Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/26/2021
Before you begin a prescription drug regimen or any regimen, it makes sense to do your research and determine if it’s the right choice for you. In the case of hair loss treatments, like finasteride, there’s nothing more telling than photos.
Before and after photos of any endeavor — e.g. weight loss, hair cuts, home remodels — give you a way to see the fruits of many weeks or months of labor. This is also true of before and after photos when treating hair loss with finasteride. And while scientific research may be more valuable, it’s not nearly as fun to look at.
Finasteride, also known under the brand name Propecia®, is an oral medication. It belongs to a class of drugs known as a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor. The brand name drug is manufactured by Merck & Company, while generic versions of finasteride are made by other drug makers.
Finasteride is approved by the FDA for two major conditions: to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (at a 5mg daily dosage, under the brand name Proscar®) and to treat male pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia (at a 1mg daily dosage and under the brand name Propecia).
Androgenetic alopecia is a type of hair loss in men that happens when the hairline recedes at the crown and in an M shape over the forehead. Ultimately, male pattern baldness typically leads to complete baldness.
Finasteride works by blocking the production of a hormone in the scalp that causes hair loss.
Generally, a doctor will prescribe 1mg tablets of finasteride to be taken once daily. But the results aren’t instantaneous. The drug label says “daily use for three months or more is necessary before benefit is observed.”
It’s important to note that the medication will only work if you take it consistently, as directed. Stopping it because you’ve begun to see improvement will only stop the improvements.
A long-term Japanese study tracked 532 men suffering from androgenetic alopecia who had been treated with finasteride for ten years. Such a long study period is unusual, and very helpful when determining the effects of a treatment protocol. The study was published along with numerous before and after photos of finasteride results.
The findings: 99.1 percent of the men experienced improvement and prevention of any further progression in their hair loss over the 10-year study period.
An earlier study tracked men for 5 years and found results began plateauing after the fourth year, but this later research didn’t show a similar slow-down.
Ten years can seem like a long time to take a medication, we know. But when it comes to hair loss, you’re fighting a long-term battle. Most men see benefits from finasteride treatment within 12 months. In cases where improvement isn’t seen in 12 months, continuing finasteride likely won’t be effective.
It’s hard to see the top of your head. It’s also hard to see slow progress over time, when you look in the mirror each day. (If you’ve ever tried to reach weight loss or even muscle-building goals, you know this to be true.) Taking your own photos before you begin finasteride and throughout your treatment regimen will help you get an objective view of your progress.
Make sure to set up in a room with good lighting, but not where you’ll catch a glare off your scalp. Enlist the help of a friend, if possible.
Take your before photos the day before you begin treatment, and then at regular intervals. Since you likely won’t see results until the 30-day mark, your first after photo can come at 30 days and then on 15 day (or two-week) intervals.
Without medical intervention, androgenetic alopecia in men isn’t reversible. And with medical intervention, it’s only partially reversible, according to researchers. So the most important thing you can do when taking finasteride is keep taking finasteride.
When you begin seeing results with finasteride, it doesn’t mean your hair loss is “cured” and you can stop taking it. On the contrary, stopping treatment will stop the benefits. According to the National Institutes of Health, “You will probably lose any hair that grew back while you were taking finasteride during the first 12 months after you stop taking the medication.” And if that isn’t reason enough to be consistent, I don’t know what is.
Knowing what to expect with a medication can help you set your expectations. Taking your own progress photos can help you determine if finasteride is working for you.
You can find before and after photos of people online who have used finasteride, but ultimately your own experience will be the most meaningful for you and help you judge the true effects of finasteride.
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