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Propecia vs Finasteride: What’s The Difference?
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on January 19, 2024

Male pattern baldness is the most common hair loss condition in the world. While there’s still no cure for baldness, there are now some very successful hair loss treatments on the market, including Finasteride and Propecia.

Propecia is the brand name for the generic drug Finasteride used to regrow hair. So they work in the same way, however, they are not the same hair loss treatment. There are a few differences worth noting between the two drugs which are important to note if you’re looking for the right treatment for male pattern baldness.

In this article, find out all the key differences between Propecia vs Finasteride, including cost, dosage, and side effects.

Table of Contents

What is Finasteride?

Finasteride (also known called generic Propecia) is the active ingredient that slows hair loss and stimulates hair growth. It works by lowering the levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in your body.

Finasteride 1mg tablets
Finasteride 1mg Film-Coated Tablets

DHT is the hormone responsible for causing hair follicles to shrink and eventually stop producing hair. So by limiting the amount of DHT in your body, Finasteride can prevent further hair loss.

miniaturisation leading to hair loss informational graphic

Finasteride is usually taken as an oral tablet, though there’s promising evidence that topical Finasteride can also reduce hair loss [1-2].

Generic Finasteride is available on prescription to treat male pattern baldness. In addition to treating male pattern baldness, Finasteride in larger doses can also be used to treat an enlarged prostate for those who are suffering from Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH).

What is Propecia?

Propecia is a branded version of oral Finasteride made by Merck, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
Propecia 1 mg tablets
Propecia 1mg

Merck developed Finasteride in the 1980s as a treatment for BPH [3]. It was licensed as a BPH treatment in 1992 under the brand name Proscar.

Finasteride’s effectiveness as a hair loss drug was discovered by accident when researchers noticed that Proscar use was linked to a reduction in hair loss in many users [4]. Further tests led to the licensing of Propecia in 1997: a version of Finasteride designed specifically to treat male pattern hair loss.

Propecia vs Finasteride at a glance

See all the key differences between Propecia and Finasteride in this comparison table:

 PropeciaGeneric Finasteride
Dosage1mg1mg or 5mg
Cost (30 tablets)£42 to £50£12 to £17
EffectivenessNo differenceNo differences
Side effectsNo differenceNo differences
EligibilityAdult male patients onlyAdult male patients only

Both Propecia and generic Finasteride are available with a prescription from a licensed hair loss clinic.

Propecia vs Finasteride: dosage

The main difference between Propecia and generic Finasteride is that Finasteride is available in two doses: 1mg and 5mg. Because Propecia is specifically formulated to treat hair loss, it’s only available in a 1mg dose.

Studies have found that 1mg is the optimal dosage for hair loss patients [5-6]. The Finasteride 5mg dosage is designed to treat BPH, so it’s not usually necessary for hair loss patients to take the higher dosage.

If you opt for generic Finasteride, check the dosage before you start taking it.

  • A 1999 study on male participants aged 18 to 36 with moderate crown hair loss received Finasteride 5mg, 1mg, 0.2mg, 0.01mg, or a placebo once a day [5]. Researchers found that Finasteride doses 0.2mg and above could effectively improve scalp hair count, with Finasteride 1mg being the optimal dose for treating hair loss.

  • Another 1999 study found that 1mg and 5mg Finasteride reduced scalp DHT levels by 64.1% and 69.4% respectively [6]. A reduction in scalp and serum DHT levels is linked with decreased hair loss.

Propecia vs Finasteride: cost

Propecia tends to be more expensive than generic Finasteride. As of April 2023, one online pharmacy charges £12.20 for a 30-day course of generic 1mg Finasteride, or £42.40 for a 30-day course of Propecia [7].

costs of Finasteride and Propecia tablets

Despite the price difference, there’s no difference in ingredients or effectiveness. So it’s up to you whether you choose Propecia or generic Finasteride to regrow hair.

Propecia vs Finasteride: effectiveness

Propecia and generic 1mg Finasteride contain the same ingredients. So there’s no difference in effectiveness between the two. Both can give excellent results, especially for crown hair loss:

Finasteride 1mg results after 12 and 24 months in male pattern hair loss patient
Hair loss at baseline, then after 12 and 24 months of Finasteride 1mg use.
Before and after results 6 months with Finasteride 1mg
Patient hair loss before and 6 months after taking Finasteride 1mg once a day.

Propecia vs Finasteride: side effects

Since Propecia and 1mg Finasteride contain the same ingredients, they come with a similar risk of side effects.

Side effects are rare with both treatments, but it’s always important to be aware of the risks. Known side effects include:

Side effects usually stop when you discontinue treatment, but hair loss will resume. That’s why it’s a good idea to discuss your treatment options with a licensed hair loss professional who can give you bespoke advice and talk through any concerns with you.

Learn more about if you can take Finasteride and Viagra together for erectile dysfunction.

Propecia vs Finasteride: eligibility

Propecia and Finasteride are only suitable for adult male hair loss patients. Women and children are usually advised to avoid these medications.

Should you use Propecia or generic Finasteride?

Ultimately, you’ll see the same impact from using Propecia and generic Finasteride. Both medications can stop and even reverse genetic hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.

The only major differences are around dosage and price. So if you’re watching your wallet, generic 1mg Finasteride may be the best choice.

If you need Finasteride for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), a 5mg dosage is usually recommended. This is available under the brand name Proscar, or as a generic Finasteride tablet. See your GP for advice.

Propecia and Finasteride aren’t the only treatments for male hair loss. Speak to a hair loss clinic for information about Finasteride alternatives, such as Dutasteride and hair transplants.

Where to get Propecia and Finasteride

Both Propecia and generic Finasteride are only available on prescription. As Finasteride isn’t available on the NHS as a hair loss treatment, you’ll need to consult with a private hair loss specialist or pharmacist.

You can get Propecia and generic Finasteride from an online pharmacy. But to make sure you’re choosing the right treatment, it’s best to have an in-depth conversation about your hair restoration goals and the range of available treatment options.

Book a free consultation with the Wimpole Clinic to create a treatment plan that’s tailored to your hair loss, including preventing hair loss in the long term and minimising the risk of side effects.

Propecia vs Finasteride: What’s The Difference?, Wimpole Clinic

Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on January 19, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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