Medically reviewed by Michele Emery, DNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/08/2020
Are you worried about hair loss? If so, you’re not alone. Most men, at some point, worry about their hairline. That’s probably because, according to the American Hairloss Association, by 35, two thirds of men will encounter some level of hair loss. By 50, that number more than doubles to 85 percent of men. It’s a legitimate concern, fellas.
By virtue of being here, however, you’ve taken more action than a lot of men have regarding hair loss — you’ve started researching ways to prevent, stop or reverse male pattern baldness.
Are you ready for some good news? Treatment is more effective than you think. In fact, fighting hair loss can be easy and effective for many men experiencing androgenetic alopecia. All you need to do is be patient and willing to commit to a long-term treatment program.
You might be wondering why there are so many men walking around with significant hair loss, especially considering there are a number of remedies out there that can slow down or stop male pattern baldness completely. We think it’s because of a lack of education about which hair loss treatments actually work.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding hair loss remedies, and most of it is from armchair experts claiming that their all-natural, homeopathic methods are guaranteed to promote hair growth and stop baldness (spoiler alert: many of them don’t).
This makes finding reliable information challenging, and to further complicate matters, successful hair loss treatment doesn’t come in the form of a quick fix. It’s something that takes time to work and requires consistency and dedication. A lot of people simply quit because they don’t see major results in the first couple of weeks and assume that the treatment doesn’t work.
Finasteride, also sold under the brand name Propecia®, is an FDA-approved prescription medication for hair loss prevention in men. But don’t confuse this for being a miracle cure for baldness. There’s no such thing as a magical cure that stops male pattern baldness.
However, finasteride can be an effective way to prevent your hair from thinning because it prohibits the conversion of testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT is a powerful hormone that is thought to cause hair follicles to miniaturize and eventually stop growing hair. To get this benefit of finasteride, you need to take it properly and consistently as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
One of the best things about finasteride is how convenient the treatment is. It comes in a 1mg finasteride pill which is normally taken once a day — that’s it. As long as you’re willing to be patient, the medicine will take care of the rest. You should start seeing results in three months.
Finasteride is one of the few hair loss treatments to be clinically tested, FDA-approved and proven to work for the majority of men. In fact, finasteride has been shown to effectively help hair regrowth in about 85 percent of men who take it over a span of three to four months.
While there is no catch, finasteride doesn’t completely cure male pattern baldness. Instead, it prevents testosterone from breaking down into the hormone linked to hair loss in men (DHT) and is only effective for as long as you take the medication.
No matter how successful your treatment is and regardless of how much hair you’ve managed to grow back, if you stop taking finasteride, you’ll no longer get its benefits. Generally, if you stop taking finasteride, the hair you’ve managed to regrow will fall out again in about a year.
Think of finasteride as a way to put male pattern baldness on pause. Still, it’s an incredibly effective tool in the fight against hair loss and the only prescription treatment approved by the FDA for male pattern baldness.
There’s no such thing as a drug that’s without side effects completely. If you plan to take finasteride, it’s important to understand what side effects you could expect. While only a small percentage of men taking finasteride report experiencing side effects, there’s still the possibility that side effects can occur. Here are a few things that you should know about the drug before you start taking it.
One thing you might be worried about is unwanted sexual side effects. Remember that finasteride works by blocking DHT. DHT is a male sex hormone and is also derived from testosterone — another important sex hormone. This sex hormone just happens to also be linked to hair loss, unfortunately!
Luckily, the instance of sexual side effects seems to be pretty low in men taking finasteride. In clinical studies, less than two percent of men taking finasteride reported experiencing sexual side effects like erectile dysfunction, a decrease in libido and a lower volume of ejaculate. And for most men, these side effects went away even while they continued to take finasteride. However, there have been reports that sexual side effects could persist even after stopping finasteride.
Healthcare professionals recommend that finasteride not be mixed with NSAIDS like Aleve®, Motrin® or Advil® as this could present an increased risk of sexual dysfunction.
Other side effects that men have reported experiencing with finasteride are breast tenderness and enlargement, depression, anxiety, allergic reactions, problems with ejaculation, testicular pain and neurological problems like mental fogginess. In rare cases, some of these side effects lasted long after the men stopped taking finasteride.
There have been reports of a slight increased risk (1.8 percent with 5mg Finasteride dosage versus 1.0 percent placebo) of High Grade Prostate Cancer for men over age 55 years old. Again, this is at a much higher dosage (5mg versus 1mg ) than we prescribe for hair loss.
If you are concerned about side effects, be sure to let your healthcare provider know of your concerns before you start taking finasteride.
Although low, there is also an increased risk of getting a more serious form of prostate cancer, called high-grade prostate cancer.
Additionally, if you suffer from chronic liver disease, you should avoid finasteride altogether.
Again, it is important that you talk to your healthcare provider about all the potential risks and side effects so you can know what to expect before starting the medication. If you do happen to experience any side effects while taking finasteride, make sure that you talk to your healthcare provider before continuing further.
As you can see, finasteride is no miracle pill that solves male pattern baldness. But it is an effective way to stop hair loss. It’s a highly effective and well researched treatment that millions of men have turned to to help them stop hair loss in its tracks.
If you’re interested in learning more about finasteride and how it can help you, talk to your healthcare provider.
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