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Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration
Hair Restoration Answers

If I Am Starting to Thin, Should I Have A Hair Transplant Or Try Medication First?

Q: My hair is starting to thin in the front, but it is not yet bald. I have been going back and forth about whether to get a hair transplant or use Propecia. I’m not sure what my first step should be. What do you think? — N.K. ~ Pleasantville, N.Y.

A: In general, patients who are thinning, but not actually bald, should begin with combined medical therapy (finasteride and minoxidil) for at least a year prior to considering surgery. In many cases, with this regiment, surgery can postponed or even avoided completely. Unfortunately, some patients cannot tolerate finasteride or choose not to take it due to concern about potential side effects. Minoxidil, although useful, does not significantly alter the long-term course of hair loss when used alone.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Are Lab Tests Required Before Starting Propecia?

Q: I had a good friend get a transplant at your practice and it seems that your practice is the industry leader in hair transplantation. I may one day be looking for one. That being said, my friend said I shouldn’t trust anyone else. I wanted to know if you may be able to tell me what tests/specific labs you have your patients do prior to starting Propecia. I am having my doctor put me on it but he does not recommend any labs but I don’t trust this. So I’m not looking for medical advice, just what your practice may advise a patient to get (in terms of labs/blood tests) prior to starting Propecia. I’m really hoping you can help as I have already contacted a number of other sources and can’t seem to get an answer. — M.B. ~ Upper East Side, N.Y.

A: Blood tests are not required before starting finasteride and we do not routinely perform them. If a patient requests test then Total and Free Testosterone, DHT, and Prolactin are reasonable to obtain, but there is no consensus on what the appropriate tests might be. If a patient requests tests because he has symptoms (i.e. such as lack of energy associated with low T), he should see his internist, urologist, or GP. That said, patients 50 and over (40 and over in patients with a high risk of developing prostate cancer) should have a PSA before starting finasteride.

Read more about Propecia (Finasteride)

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Bernstein Medical In The News

Dr. Bernstein Interviewed by NY Japion Magazine on the Latest in Hair Transplant Surgery

Dr. Bernstein Interviewed in NY Japion Pt 2Dr. Bernstein was featured in a wide-ranging interview published in the New York City-based, Japanese language magazine NY Japion. Among the topics discussed were the differences between FUT and FUE hair transplants, updates on robotic hair transplant technology, the type of procedure most beneficial for Asian patients, criteria that determine candidacy for a hair transplant, and more.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Does Minoxidil Improve Graft Survival After a Hair Transplant?

Q: Does minoxidil play any role in the survival of the grafts after a Neograft/FUE procedure? — J.W., Philadelphia, PA

A: When a doctor performs a hair transplant, the hair should be taken from the permanent zone so, by definition, that hair is not affected by medication (i.e. does not need to be maintained by either minoxidil or finasteride). If the doctors using Neograft are suggesting that minoxidil increases survival, then they are probably harvesting hair outside the permanent zone. To clarify, I use the ARTAS robotic system for our FUE procedures, not Neograft, as the former is a far more accurate device for harvesting.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Is the Dose of Finasteride the Same for Everyone?

Q: Does a man’s height and weight affect the dose of finasteride or Propecia he should take? i.e. will a 6’4″ man need a higher dose than a 5’7″ man. ~ T.B. — Rye Brook, NY

A: The dose of finasteride is the same (i.e. 1mg) regardless of a person’s height or weight. The reason is that one needs only 0.5mg a day for it to be effective, so there is much leeway built into the dose (but the rate of non-responders is slightly higher at the 0.5mg/day dose). That said, after 5 years or so, finasteride seems to be less effective and doctors often increase the dose a bit. The next step-up is generally to take 1/3 of a 5mg pill each day. Keep in mind that the dosing we are speaking about is for hair loss (androgenetic alopecia). When finasteride is used for prostate enlargement, the dose is 5mg a day.

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Hair Restoration Research

Survey Finds Red, Low-Level, Laser Light Therapy is an Effective, Alternate Treatment for Androgenic Alopecia

Researchers from the Harvard Medical School surveyed five clinical studies designed to measure the effects of low-level light laser therapy (LLLT) on androgenic alopecia in both men and women. In each case, they found that red and near-infrared LLLT was a safe and effective treatment option for both men and women with genetic balding.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Does Propecia Work in Older Patients?

