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FDA Approved Treatments
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Hair Loss Medications

By: Yury Bayarski

Hair loss medications that actually work

There is little that men can do to stop from losing their hair, but there are some hair loss treatment options that may restore some hair loss. Currently there are only two hair loss medications that have been clinically proven to have any real degree of effectiveness. These two medications are Propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine (minoxidil).

Propecia and Rogaine work in completely different ways to slow or stop hair loss. Propecia is a pill taken once daily, while Rogaine is a liquid that is applied to the scalp twice daily. Both Propecia and Rogaine require continued use to become and remain efficacious. If the medications are stopped, any hair that has grown in will gradually be lost, and within 6 to 12 months your scalp will most likely appear the same as before treatment.

Propecia (Finasteride)

Propecia (Finasteride) has been available since 1997 and is the first and only oral medication approved by the FDA for the treatment of male pattern hair loss. It has not been proven effective in women and is not approved for women.

Propecia blocks the conversion of the male hormone testosterone into a more potent androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone mainly responsible for hair loss. The medication has been demonstrated effective in most men. In fact, in FDA-reviewed clinical trials, 2 out of 3 men on Propecia regrew hair, as measured by actual hair counts.

You may see results 3 to 12 months after starting Propecia. If it doesnТt work for you after 12 months, it is unlikely to be of benefit. If you stop taking Propecia, you will likely lose any hair youТve gained within 12 months of stopping treatment.

Clinical tests showed Propecia was very well tolerated. Only a very small number of men had sexual side effects, with each occurring in less than 2% of men. They included less desire for sex, difficulty in achieving an erection, and a decrease in the amount of semen. These side effects went away in men who stopped taking Propecia.


* Convenient pill form administration - one pill taken once daily.

* Stops hair loss from progressing.

* Can help regrow lost hair.

* Effective in most men.

* Beneficial side-effects such as the shrinking of the prostate gland in men susceptible to an enlarged prostate.


* It is not a cure for hair loss. Propecia will only work over the long term if you continue taking it. If you stop taking Propecia, you will likely lose any hair you have gained within 12 months of stopping treatment.

* Propecia is not approved for use by women.

* May cause sexual side effects.

* The continuous treatment with Propecia can be expensive.


Rogaine was originally developed in tablet form as a drug for high blood pressure. Doctors noticed that people on Rogaine sometimes grew new hair, so the drug was reformulated for this purpose.

Rogaine (topical minoxidil) was the first FDA approved drug for the treatment of male pattern hair loss and still is the only FDA approved treatment for women with hair loss.

Topical minoxidil is a over-the-counter medication available in a 2% solution and in a 5% solution. The makers of minoxidil recommend women only use the 2% concentration of minoxidil because they have not received FDA approval for promoting 5% minoxidil or minoxidil extra strength for use by women.

Topical minoxidil is much more effective at treating baldness that occurs on the top of the head than it is at causing hair growth on other parts of the head. Clinical tests on the effectiveness of topical minoxidil in men with baldness on the top of the head showed that 48% of men who had used minoxidil for one year reported moderate to dense re-growth of hair within the treated area, 36% reported minimal re-growth while 16% reported no re-growth. Similar percentages have been reported in women.

Minoxidil is a treatment for hair loss, it is not a cure. If regular application of topical minoxidil is stopped, all hair grown in response to the therapy will be rapidly lost over the next 3 to 6 months.

Side effects of topical minoxidil are rare and generally minor. Most common is scalp irritation or itching. The blood pressure lowering effect of oral minoxidil does not occur with the topical formulation. There is a small risk for facial hair growth associated with use of minoxidil. This may be a side effect of the drug or may be due to accidental application of the topical solution to the face.


* The only FDA approved treatment for women with hair loss.

* Slows the progression of hair loss.

* Regrows some hair.

* Has a few side effects.

* Topical minoxidil can be used by hair transplant patients. Many surgeons recommend using it within a few weeks after surgery to promote the growth of the transplanted hair follicles.


* Topical minoxidil is not a cure for hair loss. It will only work over the long term if you continue using it. If you stop using it you will likely lose any hair you have gained.

* Limited effectiveness. Topical minoxidil treatment does not work on everybody with thinning hair due to inherited pattern hair loss. It is less effective for hair loss at the hairline than on the top of the head. It is less effective on large bald spots than small ones.

* Although topical minoxidil is a colorless, odorless, and non-greasy liquid that dries quickly and without any visible residue, some people simply do not like putting lotions on their scalp.

* High cost - it is not covered by health insurance schemes as it's considered a cosmetic.

Fortune favours the brave
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