Does Finasteride Work for Hair Loss?

Does Finasteride Work?
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
30th July 2020

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

In 30 seconds…

Finasteride is a tablet taken once daily to treat the hair loss caused by male pattern baldness (MPB).
Finasteride is the only licensed oral treatment for MPB in the UK and it works to stop or even reverse hair loss in 90% of men. 
Finasteride tackles the problematic hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and encourages the recovery of damaged hair follicles for thicker, healthier hair.

Hair loss is something many men expect as they get older, and your genetics play a big role in determining where that bald spot’s going to be. If your dad or granddad are losing their hair, it’s likely you also have genes for male pattern baldness (MPB) – technically known as “Androgenetic Alopecia”.

But that needn’t be your fate: There are treatments available that can help you halt the hair loss – and even regrow your hair. In the UK, there are two medications licensed to treat MPB: oral Finasteride and topical Minoxidil

In this article, we give you the lowdown on Finasteride for hair loss. From how Finasteride works and what Finasteride does, to when to expect results (and when not to!), we have all your Finasteride questions covered.

What is Finasteride?

Ready for a quick history lesson? Finasteride was developed in the 1980s by American company Merck and Co. It was trialled as a treatment for prostate conditions, but was found to increase hair growth. So, the company got a licence to market Finasteride for hair loss under the brand name Propecia.

In 2014, the patent on the drug expired. This meant that Finasteride could be sold as generic tablets, without forking out for the brand name. So if you’ve been wondering about Propecia vs Finasteride, it really is all in the name: the two products do exactly the same thing.

Finasteride is in a class of medications called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. We’ll look at how Finasteride works below. It comes as an oral tablet taken once a day, and is available on prescription from your GP, the pharmacy, or a registered website.

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
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Contains
One-a-day tablets (Finasteride)

How Does Finasteride Work?

To understand why Finasteride works, it’s important to know what causes male pattern hair loss. 

If you have MPB, it means the hair follicles in your scalp are extra sensitive to the effects of a hormone called DHT. DHT is a super-strength form of testosterone, formed by testosterone interacting with the enzyme 5-alpha reductase (5AR). DHT causes the hair follicle to shrink, which means hair growth is slower and each hair is thinner and more brittle. Eventually, hair stops growing.
Enter Finasteride. Remember Finasteride is a 5-alpha reductase (5α-reductase) inhibitor? It’s called so because it blocks the activity of 5AR, which in turn reduces the turnover of DHT. This gives your hair follicles a chance to recover before the damage is permanent. The result? Thicker, stronger, healthier hair.

How Effective is Finasteride?

Will Finasteride work for you – and can Finasteride reverse hair loss?

In trials, nine out of 10 men experienced the benefits of Finasteride on their hair. The results of three five-year studies with nearly 6,000 participants showed that further hair loss was halted in 90% of men. And 77% of men actually noticed an increase in their hair growth. In a more recent study involving over 2,500 men, the results were even better: 87% of the patients experienced increased hair growth. 

That makes Finasteride the perfect answer for many men with MPB:  it’s not just “will Finasteride stop hair loss?” – it’s “will Finasteride regrow hair?” And the results are very encouraging. 

Finasteride has been shown to be particularly effective on the thinning temples and receding hairline that characterise MPB. However, when considering who Finasteride works best for, you should be aware that Finasteride won’t have as much impact (and therefore isn’t advised as a treatment) if you’ve already lost all or most of your hair, as your hair follicles may be damaged beyond repair. That’s why it’s good to get started with treatment early on to encourage hair regrowth – at the very first signs of MPB.

When should you expect results? Finasteride takes 3-6 months to show improvement, because it takes time for new hair to grow. You should expect to see even more improvement in the months to follow, whereby 6-12 months of consistent use will provide better treatment outcomes.

Can Finasteride stop working? Finasteride is a very effective blocker to reduce DHT levels, but it doesn’t stay long in the body – so if you’re wondering when Finasteride stops working, the answer is when you stop taking it. If you’re seeing an improvement, you should continue with your treatment – otherwise your MPB will resume.

How to Take Finasteride

Finasteride treatment is simple. You take one tablet per day, with or without food, ideally at the same time every day. 