Q: Hi. I am 52 years old and wish to know if Propecia will work for my age. I have started losing some hair a couple of years ago and it’s thinning out. Thank you very much for your help. — K.E., Boca Raton, FL

A: Propecia (Finasteride 1 mg) can hold on to hair at any age, but works best to re-grow hair in those who are younger. Occasionally we see patients in their 50s re-grow some hair with Propecia, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

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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

Does Propecia Work for Life or Does it Stop Working Over Time?

Q: Can Propecia (finasteride) completely halt androgenic alopecia for the duration of your lifetime, or does it just slow down the progression of androgenic alopecia? — L.B., Scarsdale, N.Y.

A: In many patients we have found finasteride to hold on to a patient’s hair for at least 15 years. We don’t have much longer data than that since it was approved for hair loss in 1998. Although finasteride will usually continue to work as long as you take it, it may lose some of its efficacy over time. Generally after about 5 years we may notice that the patient’s hair is starting to thin again and we will increase the dose slightly. It is important to understand that even if someone thins on finasteride it doesn’t mean the medicine is not working, because they might have thinned much more without it. To my knowledge, there are no studies that have looked at the effects of finasteride for such an extended period of time.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Is Propecia and/or Rogaine Mandatory after a Hair Transplant?

Q: I’ve heard that using Propecia and/or Rogaine is a good idea after having a hair transplant, but are they mandatory? — B.M., Short Hill, N.J.

A: Neither finasteride (brand name: Propecia) nor minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine) will have any effect on transplanted hair. That said, while you don’t need them to protect your transplanted hair, you will likely have original hair interspersed among your transplanted hair that will continue to thin and fall out over time. This vulnerable hair can be protected by finasteride which has been shown to reduce future hair loss significantly; additionally, you can add Rogaine for extra benefit.

However, with Propecia, you should only use it if you can commit to it long-term because it takes up to a full year to see any effect. With Rogaine, you should only use it if you can commit to using it continually and regularly – you should not stop and start it.

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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 Research

New Analysis of Scientific Studies Questions Connection Between Propecia Use and Persistent Sexual Side Effects

Recent news reports, coupled with warnings from Merck and the FDA, about Propecia’s possible persistent sexual side effects have caused growing concern about this popular hair loss treatment. An increasing number of men now fear that Propecia (finasteride 1mg) will cause permanent sexual dysfunction.

A 2014 meta-analysis, however, found that the number of self-reported cases of persistent sexual dysfunction by patients given finasteride was statistically no different from the number reported by patients given a placebo.

This latest research supports the conclusion of existing literature that there is no correlation between finasteride use and persistent or permanent sexual dysfunction. That said, this is an important issue that still needs to be studied.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Does Propecia Cause Infertility?

Q: I’ve heard that FDA added a description of reports of male infertility to the side effect labels of both Propecia and Proscar (finasteride). Is this a likely side effect in your experience? — S.S., Rolling Hills, California

A: Propecia (finasteride 1mg) may, uncommonly, lead to male infertility by changing the consistency of the male ejaculate as well as decreasing the sperm count.

Ejaculate is a combination of sperm produced by the testes and a viscous fluid made by the prostate. Since finasteride shrinks the prostate it make the ejaculate less viscous (more watery).

Most patients taking Propecia and trying to conceive have no issues.

If one is trying to conceive for 4-6 months and having difficulty, then it is reasonable to stop taking Propecia.

It is important to know that taking Propecia while trying to conceive will not lead to congenital deformities or issues with the fetus as long as the women does not come in direct contact with the medication.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Why Am I Still Losing Hair (Shedding) After 6 Months on Minoxidil And Finasteride?

Q: I have been using an increased dosage of Propecia now for around 8 months and Rogaine for about 6 months. I know that shedding can be expected for the first 3-6 months, but I believe I am now beyond that timeframe. Have you seen cases in which these products merely exacerbate hair loss without the expected regrowth? — N.E., Travilah, Maryland

A: It is a bit long to still see shedding, but from my experience, either the medications are working (and you are still in the shedding phase) or you are not responding to them. I have not seen minoxidil or finasteride worsen hair loss. My advice would be to continue the same course for at least a year before re-evaluating their use.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can I Dissolve Finasteride In Water?

