You finally decided to take the leap and gave finasteride (Propecia) a try.
You followed your doctor’s recommendations to a T and paired the prescription with minoxidil to maximize your results. Perhaps you were skeptical at first, but a few months later you noticed that it was working.
Not only do you find fewer hairs on your pillow and in your
But now what do you do?
Do you keep taking the treatment? Is there more you could be doing to maximize your results for the long-term? Here are our recommendations:
How Long Should You Keep Taking Finasteride?
Finasteride is a prescription drug used for the treatment of male pattern baldness and it goes by the brand name Propecia. Male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, is the most common type of hair loss and it affects more than 35 million men in the United States, many of whom are under the age of 40. This condition is caused by a disruption of the hair growth cycle in which the hair follicle begins to shrink, producing shorter and finer hairs until the growth cycle stops altogether.
Though some forms of hair loss are permanent, male pattern baldness can be successfully treated with the drug finasteride in many cases. This oral medication blocks the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the male hormone that causes the hair follicles to shrink, allowing the hair growth process to resume its normal course. In 83% of cases, men taking finasteride are able to stop their hair loss and grow new hair. In order to achieve these results, the drug must be taken consistently.
The standard dosage for finasteride is 1 mg per day and, while it may start having an effect on your DHT levels immediately, it could take up to 3 months or more before you see a noticeable difference in your hair. It may take anywhere from 6 to 9 months for hairs affected by the miniaturization process to regain their strength and thickness. Different men respond to the drug in different ways and doctors generally agree that it takes a year to determine whether the treatment is really working and whether it might offer any long-term benefits.
So, how long should you keep taking finasteride?
Even if you’ve seen improvements to your hair, you shouldn’t stop taking the drug unless advised by your doctor. Again, it can take as long as a year to truly determine whether the treatment is benefiting you and you’ll only keep your hair loss at bay for as long as you take the treatment.
Tips for Maximizing Your Results
The longer you take finasteride, the better your results are likely to be. On the flip side, if you stop taking it, any hair you’ve gained will gradually be lost again. If you want to maximize your results, you might consider supplementing your oral medication with a topical application called minoxidil (also known as Rogaine). Though it doesn’t work for everyone, many men find that combining minoxidil with finasteride helps to further slow their hair loss and stimulates the follicles to start growing new hair.
As is true for finasteride, the longer you use minoxidil, the better your results will be. It typically takes four to twelve months for minoxidil to produce visible results, though you may see changes sooner if you are also taking finasteride. Some of the most common side effects for minoxidil include irritation, dryness, or burning of the scalp. You should also keep in mind that any new hair you’ve grown while taking Minoxidil on its own may fall out again if you stop using the product.
In addition to taking minoxidil as a supplementary treatment for your hair loss, the following tips may also boost your results:
- Wash your hair with a gentle DHT-blocking shampoo daily. You could also add a once a week shampoo with products that contain DHT-blocking ingredients like ketoconazole or
- Use a natural conditioner made with ingredients that boost circulation, increase cell production, and protect hair from damage.
- Consider taking biotin supplements to boost keratin production and support hair growth – take 30 to 100 mcg per day.
- Engage in regular exercise to boost circulation and support whole-body health.
- Follow a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in nutrients and low in saturated fat, processed carbs, and refined sugars.
Take steps to manage your stress levels – give meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises a try at least once a day.
Pay attention to what your body is telling you as you try out the tips above. Be on the lookout for side effects and signs of potential drug interactions and report any changes to your physician.
What Can You Expect in the Future?
Unfortunately, if you stop taking finasteride at any time, you may lose whatever benefits you’ve gained. It is also important to note that the effects of this drug are frequently limited to the scalp area where hair is present but thinning. For areas where growth has ceased completely, it is rare to experience regrowth. This is why men who start taking finasteride early on tend to see the greatest benefit. Even if the treatment isn’t successful at re-growing lost hair, however, it may be enough to slow or stop the process so you can retain the hair you still have.
It is important to remember that finasteride isn’t a “cure” for baldness. Male pattern baldness is closely linked to a number of genetic and environmental factors. Finasteride resolves the specific mechanism that leads to hair loss, but it doesn’t address the underlying cause for the condition. This is why you can expect your hair loss to resume if you stop taking the drug.
If hair loss resumes when you stop taking finasteride, why would you ever quit?
Although finasteride is one of the only proven treatments for male pattern baldness, it is a prescription drug and all drugs come with a risk for side effects. The most common side effects of finasteride are sexual – things like impotence, reduced sexual desire, difficulty achieving erection or orgasm, and decreased sperm volume. In a review of 73 medical studies, it was revealed that up to 15.8% of men experienced difficulties with erection, up to 7.7% had problems with ejaculation, and up to 5.4% noticed changes in libido. Some men also experience dizziness, swelling in the hands and feet, weakness, headache, and rash.
You should also know that long-term use of finasteride has been linked with breast cancer in rare cases. As of 2009, there have only been 50 cases worldwide of men taking finasteride developing breast cancer. Even so, if you develop lumps or breast pain, contact your doctor immediately. Side effects like weight gain, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, and difficulty breathing are more commonly related to minoxidil so, be on the lookout for these side effects if you’re supplementing your finasteride with this topical treatment. If you experience any side effects, be sure to bring them up with your doctor.
If you’ve been successful in treating your hair loss with finasteride, do yourself a favor and stick with it! As long as you aren’t’ experiencing any negative side effects and you’re happy with the results, you have no reason to quit.