Finasteride (Propecia) for Hair Loss

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You may be familiar with the oral medication finasteride (Propecia) for hair loss treatment. Those who have tried hair loss products such as shampoos, creams and supplements, etc. may not be convinced that oral medications would effectively treat hair loss.

Find out what makes this form of oral medication a different solution from other hair loss treatments.

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Contents

The Development of Propecia
Does Propecia Work?
How Effective Is Finasteride?
Finasteride for Women’s Hair Loss (Not FDA Approved)
Finasteride’s Side Effects
What Happens If Finasteride Doesn’t Work
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The Development of Propecia

The pharmaceutical company Merck developed a medicine named Proscar to treat symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in men who had enlarged prostate glands. 

During clinical trials, participants experienced an unanticipated side effect of the medication: additional hair growth. Merck decided to repurpose and redevelop the drug, creating the first oral hair loss medication, Propecia. 

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

Medical professionals recommend taking a 1-milligram tablet of Propecia once daily. Continued daily use for three months or more is necessary to achieve results and treat male pattern baldness. 

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Finasteride (Propecia) for Hair Loss

Does Propecia Work?

Propecia, also called finasteride, is one of the most effective hair loss treatments on the market. Clinical studies have reported that hair loss progression ceased in approximately 86% of participants. Additionally, 65% of study participants experienced a marked increase in hair growth. Further evidence suggests that finasteride is more effective in its fifth year of use than in its first.

Finasteride’s efficacy has contributed to it being prescribed as the first course of drug treatment for patients experiencing male pattern baldness, even before over-the-counter hair loss treatments such as minoxidil. 

Finasteride is most effective with mild to moderate male pattern baldness. If you begin treating your hair loss problems early on, you increase your chances of reversing hair loss. However, if you have lost significant amounts of hair already, the effect would be much less noticeable. 

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01
How Effective Is Finasteride?

Finasteride inhibits the production of 5-alpha-reductase…..

02
Finasteride for Women’s Hair Loss (Not FDA Approved)

The FDA has not approved finasteride to treat women’s hair loss…..

03
Finasteride’s Side Effects

Finasteride has various possible side effects, classified as mild…..

How Effective Is Finasteride?

Finasteride inhibits the production of 5-alpha-reductase, which is an enzyme that converts the body’s testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This primary hormone which causes hair loss in men leads some individuals to be more sensitive to DHT than others. This sensitivity explains why some men are more prone to losing their hair at faster rates than others. 

While some men may lose their hair due to hormone imbalance, nutritional deficiencies, infections, or some psychological conditions, male pattern baldness results from hair follicles that are sensitive to DHT. This sensitivity causes hair follicles to shrink. As these follicles recede, they will produce fewer hairs. 

As the hair follicles shrink, hair begins to grow short and fine until no new hair grows. Male pattern baldness often manifests itself with either a receding hairline on the forehead or thinning around the crown of the head (the “bald spot”). The follicles on the top and crown of the head are more likely to have DHT-sensitive follicles. 

While DHT can be associated with male pattern baldness, some exceptions, such as hair follicles on the sides and back of the head, exist. This item is the reason behind the “horseshoe” baldness pattern. These follicles tend to be more resistant to DHT than those on the front, top, and crown of the scalp. 

To experience the full results of taking finasteride, you need to continue its use for six months. Research reports a substantial increase in hair count over one year of continuous treatment when an individual takes 1 milligram of finasteride per day, which represents the usual finasteride dose for hair loss prevention. If you stop taking the medication, your body will respond by increasing production of the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, which contributes to increased DHT production, thus promoting further hair loss.

Have you been taking finasteride for one year and haven’t seen significant results? You may need to seek professional help from your hair restoration physician. Your physician will likely recommend that you stop taking finasteride and consider a more permanent solution for your hair loss problems, such as follicular unit extraction (FUE).

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

The FDA has not approved finasteride to treat women’s hair loss. Finasteride falls under Category X, a class of teratogenic drugs that have a risk of causing birth defects in unborn children. As such, women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant should not take finasteride.

If your hair loss results from female pattern baldness, your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter topical treatments such as minoxidil. Similarly, some medications work differently to block DHT production and absorption. 

To support these findings, a study conducted from 2007 to 2011 examined 256 patients diagnosed with female pattern hair loss and who were taking 5 milligrams of finasteride to study the drug’s adverse effects on women.

If you’re experiencing female pattern baldness but you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, you should not take finasteride.

Finasteride’s Side Effects

Finasteride has various possible side effects, classified as mild to severe. 

Some individuals who take finasteride may experience side effects such as cold-like symptoms that can include a runny nose, drowsiness, or congestion. These side effects tend to go away as the body adjusts to the drug. 

Finasteride can also suppress sexual function. In April 2012, the FDA issued a warning on finasteride, stating that sexual side effects such as decreased libido and inability to have or keep an erection could persist even after individuals discontinue using the medication.

Before taking finasteride, consider the risk of sexual symptoms and severe side effects. Talk to your doctor immediately if you have one or more of the following side effects:

  • Breast enlargement or tenderness.
  • Chills, confusion, or cold sweats. 
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness when standing.
  • Rashes or hives.
  • Swelling in your face, fingers, or toes.
  • Tingling sensation in your hands or feet.
  • Unusual weight gain or loss.

What Happens If Finasteride Doesn’t Work?

Successful hair loss treatment isn’t a quick-fix solution. It requires consistency and commitment. 

If you’re taking finasteride, you need to commit to using it for a full year to experience significant results. You will likely experience unwanted outcomes if you stop taking finasteride unexpectedly. For example, hair you’ve had restored could fall out and your hair loss could occur again. 

Individuals who have discontinued finasteride treatment lost their restored hair over six to nine months. If this type of hair loss occurs, a hair transplant is likely your next step. 

Are you considering follicular unit extraction (FUE) to address your hair loss? Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our hair transplant specialist at The Hair Transplant Center – Dallas. We’re delighted to discuss different hair transplant treatment options with you.