Q: I read your 20 pages of FAQs but could not find this question addressed. I’m currently taking Finasteride 5 mg (one-fourth tablet per day) but since some drug companies make an oblong tablet that is hard to cut into four pieces, I found a plastic bottle with four equal measurements and I dissolve the tablet in water, shake it up and drink one-fourth of the liquid each day. I read somewhere that you’re not really supposed to dissolve the pill in water. Is that correct or is it OK to keep doing it the way I’m doing? — W.I., Winnetka, Illinois

A: I would cut up the pills with a pill-cutter – they do not need to be in equal parts. Just finish a whole pill every four days. You can also take ½ pill every other day and achieve the same effect. I am not sure of the stability of the medication in water over several days. It is probably OK, but why take the chance?

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Hair Restoration Research

Study: Finasteride Does Not Increase Mortality From Prostate Cancer

The results of an 18-year study, just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that finasteride does not increase the likelihood of death from prostate cancer in men who take the drug. Early results from the same study had suggested that finasteride might increase the risk of developing higher grade tumors; however, follow-up results from the long-term study show that men taking the drug do not have an increased risk.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Andro Gel Cause Hair Loss?

Q: The last few months my friend and I experimented with andro gel thinking it would make our T levels go up and make our work outs better. We got the andro gel online with no prescription (which I know is really stupid on our behalf). The past couple of months I have been experienced a lot of acne and hair loss. I went to the doctor and confessed and said what I did, and he was very disappointed and lectured me on how dangerous it was and stupid on my behalf – which I totally agree. He told me the rise in testosterone from andro gel contributed to the acceleration of hair thinning and acne. I had mild hair loss prior but the andro gel seem to have accelerated it. The doctor put me on Propecia and gave me some acne cream for the acne. He said the Propecia will undo some of the damage it did for the hair. In your experience, can Propecia reverse some of the damage? I am 28 years old.

A: Your doctor is giving you the right course of action. Testosterone supplements can accelerate hair loss, particularly in those with underlying genetic hair loss. Finasteride 1mg (Propecia) should help you to grow your hair back. You may also want to consider using minoxidil (Rogaine) in addition.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Will I Need Multiple FUE Hair Transplants Over Time?

Q: I’ve noticed from the chatter on blogs, that it is not uncommon for men to go through multiple FUE procedures over 10+ year time-frame. It seems to be that after the initial FUE procedure to address moderate hair loss, the patient continues their natural balding to where they must undergo another FUE procedure in order to get back to their desired look. I’m almost 33 and while I take Propecia, my hair loss has been very gradual since I was about 26. I still have what many would consider a full head of hair, although very thin and with noticeable loss at my temples and crown. I’d always thought that a hair transplant would be a “1 and done” procedure, and now I’m concerned that if I do an FUE procedure now to replace what’s been already lost, I’ll just have to revisit a subsequent FUE down the line. Are ongoing FUEs simply part of the hair maintenance that a patient needs to accept about hair restoration process? — A.A., New Hyde Park, N.Y.

A: Your concerns are correct and would apply to any hair transplant procedure; FUT or FUE. That is why it is best not to begin hair restoration surgery too early.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Is Propecia Persistent Side Effects Study Reported in the Media Flawed?

Q: As a Propecia user, I was alarmed when I read headlines last year about about a new study indicating very high rates of depression and erectile dysfunction caused by Propecia, with symptoms persisting even after the drug was stopped. However, when I read the articles, this “study” appeared to be survey of 61 men who had taken Propecia and already reported sexual problems who were then asked about symptoms of depression. These rates of depression were compared to a small survey of men who had hair loss but had never taken Propecia.

