Finasteride is an oral treatment for androgenetic alopecia or pattern baldness in men and women.
Hereditary hair loss is the result of the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone or DHT in the scalp. This conversion is caused by an enzyme called 5-Alpha Reductase. DHT binds to receptors in the hair follicles causing the follicles to shrink. Miniaturized hair follicles produce progressively thinner, finer hair until the follicles stop working and the hair falls out.
What is finasteride?
Finasteride is the active ingredient in Propecia. It inhibits the production of DHT by reducing the enzyme 5-Alpha Reductase. Propecia lowers the amount of DHT in the body which reduces hair loss caused by DHT. It is also approved for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (an enlarged prostate).
It is an oral prescription medication taken once a day to prevent balding. Once you begin to use it, you must continue to take this medicine in order to retain the hair you have.
If you stop, the hair that was retained will fall out.
Does finasteride work?
Finasteride regrows hair for some people. Studies report that the most effective and safest treatment for male pattern baldness is oral finasteride combined with topical Minoxidil. However, for women with female pattern hair loss topical Minoxidil is the most effective and safest, according to the studies. Sadly, there have been very few studies focused on the use of Propecia in women.
Is finasteride safe and effective for women?
Propecia is not approved or recommended for women of reproductive age with pattern hair loss. But, it is used off label for hair restoration in post-menopausal women. Finasteride is dangerous for premenopausal women, and is classified as pregnancy category X, meaning it can cause birth defects. And, there is some research that suggests taking Propecia can raise the risk of breast cancer because this drug converts testosterone to estradiol and creates an excess of estrogen.
What are the side effects of finasteride?
Common side effects include loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, depression, anxiety and fatigue. 2% of men who take Propecia report persistent sexual problems, and other symptoms such as depression, even after the drug is discontinued.
In our opinion, Propecia should be used only to prevent continued hair loss, and it is not recommended to regrow hair. Schedule a consultation with us at StrandMD in Newport Beach, California to get the right diagnosis and learn about all your treatment options.