements that can work, too. These include vitamins that naturally exist within (and are required by) the body.