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Finasteride Guide: Uses, Results & Side Effects
Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)
Updated on October 6, 2022

There are many different treatments out there that seek to help the 6.5 million men in the UK who suffer from hair loss.

With many options and solutions available on both prescription and non-prescription, it can be hard to cut through the marketing talk and discover which is the right option for you.

Depending on the rate of hair loss, and the amount of baldness you’re already experiencing, different treatments may be more effective than others.

One of the more common hair loss products that works well to treat hair loss is Finasteride. In this article, we’ll be giving you the ultimate guide to Finasteride. We’ll cover what it is, whether it works or not, and the different types of hair loss that it can treat.

For more information on similar medications please see our guides on Minoxidil and Dutasteride or our comparison of Finasteride & Dutasteride.

What is Finasteride?

Finasteride is a drug that is often prescribed to people who are suffering from baldness or hair loss. It can be given to someone on a private prescription basis and is not currently offered under the NHS as a treatment for hair loss.

This type of treatment is usually not recommended for use by women, it will only be prescribed for a woman in rare circumstances. Learn more about the research and studies pertaining to women taking finasteride

It comes in the form of an oral tablet and a variety of different brand-name and generic versions are available. Finasteride is the name of the ingredient that’s used in popular brands such as  Proscar and Propecia but you can also find it as a generic medicine under the standard Finasteride label.

Although Finasteride has been found to work on those suffering from male pattern baldness, it can also be used to treat enlarged prostate and it was the most prescribed medication by members of the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery.Finasteride Guide: Uses, Results & Side Effects, Wimpole Clinic

How does Finasteride work?

Finasteride works as a baldness treatment as it decreases the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in your body. This is a hormone that normally increases the size of the prostate, with the side effect of aiding hair growth and preventing hair loss.

DHT is a derivative of testosterone linked to the shrinking of hair follicles in size and consequently that of loss of hair. Reducing the level of DHT limits its negative effect of the health of your hair.

While it helps the hair on your head to grow stronger, it doesn’t affect the hair growth in other parts of your body. [1] 

Does Finasteride work?

Generally, yes, Finasteride does work at combating hair loss in the vast majority of men. One of the main Finasteride treatments, Propecia, is noted as being among the most effective.

In clinical trials for this treatment, over 80% of test subjects experienced an improvement in their hair loss when using Propecia [2]. Out of these participants in the same study, 66% benefited from renewed hair growth in areas where they were experiencing hair loss previously.

There have also been other studies into Propecia that have further proved its success rate. In a five-year study, two groups of men were separated, one given a daily dose of Finasteride and the other a placebo pill [3].

The group of men that were given a dose of Finasteride experienced improvements in hair growth, hair density and hair loss prevention over the five years. Whereas, the group that was given the placebo pill experienced progressive hair loss.

In another similar study of 2,500 Japanese men with androgenetic alopecia [4], 87% of men experienced positive results from the treatment. 11% of participants experienced greatly increased hair growth, 36.5% moderate growth, and 39.5% slightly increased.

Finally, in a scientific study of 1,500 men [5], it was found that after taking Finasteride for two years and 83% of men experienced increased hair growth – in some cases up to 138 new hairs in 2 years.

In most of the clinical trials that have taken place, subjects have been given the recommended dose of Finasteride, one 1mg tablet taken daily. 

As the studies have shown, Finasteride does work (for most men) as a reliable hair loss treatment. It is able to prevent further hair loss, and increase hair growth rates in many men who are suffering from male pattern baldness.

It’s also important to mention that Finasteride is not something that lasts forever. If you stop taking the treatment, the natural balding process will resume.

Does Finasteride work for facial hair?

Although Finasteride has some pretty impressive results when it comes to improving the hair on your head, it, unfortunately, won’t have the same effect on your beard.

At the moment, Finasteride is only approved for use as a scalp hair loss treatment. This is mainly because the treatment decreases the amount of DHT in your body. 

The hair on your scalp is sensitive to changes in DHT levels which can cause hair loss or growth, whereas the hair follicles on your face aren’t impacted by your internal DHT levels.

If you’re struggling to grow a beard, or want to work on your facial hair, you can always go down the beard transplant route.

How to apply topical Finasteride

Although many men favour oral Finasteride treatments, you can also get topical treatments. 

Some people may prefer this option as it doesn’t come with the same side effects as topical Finasteride, however, it’s very unlikely for men to experience any serious negative side effects when taking the treatment orally.

