Most men will experience some level of hair loss or thinning during their lifetime. And, most of this hair loss can be attributed to androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern hair loss, the most common cause of hair loss in men.
If you are looking into treatments for male pattern hair loss and you go to your doctor, you will likely be introduced to the medication, Finasteride.
Currently, Finasteride is the only FDA-approved medication for male pattern hair loss, and it can work pretty well for most users to help maintain the hair that you currently have.
However, as with most medications, there are tips to making sure that you are getting the best results possible out of your medication. In addition, it is important to know some of the details of how this medication works, the potential side effects, and what you should expect from treatment.
Below, we will cover 8 things that you should know before you start on a Finasteride treatment regimen.
- The sooner you start, the more hair you are likely to keep
Exactly when you start hair loss treatment is probably the #1 factor that you have control over that can have the largest impact on how your hair looks long term.
If you start Finasteride treatment when you have been noticing hair loss for 10 years, you have large areas of significant hair loss, and you are desperate for a treatment to bring your hair back to where it was 15 years ago…you will likely not have results as dramatic as you are expecting.
On the other hand, if you have been noticing a slight thinning for about 1 year, and have no significantly balding areas (yet), you will likely have pretty good results with Finasteride and maybe much better off 10 years down the road than someone who waits longer.
The bottom line is — Finasteride’s main function is to help maintain the baseline hair that you currently have while reducing the rate of additional hair loss. The sooner you start treatment for hair loss, the better your initial “baseline” hair will be. Some men may experience regrowth with Finasteride. But, if those hair follicles have been dormant for too long, they may not be able to spring back into growth.
- Finasteride is a long term medication
Finasteride is not one of those medications that you only use until you have achieved your desired result. Finasteride is indicated as a long-term medication if you want to maintain any hair benefits you have achieved.
This means that if you stop using Finasteride, any hair that you have kept during treatment may regress to its previous state within about a year of stopping.
Obviously, it is best to know this information before starting down the Finasteride treatment road.
- If you experience side effects, tell your doctor
Most medications have side effects, so it’s always important to know what to be on the lookout for when starting a new medication.
Most patients tolerate Finasteride well, without any side effects. But, some men may experience sexual dysfunction (less than 10% of users), depression, anxiety, breast tenderness or swelling, brain fog, testicular pain, rashes, breast cancer, or an increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer.
If you are noticing a side effect that is bothering you, be sure to bring it up to your doctor. They may discontinue the medication, or try to switch you to a topical Finasteride medication which may have less systemic absorption than the tablet. Most side effects will go away once the medication is stopped.
- Patience is key with Finasteride treatment
If you have ever gotten a too-short haircut, it likely became all too clear to you just how slow hair growth is. Unfortunately, the same may be true when you are eagerly expecting results from hair loss treatments.
Hair grows slowly, and you are unlikely to see visible results until at least 3 months into treatment, if not longer. Once you start seeing results, some men continue to see progress even until 2 years into treatment.
So, patience is key with this medication. So, don’t get frustrated if you are 2 months in and not seeing any difference — most men won’t see any results at this stage, either.
- You may notice hair shedding at first
Increased hair shedding at the beginning of treatment may be alarming for some users if they weren’t prepped to expect it. So, it is also important to know that increasing hair shedding a few weeks or months into treatment is possible.
This doesn’t mean that the treatment is going rogue and making your hair loss worse. In fact, these are potentially the hairs that have stopped growing being pushed out of the hair follicle by new baby hairs starting a new growth phase.
- Be consistent with your Finasteride
Finasteride works by keeping a hormone called DHT lower in your body and around your hair follicles. DHT is a known culprit for male pattern hair loss and can shrink hair follicles, eventually potentially leading to the hair follicle no longer producing hair.
Finasteride keeps DHT the lowest 8 hours after your dose, but continued use lasts up to 24 hours lowering DHT.
If doses are missed or erratic, you are likely not consistently keeping DHT lower, and you may not get the best results possible.
Schedule out a time that you will remember your daily dose, and try to stay on schedule with your medication for the best hair results.
- Finasteride is a medication for men only
Finasteride is a medication that is indicated for use in men only. This is for a very good reason, as Finasteride can cause damage to a male fetus if it comes into contact with a pregnant woman.
Keep all Finasteride treatments away from children, as well as women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to become pregnant to avoid the risk of harm. Whole or broken tablets should not even be handled by women for this reason.
- Let all of your doctors know you are taking Finasteride
It may seem strange letting your heart doctor or urologist know all about your new hair loss medication, but this is a good idea for multiple reasons.
Finasteride may interact with other medications that you are on, so let all of your medical professionals on your team know about a new medication is always the best route.
Also, Finasteride may have the effect of lowering your PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels by up to 50%. This may sound good, but if your PSA is increasing because something is wrong with your prostate, this may be “covered up” by Finasteride and lead to a wrong interpretation of the results or a missing of something dangerous. So, always let your urologist know that you are taking Finasteride when undergoing a test on your prostate.