What is Finasteride & How does it work?
Finasteride is a medication that can be used to treat androgenetic alopecia (also known as male pattern baldness), strengthening hair and preventing further loss. Finasteride is the most effective FDA approved medication to treat male pattern baldness.
Finasteride reduces the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in your body. Both men and women have testosterone in their body, which can be converted into DHT by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase (5-AR) that is present within our tissues.
Finasteride reduces levels of DHT by inhibiting the enzyme 5-AR, helping stop hair loss and reducing miniaturisation. It can also be used in much larger doses as a cure for prostate issues.
Propecia and Proscar are brand names for Finasteride medication. Whichever product you receive, the medication is still Finasteride.
If you are taking Finasteride to support your hair restoration journey, you must inform your GP. If you are over 50 years old, we recommend you contact your GP to arrange a PSA test and prostate examination.
How long before you start seeing results?
You may start noticing results after a couple of weeks of using finasteride, however you won’t see the full effects until around the 6-month mark.
How should you take Finasteride?
Always follow the instructions on the label but to target hair loss, you should take one 1mg finasteride tablet daily orally. You can take this with or without meals, but you should take it at the same time each day. You should take the tablet whole and not divide or crush it.
The tablets should be stored at room temperature and kept away from heat. The bottle should be kept closed and it should be only used by men. It is important women, especially pregnant women, and children keep away from this medication. Handling finasteride when pregnant can be dangerous as it can be absorbed through the skin and may cause birth defects.
How long should you take Finasteride for?
You should take the tablet indefinitely to maintain the benefits. When the treatment is stopped the effects will reverse and testosterone will begin to convert to DHT again. If you suffer male pattern baldness, then hair will start thinning and the hair growth you’ve seen since being on the medication will be lost in about a year. Finasteride needs to be continuously taken if you want to get the benefits.
What if you miss a tablet?
If you miss a tablet you should take it as soon as you remember. If you don’t realise until the following day don’t take two tablets, forget the missed tablet and just take that day’s pill as you normally would.
Side effects of taking Finasteride
As with any medication you take, there is a list of side effects that may or may not occur. It is very much dependent on the individual reaction to the tablet, but you should be aware of any potential consequences of taking finasteride.
The most common side effects are linked to a decrease in your sex drive. You may experience a reduced desire for sex, difficulty getting an erection or issues with ejaculation. These symptoms could be short term and last a few days or weeks when you begin taking the medication, if they persist or become more severe however, it is advised you talk to your doctor. These symptoms tend to affect 10% of users but for many these effects will be short lived.
If you experience any of the following side effects after taking finasteride you need to contact your doctor immediately:
- Swelling of lips, face, tongue, throat, issues swallowing, hives, issues breathing – these are all signs of an allergic to reaction
- Breast lumps, nipple discharge, breast pain, breast enlargements – these are all signs of breast cancer
A full list of side effects will be listed on your patient leaflet and discussed when you start taking the medication. Studies show that there is ‘little need to worry’ about taking finasteride long term. The dose is a small enough quantity and it’s designed for continuous use.
Is it safe to take Finasteride?
Yes, it is safe to take finasteride. It’s an FDA approved successful remedy for hair loss and the only approved solution to address the root cause of hair loss. There aren’t currently any alternatives which work in the same way. 1mg, which is the amount given for hair loss patients, is a small dose of finasteride and is unlikely to cause any problems. Your doctor should always provide thorough information about finasteride before use and will be able to answer any questions you may have.
Finasteride or Minoxidil?
Minoxidil doesn’t stop hair loss. Finasteride is the only solution that works on stopping male pattern baldness. Minoxidil does help to stimulate new hair growth at a faster and thicker rate however, and it does so increasing blood flow and oxygen to the hair follicles. Minoxidil can come in a liquid solution with dropper or a foam and should be applied directly to the scalp. This can be used as an option on its own or it can be used together with finasteride. The two treatments work in different ways to combat hair loss but for best results, use them together.