The Dermal Papilla: How It Affects Hair Loss

  • Medically reviewed by: Dr. Anil Simhadri
  • Written by: William Slator
  • Last updated: 23/01/2024

The hair follicle is a delicate structure, and one with many vital parts. One part is the dermal papilla, an area which contains a collection of blood vessels and hair growth regulating cells that play a key role in the hair growth cycle.

In this post, I’ll discuss the structure of the hair follicle and the functions of the dermal papilla. I’ll then breakdown the role that the dermal papilla plays in two experimental hair loss treatments.

In addition, I’ll show you the three-step method (known as The Scalp Solution) that I’ve used to naturally remove DHT from the scalp and prevent DHT buildup from reoccurring.

The Structure of the Hair Follicle

The main structure found at the base of the hair follicle is known as the hair bulb. The bulb contains numerous structures – all of them essential for the growth of healthy hair.

However, we’re going to look at the three main “structures” of the bulb.

At the very bottom of the bulb is the dermal papilla, or simply papilla.

This is an oval-shaped indentation at the base of the bulb that contains blood vessels which deliver nutrients to each follicle and hair shaft. It sits at the very top of the dermis (top layer of skin).

The anatomy of the hair, including the dermal papilla
The anatomy of the hair, including the dermal papilla.

Next is an area known as the germinal matrix, and this is where new hairs are actually produced. The process of hair production includes mitosis, a division of vital hair and skin cells.

This part of the structure is actually wrapped quite tightly around the papilla, as it requires nutrients from the vessels to properly produce hair cells.

The last main structure of the bulb is simply several layers of various types of skin and hair cells. These extend all the way through the follicle and, as such, it helps to structure the hair.

The Dermal Papilla’s Functions

As the main source of blood for the hair follicle, the dermal papilla has two major functions. Let’s take a closer look.

Nutrient Delivery

Nutrients and oxygen are delivered through the blood vessels and, as such, the dermal papilla’s main role is in the delivery of such crucial elements.

Some vitamins and minerals are beneficial for hair. A lack of such nutrients can lead to a deterioration in the hair’s quality and, eventually hair follicle miniaturization and lack of growth.

Some of the more important nutrients include:

However, without the right delivery system these nutrients would be poorly delivered (if at all).

A diagram showing oxygen transport
The transport of oxygen (and the removal of CO2) is an important process that requires proper blood circulation to take place.

In addition, proper circulation is important for the delivery of oxygen. Oxygen both nourishes the hair follicle and removes built-up waste that can restrict growth.

The Oxygen-Hair Loss Connection

To better understand why oxygen delivery is so important, let’s look at how lack of oxygen can play a role in hair loss.

Just as it does in all other organs, oxygen plays a critical role in the health of the hair follicle. But it also contributes to hair growth (or lack thereof). Here’s how.

Testosterone is produced in the prostate but it doesn’t remain there. Instead, it travels to other parts of the body (such as the scalp and hair follicles). This is known as Free Testosterone (fT).

When fT finally arrives at the scalp, it meets another substance, an enzyme  – 5AR. If the circumstances are right, this will result in the production of DHT. In men and women with AGA, this can lead to inflammation and miniaturization.

But what ‘circumstances’ have to be right?

DHT isn’t the only by-product in the hair follicle. Another is estriadiol.

When there’s enough oxygen to go around, both DHT and estriadiol will be produced. But in lower oxygen environments only one will prevail, and very often that’s DHT.

What’s so special about estriadiol is that this estrogen steroid hormone has been shown to induce hair growth.

By increasing oxygen levels, then, you’ll see a decrease in DHT production and in increase in estradiol. This is great news for sufferers of AGA!

Energy (ATP)

While hair growth is a natural process, it’s still one that requires significant amounts of energy to occur. This energy is known as ATP, and it’s the main energy source throughout the entirety of the body.

Hair growth is not a singular process; instead, it’s a few small processes combined that contribute to growth as a whole. Some such processes include cellular division and synthesis of proteins.

While these processes don’t occur directly within the dermal papilla, they do enable the transport of ATP through to the germinal matrix.

Dermal Papilla and DHT: The Process of Hair Miniaturization

I’ve previously written on the topic of hair miniaturization, which I urge you to check out here.

However, I’d like to discuss the role that the dermal papilla plays in the process, and what this information can tell us about combating pattern baldness.

DHT is a male sex hormone and, as such, it plays a vital role in the male body. Some people, though, are sensitive to the hormone. As a result, hair fall can occur in areas of the scalp that are the most sensitive and contain the most DHT accumulation.

The exact reason for DHT sensitivity is unknown, and the ill effects it has on follicles that are sensitive are also not completely understood. It is known, however, that this sensitivity leads to a process known as hair miniaturization.

