Role of testosterone and its dervatives in hair loss has been subject of numerous studies and there has been several publications demonstrating local effect of testosterone in baldness and potentiation of this effect by dihydrotestosterone.
Certain unsaturated aliphatic fatty acids, such as gamma-linolenic acid, inhibit 5alpha-reductase activity in vitro and in vivo. 5-alpha-reductase induces conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone(DHT).
Other study suggests c12-c16 chains, saturated fattt acids with double bonds such as gamma linolenic acid show more inhibitory effects on 5-alpha-reductase. Another study has examined inhibition of 5-alpha-reductase by gamma linolenic acid and not by other saturated fatty acids such as steartic acid.
All these studies have led to bring a new focus to evaluate whether certain plant extracts with 5-alpha-reductase inhibitory effect might benefit androgenic alopecia and related hair loss. One publication in journal of dermatological science indicates that extract of Thujae occidentalis semen may suppress activation of DHT and effective in treatment of male pattern baldness by modifying androgen conversion. This effect has been shown to be more potent than that of gamma linolenic acid.
Gamma linolenic acid, with low toxicity and lack of systemic side effects, therefore may be potentially useful for treatment of androgen-dependent skin disorders such as hormonal acne treatment. This unsaturated fatty acid has been demonstrated to possess DNA protective property and to enhance cell’s life span by modulating oxidative stress which warrants its use in anti aging skin care products.