Does Finasteride Actually Work?

A man with long thick hair and a beard looking at a box of finasteride
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The proof is in the science.

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Finasteride works as an effective treatment for male pattern baldness. It’s used by millions of men around the world, and has proven to be the most effective treatment for male pattern baldness, with 90% of users seeing an improvement in hair growth. 


What is Finasteride?

Finasteride is a prescription-only medication that can help to reverse and slow the natural balding process. It was discovered in the 1980’s by a company called Merck and Co and was initially trialled as a medication for an enlarged prostate. During clinical trials, scientists observed that finasteride increases hair growth. A few years later, finasteride was approved as a treatment for male pattern baldness. 

Finasteride is taken in tablet form every day. It should not be taken or even handled by women, especially pregnant women, as it can harm the foetus. 


How does Finasteride work?

Finasteride works by blocking the enzyme 5α-Reductase, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is the hormone which is responsible for causing hair loss in males. This is because it causes hair follicles to shrink to a point where they are unable to grow hair. As finasteride blocks the enzyme 5α-Reductase, less DHT is produced. This allows hair to regrow from the follicles that were previously affected as a result of DHT, as well as preventing further hair loss.

Some men produce more DHT than others, and some men are more responsive to DHT. Genetics plays a big part, which is why some men will never go bald, and others will bald at different times in their life. Balding patterns also vary depending on individuals. Some men will find that their hairline begins to recede, whilst others will find their hair is thinning at the top of the scalp before it starts to fall off. Finasteride does not work on a specific region of the scalp, but works by lowering DHT levels altogether. This results in the regrowth of hair, as well as slowing or preventing the natural balding process.

Infographic showing how finasteride works

As you can see from the picture above, male pattern baldness is caused by excess DHT, which shrinks hair follicles. Finasteride works by blocking DHT, which allows hair follicles to regrow hair again. 


How to take Finasteride

For hair loss, you should take one tablet of finasteride daily.

You should not crush or break finasteride and you should swallow the tablet whole with water. This is because finasteride can be absorbed through the skin and can potentially cause birth defects if a pregnant woman comes into contact with it.

You can take finasteride on an empty stomach, or after a meal. There is no best time to take finasteride, but you should try to take it at the same time each day to help you get into a routine. This reduces the chances of forgetting to take a dose.

Missing a dose of finasteride occasionally is unlikely to affect your hair growth. However, finasteride has a short half-life which means that it exits the body quickly. Missing frequent doses can negatively impact results. If you do miss a dose of finasteride, do not take an extra tablet to make up for the missed dose. Continue to take your tablets as normal when it is time to take your next dose.

Tip: You can set a reminder on your phone to help you remember to take your tablets. Alternatively, you can leave your tablets by your toothbrush to remind yourself that you need to take a tablet.  


How long does Finasteride take to work?

Finasteride starts to work on the scalp straight away, but it takes at least 3 months before you will see any noticeable effects. Initially, some men will find that their hair is falling out at a faster rate. This is a positive sign that finasteride is working, as the older hairs are making way for newer and stronger strands of hair. After 6 months, most men will find that their hair is growing back thicker and stronger, and less hair is falling out. It is important to take finasteride continuously, as breaks in your treatment can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the drug. You should measure the response of finasteride after one year of consistent use. Most men will find that finasteride has helped in growing new hair, or been successful in preventing further hair loss. If you have not seen any benefits after 12 months of using finasteride, you should discontinue treatment.


Does Finasteride work forever?

Finasteride does not work forever, and if you stop taking finasteride, the natural balding process will resume. This means that you will lose any hair that has been regrown as a result of finasteride. The half-life of finasteride is 4-7 hours, which means that the dose drops by 50% within this time frame, after you have taken it. Because it is eliminated from the body at a rapid rate, it is important to continue to take finasteride. A continuous dosing regimen allows a sufficient amount of finasteride to be sustained in your body in order for it to work. Once you stop taking it, testosterone will convert to DHT, which will begin to shrink the hair follicles again.


