Want to Manage Male Pattern Baldness? Act Fast

By Michael A. Smith, MD

It only took about 6 months for my roommate to go completely bald back in medical school. What started off as a barely-noticeable thinning turned into complete balding within the blink of an eye.

Here’s the point: If you want to avoid male pattern baldness, you need to take action at the first signs of thinning. By acting quickly, you’ll have a much better chance of turning things around.

What is Male Pattern Baldness?

Male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, is a thinning of the hair at the vertex or top of the scalp. If it’s not reversed, it will inevitably lead to complete balding. In a vast majority of cases, the cause is hormonal and the culprit is DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, which is a potent androgen.

Testosterone is converted into DHT by 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme that’s a component of the sex hormone cascade. DHT plays an important role in male secondary sex characteristics and in libido — the physiological drive to procreate.

But like almost everything else, there’s also a downside. DHT can actually damage hair follicles in a process called “follicular miniaturization.” As your hair follicles become damaged and shrink, your hair shafts themselves also progressively narrow. Your hair then becomes thin and fragile, looking like what many would call “peach fuzz.”1

As such, reversing male pattern baldness is a matter of reducing the effects of DHT on the hair follicle, which is usually best accomplished by decreasing DHT production.

Now, if you’re thinking, “but DHT is important to my body,” you’re completely right. However, androgenic alopecia is a sign of overstimulation with DHT. DHT is definitely important, but too much can be problematic. Research suggests that a healthy balance between testosterone and DHT is not only beneficial for your hair, but also for your heart, brain and muscles. If you’re a man, this balance is beneficial for your prostate too.

Saw Palmetto Lowers DHT Production

Saw palmetto is known as Serenoa repens. It’s a fan palm with thin leaves covered in small “spines” that can easily cut your skin. At the base of the leaves are clusters of berries that are rich in beneficial fatty acids and phytosterols, which are potent plant-based antioxidants.

Saw palmetto is an effective inhibitor of 5-alpha-reductase.2 In one study, saw palmetto was looked at as a treatment for androgenic alopecia. The study followed 19 healthy men, aged 23-64 with mild-to-moderate hair loss.

The men were given either 200 mg of saw palmetto and 50 mg of beta-sitosterol (found naturally in saw palmetto) twice a day or a placebo. The subjects were followed for 4 ½ months. Overall hair assessment was determined using a standardized scale. By the end of the study, 60% of the men given saw palmetto reported significant improvements in the density of their hair.3

A high-quality saw palmetto extract should be standardized to 85-95% fatty acids and phytosterols. The only known extraction method that provides such a high percent of standardization is called “High-pressure CO2 Extraction.” Check the back of the label to see if your saw palmetto extract was made using this advanced technique.

Anti-DHT Properties of Curcuma

Curcuma aeruginosa is a type of turmeric known as pink and blue ginger, and it’s a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor.4 In one study, 87 men with male pattern baldness were randomized to a 5% curcuma extract, or a 5% minoxidil solution (a common drug used to treat male pattern baldness), or a combination of both twice daily for 6 months.

The effectiveness of the each treatment was measured by target hair counts and photographic review as well as by the subject’s own assessment of hair regrowth and hair shedding.

The results showed that all of the test subjects experienced hair regrowth and were subjectively satisfied with the treatments. Also, no significant side effects were reported.

However, the group that received the combination solution clearly benefited the most. They showed statistically significant improvements in hair count, photographic review, and hair regrowth and shedding.4

By the way, combining a low dose prescription drug with a natural extract is what’s known as integrative medicine. Integrative approaches can often help doctors and their patients achieve the best benefits while minimizing the risk of side effects, as shown in the above study. Thankfully, practicing integrated medicine is becoming more and more popular among doctors in the US these days.

Want to Reverse Thinning Hair? Act Fast!

Remember, my roommate went from thinning hair to complete balding in a very short period of time. This is why it’s so important to take steps as soon as you notice that your hair is thinning.

If you notice your own hair thinning, the first step should be seeing your doctor. Your doctor can rule out treatable causes for thinning hair, like low thyroid. Then, once a treatment plan is established, you can consider adding saw palmetto, curcuma, or even both to your regimen for maximum results.

Want to read even more on the topic? Check out our Health Concerns Report on Balding.

Have you battled male pattern baldness yourself? Please let us know in the comments.


  1. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2004 May;50(5):777-9.
  2. Adv Ther. 2010 Aug;27(8):555-63.
  3. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Apr;8(2):143-52.
  4. J Dermatolog Treat. 2011 Jul 14. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21756154)


Anonymous said...

Are you recommending a topical curcuma, or will a capsule work?

Life Extension said...

In this particular study, it was an oral curcuma extract.

Life Extension said...

Hi Hair Growth. Thanks for reading our post and for your insight.

David said...

Its good to know that you're recommending natural treatments over chemical ones. Definitely this is the way to go. I've been on treatments such as minox and finasteride for over two years, but they've done more damage than good to my hair, not to mention the side effects. Quit all of that now and am only taking saw palmetto supplements. Have yet to see results, but its too early to tell.

Life Extension said...

David, let us know how things work out for you. And thanks for reading our blog. We appreciate it!

Hair Loss Solutions said...

This is a very good article about natural hair loss treatments. As some people said above, all those prescription hair products can do more negative than positive. Thanks for the quality information about male pattern baldness.

Juan said...

Hi. I did not know about the anti DHT properties of curcuma.
Can you please be more specific about the dose?.
Also, I read recently about the dangers of finasteride for sex. If curcuma blocks v isn´t it the same problem that with finasteride?

Hung Nguyen said...

Another natural remedy for hair thinning, ProFollica is essentially a three-step system consisting of a shampoo, a topical gel and a nutritional supplement. All three components work to make the scalp healthier and provide the best environment for hair growth.

Luis said...

Like saw palmetto, nettle white blocks the production of 5-alpha-reductase, primarily responsible for male pattern baldness, but this valuable property is not well known

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