Finasteride: What you need to know

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Finasteride: What you need to know
Finasteride: What you need to know

by Kathleen Morrison, Lead Writer

April 23rd, 2019

Finasteride (also known under its brand name, Propecia) is an FDA-approved, prescription medication that is clinically proven to treat male pattern baldnes. Unlike the treatments and shampoos you may see in the aisles of your local drug store, or the natural remedies you may read about online, finasteride isn’t just about marketing: it actually works.

Yes, really. Finasteride works.

of finasteride showed significantly greater increases in hair growth in men treated with finasteride compared with placebo in as little as three months. The studies also showed that after five years of treatment, 90% of men taking finasteride maintained or increased hair growth. In comparison, only 25% of the men taking a placebo maintained or increased hair growth.

What to expect

Most patients begin seeing results within six months. However, you should take finasteride for a year before its effects on hair loss can be accurately assessed. Finasteride gets progressively more effective for the first one to two years. After the first two years, finasteride still prevents hair loss, but will unlikely increase hair growth in new areas. In studies, men continued to see results for the maximum length of the study (five years).

Note: During the first six months you may notice some thinning of your existing hair. This may be due to either progression of your hair loss before finasteride has had a chance to work, or some shedding of miniaturized hair that makes way for healthy new hair. Make sure to consult your physician if you experience any adverse side effects!

What happens if I start finasteride and then stop?

The benefits of Propecia will disappear if you stop taking the medication. Over two to six months after discontinuing treatment, your hair will revert back to the state it would have reached had the medication never been used.

Side effects

Like any medication, finasteride can have some side effects that patients should be aware of: Sexual side effects: In the first year, decreased libido was seen in 1.8% of men taking Propecia versus 1.3% of men taking a placebo. Erectile dysfunction was seen in 1.3% of men taking Propecia versus 0.7% of men taking a placebo. Depression: There have been reports of depression and anxiety occurring after starting finasteride, even at the low dose used for androgenetic alopecia. In a of 19 patients who developed depression 9-19 weeks after starting finasteride 1mg daily, depression promptly resolved after stopping the drug. Prostate cancer screening: A blood test that checks for PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels is sometimes used for prostate cancer screening. You should always inform your doctor that you are taking finasteride, as this will Screening using PSA levels is in men taking finasteride. Fertility: Studies show that finasteride at 1mg/day in healthy men. Finasteride is safe to use while trying to conceive. That being said, there are several reports of men on finasteride who were and found to have low sperm quality, which then improved after stopping finasteride. If you have had problems with male infertility and wish to still conceive, you should consider deferring treatment with finasteride.

These side effects affect a small percentage of patients and finasteride continues to be a safe and effective medication for most patients who are looking for a solution for their thinning hair. Dr. Bradley Beckman, an Apostrophe dermatologist, says,

“Compared to the options for male pattern hair loss, there’s nothing that gives the degree of success of finasteride. The only drug to compare it to is minoxidil (Rogaine) and the efficacy is not even comparable. The chances of you keeping the hair you got are much higher with finasteride when compared with any other option, and the chances of you growing real, visible hair is markedly higher with finasteride.”

Be sure to talk with your doctor about any side effects you experience. Apostrophe is doing our part to increase access to dermatologists so those who want finasteride can get it conveniently!

Have you tried finasteride? Share some before and afters with us on Twitter and tag us at @hi_apostrophe!

Welcome to the fine print! Just so you know, this article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. It’s always best to talk to a doctor for that stuff.

Prescription medication should only be used according to doctor's instructions. Do not use Finasteride if you are allergic. Common side effects include decreased libido, rash, and itchiness. Full list of safety information can be found at:

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