Essentially, DHT builds up within the hair follicle (mainly, the dermal papilla cells). As this continues, inflammation and irritation occur.

Eventually, the inflammation will cause the dermal papilla to push farther away from the bulb and this leads to slower hair growth and, if left untreated, hair loss.

As the DP contains blood vessels, this also leads to poor nutrient delivery to the bulb and hair follicle. This eventually leads to hair follicle death which cannot be reversed.

Dermal Papilla Cells (DPCs) in Hair Loss Treatment

As hair miniaturization starts in the DPCs, a few hair loss treatments target the DPCs directly. For example:

Platelet-Rich Plasma

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a hair loss treatment in its infancy and still undergoing experimentation. However, the results it produces (as evidenced by the study below) are promising.

An indian study performed in 2015 tested the use of PRP on 10 patients (8 male and 2 female). In addition, there were also 10 control patients. While this is quite a small sample size, it’s enough to give us an idea of possible treatment outcomes.

For 3 months, the PRP patients were injected every 2-3 weeks.

The researchers used two “measurements”. The first was visual, and the second was a “hair pull” test.

For six out of 10 patients, hair growth was seen in as little as 7 days. For the remaining four, hair growth was seen after 15 days. By the end, however, all 10 patients had “good hair growth”.

Platelet-rich plasma before and after 12 weeks treatment

In addition to “good hair growth”, treated patients also saw a significant reduction in the amount of lost hair that occurred as a result of disruption.

The lowest reduction seen was 60%, while 70%+ was the norm. In fact, SIX of the 10 patients saw a 100% reduction!

Platelet-rich plasma hair pull results

But what does PRP have to do with the dermal papilla?

The growth factors present within PRP actually induce the proliferation of DPCs. This means more DPCs are found within injected areas of the scalp and, therefore, more hair can be produced.

Hair Cloning

Similar to PRP, hair cloning is still in its infancy. However, the results so far have been very promising.

In simplest terms, hair cloning involves the removal of healthy hair follicles (including DPCs) from a person’s scalp. These follicles are then cultivated and multiply as a result. This increased number of DPCs is then injected back into the scalp.

As you can imagine, this is a very delicate process and one which takes much time to perfect. As such, testing is likely to be underway for quite some time.

How to Combat DHT Buildup in the Dermal Papilla

As mentioned above, DHT builds up primarily in the dermal papilla cells due to their proximity to blood vessels. If you have androgenetic alopecia, this can mean you’ll experience hair shedding as a result.

So, what can be done to combat DHT buildup in the DP?

The Scalp Solution Method

The three-step process I breakdown below is one of the most effective ways to reduce buildup of DHT on the scalp. This is great for beginners, as well as those who have been on their hair growth journey for years.

1. Prepare the Scalp

Buildup is a common occurrence on the scalp, but it can also prevent you from properly regrowing hair. This step enables you to give your scalp a fresh start, and this will make the next two steps in the process more effective.

To begin, you’ll need:

  • Himalayan or Celtic sea salt
  • Powdered activated charcoal
  • Ginger
  • Cucumber
  • Lemon juice
  • A juicing machine (or a blender and muslin cloth)


Using the juicer, juice a handful of ginger chunks and then a cucumber. Collect in the same container. (If using a blender, blend the ingredients and pour through a muslin cloth to remove pulp).

Combine 100mL of the ginger and cucumber juice with ½ tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of powdered activated charcoal. Then add in the juice of one lemon, and mix well.

Using a pipette or your fingertips, apply the mixture to the affected area of the scalp. Gently massage, and then leave to sit for 5-10 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm (or cold) water.

You may need to perform this step a few times for complete plaque removal, but this will vary by person. To improve the process, you can also use a brush to gently remove the flakes after rinsing.

2. Stimulate the Scalp

While this step isn’t necessary, it’s one that I believe speeds up the process of DHT removal and hair regrowth significantly.

All you’ll need is a dermaroller to get started.

Use the dermaroller to lightly roll over the areas of thinning hair. You want to apply enough pressure that the pins penetrate the scalp (which may tingle), but this should not hurt. Go over the affected area four times each, rolling in a different direction each time.

Once this is complete, you can then apply the growth elixir (which I’ll outline below).

In the beginning, I recommend you do this every other day. However, bumping up to every day after a few weeks of treatment is most effective.


There are various parts that make up the hair follicle; but, the dermal papilla plays a major role in hair growth and the hair growth cycle.

With this in mind, it’s important to keep the dermal papilla cells free of buildup (especially DHT), and you can do that as outlined above.

It’s a good idea to talk to a qualified medical professional before starting any kind of hair loss treatment.

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