There are currently 2 available FDA-approved drug treatments on the market to treat genetic hair loss (androgenetic alopecia). These two drugs are FInasteride and Minoxidil that are more commonly known by their brand names, Propecia and Regaine.
Finasteride works by inhibiting the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is a by-product of testosterone which is the cause of genetic hair loss. The DHT interacts with androgen receptors at the base of hair follicles to cause miniturisation of the hair follicles. Finasteride prevents the production of DHT by inhibiting the production of the enzyme that causes Testosterone to be converted into Dihydrotestosterone. This drug treatment is taken as a 1mg treatment once per day, however it can only be taken by men. Women can’t take the medication as it can affect their hormonal balance.
Finasteride must be taken daily to see the best results, which can take 12-18 months to be seen. The first results from taking Finasteride will start to be seen in the first 3-6 months when the recommended treatment is followed. Clinical studies have shown that the drug treatment can be effective in over 90% of men with male pattern baldness. With any hair loss treatment it is best to start the treatment as early as possible in your hair loss journey, so the most hair can be recovered and further hair loss prevented.
Finasteride does have the potential for side effects that are seen in a small amount of men taking the medication. Side effects can include a reduced sex drive, rashes, tender breast tissue and more. It is important that you read the patient information leaflet included in the Finasteride box before you start taking the medication.
The second FDA-approved medication to treat androgenetic alopecia is Minoxidil. Now Minoxidil is licensed to treat both male and female pattern hair loss, where Finasteride can only treat male pattern baldness. Minoxidil can be bought in the brand name Regaine over the counter from most pharmacies. Regaine comes in two strengths, 5% and 2%. Historically the 5% strength was reserved solely for men and the 2% for women. This separation was made due to the potential side effects from Minoxidil. Facial hair growth is one of those side effects and this side effect presents more of an issue to women than men. So to help limit the number of cases of facial hair growth in women, the 2% product was created for them. Today however you can buy a 5% product for women as well! Other strengths of Minoxidil can be found, but they can only be provided with a valid prescription for them.
Minoxidil is usually a twice daily treatment that is applied directly onto a clean and dry scalp. Once in the morning and once in the evening. The Minoxidil solution can come with a variety of application methods: a dropper, a pump spray or in a foam. We however prefer to use our Scalp Applicator Brush. This application method is the easiest and makes the least mess and no wasted product.
The clinical trial data for Minoxidil is not quite as strong as Finasteride, with different studies having the success rate anywhere between 65-85%. While not as potent a drug treatment, the cases of serious side effects are much lower in Minoxidil when compared to Finasteride. Typically Minoxidil is the best starting solution for women and Finasteride for men. We would always recommend to team your drug treatment with another treatment such as a Low Level Laser Treatment.