What is the role of medication in treating hair loss?
The usual mode of progress for male and female pattern hair loss is one of an insidious nature; slow, progressive loss over a number of years.
Medication is good for stabilising hair loss & strengthening your existing hair. Most people respond well to it and notice the difference in 3 – 4 months.
For patients who are experiencing initial Hair Loss symptoms, medication can slow, and is some cases stop hair loss entirely, giving them the option to avoid surgery and more invasive procedures.
Where the follicles are no longer supporting new growth, surgery is the only option, and medication is used to stabilise the hair, and avoid circumstances simliar to the Footballer Wayne Rooney, where further hair loss happens around the transplanted hair, leading to unnatural looking patterns of hair and needing further restorative surgery to correct.
What medication is avaialble?
There are two main brands of medication used to tread hair loss.
Finasteride is the only systemic medication licensed to treat male pattern hair loss (MPHL). It comes in tablet form and the recommended dose is 1mg once per day. It is a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor and works by stopping the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is the hormone responsible for the symptoms of MPHL causing your hair to become finer, weaker and eventually fall. Clinical studies have shown Finasteride to be effective in roughly 86% of cases, and most patients notice their hair feels stronger and thicker after a few months of starting treatment. As with all medications there are potential side effects to be aware of; the most common are sexual in nature and include decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. This can understandably put a lot of people off, but the incidence of side effects is only 1-2% and if side effects do occur they usually disappear after either reducing the dose or stopping the medication completely.
N.B. Finasteride is not licensed for use in women
Minoxidil is used in the treatment of male and female pattern hair loss as a topical solution and comes in 2% and 5% formulations. It is commonly known as Regaine or Rogaine and comes in either a foam or a liquid.
The exact mechanism of action is still not fully understood, however it is thought to increase the blood supply to the scalp and prolong the growth phase of the follicle.
The recommended dose from the manufacturer is a capful massaged on the scalp twice per day, however we advise to apply once per day. Good results can be achieved with the once a day regime and long term adherence is usually better.
Potential side effects are usually limited to local irritation of the scalp, but can include unwanted facial hair growth and an irregular/fast heartbeat.
Should I start medication?
I would only recommend starting medication after speaking to a medical professional. It is important to remember that there are many causes of hair loss and the right diagnosis is crucial to treating your hair loss effectively.
I generally recommend the majority of our patients, especially those considering hair transplant surgery to seriously consider Finasteride or Minoxidil. The best long term aesthetic results are usually obtained through a combination of surgical and non-surgical means.
Where can I buy Finasteride and Minoxidil?
As above I would only recommend starting medication after getting the go ahead from a medical professional, but for the information purposes please see below.
N.B. Finasteride is the drug name, Propecia is the brand name – they are the same.
In the majority of cases medication is essential to achieve the most natural results long-term, but in some cases medication may not be necessary or the best option.
One of the issues with over the counter medication is the ability to self-diagnose, which may lead you to misdiagnose. The key to effectively treating your hair loss is to obtain expert advice at an early stage.
If you would like to talk about medication please give the clinic a call on 0207 770 6538 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Christopher D’Souza MBBS MSc MRCS
Hair Transplant Surgeon & Medical Director