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Robotic Hair Transplants & Hair Restoration
Flagship: 110 East 55th Street, New York, NY
212-826-2400 - [email protected]
Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration
Hair Restoration Answers

Do Propecia (Finasteride) and Rogaine (Minoxidil) Work on Front of the Scalp?

Q: Both Propecia and Minoxidil definitely can work in the front of the scalp as long as there is some hair in the area. Although their mechanisms of action are different, both Propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine (minoxidil) act to thicken miniaturized hair regardless of where it is on the scalp. In fact, there are published data (Leyden et. al., JAAD, 1999) demonstrating this improvement in a controlled clinical trial of men with frontal hair loss. — J.S., Great Falls, Virginia

A: Both Propecia and Minoxidil definitely can work in the front of the scalp as long as there is some hair in the area. Although their mechanisms of action are different, both Propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine (minoxidil) act to thicken miniaturized hair regardless of where it is on the scalp. In fact, there are published data (Leyden et. al., JAAD, 1999) demonstrating this improvement with finasteride in a controlled clinical trial of men with frontal hair loss.

The source of the confusion on this topic is the fact that the FDA limited the application of the drugs to the crown on the package inserts for both Propecia and Rogaine. The FDA did this because Upjohn (the company that introduced Rogaine) and Merck (Propecia) only tested the medications on the crown in the clinical trials. Logically, the fact that DHT causes frontal hair loss and Propecia works by blocking DHT gives a reasonable explanation for the efficacy of the drug on the front of the scalp. Also, a side effect of the use of minoxidil is facial hair, so how could it not also work on the front of the scalp? It is regrettable that some doctors and many patients think that these medications won’t work on the front of the scalp. Unfortunately, many hair restoration surgeons have done little to educate the public and dispel this myth.

To reiterate, yes, both of these medications can work on the front of the scalp to prevent hair loss and thicken a thinning hairline. However, it is important to note that neither of these medications can grow hair on a totally bald scalp or lower an existing hairline. Hair follicles must exist for the medications to work. It is also important to stress that the best results come from using both finasteride and minoxidil together.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Are Reports of Persistent Side Effects With Finasteride Real?

Q: Dr. Bernstein, I am an attending at Mass General Hospital in Boston and would like to ask you regarding your experiences using finasteride for male androgenetic alopecia. While I have not noticed any side effects in the patients that I have been treating, I increasingly get questions regarding side effects based on the recent media attention to reports of potentially permanent problems regarding libido or erectile dysfunction. I know that in the literature there is a slight increase of reversible sexual dysfunction (~4% vs. ~2% in placebo) with Propecia, and no convincing evidence to date in the medical literature that have used controlled studies regarding permanent problems even after discontinuing Propecia. — S.Z., Boston, Massachusetts

A: That is correct.

Q: I know that you have treated many patients over a long period of time, and I was thus wondering what your take is on potentially permanent sexual dysfunction after taking finasteride. Have you seen any convincing reports/patients or do you have any concerns regarding irreversible side effects?

A: I have seen 5 cases in over 10,000 patients on finasteride that complained of this but, of course, there is no way to know for sure if there is a cause and effect relationship. As you know, real side effects may be followed by psychological ones and if the sexual dysfunction has another cause, then stopping finasteride would have no effect on the symptoms. The incidence of sexual dysfunction in the population of men on finasteride is about 30%, so one would expect these numbers to be much higher just due to the normal incidence. It is really a difficult situation to understand. The experience that my colleagues and I have in our practices is much different than one would expect after reading the numerous anecdotal reports on the internet.

Q: Would you think it is safe to say that any potential sexual dysfunction is reversible after discontinuing the use of finasteride?

A: I don’t think that anyone knows at this point. The FDA is coming down on the side of caution and saying that it is possible, although it is not based on any new studies. If the phenomenon is real, the possible mechanism is not yet known.

Q: In the relatively few patients that I have treated with Propecia, they did not even report temporary problems regarding libido or erectile dysfunction. Do you think they are real or rather attributed to Propecia simply because the patient is made aware of these potential side effects?

A: I think that psychological effects may account for many cases. At this time, it is still not clear if a physiologic “post-finasteride syndrome” is real. A lot more work needs to be done before we have a definitive answer to this question.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Are Patients in Photos of Medical Treatment Using Concealers, or are Results Genuine?

Q: Doctor Bernstein, I was looking at your website and saw the photos of medical hair loss treatments only, with Rogaine and Propecia. Doctor, are all those pictures just with medical treatments or is there concealers as well? I don’t mean to sound rude or disrespectful, but are the pics all real and genuine? Those are some impressive responses to medical treatment. — A.D., Scarsdale, NY

A: The photos are un-retouched and without concealers. These are responses to medical treatment alone. Yes, medications (finasteride and minoxidil) can work really well in select patients. Patients with early stages of thinning usually respond the best. Contrary to popular belief, the medications can work in the front part of the scalp, as long as the area is not shiny bald.

Perhaps about 1/3 of patients respond well enough to be put on the site. Most others have a good response, but not necessarily improvement significant enough to be easily noticeable in photos.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Before and After Photos of Medical Therapy Look Too Good To Be True!

Q: Are the “result” photos from taking Propecia and using Rogaine legitimate? Some of the after photos look too good to be real and a few patients looked like they combed their hair to look like they had more coverage. — T.Y., Darien, Connecticut

A: The before and after photos of patients using Propecia and Rogaine are my patients. All photos on our website are un-retouched. Often, when patients have a good response to medical therapy, they have more flexibility in how they can groom and style their hair. This is reflected in the photos.

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