One of the most common questions asked, whether you are currently taking finasteride or considering it, is what happens when you stop taking the medication? Will the effects of finasteride be long term, or will you begin to see your hair fall out again? We have taken a closer look at how finasteride works, its effectiveness at reducing male pattern baldness and whether or not.
How does finasteride work?
Finasteride works by blocking a specific enzyme, 5a-Reductase, which converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone responsible for hair loss in men. Blocking the enzyme will lower the amount of DHT produced which will reduce hair loss and allow the regrowth of new hair.
Finasteride only works when it is active in the body
One finasteride tablet should be taken daily in order to effectively prevent hair loss since it has a fairly short half-life, approximately 5-7 hours. Once you have stopped taking finasteride, the medication which is active in the body will slowly deteriorate over the course of several days until it is negligible.
When there is no finasteride in the body, the 5a-Reductase enzyme will not be blocked, so your body will begin to convert testosterone into DHT again and you can expect the recurrence of scalp thinning, receding hair line and any other male pattern baldness effects.
Can you take finasteride long term?
If you want to prevent hair loss you will have to continuously take finasteride in order for it to remain active in your body. This might mean taking finasteride for life for some men. Scientific research from 2002 carried out a study to assess how well finasteride is tolerated over a 5-year period. The results showed that using finasteride long-term was well treated and led to improvements in scalp growth and prevented further hair loss.
Another study from the Prostate Cancer Prevention trial said that there is ‘little need to worry’ about long term use of finasteride.
What about the side effects?
Finasteride is a safe and effective treatment at treating male pattern baldness and a long-term study with over 1500 men found that there were no major safety concerns.
Given that finasteride may be taking for a long period of time, it is important to know some of the potential side effects. Although uncommon, some of them include:
- Swelling in the hands and feet
- Skin rash
Some men have reported that they have experienced sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction. It generally affects 1 in 100 finasteride users.
A long-term study on Finasteride and sexual side effects showed that these side effects disappeared in almost all men who suffered from these side effects once they stopped using the medication.
Once you stop taking finasteride, you will slowly see the hairs which you have preserved start to fall out, similar to how it was before you were taking the medication. Finasteride is only effective when the drug is active in your body so it can block the enzyme converting DHT.
Like with any medication, finasteride has some side effects and if you are taking it over a large period of time then you should know the long-term effects. If you experience any, then you should consult this with your GP.