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Hair Restoration Answers

Does Finasteride Need to be Taken Every Day?

Q: Does finasteride need to be taken every day?

A: Finasteride (Propecia) is a competitive inhibitor of Type II, 5 alpha-reductase (5AR is the enzyme that converts Testosterone to DHT which then causes hair to miniaturize and eventually be lost). Finasteride is 100x times more selective in inhibiting the Type II enzyme (present in hair follicles) than the Type I enzyme (present in other body tissues). The turnover (T1/2) of the finasteride/5AR Type II complex is 30 days and the finasteride/5AR Type I complex is 15 days. This explains why finasteride does not need to be taken every day and why, after stopping finasteride, the effects may take a month or longer to begin to dissappear.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Should I Start Hair Loss Treatment With Finasteride or Dutasteride?

Q: I recently visited my dermatologist regarding my hair loss, and after checking my hair he said I am showing signs of [Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA)], and said if I don’t treat it, it will progress. From my research on the net, I figured he will put me on Propecia. In fact he put me on Avodart. When I told him it is not FDA-approved for hair loss, and Propecia is, he said Avodart is better and brings DHT down more, and Propecia is nothing next to Avodart. He told me to take it every day for 2 weeks, then every other day from then on as it has a long half life. From researching on the net, many hair restoration doctors, rarely prescribe Avodart for hair loss due to some dangers. What is your opinion on this? — T.G., Darien, Connecticut

A: Although dutasteride (Avodart) can be more effective for male pattern hair loss, I would start with finasteride (Propecia) as many patients do great with it and the safety profile is better. The following are things I would consider before starting dutasteride:

  1. As you point out, dutasteride is not FDA-approved for hair loss.
  2. There is no data on its safety when used for hair loss. This is important since dutasteride has been only tested on an older population of patients (with prostate disease) rather than a younger population of patients needing medical treatment for androgenetic alopecia.
  3. These is no natural model for dutasteride’s combined blockage of both type 1 and 2 5-alpha reductase (finasteride blocks only type 2 5-AR and there are families that have this deficiency and have no long-term problems. This, by the way, is how the drug was discovered).
  4. The type 1 enzyme which dutasteride blocks is present in many more tissues of the body (including the brain) compared to type 2 (which is more localized to the skin).
  5. Although so far unproven, there is a concern that finasteride may produce side effects than can be persistent after stopping the medication (post-finasteride syndrome). It this does turn out to be true, the effects from dutasteride would most likely be significantly more persistent.
  6. If you start with finasteride and do have side effects, you will most surely have side effects from dutasteride; therefore, by taking finasteride first you will have avoided the potentially more problematic side effects from dutasteride
  7. You may respond well to finasteride, and so do not need to consider dutasteride
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Hair Restoration Answers

Are There Any Lab Studies Proving that Saw Palmetto Helps Prevent Hair Loss?

Q: Have there been any lab studies proving that Saw Palmetto works to prevent hair loss?

A: There have been no verifiable clinical studies that show saw palmetto can stop hair loss or cause hair to re-grow. There have been some preliminary tests showing that saw palmetto may be able to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase, but its usefulness for androgenetic hair loss has not been documented in controlled studies.

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Hair Restoration Answers

What Is Saw Palmetto And Does It Prevent Hair Loss?

Q: What is Saw Palmetto? — R.P., White Plains, NY

A: Saw Palmetto is a dwarf palm plant native to North America. The active ingredients can be found in the plant’s brown-black berries. It is proposed that it blocks the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). There is little scientific evidence that Saw Palmetto is actually effective for hair loss.

Read about the treatment of hair loss in men

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Body Hair Transplant be Negatively Affected by Finasteride?

After trading anecdotes with fellow hair loss physicians about how finasteride can reduce body hair in some patients, Dr. Sharon A. Keene asked whether finasteride might have a negative effect on patients who have body hair transplant (BHT) procedures. While the current research is inconclusive, her review sheds light on how to avoid any possible negative impact that finasteride might have on patients who have body hair transplant procedures.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Could Finasteride (Propecia) Remove Unwanted Body Hair?

