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Anti-Androgens For Hair Loss: Everything You Need To Know

By Kevin Hwang, MD, MPH
An anti-androgen medication can slow down hair loss in men with typical male pattern baldness.

Androgens are male sex hormones. Both men and women make androgens, but males typically make much higher levels, which can cause hair loss. Anti-androgens, medications that affect androgen levels in the body, can be used to treat hair loss.

What Are Anti-Androgens and What Do They Treat?

Anti-androgens are medications that block the effects of androgens in the body. Finasteride is an anti-androgen that affects the levels of two androgens - testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). According to the National Library of Medicine, finasteride blocks 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT. Taking finasteride increases testosterone levels while decreasing DHT levels. 

Oral finasteride is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hair loss in males caused by androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern hair loss. In men, androgenetic alopecia affects the hair above both temples, causing a receding hairline, and can also occur at the top of the head. 

According to a 2017 review published in Endocrine Reviews, males with androgenetic alopecia may go completely bald since a male’s scalp with androgenetic alopecia has high concentrations of DHT. It is thought that finasteride works for hair loss by lowering DHT in the scalp tissue. Although a topical form of finasteride exists, it is not currently approved by the FDA.

According to Mayo Clinic, finasteride works on the scalp but not other areas of the body. Finasteride also doesn’t cause dramatic, rapid regrowth of hair. The US National Library of Medicine says that it may take 3 months before you see an improvement in hair loss while taking finasteride. Finasteride only works when you’re consistent with taking the medication. If you stop taking finasteride, the hair you gained while on the medication will likely be lost.

It should be no surprise that the side effects of finasteride are related to how it affects androgen levels. “Some possible side effects of finasteride include sexual health problems [for males] and breast changes [for females],” Pio Juan Lansangan, PharmD, clinical pharmacist at UTHealth McGovern Medical School in Houston tells WebMD Connect to Care. “It is important to talk about these ahead of time, and immediately report to your doctor if these side effects happen.” 

Get Help Now

Don’t wait. The sooner you address the symptoms of hair loss, the more likely you are to prevent irreversible damage. Speak to a medical professional today to begin your journey to a fuller head of hair.