This section focuses on commonly used medical treatments for hair loss:
- Propecia (finasteride)
- Rogaine (minoxidil)
- Avodart (dutasteride)
- Aldactone (spironolactone)
- Oral Contraceptives
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
- Latisse (bimatoprost)
Learn more about these hair loss medications by clicking on the icons to the right and reading information on each medication.
Propecia & Rogaine
Only the first two drugs listed on this page — the oral medication Propecia (that contains finasteride 1mg) and the topical medication Rogaine (that contains minoxidil) — are approved by the FDA for the treatment of common baldness in men (androgenetic alopecia). When the others are used for this purpose, it is considered “off-label” use.
Propecia (finasteride), which inhibits DHT, is particularly helpful in reversing genetic baldness in its early stages. Finasteride still requires a prescription, but is available in the less expensive 5mg generic form — which can be divided into smaller 1.25mg doses using a pill cutter — and in a generic 1mg dose.
Rogaine (minoxidil) directly stimulates hair growth, but is significantly less effective than finasteride when used alone. The best results are noted when it is used in conjunction with Propecia. Minoxidil is generic and no longer requires a doctor’s prescription.
Propecia is significantly more effective than Rogaine in treating hair loss, but they have additive effects when used in conjunction with one another. When both are used, over 1/3 of patients can expect visible amounts of hair regrowth. In over 90% of patients, these medications can significantly slow down further hair loss.
Use in the Crown
Since both finasteride and minoxidil were approved by the FDA for use in the crown (the back of the scalp), there is a common misconception that these drugs only work in this area. The fact is that both Rogaine and Propecia work in the front and top parts of the scalp. This makes sense, since the process of hair loss is the same in both locations. Both medications thicken fine, miniaturized hair, but both are unable to grow hair in areas that are completely bald.
Since the crown usually has hair in the thinning phase for longer periods of time than the front part of the scalp, there is often a longer window of time for the medications to be useful in re-growing hair in this location. This helps to explain the relatively better response to medication in the back part of the scalp (the crown) compared to the front. That said, for prevention of further hair loss, the medications are equally important in all parts of the scalp, front and back.
Medications take time to work and it usually takes six months to a year to see the results. In the first few months they may cause shedding, so one needs to be patient and continue to use the medication. The effects will wear off if the drugs are discontinued and the patient will soon revert to the degree of hair loss they would have had if they had not used the medications at all.
Medicine vs. Surgery
Medications can be used alone, or can be used as part of a hair loss treatment plan that includes hair transplantation. Medical therapy works well in conjunction with hair transplant surgery since they serve different purposes; the medical treatments work best to prevent further hair loss, whereas surgery is used to regain hair once it has been lost (or when the process is more advanced.) Unlike medication, a hair transplant does not prevent the progression of the balding process, but it is the only hair loss treatment that can restore hair to a completely bald area.
Video: Can Propecia or Rogaine Improve Receding Hairline?
By: Dr. Robert M. Bernstein
Updated: 2015-12-04 | Published: 2009-07-15