Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss in men. In fact, male pattern baldness affects over 6.5 million men where around 50% of men over 50 will experience hair loss to some degree. Genetics do play a role in hair loss, but other factors include stress, age, smoking and poor diet.
Whilst some are unaffected by their hair loss, others will feel distressed, have low self-confidence, and in some cases, depression. Although there isn’t a cure for hair loss, there are medications to help slow down the process and prevent further hair loss so you can enjoy a full head of hair.
One of the most widely used hair loss treatment on the market is Finasteride or Propecia in its branded form. Finasteride works by blocking the enzyme 5a-Reductase which converts the male hormone testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone responsible for hair loss in men. Blocking the enzyme will mean less DHT is produced, allowing for hairs to regrow from the follicles and prevent further hair loss.
Signs of hair loss will differ as some men may find their scalp thinning whilst others will see their hair line recede first followed by widespread hair loss. Finasteride lowers DHT levels altogether and is unable to help a specific region on the scalp. It is also only effective for men with partial hair loss, not complete hair loss.
Finasteride helps male pattern baldness from the source by stopping testosterone converting to DHT and with continual use of finasteride, DHT levels can lower by as much as 60%.
When compared with minoxidil, research proved that finasteride was a more effective hair loss treatment, although both drugs did work to prevent further hair loss.
How do I take finasteride?
- One tablet should be taken with water every day.
- It can be taken with or without food.
- Do not take a double dose to make up for one you might have forgotten.
What can I expect while taking Finasteride?
Initially, you might notice that your hair is falling out much quicker, however this means that finasteride is working by making way for newer hairs to grow.
Although finasteride usually takes 6 months to notice improvements, some clinical trials have reported signs of improvement, such as an increase in hair count as early as 3 months into the treatment. However, not everyone will benefit from improvements in the first 3 months and results will vary for each individual.
By 6 months, most men will find that their hairs have grown back thicker with less hair fall out.
Noticeable improvements and ‘final’ results can be seen after using finasteride for a year, as long as it is used on a daily basis.
A study carried out over a two year period on 1500 men showed an improvement in hair growth and appearance using finasteride and slowed down the progression of hair loss.
Other clinical studies carried out in 2003 showed a 16% improvement in hair count after using finasteride for 2 years, and a significant improvement in the quality of hair.
A research study showed that continuous use of finasteride over 5 years had no safety concerns with long term use and showed improvements in hair growth on the scalp and prevention of further hair loss.
The key thing to keep in mind is that finasteride may not always help with the regrowth of hairs, it may just prevent further hair loss. So, while you may not notice any significant changes to your hair growth, it just means that the finasteride is working to prevent any more hairs from falling out by keeping DHT levels low. Taking finasteride requires patience and commitment and for best results, you need to continue taking the treatment.
What if I stop taking Finasteride?
If you skip doses and do not take finasteride consistently, then it will prevent it from working effectively, and you won’t be able to see the benefits from the medication.
Finasteride has a short half-life and to prevent further hair loss, finasteride needs to be active in the body so once you stop taking it, your body will begin to convert testosterone into DHT again affecting your hair follicles, and you can expect the recurrence of hair loss similar to what you experienced prior to taking the medication.