Are you a gentleman searching for an effective treatment for your hair loss? Have you sought lots of hair loss remedies only to find that they’re not working for your hair? Well, here’s a medication that might just be the answer to your woes – Finasteride.
Finasteride is an oral medication approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of hair loss in men. It’s a well-known hair regrowth drug that goes by different brand names, with the most popular ones being Propecia and Proscar.
Let’s discover what this medication is all about and how it can be used for hair regrowth in men in our post for today.
What is Finasteride?
Finasteride is a hair regrowth medicine exclusively for the use of males. It was initially developed by pharmaceutical company Merck to treat prostate gland enlargement but is now used extensively to promote hair regrowth. The medication is available in tablet form and should be taken orally every day.
Initial Discovery of Finasteride
It all started with an observation way back in 1942, wherein a researcher named James Hamilton observed that hormone levels after puberty may have a direct relationship with the later development of male pattern baldness.
This observation paved the way for a 1974 research on Caribbean children dubbed as “Guevedoces”. Julianne Imperato-McGinley, a New York researcher from the Cornell Medical College, reported that these children appeared female when they were born, but they were actually males. All these thanks to their genitals being ambiguous (not identifiably male or female) at birth.
Imperato-McGinley’s report continued to reveal that the Guevedoces children experienced a surge of testosterone hormones in their bodies upon entering their puberty stage. At this time, it was seen that the kids were growing up with manly features such as enlarged muscles and chests. Their once ambiguous genitalia also became similar to a genetically male’s penis and testicles. But the children’s prostate glands, an organ in the male reproductive system, appeared to be smaller than usual.
Researchers found out that the unusual condition is caused by a deficiency of the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme. This substance changes the male primary sexual hormone called testosterone into a more potent form known as DHT (dihydro-testosterone). DHT is responsible for initiating male changes to the genitalia while a baby is still in-utero.
Another interesting phenomenon noticed by Imperato-McGinley’s research team? The Guevedoces children grew up with less hair fall and lesser incidences of male pattern baldness.
How Finasteride for Hair Loss Started
Roy Vagelos of Merck pharmaceuticals saw and studied Imperato-McGinley’s report on low DHT levels and smaller prostates. He then developed the drug finasteride, intending to be a medication to treat prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). The US FDA approved the drug in 1992.
It was then observed that patients on finasteride seem to be growing more hair than usual as a side effect. Merck capitalized on this discovery and applied for a second FDA approval, this time with a dose to treat hair loss. The US FDA granted approval for finasteride in hair loss in December 1997.
Finasteride’s Mechanism of Action
High scalp DHT levels lead to hair follicle shrinkage, which eventually paves the way for baldness. Finasteride works by decreasing the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in a man’s body. It does so by inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase enzymes to stop the conversion of testosterone to DHT. This leads to faster hair regrowth and slower hair loss on the head.
You will notice that upon regular finasteride intake, your male pattern baldness will start to slow down. Hair typically regrows starting from the crown all the way through the entire head and scalp.
Recommended Finasteride Dosage for Hair Loss Treatments
Doctors typically prescribe 1mg oral Finasteride to be taken orally every day. This dose is enough to produce noticeable improvements in scalp and hair loss conditions for males. Finasteride can decrease DHT levels by as much as 60% with proper daily oral intake.
For instance, there was an improvement in male androgenetic alopecia in 87.1% of Japanese males who participated in this 2011 study. But Finasteride doesn’t seem to affect other parts of the body with hair, as evidenced in this 2014 Japanese pilot study.
You need to take finasteride for at least 3 months to see improvements in your androgenetic alopecia. Hair regrowth and improved hair texture are typically seen within a year of continued finasteride use.
Side Effects of Finasteride Use
Finasteride is generally safe for long-term use. However, the possibility of side effects should not be downplayed at any time. Men taking finasteride for hair growth should be alert for the following possible side effects:
- Mental fogginess
- Pain in the testicles
- Decreased libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Reduced volume of ejaculates
- Breast tenderness and enlargement
- Depression and/or anxiety
Notice that most of these side effects are related to male sexual dysfunction. Doctors recommend stopping the use of NSAIDs – a group of painkillers including ibuprofen, aspirin, and diclofenac. Using medications in this group together with finasteride may increase the chances of getting sexual dysfunction side effects.
Also, serious symptoms may be seen if you are determined to be allergic to finasteride. Seek immediate medical help if you experience:
- Extensive rashes, hives, and itching
- Swelling of the face and lips
- Sudden difficulty in swallowing
- Shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing
Always inform your physician of any allergies you may have, even if it’s for other medications. Your doctor will also inquire about family history of allergies and other illnesses before deciding if finasteride is a good fit for you.
Special Considerations on Finasteride Use
- Finasteride is for the exclusive use of adult males. This medication cannot be given to children and women, especially to pregnant and lactating mothers. There is a high risk of birth defects in male fetuses whose mothers ingested or touched finasteride tablet fragments. The medication also passes through breastmilk and may cause harm to breastfed babies.
- Your skin can easily absorb the drug, especially when the film coating of the tablet breaks down or the entire tablet has been crushed. Women should never touch finasteride tablet fragments. This is especially true if you are an expectant mother, planning to get pregnant, or breastfeeding your baby. Likewise, keep finasteride tablets out of reach of all children.
- Men should continuously take finasteride to see visible results. Once you stop the medication, hair loss will gradually come back. Give yourself 3 months to a year of continued use. Check with your physician if no appreciable changes in your androgenetic alopecia after a year of diligent finasteride intake. You may be given other treatments in conjunction with finasteride use, such as topical Minoxidil application.
- The US FDA warns that there is a rare yet significant risk of getting high-grade prostate cancer among male finasteride users. Let your physician know if you have histories of cancer in your family to help him assess if you are fit to use finasteride, just to be on the safe side.
- A few men report long-term sexual dysfunction as a side effect even after discontinuation of finasteride use. Most of these symptoms included disorders in ejaculation, diminished libido, and erectile dysfunction. The reasons behind this are yet to be known.
- Take your finasteride tablets at the same time of the day every day. If you missed a dose, take it as soon as you remember it. If it is almost near the time of the next dose, skip the missed one and take the next tablet at the right time. Do not double up the doses just to make up for the missed ones.
In a Nutshell
Finasteride is the first oral drug to be approved by the FDA for male pattern baldness. It lowers DHT levels in the blood and scalp, improving the health of hair follicles and allowing hair to regrow. The medication is available as Proscar and Propecia across the world, though many other brands and generic medicines can be purchased. Hair growth can be seen in as little as three months to a year after religiously taking the medication daily.
The medication must be prescribed by your doctor before you can buy it. Finasteride is only prescribed for healthy adult males. Females and children cannot take this drug.
Several precautions are in place to keep you safe as you use finasteride for hair loss. This includes letting your doctor assess you for allergies and family histories of cancer, being alert for possible side effects, and regularly taking the medication at the right time every day.
Finasteride might just be the answer to your male pattern baldness, so check in with your physician today and get his go signal for a prescription of the drug right away.
Have you ever been prescribed finasteride for your hair loss? How did your medication course go? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below.