DHEA is a popular supplement for a good reason. It functions to improve a multitude of health parameters, including but not limited to immune function, age related muscle wasting, cognitive function, testosterone levels, mood, lipid profiles, insulin management, weight loss and energy. It has been touted as the hormonal “fountain of youth” for some time, and although that is a clear exaggeration of its benefits, available data consistently suggests it does have a pronounced anti-aging effect.
Our concern with DHEA is of course, is its effects on hair. Since it is a hormone precursor that increases levels of testosterone, it causes an increase in DHT and estrogen as well. So theoretically it should cause or at least accelerate hair loss. However feedback over the years has been mixed. Some already dealing with androgenetic alopecia have noticed no increase in shedding whatsoever, and continue to take it. Others have observed a rapid increase in shedding necessitating discontinuation. Life Extension Magazine recently stated that “there is no evidence DHEA causes hair loss”, but don’t draw any conclusions from that statement-it has never been studied for this specific effect. Dr. Sahalian, a published authority on DHEA, maintains it often does cause hair loss.
Interestingly, DHEA appears to be much more problematic for women in this regard than men. Dr. Proctor M.D.,PhD, observed this years ago. The reason for this apparent gender discrimination remains unclear. I personally have been taking 75mg. of DHEA for the last 8 years, without any apparent androgenic side effects.
In fact, there is surprisingly some evidence to suggest that DHEA supplementation may improve ones response to treatment with 5 alpha reductase inhibitors, such as finasteride and Soy Isoflavones due to its elevating effects on IGF-1.
Tang L, Bernardo O, Bolduc C, Lui H, Madani S, Shapiro J.
The expression of insulin-like growth factor 1 in follicular dermal papillae correlates with therapeutic efficacy of finasteride in androgenetic alopecia. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Aug; 49(2):229-33.
Fortunately there is a hair safe way to supplement with DHEA. That is to use a metabolite of DHEA known as 7 Keto DHEA, which has no androgenic side effects. In fact this DHEA metabolite was in part designed to allow the benefits of DHEA without the androgenic side effects. It does not increase estrogen and testosterone, but does lower cortisol, enhance immune function, and is especially effective at lowering bodyfat via its enhancement of thermogenesis.
Here’s a perspective from Dr. Dguzan, who specializes in hormone replacement and anti-agingmedicine:
“Co-supplementation with these hormones can be a very important part of hormone-restorative therapy. There are times when the use of regular DHEA can boost estrogen and testosterone concentrations to appropriate levels but still not be enough to put DHEA in the optimal range. Supplementation with 7-Keto can permit additional progress in optimizing immune function, cholesterol reduction, weight loss, and memory enhancement without raising these ‘downstream’ hormones, estrogen and testosterone, to an inappropriate degree”.
“Also, women sometimes experience hair loss or growth in facial hair when they take large amounts of DHEA due to its conversion to testosterone. The use of 7-Keto and a smaller, more suitable intake of DHEA can eliminate this problem while still giving them many of DHEA’s benefits, which in reality are due to its 7-Keto metabolite. Moreover, DHEA supplementation is contraindicated for hormone-sensitive cancers such as prostate cancer and many breast cancers. In these instances, dosing with 7-Keto is a viable alternative.”
So if you are dealing with hair loss and desire the multiple benefits of DHEA supplementation, what should you do? If you are male, you can likely use DHEA in a dose of 50-100mg/day with no problem as long as, like you would when using either testosterone replacement or AS, you use a comprehensive hair loss treatment regime. As mentioned, using DHEA with 5 alpha reductase inhibitors may actually result in a better treatment response. DHEA is widely available at pharmacies and health food stores.
For some men, and particularly women, whose hair appears much more sensitive to the androgenic effects of DHEA, or for those seeking a muscle defining or “cutting” agent, using 7 Keto DHEA would be a hair safe way to go. The recommended dose for 7 Keto DHEA is typically100mg, twice a day.