Hair Loss Treatments: Do They Even Work?

Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
19th November 2020

Effective in over 9/10 men, our hair treatments are clinically proven to help you keep and grow your hair.

In 30 seconds…

Do hair loss treatments work? Well, it’s no surprise that you are asking the question. The internet is full of scams about treatment for male pattern baldness that promise the world but fail to deliver.

But the answer, simply, is “yes”. Hair loss treatments do work – and they can be hugely effective for thinning hair if you get the right one. Just make sure that you buy them from a trusted source.

Licensed medicines like Minoxidil and Finasteride, for example, are backed by the scientific community and are proven to be effective – and safe too. Taken together, they’ve been shown to stop hair loss – and even promote regrowth – in over 90% of men.

Does Hair Loss Treatment Work?

Male pattern baldness (MPB) is frustrating enough on its own. On top of the worry about balding, you don’t really need the extra concern that your hair loss treatments aren’t going to work. 

It’s understandable that you’ll be concerned about treatments for MPB. About whether they’ll be legit or whether you’re just being taken advantage of. Caution is a good attitude to have, because there are scammers out there who’ll happily take your money and leave you without genuine results. 

However, there are hair loss treatments that genuinely work. These are treatments that, in the majority of cases, can stop further hair loss. And for some, the treatments even reverse it and help you produce new hair. So, be cautious, yes – and go where the solid evidence takes you. 

In this article, we’ll show you what the science says about the hair loss treatments that work.

Why Am I Losing My Hair?

MPB – or Androgenetic Alopecia in men – is the most common cause of hair loss in men. It affects an awful lot of us, with 30% of men under 30 showing at least some signs of thinning. If you feel like your hairline is receding, the chances are it is MPB: 95% of all baldness cases in men are caused by the condition. Luckily, we do know how to treat it. 

MPB happens because of your body’s production of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. This DHT is produced from testosterone as you get older – typically more during and after puberty – by an enzyme known as 5α-Reductase. 

We need DHT when we are young for us to develop muscle mass, a deep voice, and other features. However, our scalp-level hair follicles can become sensitive to it – meaning the more DHT we produce, the weaker our follicles can become. This is bad news for your hairstyle, particularly with the hair that sits above your temples and on your crown. 

However, this is where effective hair loss treatments tend to intervene. By inhibiting the work of 5α-Reductase – the enzyme that creates DHT – drugs such as Finasteride mean there is nothing to damage or weaken your follicles. And this, in turn, means that your hair growth can continue unabated.

Note: There are other types of hair loss and hair shedding related to various medical conditions, including Telogen Effluvium, Anagen Effluvium, Alopecia Areata, Tinea Capitis, Cicatricial Alopecia, Hypotrichosis, and hair shaft abnormalities. Your treatment will depend on your type of hair loss, and your dermatologist will recommend what’s best in many of the instances above. In this guide, we’re focusing only on Androgenetic Alopecia, or Male Pattern Baldness (MPB).

Which Are the Best Hair Loss Treatments?

There are two FDA approved hair loss treatments that various different scientific studies have shown to work. These are Finasteride and Minoxidil – and they are effective in the vast majority of MPB cases.

If you are seeking legitimate treatment for your hair thinning, these are the two drugs that you should be taking. Anything else, really, is a risk. In the best case, they just won’t work. But in the worst, they may well not be safe at all. Let’s take these two effective hair loss treatments one at a time. 

Remember: they can also be used together for maximum effect.

Finasteride

Finasteride is a hair loss treatment that works by inhibiting that 5α-Reductase enzyme we mentioned before. Without the work of that enzyme, there is less DHT in your system – meaning that your hair follicles cannot react adversely to it. Finasteride reduces the amount of DHT in your scalp by over two-thirds (60%).

This is the most effective treatment for MPB hair loss on the market. It is taken daily as a pill. And, by the way, even if you were tempted to undergo a hair transplant, you would still probably be taking Finasteride, as it stops the causes of hair loss at their root after the transplantation process. 

But Does Finasteride Work?

You’ll no doubt be looking for proof as to whether Finasteride – or Propecia, the branded name – does indeed tackle thinning hair. It does: one study found that 83% of long-term users of Finasteride showed no further hair loss, whilst 66% showed hair regrowth (new hair). 

Further studies have been taken at one, two, and five years on Finasteride treatment. Compared with a placebo rate that showed hair loss in 58%, 72%, and 100% of men in the three respective years, those on Finasteride showed hair loss in 14%, 17%, and 35% of cases. 

Finasteride does work. However, it is not an immediate fix; no hair loss treatments are. Most men see some results after three months of continued use, but it can take over 12 months before significant visible changes occur.

