Finasteride (Propecia) for Hair Loss

If you have already taken action to combat hair loss, you have likely searched for ways to prevent, stop, or reverse it. Perhaps you have tried topical treatments like minoxidil, an over-the-counter medication widely available across the globe. 

Have you used minoxidil and not experienced the hair regrowth you’d like? Maybe you have talked about your hair loss with your primary care provider and mentioned the oral medication finasteride (Propecia).

Discover what makes this oral medication solution for hair loss treatment different from other treatment methods.

How Was Propecia Developed?

Finasteride began as an unexpected discovery. The pharmaceutical giant Merck developed Proscar (in 5-mg doses) to treat symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in men with enlarged prostate glands. 

Participants reported an unexpected side effect during clinical trials of the drug: additional hair growth. Since the drug received preapproval for this initial purpose, Merck decided to repurpose and redevelop it, creating the first oral hair loss medication. Thus, Propecia was born. 

In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Propecia for use. At that time, Propecia became the first drug of its type to treat male pattern baldness and remains the first line of choice for men experiencing hair loss issues. 

The recommended dose of Propecia is a 1-milligram tablet taken once daily. Typically, daily use for three months or more is necessary to achieve significant results. Hair loss experts recommend continued use of finasteride to treat male pattern baldness.

Does Finasteride Actually Work?

The good news is that finasteride is considered the most effective hair loss treatment on the market. Clinical studies have demonstrated that hair loss progression stopped in 86% of participants. Similarly, 65% experienced a “substantial” increase in hair growth. The longer an individual uses finasteride, the better the result. 

One misconception related to finasteride is that an individual will see noticeable hair regrowth within relatively short periods. First, you must understand that hair takes a long time to grow and progress through its natural life cycle. The medication is not a miracle drug. In some cases, people do not experience any regrowth, which is OK. The most significant use for finasteride is halting the progression of hair loss. You can effectively slow it by approximately 70% in a worst-case scenario. 

Finasteride’s efficacy has encouraged doctors to prescribe it as the first line in drug treatment for patients experiencing male pattern baldness. This treatment takes precedence over over-the-counter hair loss treatments like minoxidil. 

Finasteride is most effective with mild to moderate male pattern baldness. If you start treating your hair loss problems early, you gain an increased chance of reversing hair loss. However, if you have lost too much hair already, the effect can be much less noticeable. 

How Does Finasteride Work?

Finasteride works by inhibiting the production of 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme that converts your body’s testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). As the primary hormone that causes hair loss in men, some people are more sensitive to DHT than others, which explains why some men are more susceptible to losing their hair faster.

While some people typically lose their hair due to hormone imbalance, nutritional deficiencies, infections, or some psychological conditions, male pattern baldness results from hair follicles that exhibit sensitivities to DHT. This sensitivity causes hair follicles to shrink after some time, and as they shrink, they produce fewer hairs. 

As the follicles shrink, hair grows increasingly shorter and finer until no new hair starts to grow. Male pattern baldness often starts with a receding hairline on the forehead, or the area around the crown starts thinning initially, creating a bald spot. This appearance is due to the follicles on the top and crown of the head containing DHT-sensitive follicles. 

While DHT explains the hair loss associated with male pattern baldness, some exceptions can pertain to the hair follicles on the sides and back of the head. These exceptions explain the phenomenon of a horseshoe baldness pattern. With this pattern, the follicles tend to be more resistant to DHT than those on your scalp’s front, top, and crown. 

To experience positive results of taking finasteride, you must continue using it for six months. Research shows a significant increase in hair count over one year of continuous treatment. Treatment requires taking 1 milligram of finasteride per day. This treatment form comprises the usual finasteride dose for hair loss prevention. If you stop taking the medication, you will develop an increased production of the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, leading to increased DHT production and further hair loss.

Suppose you have not seen any significant results after taking finasteride for one full year. In that case, you should revisit a hair loss treatment professional to evaluate your condition and consider other options you can use with finasteride.

Finasteride for Women’s Hair Loss (Not FDA Approved)

The FDA has not approved finasteride to treat hair loss for women. While several drugs may work to a certain extent for some women, our MAXIM hair loss treatment experts won’t prescribe finasteride for treating female pattern baldness. 

Finasteride belongs to Category X, a drug classification that denotes a risk of causing congenital disabilities in unborn children. Women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant, as well as women of child-bearing age, should not take finasteride.

Suppose your hair loss reflects female pattern baldness. In that case, you can use other topical medications, such as ones containing trace amounts of estradiol, which balances the overproduction and uptake of DHT for hair loss in women.

Finasteride Side Effects

As with any drug, possible side effects are likely to occur from taking finasteride.

Some people may have common cold symptoms, like runny nose, drowsiness, or congestion. The good news is that these side effects tend to go away as the body adjusts to the drug. However, finasteride’s most commonly feared side effect is suppressing healthy sexual function. In April 2012, the FDA issued a warning on finasteride, noting that sexual side effects such as decreased libido and inability for males to have or maintain an erection could persist even after someone stops taking the medication. 

Therefore, you should consider the risk of sexual symptoms and severe side effects before taking finasteride. It’s worth noting that the topical forms of finasteride use a much smaller amount of the drug and are just as effective, but they do not share the same side effect profile as finasteride’s pill form since it has far less of an impact on serum DHT. Regardless, if you are taking oral finasteride, talk to your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following adverse side effects:

  • Chills, confusion, or cold sweats. 
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness when standing up.
  • Swelling in your face or extremities.
  • A tingling sensation of your hands or feet.
  • Breast enlargement or tenderness.
  • Rashes or hives.
  • Unusual weight gain or loss.

What If Finasteride Doesn’t Work to Treat Hair Loss?

Remember that successful hair loss treatment doesn’t come in a quick-fix solution. You have to take time to work on it, and it requires consistency and commitment to your treatment protocols. Contact us today and schedule your virtual consultation if you want to pursue a hair loss treatment with MAXIM Hair Restoration. We’re happy to discuss various treatment options with you.