If you’re using topical Finasteride, you can apply the solution directly to the areas of your scalp where you’re suffering from baldness. It’s recommended to apply up to 1ml to the scalp twice daily, with at least eight hours between the two applications.

You don’t need to rub the solution into your scalp for it to work. It’s also best to use small drops of the solution, rather than dispensing the whole 1ml of product all at once.

Oral Finasteride is still the most common method and can be combined with other medications to maximise its results. Topical Finasteride is not as widely researched, however, some studies [6] have proved that significant improvements have been experienced when using the topical version of this popular hair loss treatment. 

How long does it take Finasteride to work?

Finasteride is a proven hair loss treatment however, it’s not a miracle worker, so you should not expect to see any drastic results overnight.

In most cases, you’ll have to keep up with the recommended dose, daily for three months before you start to notice any differences. Then, it will only be after around 12 months of consistent use that you can enjoy the full effects [7].

It can take a while for results to show because of the way our hair grows. Hair growth works in a four-phase cycle: growth, regression, resting and shedding.

Because it takes time for new hairs to grow, you won’t be able to see immediate results from using Finasteride, but that doesn’t mean you should lose hope. Be patient when it comes to your treatment and trust the process.

Are there any Finasteride side effects?

For some men who take Finasteride, they may encounter a select few side effects that can vary in severity. However, it’s important to note that these side effects are normally very rare, only affecting a very small percentage of men.

Some of the most often reported side effects of Finasteride include:

  • Erectile dysfunction, which affected approximately 1.3% of men [8]
  • Decreased sex drive, affecting 1.8% of men [8]
  • Ejaculation disorder, which affected 1.2% of men [8]
  • Testicular discomfort
  • Skin rashes
  • Lumps or pain around the breast area

Most of these side effects, if experienced, will only last for the duration of being on Finasteride. As soon as you stop taking the hair loss treatment, you can expect the side effects to stop.

Another thing that you may notice while taking Finasteride, is hair shedding. This is when you notice your hair continuing to fall out during the first few months of taking the treatment.

Although it may cause you to panic, it is completely normal. Before your new hair can grow, your hair follicles need to shed any existing hair. Finasteride shedding normally only lasts around 2 weeks but can be even longer in some cases.

How to reduce the side effects of Finasteride?

If you’re worried about the side effects that you might experience while taking Finasteride, or are currently experiencing any of them, there are a few things that you can do to prevent them.

By taking a few extra steps and precautions you can minimise side effects and maximise the success rate of your treatment:

  • Use Finasteride in combination with Minoxidil*
  • Use other hair loss treatments (like shampoos, supplements and conditions) in conjunction with your Finasteride treatment
  • Give yourself a daily scalp massage to stimulate hair growth
  • Adopt a healthier lifestyle by quitting smoking, eating a balanced diet, regular exercise, and limiting your exposure to stressful situations

If you follow these simple steps, you should notice significant improvements in your course of Finasteride. Your hair will grow back healthier and stronger, and you won’t have to worry about the range of side effects that some men experience while taking the drug.

*Some studies have shown that when used in combination, Finasteride and Minoxidil can provide enhanced benefits for those suffering from baldness [9]. However, Minoxidil comes with its own range of side effects, such as erectile dysfunction, which patients should be aware of.

Finasteride & Hair Transplants

If your hair loss is severe and Finasteride does not give you the results you desire it might be time to consider getting a hair transplant. This is a quick and effective way to improve hair growth on your head.

The two most common forms of hair transplant are FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) transplants, or FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantations). Both procedures provide natural and long-lasting results.

We frequently recommed finasteride to patients before they have surgery as it is equally important to prevent any further hair loss.

Book a hair transplant consultation with Wimpole Clinic

If you want to find out more about the various options you can take when it comes to hair loss, or want to learn about the hair transplant services we offer, get in touch.

We offer all customers a no-obligation consultation where we take you through the process and can figure out if it’s the right approach for you.

Finasteride Guide: Uses, Results & Side Effects, Wimpole Clinic

References:

[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/finasteride-oral-tablet  

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15529357 

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11809594/ 

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21980923/ 

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9777765/ 

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6609098/ 

[7] https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=ecd2fbb2-a4bd-44f2-831d-179e7dbf0741 

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4285451/ 

[9] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32166351/ 

Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)Updated on October 6, 2022
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.
Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)
Updated on October 6, 2022

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