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Finasteride Review »

Created by HairPlans staff writer. Last updated on Monday, April 29, 2024.
Quick Summary
Finasteride is a well-regarded for its effectiveness in treating male pattern baldness. As a prescription medication, finasteride works by targeting the hormonal cause of hair loss, offering a science-backed solution for those looking to preserve and improve their hair density. Its ease of use, typically taken in pill form once a day, and its track record for producing tangible results make it a compelling choice for many. While it's always important to consult with a healthcare provider to ensure it's the right fit for you, integrating finasteride into your hair care routine could be a significant step towards reclaiming the health and fullness of your hair. For those seeking a comprehensive approach, combining finasteride with other hair care practices can amplify benefits and address hair loss from multiple angles.
finasteride
Score Information
Easy score:
9
Natural score:
1
Painless score:
7
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Finasteride is a synthetic drug developed initially for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is an enlargement of the prostate gland common in older men. The compound was first synthesized in 1974 by scientists at Merck & Co., a pharmaceutical company. It operates by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that plays a significant role in prostate growth and also in male pattern hair loss. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved finasteride for the treatment of BPH in 1992, under the brand name Proscar, in a 5mg dosage.

Further research revealed finasteride's potential in treating male pattern baldness, a condition driven by DHT affecting the hair follicles on the scalp. This led to the FDA approving a 1mg dose of finasteride for the treatment of male pattern hair loss in 1997, marketed under the brand name Propecia. The mechanism behind its effectiveness in treating hair loss is the same as in treating BPH—by reducing DHT levels, it decreases the influence of the hormone on the hair follicles, slowing hair loss and promoting regrowth in some cases. Over the years, finasteride has become a commonly prescribed medication for its dual application in treating prostate enlargement and hair loss, with extensive studies documenting its benefits and side effects.

How is finasteride different from minoxidil?

Finasteride is an oral medication that works by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. This enzyme is responsible for the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that contributes to male pattern baldness by shrinking hair follicles. By lowering DHT levels, finasteride can slow hair loss and even promote hair regrowth in some men. It is primarily used to treat male pattern hair loss and is effective only as long as it is taken continuously. Finasteride is a prescription drug and can have side effects, including potential sexual dysfunction.

Minoxidil, on the other hand, is a topical solution or foam applied directly to the scalp and is used to treat both male and female pattern baldness. Minoxidil is thought to work by widening blood vessels in the scalp, which improves blood flow to hair follicles, encouraging growth and extending the growth phase of the hair cycle. It does not affect DHT levels and can be used without a prescription. Minoxidil requires consistent application twice a day and may take several months to show results. It is generally well-tolerated, but can cause side effects like scalp irritation or unwanted facial hair growth in rare cases.

In summary, the primary difference between finasteride and minoxidil lies in their mode of action, application method, and the side effects they may produce. While finasteride is taken orally and targets hormonal causes of hair loss, minoxidil is applied topically and works by promoting blood flow to hair follicles.

Natural or Chemical Information

Natural score: 1

Finasteride is a synthetic chemical compound; it does not occur naturally. It's a specific type of drug known as a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor. The chemical formula for finasteride is C23H36N2O2, and its systematic name is N-(1,1-dimethylethyl)-3-oxo-(5a,17ß)-4-azaandrost-1-ene-17-carboxamide. This compound is specifically designed to target and inhibit the activity of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. This enzyme is responsible for the conversion of testosterone, a natural hormone, into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more potent androgen that plays a key role in the development of male pattern baldness and prostate enlargement.

By inhibiting this enzyme, finasteride effectively reduces DHT levels in the body, which can lead to a reduction in the size of an enlarged prostate and slow down or reverse hair loss patterns in men. The development and synthesis of finasteride represent a targeted approach in drug design to address specific conditions by interfering with hormonal pathways.

How does it feel?

Painless score: 7

Finasteride is not typically associated with pain or physical discomfort as a common side effect. Most side effects related to finasteride involve sexual function, such as decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, or ejaculation disorders, as well as possible psychological effects like depression or mood changes in a small percentage of users. However, pain or discomfort is not commonly reported among the standard side effects of this medication.

That said, individual reactions to any medication can vary. A very small number of users might report experiences that could be described as discomfort or less commonly, tenderness or swelling in the breast area. It's important for anyone experiencing unusual symptoms or side effects after starting finasteride to consult their healthcare provider promptly. The healthcare provider can assess the situation to determine whether these symptoms are related to the medication or if they stem from another cause that requires attention.

Pros

  • Effectiveness in Treating Hair Loss: Finasteride is one of the few clinically proven treatments for male pattern hair loss, significantly reducing hair loss and promoting hair regrowth in many cases.
  • Prostate Health: It effectively reduces the size of the prostate gland in men with BPH, improving urinary symptoms such as difficulty in starting urination, weak stream, and the need to urinate frequently or urgently.
  • Convenience: As an oral medication, finasteride is easy to take, requiring only one pill a day, which is more convenient than topical treatments that require daily application.
  • Preventive Benefits: Long-term use can help prevent further hair loss in men with male pattern baldness and can also prevent or delay the progression of BPH.
  • Clinical Support: Its efficacy and safety profile have been well-documented in numerous clinical trials and long-term studies.

Cons

  • Side Effects: Finasteride can cause side effects in a minority of users, including sexual side effects such as decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and ejaculation disorders. Mood changes and depression have also been reported, though less commonly.
  • Long-term Commitment: To maintain the benefits of finasteride, continuous use is required. Once the medication is stopped, any hair regrowth or prevention of hair loss will be reversed within about 12 months.
  • Does Not Work for Everyone: While effective for many, it does not work for all individuals. Some men may not see significant improvement in hair growth or prostate symptoms.
  • Potential Impact on PSA Testing: Finasteride can lower the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in the blood, which could affect the PSA test used to screen for prostate cancer.

Cost Information

Price range: $12 to $140+

The cost of finasteride can differ based on the specific product and quantity you buy. Prices may also be influenced by whether you have health insurance coverage. Typically, a month's supply of the standard dosage for men can cost anywhere between $10 and $140, sometimes even more. It's important to shop around and check if your insurance offers any coverage for this medication to potentially reduce your expenses.

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Article References  click to expand  click to close

 
  • Zito PM, Bistas KG, Syed K. Finasteride. [Updated 2022 Aug 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/
  • Mysore V. Finasteride and sexual side effects. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2012 Jan;3(1):62-5. doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.93496. PMID: 23130269; PMCID: PMC3481923.
  • Shapiro, J., & Kaufman, K. D. (2003). Use of Finasteride in the Treatment of Men With Androgenetic Alopecia (Male Pattern Hair Loss). Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings, 8(1), 20-23. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-1747.2003.12167.x
  • McClellan, K.J., Markham, A. Finasteride. Drugs 57, 111–126 (1999). https://doi.org/10.2165/00003495-199957010-00014
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes, it does not constitute medical advice. The information contained in this article is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon as professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
 
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