The best results of Finasteride are observed after one to two years, so to really transform your hair you do need to factor treatment into your daily routine for the long-haul. If no positive effects happen after 12 months, your doctor may advise you to stop taking the tablets and try a different hair loss solution.

Can Finasteride be crushed? Not a good idea. Finasteride tablets have a film coating that protects the active ingredients until it can be digested. You should take them exactly as advised by your doctor.

You might be wondering whether you can get topical Finasteride to apply directly to your scalp. Though research has shown promising results from a topical solution, it’s not hugely common as a treatment in the UK at the time of writing. However, Manual offers a premium personalised service, and topical Finasteride is available here – although this depends on your tailored needs. 
Alternatively, you can choose one of our standard plans – and if you’re looking for a medically-proven topical hair loss treatment, Minoxidil is a great option and can be combined with Finasteride tablets.

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)

Is Finasteride Safe?

Finasteride has been shown to be safe for the majority of men with MPB: 98.6% of men experienced no serious side effects to the drug in clinical trials, and research has demonstrated that Finasteride is well tolerated over five years of effective treatment. 

Important note: Finasteride is not safe to be taken by women, or males under the age of 18.

Are Finasteride side effects common? No. However, rare reactions include:

  • Low mood or depression
  • Reduced libido and erectile problems
  • Discomfort in the chest area
  • Allergic reactions
  • On rare occasions, Finasteride can also cause changes to breast tissue, with a very small reported risk of breast cancer (only three cases involving the 1mg dosage have ever been reported, and this could be correlation rather than causation).

It’s important to consult your doctor or seek professional medical advice if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Finasteride can harm an unborn baby, so pregnant women shouldn’t risk handling the tablets. It’s also best to avoid the medication if you’re planning a pregnancy, and to wear a condom during sex if your partner doesn’t take other contraception.

A couple of other things to bear in mind about medical conditions: if you’re being tested for a prostate condition (e.g. prostate cancer), you should let your doctor know you’re taking Finasteride, as it can affect the test results. Furthermore, men who are galactose intolerant, have a lapp lactase deficiency, or who have glucose-galactose malabsorption shouldn’t take Finasteride.

Essentially, though Finasteride is safe as a treatment for MPB hair loss in the majority of men, it’s important to read all the information that comes with the tablets and talk to your doctor about any concerns. Once you’re happy that Finasteride is right for you, you can start treatment with confidence and look forward to that fuller head of hair.

Key Takeaways…

So, does Finasteride really work for hair loss? A resounding “Yes” for 90% of men with MPB. One small tablet once a day, along with a little patience, is all it takes to achieve thicker, healthier hair.

If you want to give your scalp the best chance to spring back to life, you can also try combining Finasteride tablets with topical Minoxidil. Or maybe you’ll just grab that razor and go for the smooth-all-over look. Whatever works for you!

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

References

  1. Harvard Health Publishing – Hereditary-Patterned Baldness Hereditary-Pattern Baldness: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/hereditary-patterned-baldness-a-to-z

  2. Manual – Hair Loss: https://www.manual.co/hair-loss

  3. Buy Finasteride Online: https://www.manual.co/hair-loss/finasteride

  4. Buy Minoxidil Online: https://www.manual.co/hair-loss/minoxidil

  5. Manual – DHT: How it Causes Your Hair Loss and How to Stop it: https://www.manual.co/hair-loss/dht

  6. Finasteride 1 mg Film-coated Tablets: https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/6044/smpc

  7. Akio SatoAkira Takeda (2011). Evaluation of efficacy and safety of finasteride 1 mg in 3177 Japanese men with androgenetic alopecia: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21980923/

  8. Sung Won Lee, MD, Margit Juhasz, MD, Pezhman Mobasher, MD, Chloe Ekelem, MD, and Natasha Atanaskova Mesinkovska, MD, PhD (2011). A Systematic Review of Topical Finasteride in the Treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia in Men and Women: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6609098/

  9. European journal of deratology – Long-term (5-year) multinational experience with finasteride 1 mg in the treatment of men with androgenetic alopecia: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11809594/

  10. Manual – The complete hair loss plan: https://www.manual.co/hair-loss/complete-hair-loss-plan

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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