Q: I’m concerned that finasteride might result in unwanted body hair on the arms, back, etc. Is there any truth to this? My thinking is that since finasteride blocks the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase which converts testosterone to its more active form, DHT (dihydrotestosterone), is it possible that it might actually have some effectiveness in ameliorating unwanted hair? — P.P., Stamford, CT

A: Yes, finasteride does have some ability to decrease body hair, since growth of body hair is stimulated by DHT. However, the effects of finasteride are mild and not observed by everyone, so if you have unwanted body hair you will probably need some other means to remove it such as waxing, laser hair removal or electrolysis. The important thing is that finasteride doesn’t increase body hair.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Is Hair Loss Treatment with Avodart Safe?

Q: My friend is taking Avodart, he bought it over the internet. Is it safe to take? — T.G., Denver, Colorado

A: Avodart (dutasteride 0.5mg) was approved by the FDA for the treatment of prostate enlargement in men in 2002. Avodart has not been approved for the treatment of androgenetic hair loss, although physicians can use an approved medication in ways other than for which it was specifically approved. That said, the use of dutasteride certainly requires a doctor’s supervision.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Was Propecia Originally for Treatment of Prostate Enlargement?

Q: I heard that Propecia was being used originally for shrinking the prostate, is this true? — M.D., New Hyde Park, N.Y.

A: Propecia (finasteride 1mg) is not a prostate medication that was serendipitously noted to have a side effect of re-growing hair, it is a medication that was known all along that it might be able to slow hair loss and/or to grow hair.

Although finasteride was first approved for the treatment of prostate enlargement, the researchers at Merck knew, at the outset, that there were families whose members were deficient in the 5-alpha reductase Type II enzyme and that the men in these families neither developed prostate disease nor went bald. In addition they had no long-term problems from the lack of this enzyme.

Merck used this natural model to develop a medication that could block the 5-alpha reductase Type II enzyme – the result was finasteride. Because the only approved treatment for symptoms related to prostate enlargement at the time was surgery, Merck developed finasteride as a medical treatment for this condition prior to developing finasteride as a potential treatment for men with male pattern hair loss.

This also meant that Merck would understand the safety profile of finasteride, and have it approved for a medical disease (symptomatic prostate enlargement), before developing it for a cosmetic condition.

The drug was first submitted to the FDA for the treatment of prostate enlargement as Proscar (finasteride 5mg) in 1991 and it was approved for this use in 1992. The drug was submitted for the treatment of men with male pattern hair loss as Propecia (finasteride 1mg) in 1996 and was approved for this use in 1997.

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Hair Restoration Answers

What Causes Common Hair Loss or Baldness?

Q: I know that I am going to be bald because my father is bald and I am losing my hair just like him. What actually causes this kind of hair loss? — J.P., Paradise Valley, Arizona

A: Although there are many different causes, the overwhelming number of people that have hair loss have what is referred to as “patterned hair loss” or “androgenetic alopecia.”

In men, it is due to a hormone called DHT, which is a by-product of testosterone produced by the action of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme is inhibited by the hair loss medication Propecia. See the causes of hair loss in men page on the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration website for more information.

In women, the mechanism is a little bit more complex as another enzyme, aromatase, is involved in the metabolic pathway. See the causes of hair loss in women page on the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration website for more information.

We know that the inheritance comes from both the mother’s and father’s side, although the actual genes causing hair loss in men and women have not yet been identified. Statistically, the inheritance from the maternal side appears to be a bit stronger, but the reason for this is unknown.

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Hair Restoration Research

5 alpha-Reductase Inhibition in Hair Growth

SUMMARY of Dr. Epstein’s Abstract from his presentation at the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, 2005 – Sydney, Australia

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is known to be the more potent androgen in both Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and in Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA). Testosterone is converted to DHT by the enzyme 5-α reductase in several organs including the prostate, hair follicles, skin, liver and sebaceous glands. 5-α reductase exists in two isoforms: type 1 and type 2. Type 2 is the predominant enzyme in prostate and hair follicles. Finasteride, approved in 1992, inhibits the type 2 isoenzyme, and is available in two doses: 1mg dose for AGA, and 5mg for BPH. Dutasteride, approved in January 2003 to treat BPH, is a dual inhibitor of both isoenzymes.

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