What Every Man Should Know About Finasteride for Hair Loss

You’ve suspected it for some time, but now it’s undeniable — you’re losing your hair. Whether your hairline is receding, you’re developing a bald spot or your hair is thinning all over your head, hair loss is never a good thing. As a man, your hair is part of your identity and your hairstyle is a testament to your personality. But losing your hair doesn’t have to mean losing yourself.

Though there are many over-the-counter hair loss treatments on the market, most of them don’t offer any real or lasting results. Surgery, steroid injections and hair pieces are often expensive or ineffective. What does that leave you with?

Finasteride is a prescription drug specifically formulated for the treatment of hair loss — and for most men, it works. If you’re ready to stop losing your hair and regain your luscious locks, here’s what you need to know about finasteride.

Which Types of Hair Loss Can Be Treated?

A little bit of hair loss is completely normal. Most people lose between 50 and 150 hairs per day. This level of hair loss is so insignificant that it’s usually not even noticeable. If you’ve begun to experience noticeable hair loss, however, it could be a problem. 

There are many different forms of hair loss, each caused by different things, and they can affect men and women in different ways.

Male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, is the most common form of hair loss and  is typically an inherited condition. As the condition progresses, the natural hair growth cycle begins to weaken and your hair follicles actually begin to shrink, causing your hair to become shorter and finer. 

Eventually, hair growth stops altogether. The exact cause for this type of hair loss is unknown, but it is related to the production of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Treatments that inhibit production of DHT are sometimes effective in slowing, stopping or reversing hair loss due to androgenic alopecia.

Though male pattern baldness is often treatable, other forms of hair loss either cannot be treated or they resolve themselves on their own. Telogen effluvium, for example, is a temporary form of hair loss typically induced by severe stress. Once the stressor has been removed, many people grow their hair back. 

Alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition, is another story. Scientists aren’t sure what triggers the immune system to begin attacking the hair follicles, but it is thought to be a combination of internal and external factors. For some people, oral or topical treatments work to reduce hair loss, but autoimmune conditions like this can never be fully cured.

What Treatments DON’T Work?

There are countless men out there who are desperate to stop their hair loss, so they try everything the can. Unfortunately, many of the hair loss treatments on the market don’t work. Here is an overview of some of the hair loss treatments you may have seen that don’t really work:

  • Laser Combs — This treatment consists of a comb paired with a low-level laser light. You simply comb it through your hair to deliver low-dose laser light to the hair follicles, theoretically stimulating new growth.
  • Hair Oils — Essential oils, Moroccan oil, argan oil and even coconut oil have all been marketed as hair loss remedies at some point, but there is little clinical evidence to suggest that these oils do anything for your hair other than leaving it feeling greasy.
  • Corticosteroids — Corticosteroid injections are usually used to reduce hair loss caused by inflammation. These treatments sometimes help with alopecia areata, but they need to be repeated frequently and the hair loss is likely to continue once treatment stops.
  • Topical Corticosteroids — Steroid creams and ointments are also a popular treatment for hair loss, but their long-term benefits have not been studied and they have been known to cause serious side effects.
  • Surgery — Hair transplants, scalp reduction and artificial hair implantation are the most common forms of hair loss surgery. These options may make hair loss less noticeable, but they are often painful, expensive and may only offer short-term benefits.

Out of all the hair loss remedies out there, there are only two which have been proven to be effective and backed by FDA approval — finasteride and minoxidil. The former is a prescription drug that blocks the action of DHT and the latter is available in a foam or serum form, often used to supplement the benefits of finasteride.

How Does Finasteride Work for Hair Loss Treatment?

Finasteride is an FDA-approved medication for the treatment of hair loss. Also known by the brand name Propecia®, finasteride belongs to a class of drugs known as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors. It works by preventing testosterone from breaking down into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone that causes male pattern baldness. You can get this medication with a prescription from your primary care physician (PCP).

Available in tablet form, finasteride is designed for long-term use. You may not see any significant results until you’ve been taking the product continuously for a few months. It may also help to take the tablet at the same time each day. Men who have used finasteride to treat hair loss have reported an increase in the number of hairs, as well as improvement in hair quality. Keep in mind that finasteride only works if you keep taking it. If you stop using finasteride, the hair you’ve regrown will fall out within a year.

Though finasteride is widely regarded as safe, all drugs come with a risk for side effects. 

Side effects of finasteride include rashes and breast tenderness, which occur in less than one percent of people who take it regularly.

Other side effects include erectile dysfunction (affecting 1.3 percent of users), decreased libido (affecting 1.8 percent of users) and lower ejaculate volume levels (affecting 1.2 percent of users).

It’s also recommended that NSAIDS — like Aleve®, Motrin®, Advil®, etc. — be avoided while taking finasteride, as there’s an increased occurrence of sexual dysfunction when the two are mixed.

It’s worth noting that these side effects generally disappear once you stop using the medication. It’s also worth noting, however, that in 1.4 percent of people who experience side effects while using finasteride (~0.02 percent of total users), these side effects continue after use stops.

Finally, people who are pregnant or have chronic liver disease should not take finasteride. 

Losing your hair is never easy but, fortunately, it isn’t something you have to live with! If you’re experiencing hair loss due to male pattern baldness, don’t fall victim to marketing schemes for products and therapies that don’t work — stick with one of the only hair loss treatments that is both FDA-approved and proven to be effective, finasteride.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.