Anyone with a basic understanding of statistics would know such a survey was deeply flawed. First, it is a textbook example of a bad data sample — to get sound results you have to start with an unbiased and random group of people who took the drug, not a self-selected group of men already suffering symptoms. The study also confuses correlation with causation — because these men are suffering from ED or depression does not necessarily mean it was caused by the drug. Am I missing something here, or did the media just report these “findings” with no scrutiny on what was actually studied? — Jonathan, Brooklyn, NY

A: Jonathan, I think you’re right on the mark. The way the study was conducted raises a lot of concern about the accuracy of the findings. It is really important that additional data is obtained in a controlled way, as this will be most useful for physicians in advising patients. I addressed concern on these reports on the Hair Transplant Blog last year. The issue of persistent sexual dysfunction as a side-effect of finasteride is an on-going issue that we take very seriously. I sit on the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) Task Force on Finasteride Adverse Events, so this is an issue that we watch very closely.

Read more about Propecia and Persistent Side Effects

Read more about Propecia (finasteride)

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Hair Restoration Answers

Does Propecia (Finasteride) Work Long-Term?

Q: I have been taking finasteride for several years and I seem to be doing well. Does finasteride generally work long-term? — A.C., West University Place, Texas

A: With regard to efficacy, a recent long-term, uncontrolled study by Rossi et al. reported that the effects of finasteride were not reduced as time goes on and that a significant proportion of patients, unchanged after 1 year, improved later on. In addition these patients maintained a positive trend over time -– up to ten years. When comparing different age groups, they found that subjects older than 30 years showed a better hair growth in the long term than those who were younger. Of the 113 patients in the study followed for 10 years, only 14% worsened, whereas the remaining 86% had benefits.

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Bernstein Medical In The News

Dr. Bernstein Leads Robotic FUE ‘Coffee With Experts’ At ISHRS 20th Annual Meeting

Dr. Bernstein Leads Robotic FUE 'Coffee With Experts' At ISHRS 20th Annual MeetingDr. Bernstein heads discussion on Robotic FUE at the 20th annual meeting of the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) which took place October 17-20, 2012. He led a roundtable discussion in the ‘Coffee with the Experts’ session on robotic follicular unit extraction. He was also a panelist at the Finasteride Symposium and gave a presentation on protocol in prescribing Finasteride to hair restoration patients.

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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

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

Finasteride and Fertility

Q: I have been finasteride for several years. My wife and I are currently trying to conceive our first child and it is unclear to me if it is safe to continue taking finasteride during this period. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get a clear position via the Internet. Most people commenting on it are on blogs and the response goes both ways – some say it’s ok, others say stop. While I know that it’s imperative that a pregnant woman not touch the medicine, can you please let me know if I can continue taking the medicine while trying to conceive? — M.K., Edgeworth, PA

A: It is OK for you to continue finasteride while your wife is trying to conceive. However, there is some data to suggest that it may slightly decrease fertility since, by shrinking the prostate (the prostate produces 25-30% of semen volume) it slightly changes the overall composition of semen. These effects appear to be temporary and finasteride has no direct effect on sperm. If you and your wife were to have difficulty conceiving, at that point is might be reasonable to temporarily discontinue the medication.

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Hair Restoration Research

Propecia Causes No Statistically Significant Change in Sexual Function, Says 2004 Tosti Study

The central finding of a 2004 study led by Italian researcher Dr. Antonella Tosti, in which he and his team investigated sexual dysfunction in hair loss patients being treated for androgenetic alopecia, was that there was no statistically significant change in sexual function after four to six months of treatment with finasteride 1mg (Propecia).

Interestingly, the research team found that sexual side effects were actually less common than reported in the clinical trials of the drug.

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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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Hair Restoration Answers

Persistent Side Effects From Propecia

Q: You prescribed Propecia for my hair loss. I was wondering if the new news report on Propecia side effects has altered your opinion regarding the safety of this drug? — N.D., Belle Meade, Tennessee

A: It has not changed. I believe you are referring to Dr. Michael Irwig’s study at George Washington University published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. I was already aware of the study when I prescribed the medication for you and we discussed the risk of persistent side effects at your consult.

Although all types of data should be considered, it is important to realize that this was not a scientific study, but a survey. It had very significant selection bias. From this type of study, one can’t prove cause and effect relationships or even get a sense of actual incidences. These were patients who were recruited because they already had persistent sexual dysfunction. Since it is not clear if their persistent problems were directly due to the medication or from other factors, and since these patients were selected, rather than randomly assigned, the additional information can be gained from the report is very limited.

