Male Pattern Baldness Treatments
How Finasteride Works
Finasteride's hair-raising success is due to its ability to specifically
inhibit 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into a more
potent androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Propecia's 1 mg dose of finasteride can effectively lower DHT levels in the
scalp by as much as 60% when taken daily. It is DHT that shrinks or
miniaturizes the hair follicle, which eventually leads to baldness. This 60%
reduction in DHT has proven to stop the progression of hair loss in 86% of men
taking the drug during clinical trials. 65% of trial participants had what was
considered a substantial increase of hair growth.
At this point, the only truly effective medically proven way to arrest the
hair loss process is to lower DHT levels. The American Hair Loss Association
recommends finasteride as the first line of attack for all men interested in
treating their male pattern baldness.
Minoxidil was the first drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of male
pattern baldness. For many years, minoxidil, in pill form (brand name Loniten),
was widely used to treat high blood pressure. Just like finasteride,
researchers discovered a very interesting side effect of the drug. People
taking the medication were growing hair in unexpected places, such as on their
cheeks and the back of their hands. Some people grew hair on their
Some enterprising researchers had the notion that applying minoxidil
topically, directly on the head, might grow hair on balding areas. It did, to
varying degrees depending on the extent of the hair loss, but at the time it
While minoxidil has been clinically proven to slow the progression of hair
loss and regrow some hair, most experts see it as a relatively marginally
effective drug in the fight against hair loss. Since minoxidil has no effect on
the hormonal process of hair loss, its positive effects are at best temporary
and usually yield somewhat disappointing results.
The American Hair Loss Association still recommends the drug for those who
have not responded favorably to finasteride treatment or for those who would
like to add another product to their regimen. The AHLA does not recommend
minoxidil as the first line of attack for men suffering with male pattern
baldness, but does recognize it as an effective treatment for a small
percentage of its users.