Finasteride is a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that effectively treats male-pattern balding (androgenic alopecia) and can also stimulate new hair growth. First produced by Merck & Co. as a prescription drug (Propecia), it is now also available in generic form. Finasteride has a proven track record as an effective and well tolerated hair loss treatment for over two decades.
Male-pattern hair loss is an inherited condition and with growing age affects some 50 percent of all men, and up to 80% of Caucasian men. The condition causes hair follicles to shrink up to the point that they no longer grow new hair. Your hair gradually becomes thinner and shorter until you go partially or completely bald.
Long-term treatment with Finasteride, typically as a 1mg once a day dosage, can effectively stop hair loss within several months after dtarting treatment. For around 65 percent of patients it will also trigger growth of new hair.
Finasteride is also used as a medication to treat an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and for prostate cancer prevention. Other uses of Finasteride include treating excessive female hair growth and for hormone replacement therapy.
Male pattern hair loss happens because too much of your body’s testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which among other things causes hair follicle shrinkage. The affected follicle will lose existing hair and no new will grow in its place. Finasteride works so well against male-pattern hair loss because it effectively reduces the conversion process from testosterone to DHT.
Unfortunately, the effect is not permanent, and will only lasts as long as you continue to take Finasteride.
Once you stop taking Finasteride, the drug’s presence in your body will decrease to zero within several days and the inhibiting effect on DHT production wears off. DHT production gradually resumes again and continues damaging hair follicles, which in turn causes more hair to fall out and less to regrow. Most men notice that their balding problem has started again within a couple of months after treatment was stopped.
It may be disappointing news to you that Finasteride doesn’t provide a one-off permanent solution to beat your balding genes. However, the good news is that Finasteride is a well-tolerated, low-cost drug designed and tested for long-term use. Many men take it for multi-year periods, often without or only a few side effects. A large study by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) that followed 19,000 men taking Finasteride for seven years found that the drug was well tolerated by the vast majority of participants. Talk to your doctor to learn more about the potential side effects of long-term Finasteride usage.