Medications to Slow Men’s Hair Loss

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on March 12, 2024
2 min read

Lots of products claim to help guys bring back the shiny mane of their younger days. But only a handful of those seem to work. And you don’t need to lighten your wallet on worthless shampoos and supplements in the quest for a fuller head of hair.

There’s no cure for baldness, but these options may help you keep it at bay if you’re gradually losing hair. The best time to use them is before you’ve lost a lot. So when you start to notice thinning locks, check in with your doctor about what you can do.

Popping a pill to thwart thinning hair may sound too good to be true, but it’s possible with finasteride (Propecia). The drug works by lowering levels of a hormone that shrinks hair follicles, called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

It slows hair loss in about 88% of men and helps hair regrow in about 66%. You need a doctor’s prescription to get finasteride, which you take every day. Be patient, though: It can take 6 months to see results, because hair loss and growth happen slowly.

In clinical trials for the drug, about 3% of men had some side effects, including a lower sex drive and other sexual problems. It’s possible that these issues can continue after you stop taking the drug. Keep in mind, too, that pregnant women shouldn’t handle the pills -- touching broken or crushed tablets can cause birth defects in babies.

Low-dose oral minoxidil is also used for men with success. 

It’s not as easy to use as a daily pill, but minoxidil (Rogaine), a liquid or foam that you rub into your scalp, is another option. The 5% strength seems to work best. Studies show it can help hair grow, but it may also help you hold on to the strands you already have.

The earlier you start using minoxidil, the more likely it is to help. You have to use it for at least 4 months, and possibly for up to a year, before you can see if it’s working. While you may grow more hair with finasteride, it tends to have more side effects than minoxidil. You also don’t need a prescription for minoxidil.

You apply the medicine twice a day to dry hair. Applicators make the process less messy. The main side effect is scalp irritation.