The Truth About DHEA And Hair Loss + Foods That Promote It!

  • Medically reviewed by: Dr. Anil Simhadri
  • Written by: William Hartfield
  • Last updated: 28/12/2023

Recently, one of the underlying causes of hair loss in men and women has been associated with deficiencies in a naturally produced hormone known as dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA.

While it is normal for levels of DHEA production to reduce as people age, related hair loss can potentially be addressed through the use of synthetically produced DHEA supplements.

While treatment for hair loss related to issues of DHEA deficiencies may be treatable through supplementation, there are significant risks and potential side effects and these supplements should only be taken in consultation with a physician.

In this article you’ll learn:

  1. If you have a DHEA deficiency;
  2. If your deficiency could be causing you to lose hair; and
  3. How to increase your levels of DHEA and help stop your hair loss.

What is DHEA?

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a naturally produced hormone in the human body and has been successfully recreated in laboratory settings and made into supplements. In humans, DHEA is produced in the adrenal gland as well as the testes in males.

Levels of DHEA produced typically reduce as an individual gets older, and there are numerous health conditions that have been associated with reduced capacity to produce DHEA.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the hormone DHEA is involved in a wide variety of bodily functions from metabolic functioning and the operation of the immune system to the proliferation of cells, particularly epithelial cells.

There is a wealth of initial research and hypotheses on the potential for DHEA supplements, but much of the available literature suggests that more research is needed in these areas.

DHEA levels typically decrease in women more quickly than in men, and decreased levels are also found in individuals with the following conditions;

  • People with hormonal disorders
  • Individuals with HIV/AIDS
  • Those with Alzheimer’s disease
  • People with heart disease
  • People with depression
  • Individuals with immune disorders
  • People with osteoporosis

How DHEA Can Affect Hair Loss

DHEA treatment, and increasing the amount of DHEA in the body through supplementation, will only have the potential to help individuals who experience hair loss due to DHEA deficiencies. This condition most commonly affects women and is easily treated if done so in consultation with a physician.

Taking DHEA supplements without the advice of a medical professional can lead to serious consequences and is unlikely to improve hair loss, thinning hair, or a receding hairline.

The naturally occurring hormone, DHEA has been linked to issues of hair loss and is able to be addressed through the ingestion of supplements that are artificially created in laboratories.

DHEA itself plays a significant role in the proliferation of endothelial cells in the process of hair growth, and human hair has been found to contain levels of DHEA.

Due to the significance of the role DHEA plays in the process of hair growth, individuals who have reduced levels in their body for a variety of reasons may face issues of hair loss, thinning hair, and receding hairlines. Commonly, these issues are experienced more by females than they are by males.

Find out about the biggest cases of hair loss in women here.

In an article available from the US National Library of Medicine, researchers explored the potential for DHEA treatment to address issues of stunted pubic hair growth in young females who had a sort of adrenal deficiency that reduced their natural production of DHEA.

The results of this study showed that for individuals who experienced reduced pubic hair growth due to adrenal insufficiencies the growth of hair returned to normal levels once the amount of DHEA was increased through the use of supplements.

According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, one of the potential triggers for female pattern hair loss is related to low ratios of estrogen and androgen available to convert into circulating DHEA in the hair follicle.

The most significant precursor to instances of hair loss was the low measurable levels of DHEA. While this study does not suggest the correlating cause for hair loss, it does suggest a significant link between low levels of DHEA and related hair loss.

One common critique of the research available on DHEA is that all trials and research available come from studies on animals, which may or may not be translatable to humans.

While there are studies that suggest DHEA may reduce hair fall under certain conditions, this is primarily done on rodents. While there have been limited trials in humans, such as the above study from the US National Library of Medicine, the majority of studies have been done with animals.

The reason this concerns the scientific community is that the hormone, while naturally present in animals as well as humans, will act differently depending on the biological makeup of the organism. It is unknown whether or not results from studies performed on animals provide a reasonable facsimile for humans.

Side Effects of DHEA 

DHEA is a naturally occurring hormone in the human body and plays a significant role in a variety of physiological functions. When the body ages it naturally decreases its capacity to produce DHEA, which can have numerous negative consequences.

There is also a significant amount of potential side effects associated with taking DHEA supplements. There is a lack of available research to fully understand the potential negative consequences of DHEA supplements, though numerous negative side effects have been associated with DHEA supplements.

Anyone considering using DHEA supplements must consult with a medical professional prior to taking any products containing DHEA. 

Debunking a Common DHEA Myth

There is a common misperception about DHEA, and whether or not can be found in foods. One common myth is that DHEA is contained in wild yams, or that consuming wild yams will increase the amount of DHEA in your body.

Wild yams won’t help increase your DHEA levels

While wild yams do not contain DHEA, this false belief likely stems from the fact that wild yams do contain diosgenin which is used by scientists to develop synthetic DHEA. The body is unable to perform the process of converting diosgenin into DHEA.

Currently, the only known method of increasing levels of DHEA artificially is through synthetically produced supplements.

Foods That Promote DHEA Production

While there are no foods that actually contain DHEA itself, there are some foods that may support the production of DHEA as it is made from cholesterol. The following foods are commonly associated with the potential to support and improve DHEA production:

Coconut oil is extremely healthy and can help promote the production of DHEA. I add it to my morning smoothie along with pumpkin seed oil.

Recipe That Promotes DHEA Production

Poached Herring on Bruschetta

  • 2 whole herring, fresh
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion
  • sourdough bread, sliced thickly
  • 1 medium tomato
  • flax seed oil
  • sea salt
  • basil leaves
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns

Preparation: Clean and prepare the herring, leaving them intact but scaling and gutting the fish. Slice the onion into thin slices. Place the herring into a pot of water adding the salt and peppercorns.

Bring the water to a roiling boil, then remove from heat without removing the lid. Allow the herring to remain in the pot for an hour.

Once the fish is cooled, remove them and break them into bite-size pieces. Slice the tomato and mix with the sliced onion, drizzling a small amount of flaxseed oil on top and sprinkling it with a pinch of salt.

Place the herring on a slice of bread along with the tomato and onion mixture then lightly toast using a toaster oven or conventional oven. Allow the toast to brown slightly before removing, then add a fresh basil leaf on top to garnish.

Other Causes Of Hair Loss

Hair loss is a multifactorial problem. There can be lots of different causes. Luckily, you’ve arrived at the right place and here at Hairguard I share how to beat hair loss naturally.

You are experiencing hair loss, but it’s fairly unlikely that DHEA is the cause and the solution.


Based on the available research and the significant potential for negative consequences, there are limited situations in which DHEA could be used to address issues of hair loss and only in consultation with a medical professional.

Despite the negative side effects associated with DHEA treatments, there is potential for DHEA supplements to be able to treat one particular cause of hair loss, particularly for women.

It is important to note that many programs and athletic organizations consider DHEA to be a performance-enhancing drug, due to the effects it can have on building muscle mass.

DHEA does not offer a cure for all forms of hair loss and will only help address hair loss related to very specific underlying causes.

Information contained on this website has not been evaluated by any medical body such as the Food & Drug Administration. All information is for educational purposes only. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness. You must consult a medical professional before acting on any content on this website.