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What Happens If You Stop Taking Finasteride For Hair Loss?

What Happens When You Stop Taking Finasteride

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One of the most common questions many men have about finasteride is what will happen if they stop taking the drug. Are the hair loss prevention effects permanent, or will their hair start to thin and fall out again?

Finasteride works by stopping the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the male sex hormone responsible for baldness. Studies show that finasteride blocks about 64% of DHT -- enough to significantly slow, or even stop, hair loss in most men.

DHT blocking drugs like finasteride belong to a category of medications known as 5α-Reductase inhibitors, or 5-ARIs. Our guide to DHT and male hair loss covers how finasteride works for hair loss prevention in more detail.

Because finasteride works by blocking the specific enzyme responsible for DHT, it only prevents hair loss while the drug is active in your body. Once you stop taking finasteride, your body starts to convert testosterone to DHT again and your hair follicles start to react as they normally would.

In this guide, we’ll cover what you can expect to happen if you stop taking finasteride, as well as the long-term effects that stopping finasteride can have on your hairline, thickness and all-round hair health.

Finasteride is Only Effective While You Take It

Finasteride has a half-life of around five to six hours, meaning it needs to be taken daily in order to be effective. Once you stop taking finasteride, the dose of the medication that’s active in your body will slowly decline until it’s completely excreted over the course of several days.

When there’s no longer any finasteride in your body, the 5α-Reductase enzyme will no longer be blocked, meaning your body will once again start to convert a small percentage of testosterone into DHT.

If you’re genetically prone to male pattern baldness, this can mean that the DHT will once again start to affect your hair follicles, resulting in thinning of the hair on your scalp, hairline recession and other male pattern baldness effects.

This effect is documented in scientific reviews of finasteride for male pattern baldness, which show that the hair loss prevention effects of finasteride stop once people stop using the drug.

In short, if you’ve experienced hair loss before taking finasteride, there’s a good chance that your hair will start to thin again if you stop using finasteride. Finasteride isn’t a lifetime cure -- instead, it’s a treatment that you need to keep taking if you want to stop hair loss for good.

Is Finasteride Safe to Use Long Term?

Since finasteride only prevents hair loss while it’s active in your body, you’ll need to use it over the long term if your goal is to stop baldness and keep as much of your hair as possible.

For many men, this means taking finasteride for life. Currently, studies show that finasteride is safe to use over the long term. For example, a study from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial states that there is “little need to worry” about any long-term consequences from finasteride.

Other long-term studies of finasteride show similar results, with a 1mg dose of finasteride well tolerated over a period of five years in a 2002 study.

Do Finasteride Side Effects Stop With Usage?

Scientific studies show that finasteride is a safe, effective hair loss treatment with few, mild side effects. However, a small percentage of men that use finasteride might experience side effects such as depression and short-term sexual dysfunction.

Of these side effects, sexual dysfunction is the most common, with finasteride use increasing the risk of erectile dysfunction and hypoactive sexual desire (reduced sex drive) for some men.

Currently, data regarding long-term side effects from finasteride is mixed. FDA study data shows that the vast majority of men that experience side effects from finasteride also notice that these side effects stop when they stop using the medication.

However, a small number of men that use finasteride report long-term side effects that continue after they stop taking the medication. At this point, most studies (including a 2012 study of men with recurring side effects from finasteride) view this aspect of finasteride usage as an area of active research.

So, What Happens if You Stop Taking Finasteride?

In short, once you stop taking finasteride, you can expect that the hair you’ve preserved will start to fall out, just like it did before you took the medication. Finasteride only works while the drug is active in your body, meaning you’ll go back to a normal rate of hair loss once it’s excreted.

If you’ve experienced side effects from finasteride, they should stop once you stop taking it. This is documented in most studies of finasteride’s side effect profile. However, it’s important that you are aware of the potential long term side effects of finasteride before you start taking it.

This article was reviewed by Ho Anh, MD.

Important Safety Information

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

Finasteride is for use by MEN ONLY and should NOT be used by women or children.

Read this Patient Information before you start taking Finasteride and each time you get a refill. There may be new information. This information does not take the place of talking with your healthcare provider about your medical condition or treatment.

What is Finasteride?

Finasteride is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia).

It is not known if Finasteride works for a receding hairline on either side of and above your forehead (temporal area).

Finasteride is not for use by women and children.

Who should not take Finasteride?

Do not take Finasteride if you:

  • are pregnant or may become pregnant. Finasteride may harm your unborn baby.
    • Finasteride tablets are coated and will prevent contact with the medicine during handling, as long as the tablets are not broken or crushed. Females who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not come in contact with broken or crushed Finasteride tablets.
    • If a pregnant woman comes in contact with crushed or broken Finasteride tablets, wash the contact area right away with soap and water. If a woman who is pregnant comes into contact with the active ingredient in Finasteride, a healthcare provider should be consulted. If a woman who is pregnant with a male baby swallows or comes in contact with the medicine in Finasteride, the male baby may be born with sex organs that are not normal.
  • are allergic to any of the ingredients in Finasteride. See the end of this leaflet for a complete list of ingredients in Finasteride.

    What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking Finasteride? Before taking Finasteride, tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • have any other medical conditions, including problems with your prostate or liver

    Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

    Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them to show your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine.

    How should I take Finasteride?

  • Take Finasteride exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it.
  • You may take Finasteride with or without food.
  • If you forget to take Finasteride, do not take an extra tablet. Just take the next tablet as usual.

    Finasteride will not work faster or better if you take it more than once a day.

    What are the possible side effects of Finasteride?

  • decrease in your blood Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. Finasteride can affect a blood test called PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) for the screening of prostate cancer. If you have a PSA test done you should tell your healthcare provider that you are taking Finasteride because Finasteride decreases PSA levels. Changes in PSA levels will need to be evaluated by your healthcare provider. Any increase in follow-up PSA levels from their lowest point may signal the presence of prostate cancer and should be evaluated, even if the test results are still within the normal range for men not taking Finasteride. You should also tell your healthcare provider if you have not been taking Finasteride as prescribed because this may affect the PSA test results. For more information, talk to your healthcare provider.

  • There may be an increased risk of a more serious form of prostate cancer in men taking finasteride at 5 times the dose of Finasteride.

    The most common side effects of Finasteride include:

  • decrease in sex drive
  • trouble getting or keeping an erection
  • a decrease in the amount of semen

    The following have been reported in general use with Finasteride:

  • breast tenderness and enlargement. Tell your healthcare provider about any changes in your breasts such as lumps, pain or nipple discharge.
  • depression;
  • decrease in sex drive that continued after stopping the medication;
  • allergic reactions including rash, itching, hives and swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, and face;
  • problems with ejaculation that continued after stopping medication;
  • testicular pain;
  • difficulty in achieving an erection that continued after stopping the medication;
  • male infertility and/or poor quality of semen.
  • in rare cases, male breast cancer.

    Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

    These are not all the possible side effects of Finasteride. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA1088.

    How should I store Finasteride?

  • Store Finasteride at room temperature between 59˚F to 86˚F (15˚C to 30˚C).
  • Keep Finasteride in a closed container and keep Finasteride tablets dry (protect from moisture).

    Keep Finasteride and all medicines out of the reach of children.

    General information about the safe and effective use of Finasteride.

    Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes other than those listed in this Patient Information. Do not use Finasteride for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Do not give Finasteride to other people, even if they have the same symptoms you have. It may harm them.