Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/20/2021
As men age, testosterone can become a scarce commodity. Age can make all of your body’s processes less efficient, which can lead to wrinkly skin, reductions in bone density, slower healing from injuries and a number of other problems.
Age can also contribute to lower hormone levels, including the male androgen testosterone.
While low testosterone might have a cultural stigma for men who pride themselves on masculinity, it can also lead to medical issues and potentially weaken your body over time.
One natural response would be to replace those missing hormones, which would mean testosterone injections or testosterone replacement therapy.
Yet some men might worry that high levels of testosterone might speed up problems like hair loss.
The relationship between testosterone and hair loss is not well understood by the average person, and most men likely misunderstand that high testosterone is responsible for hair loss (a half truth pedaled by the baldest among us).
Read on to discover the truth about hair loss and testosterone, along with what’s behind hair loss in general.
Androgenic alopecia is most likely the kind of hair loss you’re experiencing if you’re an adult male.
Its onset can actually begin in your twenties, though it may take years or decades for the progress to be noticeable.
Androgenic alopecia manifests with telltale patterns of hair loss: Your crown may begin to thin and eventually be exposed to the sun, and your front hairline may begin to recede.
It’s caused by a combination of factors, including your age, genetics, and the hormones you are producing.
Testosterone injections are hormone replacements for men and women in need of hormones because they’re producing insufficient levels on their own.
Testosterone has important benefits: It affects sexual function, mood and strength, and may impact bone density, insulin resistance, obesity and heart conditions as men age.
Testosterone levels are technically irrelevant when it comes to hair loss, because testosterone does not cause hair loss.
Such is actually one of the most common hair loss myths. Instead, male pattern baldness is caused by a byproduct of testosterone called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). And DHT is formed from testosterone by an enzyme called 5α-reductase.
If your 5α-reductase levels are high, or the enzyme is particularly prolific, testosterone injections or testosterone replacement therapy may in fact lead to higher DHT levels, which could indeed cause increased hair loss symptoms.
In short, it’s DHT that’s linked to pattern hair loss when it collects in scalp tissue.
DHT can effectively pause a hair follicle’s growth pattern, and when it’s stopped for long enough, it can become permanent.
As a result, DHT is effectively a hair follicle killer, and needs to be addressed medically for best results.
One proven way to preserve hair follicles is to prevent testosterone (regardless of your body’s levels) from being converted to DHT wherever hair is growing.
Whether you’re about to start hormone replacement therapy with testosterone or not, you may want to treat or prevent your hair loss, and there are several medications that can help you do that.
Androgenic alopecia responds well to oral and topical medications, but two in particular perform the best: finasteride and minoxidil.
Finasteride helps your body block the enzyme that turns testosterone into DHT. Taking finasteride daily can reduce DHT levels by about 70 percent according to studies, which can be enough to slow, stop and even reverse the hair loss you’re seeing.
And then there’s minoxidil, which can boost hair growth. Studies show that use of minoxidil over a 48 week period can increase new hair growth by up to 18 percent, which is enough to get your mane back on track.
Beyond those options, there are vitamins to consider as well. Check out Essential Vitamins for a Healthy Head of Hair for more on the supplemental support your hair may benefit from.
You may see saw palmetto in shampoo ingredients. Learn more by checking out: What to Look For in a Men’s Hair Loss Shampoo.
Getting older can bring an avalanche of new concerns with each passing year, and the balance between testosterone’s benefits and potential drawbacks is a common quandary for many men.
As always, the best advice for first steps is to talk to a healthcare professional, and the good news is that with proper precautions, treating hair loss doesn’t have to mean a choice between hair and health.
A healthcare provider may prescribe medications like finasteride and minoxidil to balance out testosterone replacement therapy’s potential symptoms.
If you’re ready to take the next step, talk to a healthcare professional today to find the right hair loss treatment for you.
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