That said, the reporting of persistent side effects should not be taken lightly, but should be viewed in the context of all available data. It is extremely important for us to continue to be vigilant, as this is a very significant issue, but it is equally important not to make decisions on data sensationalized in the media. As a result of the finasteride data, some are presenting surgery as a more reasonable alternative than medication. For a young person, that is usually not the case.

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Hair Restoration Research

Summary Of Finasteride Label Changes

On April 11, 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced changes to the professional labels for Propecia (finasteride 1 mg) and Proscar (finasteride 5 mg) to expand the list of sexual adverse events reported to FDA as some of these events have been reported to continue after the drug is no longer being used (note that erectile dysfunction after stopping use of these drugs was added as a known event in 2011). The new label changes include:

  • A revision to the Propecia label to include libido disorders, ejaculation disorders, and orgasm disorders that continued after discontinuation of the drug.
  • A revision to the Proscar label to include decreased libido that continued after discontinuation of the drug.
  • A revision to both the Propecia and Proscar labels to include a description of reports of male infertility and/or poor semen quality that normalized or improved after drug discontinuation.
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Hair Restoration Answers

Preventing Shock Hair Loss After Hair Transplant

Q: Can shock loss be eliminated by using special surgical techniques? — R.P., Short Hills, NJ

A: Although there have been no scientific studies proving this, shock hair loss can most likely be minimized by keeping the recipient sites parallel to the hair follicles, by not creating a transplanted density too great in areas of existing hair, and by using minimal epinephrine (adrenaline) in the anesthetic. We implement all of these techniques. Finasteride may also decrease shock hair loss, or at least help any (miniaturized) hair that is lost to re-grow. That said, some shock hair loss from a hair transplant is unavoidable regardless of the technique as it is a normal physiologic response to stress.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Using Avodart If Propecia Does Not Work

Q: I am 27 years old and I have been on Propecia for 12 months now. Honestly, I have seen no response from it. In my dermatologist’s opinion I am a non-responder. I asked about Avodart and he said, since Propecia didn’t help then Avodart won’t help as well since both are DHT blockers, and if one didn’t work the other won’t either. In your opinion do you think Avodart is better? I have read that it blocks more DHT than Propecia. What is the dosing for Avodart? If someone does not respond to Propecia will they also not respond to Avodart? — A.C., West University Place, Texas

A: Avodart (dutasteride) is more effective than Propecia (finasteride) and some patients will respond to dutasteride who do not respond to finasteride. Dutasteride decreases serum DHT about 90% compared to 70% for finasteride. The usual starting dose of Avodart is 0.5mg a day. That said, it is not FDA approved for use in hair loss and if a person has sexual side effects, the side effects are more likely to be persistent after stopping the medication compared to finasteride.

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Hair Restoration Research

ISHRS: Scientific Data Backs Propecia Safety, Efficacy

In response to anecdotal evidence of sexual side effects continuing after stopping Propecia (finasteride 1mg), the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) has published a press release for the hair restoration community about the safety and efficacy of the drug. The release notes that scientific data gathered from extensive testing finds no correlation between persistent sexual dysfunction and Propecia.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can I Stop Medical Treatment For Hair Loss Once Started?

Q: I am taking finasteride as you prescribed. You also suggested using minoxidil liberally over the entire front and top of my scalp once a day. During our meeting I think that you said that once I start using this I would not be able to stop it, and, if I did, it might lead to further hair loss. Hence, I decided to use the laser comb three times a week in addition to the finasteride. Having said that, if you still feel I should start using minoxidil daily, I will start doing so. — H.K., Brooklyn, NY

A: Stopping therapy doesn’t lead to further hair loss in that it doesn’t accelerate it; you just continue on the path that you would have been without the treatment. When you stop, there may be an initial shedding as you quickly lose any benefits that you had from the treatment.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Does Propecia Stop Working After Five Years?

Q: I heard that Propecia stops working after five years. Is this true and why in five years? — B.P., Stamford, CT

A: That is not correct. Although the effects of Propecia (finasteride 1mg) will diminish over time, it does continue to work. Using finasteride long-term will still be better than stopping it at some arbitrary interval. In clinical practice, I often increase the dose of finasteride, after someone had been on the medication 3 to 5 years, to help maintain its effectiveness.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Propecia After Hair Transplant Cause Shedding Of Normal Terminal Hair?

