Does Finasteride (Propecia) Actually Work?

Finasteride and propecia next to a wig

Published: 12 March 2019

Finasteride, also known by its brand name Propecia, 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.


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 hair line 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, and slowing or complete prevention of the hair loss process.


How long does it take for finasteride 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.


What happens if I stop taking finasteride?

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.


What does the science say?

A clinical trial carried out over a five-year period on over 1800 men, has proven that taking finasteride 1mg once a day, slowed and reversed balding in more than 90% 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, does finasteride actually work?

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. 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).