There is a range of treatments for hair loss, such as medications that are known to have varying degrees of efficacy for hair loss problems, which are well known to us at the Harley Street Hair Clinic. There are some medications that have been proven to stop hair loss and thinning hair. The most well-known of which is called Finasteride or Propecia.
How do hair loss medications work?
Some of the most common hair loss medications work in the same way to battle hair loss. They inhibit the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is the hormone that causes hereditary balding and female pattern hair loss. This hormone can affect hair follicles that are genetically vulnerable by breaking them down and preventing hair growth in the future.
By using medication to inhibit this process, patients can experience renewed hair growth. Not only does the medication halt or slow the process and prevent hair loss, but it can even cause hair to begin to grow again and target different types of hair loss.
One important thing to note is that hair loss medication is not hair growth medicine. Although it can rejuvenate growth and has been proven to be effective on the top or the crown of the head, the front of the hairline is less responsive to these medications. This area may resist the medication more than the crown of the head, and so it is often recommended that patients take the medication to slow hair loss, and then use other methods, such as a hair transplant, to replace lost hair that will not re-grow on its own. This is because hair restoration surgeries are long term solutions that could reshape a hairline more effectively and more reliably than hair growth medication
Finasteride, which is marketed under many different names including; Proscar, Propecia, Fincar, Finpecia, Finax, Finast, Finara, Finalo, Prosteride, Gefina, Finasterid IVAX. This hair loss medication is an antiandrogen which acts by inhibiting type II 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It is used as a treatment in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in low doses, and in prostate cancer in higher doses. Additionally, it is registered in many countries as a hair loss treatment for androgenetic alopecia.
In a 5-year study of men with mild to moderate hair loss, 48% of those treated with the branded hair growth medicine, Finasteride 1mg experienced some regrowth of hair, and 42% had no further loss. Average hair count in the treatment group remained above baseline and showed an increasing difference from hair count in the placebo group, for all five years of the study. Finasteride is effective only for as long as it is taken; the hair gained or maintained is lost within 6-12 months of ceasing therapy. In clinical studies, Finasteride, like minoxidil, was shown to work on both the crown area and the hairline but is most successful in the crown area.
How Does Finasteride Hair Loss Medication Work?
Finasteride, when used as a hair loss medication, works to stop hair loss by blocking the enzyme, Type II 5 alpha-reductase, and in doing so it reduces the level of the hormone in the scalp which shortens the hair growth cycle and allows hairs to revert to a normal growth cycle. This can, in turn, stop hair loss and increase new growth in men with male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) and improve hair density. Continuous use once a day for 3-6 months is required before any notable benefit is visible, and effects are reversed 6-12 months after treatment is discontinued so continuous use is recommended to sustain benefit.
Does Hair Loss Medication Have Any Side Effects?
When taken at the recommended dose, the possible side effects of Finasteride are usually mild and generally have not caused the men to stop taking the medicine. As with all standard prescriptions, hair loss or hair growth medications, including Finasteride, have seen some side effects in both men and women. Side effects include:
- Decreased libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Decreased volume of ejaculate
- Breast tenderness or enlargement
- Rashes or skin irritation
- Itching and swelling of the lips and face
- Testicular pain
Please note, these side effects are temporary and only experienced throughout the course of you taking hair loss medication.
Other Things To Consider About Finasteride / Propecia?
Some users, in an effort to save money, buy Proscar instead of Propecia and split the Proscar pills to approximate the Propecia dosage. Doing so is generally considered inadvisable if women of pregnancy age are in the household; this is because finasteride, even in small concentrations, can cause birth defects in a developing male fetus. The birth defects involve the development of male genitalia (no such effects have been noted in developing female fetuses). On most product inserts, it will be mentioned that the dust or crumbs from broken Propecia tablets should be kept away from pregnant women
Regaine/Minoxidil Hair Growth Medication
Minoxidil is a vasodilator and originally was exclusively used as an oral drug (Loniten®) to treat high blood pressure. It was, however, discovered to have the interesting side effect of hair growth and reversing baldness. In the 1980s, Upjohn Corporation produced a topical solution that contained 2% minoxidil to be used as a hair loss treatment, to treat baldness and hair loss, under the brand name Rogaine in the United States, and Regaine outside the United States.
Treatments usually include 5% concentration solutions that are designed for men, while the 2% concentration solutions are designed for women. It is unknown how the drug stimulates hair growth; some experts believe that minoxidil dilates the blood vessels around hair follicles, increasing the nutrient supply and encouraging increased hair growth.
The key to using Minoxidil to stop hair loss is to begin using it early. The best candidates are those who are thinning but not bald. Those with a higher density of hair at the beginning of treatment are good candidates. If the hair growth medication is stopped, after prolonged use, hair loss may increase.
How To Apply Minoxidil Hair Growth Medication
Two daily applications for up to four months may be required before evidence of hair regrowth is visibly noticeable. The onset and degree of hair regrowth may be variable among different patients treated with this medicine. If hair regrowth occurs, two daily applications are necessary for additional and continued hair growth (unless your doctor directs otherwise). The initial hair growth may be soft, downy, colourless hair that is barely visible. After further treatment, however, the new hair should be the same colour and thickness as the other hair on the scalp.
If one or two applications are missed, restart twice-daily applications and return to the usual schedule. Do not attempt to make up for missed doses or use more than 1 ML at a time. Do not use on sunburned skin.
It is important to continue to use minoxidil for the entire time prescribed by your doctor, even if hair growth does not appear within several months. If the hair growth medication is not visibly effective after four months or more, consult with your doctor, as this medication may not be effective for you. It is usually applied in a 1-3% solution twice a day. It must be used for about six months to see the benefits.
Are There Side Effects Associated With Minoxidil?
Major complications are rare, but patients who suffer from heart disease or hypertension should check with their doctor before beginning this kind of hair loss medication.
The most common problem is irritation and dryness of the skin. Large amounts of minoxidil can cause side effects including;
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
Disadvantages Of Hair Loss Medication
Although there are many positives of taking hair loss medication it is important to remember that it is not always the best solution for everyone.
As with all medications, hair loss medications will all have some side effects. The biggest disadvantage of hair loss medication, which is something most people struggle with, is that for the medication to effectively reduce and even stop hair loss you must take it continuously. As soon as hair loss medication is stopped, hair loss will return. This is unrealistic for some due to the ongoing cost as well as not wanting to continually take medication and deal with the side effects.
For some, hair loss medication is not an option for a number of reasons, such as experiencing side effects or not being able to take it in conjunction with another course of medication. For those who are not suitable, there are other hair restoration options available such as Hair Transplants and Advanced Trico Pigmentation that may be suitable.