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Used by millions of men worldwide, finasteride (which is widely known as Propecia) is one of the few proven medications on the market for preventing and, in some cases, reversing hair loss.
Finasteride does this by reducing levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the body, the hormone that’s responsible for hair follicle miniaturization and male pattern baldness. Over time, DHT can damage your hair follicles, resulting in long-term hair loss.
All of the hairs you lose due to male pattern baldness are affected by DHT. The exceptions are the hair follicles on the sides and back of your head (the “horseshoe” baldness pattern), which tend to be more resistant to DHT than the ones around the front, top and crown.
Since finasteride works by reducing total DHT levels, it should logically prevent you from losing hair around your hairline.
However, the prescribing information for finasteride mostly focuses on its ability to prevent hair loss on the crown and top of the head. In this guide, we’ll look at the science behind finasteride and explain how and why it’s also an effective treatment for stopping a receding hairline.
Receding Hairlines and DHT: The Science
Finasteride works by inhibiting the production of 5α-Reductase, an enzyme that converts your body’s testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (more commonly known as DHT).
DHT is the primary hormone that causes hair loss in men. Some men are more sensitive to DHT than others, which is why not everyone begins to lose their hair at the same time, or at the same speed.
Hair loss can start at the hairline, at the crown or on top of the head. The area in which you start to lose hair is determined by your genetics -- in some men, the hair around their hairline are the most sensitive to DHT, while in others, the area around the crown starts to thin first.
Finasteride isn’t selective when it comes to blocking DHT. Instead of affecting a specific part of your scalp or blocking a specific type of hair loss, it will block DHT at its source. This means that finasteride should slow or stop hair loss and potentially regrow some hair regardless of your specific balding pattern.
Scientific studies tend to back this up. One study from 1999 found that finasteride “slowed hair loss and increased hair growth” in men with frontal scalp thinning (in short, men with hair loss around their hairline).
Over the course of one year of continuous treatment with 1mg of finasteride per day (the typical finasteride dose for hair loss prevention), study participants showed a significant increase in hair count in the frontal scalp. These results continued in the second year of finasteride use.
Finasteride is also scientifically proven to prevent hair loss at the vertex scalp (the area on top of your head, slightly behind your hairline), making it a potential option if you’d like to stop hair loss around your hairline from worsening.
In one 1998 study, men with male pattern hair loss experienced a slowed rate of hair loss and a measurable increase in hair at the vertex scalp, with the average hair count increasing from 876 at the beginning of the study to 1,014, measured in a 1-inch diameter circular area (5.1 cm2) of balding vertex scalp, after two years of finasteride usage at 1mg per day.
Can Finasteride Stop a Receding Hairline and Regrow Hair?
Everyone is different, so this question is a tough one to answer. As a general rule, the best way to think of finasteride is as a form of protection against further hair loss, not as a way to regrow hair that you’ve already lost.
However, study data does show that finasteride can regrow hair. 83% of finasteride users stop losing hair as a result of using the medication, while about 65% of men regrew some hair as a result of taking finasteride. The amount of regrowth men experience varies and is unpredictable.
Now, does this mean that finasteride will completely restore your receding hairline? Probably not, especially if you’ve had a receding hairline for some time and have gone completely bald. However, it could result in some level of regrowth in areas where you’ve only recently started to notice thinning and recession. This is why doing something about your hair loss while still have some hair is so important.
Prevention Is Much More Effective Than Denial
Finasteride, like minoxidil, was approved for use as a hair loss prevention medication primarily through tests on the scalp and crown. This is why it’s a little tough to find information on how it can prevent hair loss around the hairline.
However, both scientific data and a mountain of anecdotal evidence shows that finasteride can and often does produce improvements to the hairline, ranging from regrowth to a slowdown of further hair loss.
Finasteride also tends to beat other hair loss treatments in efficacy tests. For example, a study comparing finasteride to topical minoxidil found that finasteride resulted in dense hair regrowth in 80% of users, compared to 52% for minoxidil.
If you have a receding hairline, finasteride is definitely worth considering. The long-term results are legit and reliable, making it one of the most effective tools in your arsenal for preventing hair loss and improving the thickness and density of the hairline you already have.
This article was reviewed by Ho Anh, MD.