Does it work according to science?

A clinical trial carried out over a five-year period on over 1,800 men, has proven that taking finasteride 1mg once a day, slowed and reversed balding in more than 90% of men.

Another clinical trial conducted in over 2,500 men, demonstrated that finasteride had a positive impact on hair growth in 87% of men.  

A separate scientific study conducted over two years on 1,500 men, demonstrated that 83% of men taking finasteride for two years, experienced an increase in hair growth, a complete halt to hair loss, or both.

Research has also proven finasteride to be more effective than Regaine (minoxidil 5%), in treating male pattern baldness.

So, it’s safe to say that science proves that finasteride is effective in helping men to regrow hair, as well as reducing the rate at which hair is lost. It is important to note that finasteride is most effective in helping to reduce thinning hair, receding hairlines and hair loss around the crown. If you have lost most of your hair or have a large and prominent bald patch around the crown, finasteride is unlikely to be of any benefit as your hair follicles are likely to be damaged beyond repair.


Is Finasteride safe to use long term?

Research and studies prove that finasteride is safe for long term use. A study from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial concluded that “there is little need to worry about long-term consequence of finasteride use in those who use it for hair growth”.  Another 5-year study showed that “Finasteride 1mg daily over 5 years was well tolerated, led to durable improvements in scalp hair growth, and slowed the further progression of hair loss that occurred without treatment”.  

Finasteride side effects are not common, however, rare side effects include:

  • Depression or low mood
  • Reduced sexual desire and erectile issues

If you experience any of the above or any unusual side effects, you should contact your doctor.

Important points

  • There have been 3 reported cases of breast cancer in men taking finasteride 1mg. Although this may just be a correlation rather than a direct impact of finasteride, the risk cannot be excluded
  • There is a possible risk of birth defects in male babies, if pregnant women come into contact with finasteride. To date, there are no reports of adverse outcomes, however, this risk should not be excluded

Finasteride is generally well tolerated and a safe treatment for male pattern baldness. However, you should read the product information leaflet beforehand and discuss any concerns with your doctor or pharmacist. If you are comfortable with taking finasteride and you feel that it is appropriate for you to take, you can begin treatment and look forward to a fuller and thicker head of hair.


What to do if Finasteride is not working

You may not have been taking finasteride tablets for long enough. First ask yourself how long you have been taking finasteride tablets for. As humans, we all want to see results fast. It’s human instinct. However, you must bear in mind that finasteride takes at least 3 months to start working. It may even take up to 6 months before you start noticing the positive effects.

Finasteride works to slow hair loss too. It may not work to regrow hair, but it may be helping to stop the natural balding process. This can be difficult to assess. The best way to gauge this, is to take regular pictures, so that you can assess your response before and after taking finasteride.

Forgetting to take your tablets. It can be difficult to remember to take your tablets daily, especially at the beginning. Setting a reminder on your phone or leaving your tablets by your toothbrush can help you to sop forgetting to take your tablets.

It may be too late. Finasteride is most effective in treating mild to moderate cases of hair loss. If you are experiencing hair loss that is within the moderate to severe category, finasteride is unlikely to work.

Tip: Using other hair loss products such as Regaine and hair loss supplements can help to speed up the results of finasteride.


So, does Finasteride actually work?

Yes! Finasteride does work if you take it continuously. Scientific research and evidence point to finasteride as the most effective treatment for hair loss in males. It can also be used in combination with Regaine, a product that contains the ingredient Minoxidil, another proven hair loss treatment. Finasteride reviews from active users also suggest that a majority of men who use finasteride, finds that it works to regrow and thicken hair, as well as prevent further hair loss. 

However, whilst finasteride works for most men, it may not necessarily work for everyone. It is unlikely to work in those that are completely bald or have very little hair left, or those suffering from hair loss that is not attributed to male pattern baldness (such as alopecia).

Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.