The Finasteride Plan

Works for 9/10 Men

The most effective oral treatment for receding hairlines and balding crowns. Just one pill a day.


Best for
Receding Hairlines
Effectiveness
9/10 Men
Contains
One-a-day tablets (Finasteride)

Minoxidil

An alternative – and potentially complementary – treatment to Finasteride is Minoxidil. Rather than being taken as a pill, it is a topical treatment. This means that you apply it to your scalp – twice daily. 

Minoxidil – or Regaine, as it is known in the UK (Rogaine in the USA) – as a medicine does not intervene in the production of DHT. Rather, its function is to improve the health and increase the lifespan of your hair follicles, so they continue to work for as long a time as possible.

It does this through Minoxidil’s action as a vasodilator. It widens, or dilates, the blood vessels in your scalp, meaning that more blood can flow to the local area, bringing oxygen and nutrients with it. This is key to follicular health and improving hair density. But does it work as a hair loss treatment? 

How Effective is Minoxidil?

Minoxidil, truth be told, is less effective than Finasteride on its own. However, it does work in the majority of cases too. For example, one study found that 60% of patients saw improved hair coverage after 48 weeks of use. Another study found that, after a year, 92% of 11,000 participants rated the effect of the treatment on thinning hair as excellent, good, or fair.

Side Effects of Finasteride & Minoxidil Hair Loss Treatments

There are potential side effects of both drugs, but these tend to be minor and only occur in a very small number of users. Luckily, we’ve published detailed guidance on what to expect:

What are the Side Effects of Finasteride?

The Complete Hair Loss Plan

Finasteride & Minoxidil

This powerful combo promotes hair growth by blocking DHT – a hormone linked to hair loss – and by increasing blood flow around your follicles.


Best for
Overall thinning hair
Effectiveness
Over 9/10 Men
Contains
One-a-day tablets (Finasteride) / Daily Spray (Minoxidil)

When Hair Loss Treatments Work Together

What’s crucial to remember about hair loss treatment is that you needn’t only pick one. In fact, studies actually suggest that you increase the chances of hair regrowth if you use Minoxidil and Finasteride in combination. 

One study, for example, compared the efficacy after twelve months of Finasteride, Minoxidil, and a combo solution. Finasteride caused regrowth in 80.5% of men, and Minoxidil in 59%. Together, though, 94% of men saw regrowth.

Another study gave similar results. Here, combination therapy showed regrowth in 85% of cases – and this was with a heavily reduced dose of Finasteride. In this way, it seems that these hair loss treatments really do work together.

Finasteride and Minoxidil are very safe to be used in combination too. They work in synergy for maintaining hair and giving scope for regrowth, due to their independent modes of action. Where one tackles the hormone that causes MPB, the other focuses on your follicular health.

Why is My Hair Loss Treatment Not Working?

You’ll have noticed that none of the hair loss treatments are ever 100% effective. There are a few good reasons for this and one of the simplest is that not every medicine works for everyone.

With hair loss, though, the key is to start treatment as soon as possible. If DHT goes unchecked, it can cause baldness that is irreversible. This is because it can weaken your hair follicles to such an extent that they become permanently damaged. In this way, if you are completely bald and have been for a long time, there is no guarantee that hair loss treatments will help regrowth.

However, another reason that hair loss treatment doesn’t work is that people give up too soon. Remember, hair loss treatments aren’t effective instantly. So, if you are starting with treatment, patience is an essential part of the game. 

Key Takeaways…

So, do hair loss treatments work? Science suggests that the answer is a STRONG yes. But you need to be persistent and patient. Don’t give up too early, because you might miss out on the best outcomes.

Finasteride has been shown to increase hair coverage in nearly 70% of men who have taken it. Meanwhile, over 90% of men who have tried Minoxidil have been happy with the results. And whilst the treatments work together too, always remember that the results are not immediate. Three-to-six months of continued use is required before you will start to see improved coverage. Then, you can get back to styling your hair in the way that makes you feel most comfortable and confident. 

References

  1. American Hair Loss Assocition – Men’s Hair Loss: https://www.americanhairloss.org/men_hair_loss/introduction.html

  2. B. S. Chandrashekar, T. Nandhini, Vani Vasanth, Rashmi Sriram, and Shreya Navale (2015). Topical minoxidil fortified with finasteride: An account of maintenance of hair density after replacing oral finasteride: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4314881/

  3. Ruiming Hu, Feng Xu, Youyu Sheng, Sisi Qi, Yumei Han, Ying Miao, Wenlong Rui, Qinping Yang (2015). Combined treatment with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized and comparative study in Chinese patients: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/dth.12246

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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