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Finasteride vs. Minoxidil: Which is Right For You?

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer T. Haley, MD, FAAD on November 18, 2020
Finasteride and minoxidil can treat male- and female-pattern baldness, and may even reverse hair loss. Here’s how to choose which drug is right for you.

Hair loss is a common problem that can affect both men and women. Finasteride and minoxidil may help slow down male- and female-pattern hair loss, and in some cases may even cause lost hair to regrow. 

What Is Finasteride and Who Is It For? 

Finasteride is a prescription oral drug that doctors originally used to shrink an enlarged prostate. According to Nicholas M Birchall, MD, and dermatologist in Auckland, New Zealand, finasteride treats male- and female-pattern baldness by lowering levels of DHT. This stops the hormone from attacking the hair follicles, slowing or eliminating hair loss. Because it targets DHT, it will not work for other forms of hair loss, such as hair loss due to chemotherapy, stress, medication, or hypothyroidism. 

“Finasteride is by far the more clinically effective medication compared to minoxidil,” Gary Linkov, MD, of City Facial Plastics in New York City tells WebMD Connect to Care. Linkov does caution that finasteride can cause sexual side effects such as decreased semen and reduced sexual desire. In some cases, it may also cause excessive hair growth. 

According to Mayo Clinic, people who take finasteride may experience rare symptoms such as nipple discharge, enlarged breasts or breast pain, testicle pain, or trouble urinating. Contact a doctor right away if you have these symptoms. 

“Finasteride should not be used in premenopausal women,” Linkov says. 

What is Minoxidil and Who is it For? 

Minoxidil is available over-the-counter in many different foams, serums, and shampoos. According to a 2019 review published in Drug Design, Development and Therapy, minoxidil is a vasodilator, which means that it makes the blood vessels wider in order to increase blood flow. Doctors do not fully understand how it slows hair loss and encourages hair regrowth, but increased blood flow may play an important role. 

A 2017 article published in American Family Physician reports that hair regrowth usually takes 6 to 12 months after first using minoxidil. The hair will begin falling out again if you stop using the medication. Minoxidil is safe for both men and women to use but cannot treat postpartum thinning hair. 

According to Mayo Clinic, rare side effects of taking minoxidil include dizziness, fainting, or a rapid heart rate as a result of taking minoxidil, and some people notice burning or stinging at the application site. Stop using minoxidil and contact a doctor if this happens to you. 

The best results for men are obtained by using both of these treatments together.  

Get Help Now 

Consult a medical professional today to prevent irreversible damage and begin a journey to a fuller, healthier head of hair.