What medicines are available to treat inherited hair loss?
Medicine for treating inherited hair loss slows thinning of
the hair and increases coverage of the scalp by growing new hair and enlarging
Currently, medicines used to treat hair loss
caused by heredity include:
- Minoxidil. Minoxidil (Rogaine) is
available without a prescription and is sprayed on and/or rubbed into the scalp
twice a day.
- Finasteride. Finasteride (Propecia), which is
available by prescription, is a pill taken once daily. Finasteride has not been
proved effective in women and is not approved for women by the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration (FDA).1 Finasteride should never
be taken or handled by women who are or may become pregnant, because it can
cause birth defects.
With these medicines, hair coverage tends to improve on
the top of the head but not on the forehead area.
How effective are these medicines in treating inherited hair loss?
The effectiveness of finasteride or minoxidil depends on
your age and the location of the hair loss. These medicines do not work for
everyone, and you should not expect to regrow a full head of hair.
These medicines slow thinning of the hair and increase coverage of the
scalp by growing new hair and enlarging existing hairs. They need to be taken
every day, and if you stop taking them, any hair that has grown in will
gradually be lost. Within 6 to 12 months, your scalp will most likely appear
the same as it did before treatment.
Both medicines must be taken
daily. It may take 6 months of treatment before you see results.
Minoxidil slows hair loss
and grows new hair. In men, the 5% solution appears to be more effective than
the 2% solution, but it costs more and may have more side effects.2
Minoxidil seems to work best on people younger
than 30 years of age who have been losing hair for fewer than 5 years.3
Finasteride is recognized as a successful therapy for inherited hair loss
for men. Research reports that it slows hair loss on the scalp and helps regrow
hair.3, 4, 5 But bald spots may not be completely covered, and visible
results may take from a few months to a year.
Finasteride has not been proved effective in women and
is not approved for women by the FDA.1
What are the side effects of these medicines?
Side effects of minoxidil include skin irritation, dandruff, and an itchy
scalp. In women, minoxidil may cause facial hair growth, especially on the
forehead and cheeks. If you have heart problems, ask your doctor about using
Finasteride should not be taken or handled by women
who are or may become pregnant, because it can cause birth defects. Possible
side effects in men include sexual problems, such as difficulty getting an
What are the disadvantages of taking these medicines?
The disadvantages of taking these medicines for hair loss include:
- The medicines may not work. You should not
expect to regrow a full head of hair. Visible results may take from a few
months to a year.
- You must take the medicine every day. If you
stop, any regrown hair will fall out, and you may actually end up with less
hair than when you started treatment.
medicines are expensive and usually are not covered by insurance.
What are the risks of not taking these medicines?
There are no risks to your health if you decide not to take medicine for
hair loss. But for some people, there may be a risk to their well-being and
self-esteem if they feel that hair loss has affected their appearance.
The risk of not taking medicine is that your hair loss will probably
continue. But medicine is not always effective, and hair loss may continue
despite treatment with medicine.
If you need more information, see the topic