Finasteride & Minoxidil: The Good & The Bad
Hair loss has plagued men and women for millennia. The apprehension of going bald has caused many scientists, merchants, and amateur experimenters to devise an ever-expanding list of inventions, medicines, and other treatments to stop or even reverse the biological processes that result in hair loss.
By the 1990s, scientists identified the cause of male-pattern baldness and developed topical (Minoxidil) and internal medicines (Finasteride) to treat the condition. While the drugs showed significant promise in reducing hair loss in some patients, they also caused several serious side effects. Let’s go over the benefits and side effects of Finasteride and Minoxidil.
Do Finasteride & Minoxidil Help with Hair Loss?
Yes, for a majority of users, these two treatments helps slow down and in some cases reverse hair loss.
Male-pattern hair loss is largely caused by high dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels in the blood vessels surrounding hair follicles. To slow the loss of hair, both Finasteride and Minoxidil affect the relative levels of DHT. Finasteride reduces DHT production in the body, whereas it appears minoxidil increases blood flow in the scalp and decreases concentration of DHT, although doctors remain unsure about the exact mechanism behind Minoxidil’s success in treating hair loss.
How Does Finasteride Help with Hair Loss?
Finasteride stems the loss of hair by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Specifically, it inhibits the type II and type III isoforms of 5α-reductase, an enzyme that promotes DHT creation. Finasteride demonstrates particular efficacy in reducing DHT levels in the prostate, skin, and hair follicles. Five milligrams of Finasteride can reduce DHT by 70%.
However, Finasteride does not completely stop the creation of DHT in the body because it doesn’t have much of an effect on the type I 5α-reductase isoenzyme. Nevertheless, the results of Finasteride intake speak for themselves, and millions of patients have reported cessation of hair loss and new hair growth on the scalp.
How Does Minoxidil Help with Hair Loss?
As mentioned, doctors and scientists remain somewhat uncertain about how Minoxidil stops hair loss and regrows new hair. The medical community knows that Minoxidil serves as a potassium channel opener; scientists theorize that the drug opens blood vessels, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to reach the hair follicles and decreasing the concentration of DHT.
However, Minoxidil does have its limitations. Individuals who have experienced significant hair loss may not enjoy the same results from Minoxidil as those who just started to lose their hair. The drug works best on patients who report hair loss within a few years of its onset. Plus, Minoxidil does not display much efficacy in stopping a receding hairline.
How Do These Products Cause Side Effects and What Are They?
Despite their effectiveness in stopping and reversing hair loss, both Finasteride and Minoxidil come with various alarming potential side effects. From sexual dysfunction to cardiovascular irregularities, the side effects of Finasteride and Minoxidil remain a cause of concern for men and women prescribed these drugs.
How Does Finasteride Cause Side Effects?
Finasteride causes side effects by lowering the amount of DHT found in the bloodstream. Although high DHT levels represent the cause of male-pattern baldness, DHT serves several important functions in the human body. When Finasteride suppresses this endogenous hormone, it changes the patient’s chemical balance, causing various side effects.
What Are the Side Effects of Finasteride?
Finasteride, marketed as Propecia and Proscar, can create several different adverse effects regarding patients’ sexual function, neurology, and physical appearance. While Finasteride’s negative side effects remain rare, there are so many different adverse effects that the overall chance of experiencing one of them becomes elevated.
It’s never a good sign for a pharmaceutical drug when an entire syndrome is named after it. Post-Finasteride Syndrome occurs in some males who take Finasteride for an extended duration. While many of the symptoms subside after discontinuation of use, some patients experience long-term side effects.
Symptoms of Post-Finasteride Syndrome include:
- Diminished libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Reduced ejaculate
- Penis size reduction and loss of sensation
- Curvature of the penis
- Breast development
- Muscular atrophy and fatigue
- Dry skin
Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer
Because all 5α-reductase inhibitors reduce prostate-specific antigens (PSA), patients who use Finasteride run the risk of developing prostate cancer. It’s not that Finasteride causes prostate cancer. Instead, the decrease in PSAs helps mask prostate cancer from detection by medical health professionals.
Many of the long-term symptoms of Post-Finasteride Syndrome also appear in patients who use the drug only for a short time. While erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, and reduced ejaculate may subside after discontinuation of the drug, between 3% and 16% of patients may experience these side effects in the short term.
How Does Minoxidil Cause Side Effects?
As a vasodilator, Minoxidil carries several different potential side effects that affect the cardiovascular system. By expanding the blood vessels in a patient’s body, patients may experience a number of symptoms that range from mere annoyances to serious medical issues.
What Are the Side Effects of Minoxidil?
- Dandruff, dry skin, and rashes
- Swelling of the face, mouth, lips, tongue, hands, or feet
- Difficulty breathing
- Dizziness, fainting, and headaches
- Tachycardia and cardiac lesions
Scalp Massages as an Alternative Method for Stopping Hair Loss
With all of these severe side effects of Finasteride and Minoxidil, many patients wonder whether a simpler, more natural solution to hair loss in men and women may exist. Fortunately, several studies by the National Institutes of Health have determined that scalp massage for hair growth can deliver positive results.
In one such study, scientists found that “hair thickness increased significantly at 24 weeks after initiation of standardized scalp massage.” In another study, 327 respondents massaged their scalp for 11 to 20 minutes a day during a period of just over six months, with “68.9% reporting hair loss stabilization or regrowth.”
However, a daily manual massage regimen of 11 to 20 minutes proves difficult to complete with any consistency. The stress placed on the fingers, hands, and arms often causes patients to quit before the 6-month mark. Thankfully, mechanical scalp massagers, like the heyhair massager can help men and women perform daily head massages without excess physical strain.