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DHT Blocking Shampoos: Everything You Need to Know

One of the most common questions we receive is whether or not DHT blocking shampoos are effective.

If you’re not familiar with DHT and its effects on hair loss, we recommend reading our Guide to DHT and Male Pattern Baldness, which explains the role DHT plays in shrinking hair follicles and causing hair loss.

The DHT shampoo industry has grown hugely over the last few years, with shampoos popping up left and right boasting a variety of natural and pharmaceutical ingredients designed to block DHT at the scalp and prevent hair loss.

Many of these shampoos contain exotic oils, plant extracts and other natural ingredients that promise to stop hair loss. While we think that there’s some value in DHT blocking shampoos, we’re also skeptical of some of the claims made by many anti-hair loss shampoo brands.

Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about DHT blocking shampoos, from the key ingredients and their role in preventing hair loss to how you can use a shampoo as part of an anti-hair loss stack.

We’ll also talk about some of the most widely used ingredients that don’t do much to block DHT or prevent hair loss, and how you can separate these from the few active ingredients that really work.

Which Anti-DHT Shampoo Ingredients Really Work?

As a general rule, you’ll want to check the list of ingredients before you buy any shampoo that’s designed to block DHT.

Most shampoos contain one to three active ingredients -- usually chemicals or natural extracts that have an active, measurable effect -- along with a blend of other ingredients to create the shampoo’s smell, feel and texture.

The problem with most DHT blocking shampoos is that while their active ingredients might have the potential to block DHT or anecdotal reports of DHT blocking properties, most haven’t passed through real medical testing.

This means that most of the active ingredients you see in DHT blocking shampoos aren’t proven to block DHT on the scalp -- at least not to the standards an agency like the FDA uses.

However, there are a few anti-DHT shampoo ingredients that are proven to have some effect on scalp DHT levels and hair growth.

One of these ingredients is ketoconazole, which is linked to disruption of the DHT pathway in the scalp. You can find ketoconazole as an active ingredient in some DHT blocking shampoos, although it isn’t used in every formula.

Other active ingredients with proven benefits for hair loss include biotin, which is linked to hair growth in a number of clinical studies. While biotin doesn’t block DHT at the skin level, it has a measurable effect on hair growth, making it a good option for people dealing with hair loss.

Some DHT blocking shampoos also contain vitamins, which can play a proven role in promoting hair growth and preventing nutrition-related hair loss.

Again, these vitamins don’t block DHT per se -- instead, they create an environment that makes hair growth more likely. You can learn more about the role vitamins play in hair loss in our* Guide to Essential Vitamins For a Healthy Head of Hair*.

There are also natural ingredients that have a proven effect on DHT and hair growth. Pumpkin seed oil, for example, has been studied by researchers and found to increase mean hair count by as much as 40% over the course of 24 weeks.

Saw palmetto, another naturally occurring substance, has a mild effect on DHT levels. A 2001 study shows that administration of a saw palmetto herbal blend can reduce DHT levels by 32%, which is enough to produce a noticeable slowdown in male pattern baldness.

There are also naturally occurring ingredients that have an effect on hair growth, but don’t have any known link to DHT. Rosemary oil, for example, has been found to produce an increase in hair growth similar to minoxidil over the course of six months.

If you’re interested in blocking DHT and restoring hair growth, you’ll want to look for shampoos that contain at least one of the active ingredients listed above, or preferably a blend of several active ingredients proven to affect DHT levels and hair growth.

Which Ingredients Don’t do Much to Block DHT?

For the most part, the natural ingredients you see listed on most DHT blocker shampoos aren’t proven to do very much to block DHT.

This doesn’t mean they’re useless, or even that they don’t potentially block DHT. All it means is that current medical studies and tests don’t prove any effect -- usually because complete testing still hasn’t been carried out yet.

Make sure you keep this in mind when you read long lists of oils, extracts and other ingredients on a shampoo label. While they might make the shampoo smell and feel better, most naturally occurring ingredients don’t have any proven effects on DHT levels.

How to Choose a DHT Blocking Shampoo

Ready to shop for a DHT blocking shampoo? Here are few factors to keep in mind before you make a decision:

  • Always read the ingredient label before you buy. Not all anti-hair loss shampoos contain active ingredients, making it important that you check for the substances we listed above before you make a purchase.
  • See an ambitious claim? Look for a study. Some shampoo promoters make huge claims about their shampoo’s ability without any real proof. If you find a shampoo that relies on big promises, search for studies to see if the ingredients are really worth it.
  • Stick with proven, effective ingredients. Many of the natural ingredients used in DHT blocking shampoos have real benefits for hair growth, but it’s the active ingredients that will do most of the work.
  • Try not to associate cost with effectiveness. Expensive shampoo doesn’t guarantee a full head of hair. The best DHT shampoos are often quite affordable, while the expensive shampoos don’t always live up to the hype.
  • Use a DHT shampoo with other DHT blockers. For maximum effect, you’ll want to use your DHT blocking shampoo with other DHT blockers and hair growth substances such as finasteride and minoxidil.

Take Action and Protect Your Hairline

The best thing you can do to keep your hair is to take action as soon as you notice the signs of hair loss. Consider that 66% of men experience some hair loss by age 35 and a quarter of these men begin losing their hair by age 21.