Q: I have been reading various articles and forum postings and it would seem that a person utilizing Propecia might experience increased “shedding” of hairs (outside of the normal hair cycle) around the 12 week mark after a hair transplant and lasting around 2-4 weeks. The forum postings suggest that one will see not only the miniaturized hairs being lost but also normal terminal hair in larger than expected levels. Does an explanation exist to explain this increase in shedding hairs?

A: Our understanding is that finasteride only affects miniaturized hairs — i.e. hair affected by DHT — and that this is all that should be shed. Remember, however, that much of the thinning a bald person experiences is due to thousands of partially miniaturized hair, and these can look very much like a full terminal hair in its early stages.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Propecia in Semen Harm Fetus upon Conception?

Q: Although I was prescribed Propecia, I have not yet started to take it. I would like to take it now, but my wife wants me to wait until after we have our second baby so as to avoid having the drug in my system when we conceive. She’s concerned that if it’s so harmful to pregnant women, that having it in my sperm is an issue. — L.V., Bellmore, New York

A: There is no evidence that if you take the medication it will affect the fetus. However, your wife should not ingest the drug or handle broken pills during pregnancy.

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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

Is it Normal to be Shedding Three Months After a Hair Transplant?

Q: I am about 3 months post-op after my hair restoration procedure. I have noticed some hair shedding in the frontal part of my scalp. I have continued both Propecia and Minoxidil. Is there anything I can do and should I be concerned? — M.B., Chicago, IL

A: Shedding of some of the patient’s existing hair in, and around, the area of a hair transplant is a relatively common occurrence after a hair transplant and should not be a cause of concern. The mechanism appears to be a normal response of the body to the stress of the hair restoration surgery -– i.e., site creation, adrenaline in the anesthetic etc. Some doctors claim that their hair transplant techniques are so “impeccable” that their patients do not experience shedding. This is a false claim. Although using very small recipient sites and limiting the use of epinephrine may mitigate shedding somewhat, shedding is a normal part of the hair transplant process and the risk is unavoidable.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Propecia Cause Groin Pain?

Q: I started using both Propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine for roughly the past 15 weeks. In the last month I’ve been experiencing pain in my left testicle area. At first I thought this may be due to Varicocele; however, after some quick internet searches I thought it may also be the Propecia. The pain doesn’t seem to be in the testicle itself as much as the surrounding veins on the left side. What should I do? — B.L., Houston, TX

A: Your symptoms are the classic ones of a varicocele, namely pain on the left side that is adjacent to the testicle. Symptoms of finasteride would more likely be bilateral, although the discomfort does not need to be in the testicle itself. If your symptoms are worse at the end of the day when you have been standing, and less in the AM when you first arise, these suggest a varicocele.

In your pain is consistently worse towards the end of the day, I would see a urologist, as surgical intervention might be warranted, particularly if it is affecting sperm counts – which should be checked as part of the evaluation.

If this is not the case, then stop finasteride for a least a month and see if the symptoms subside. If they do go away off finasteride, I would not take the medication again. If the symptoms persist off finasteride, I would still see a urologist.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Does Sebum Cause Hair Loss By Blocking Pores On Scalp?

Q: I have been on finasteride for about 7 months. After my latest haircut I can see that my scalp is shiny. I read that is from sebum buildup and it can cause a layer that clogs the growth of hair. I was wondering if this is true and, if so, how can it be treated? — T.C., Philadelphia, PA

A: It is not true. Hair loss is caused by the miniaturizing effects of DHT on the hair follicle, not by blocked pores.

For more on this topic, view our pages on the causes of hair loss in men or the causes of hair loss in women.

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Bernstein Medical In The News

Men’s Health Magazine Features Dr. Bernstein in ‘Hair Health’ Spotlight

Men's Health - Hair HealthMen’s Health has published a new spotlight, called “Hair Health.” The multi-article spotlight is featured on the magazine’s website homepage and covers a wide variety of topics related to men’s hair loss and hair transplantation. Dr. Bernstein was asked to contribute to the series of articles, including an “expert advice” feature which answers five commonly-asked questions about hair loss myths.

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