Male pattern baldness, which is known more technically as androgenetic alopecia, is the number one cause of hair loss among men. Fortunately for those with this genetic predisposition for losing hair from the top and sides of their heads, medical options now exist to conceal or reverse hair loss. Finasteride is an oral, prescription medication that is used in many countries for treating pattern hair loss in men. This drug has been shown to work best for regrowing hair and slowing hair loss among men experiencing early to moderate hair loss on the crown, or top of the scalp. It is less effective in regrowing hair at a receding hairline toward the front of the scalp. In this animation, you will learn why and how finasteride works to regrow hair.
Hair Growth and Loss
The basics of hair growth and loss will help you understand how finasteride works. Hair arises from hair follicles. Each hair grows from a region near the base of the follicle, known as the dermal papilla. As new hair grows, older hair is pushed out of the follicle. Normally, 10-15% of follicles are in a resting phase of a growth cycle in which hair is not growing. With the onset of male pattern hair loss, 20% or more of the follicles are not producing new hair.
Hair Growth and Loss
People naturally possess a certain amount of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. However, men with male pattern hair loss have increased levels of DHT. DHT interacts with the dermal papillae of hair follicles, disrupting the normal growth cycle. The affected follicles physically shrink in size and diameter, diminishing their hair producing ability. As a consequence, hair growth slows, weaker and shorter hair is produced, and some follicles shut down completely, causing hair loss and balding.
How Finasteride Halts Hair Loss
Finasteride works by decreasing the level of DHT in the body. Specifically, finasteride inhibits a process that converts testosterone to DHT. The hormone testosterone is converted to DHT by a type of enzyme known as 5-alpha-reductase. Finasteride inhibits a form of 5-alpha-reductase before it can convert testosterone to DHT. Therefore, finasteride limits the amount of DHT that can interact with hair follicles and cause hair loss. Instead, hair growth can remain at normal levels and hair loss may even be reversed over a period of several months.
Using finasteride is as easy as taking a multivitamin–one tablet is taken daily with water. The pills can be stored at room temperature and can be taken with or without meals. Finasteride should be taken every day, but if you miss a pill, taking an extra tablet the next day is not recommended and it will not work better if you take more than the recommended dosage. It is important that women who are or may become pregnant do not take or handle the pills because it is known to cause birth defects in male babies. Even without ingestion, if the protective coating is removed, finasteride may be absorbed through the skin.
Results & Conclusion
Finasteride is easy to use, convenient, and has been shown to be effective in stopping the progression of hair loss and regrowing hair in many, but not all men. It has not been reported to grow hair in places other than the scalp. Most men require about 3 months for noticeable results, however if you don’t notice results after one year, the drug may not work for you. After you have started treatment, you must continue taking finasteride daily to maintain the improvement. If you discontinue use, hair gained by taking the medication will be lost, and the scalp will usually return to its pre-treatment appearance within a year. Discuss your particular pattern and degree of hair loss with a hair restoration professional to determine if finasteride may be the right solution for restoring your hair.