What is Finasteride used for?
Finasteride is a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that effectively treats male pattern balding (androgenic alopecia) and even can stimulate new hair growth. First produced by Merck & Co. as a prescription drug (Propecia) but also available in generic versions, Finasteride has been a proven and well-tolerated hair loss prevention treatment for over two decades.
Male pattern hair loss is an inherited condition and with growing age affects some 50 percent of all men — nearly 80 percent among 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 your head goes completely bald.
Long-term treatment with Finasteride, typically as a 1mg once a day dosage, has been proven to stop the hair loss trend within several months after treatment start. For around 65 percent of patients it also triggers growth of new hair.
Finasteride is also used as a medication against enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and for prostate cancer prevention. Other uses of Finasteride are found in treating excessive female hair growth and in hormone replacement therapy.
What happens when you stop taking Finasteride?
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 balding because it effectively slows down this hormonal conversion process and thus checks DHT production.
Unfortunately, the effect is not permanent but only lasts as long as your body receives sufficient Finasteride to keep DHT production low.
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.
- Finasteride Male Pattern Hair Loss Study Group. “Long-Term (5-Year) Multinational Experience with Finasteride 1 Mg in the Treatment of Men with Androgenetic Alopecia.” European Journal of Dermatology?: EJD, vol. 12, no. 1, 2002, pp. 38–49, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11809594. Accessed 21 Nov. 2019.
- Adil, Areej, and Marshall Godwin. “The Effectiveness of Treatments for Androgenetic Alopecia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, vol. 77, no. 1, 2017, pp. 136-141.e5, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28396101, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2017.02.054. Accessed 21 Nov. 2019.
- “Finasteride: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” Medlineplus.Gov, Oct. 2019, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a698016.html. Accessed 21 Nov. 2019.