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Finasteride and minoxidil: which is best for hair loss?

Finasteride and minoxidil: which is best for hair loss?

Stefano Mirabello NowPatientGreen tick
Written by Rajive Patel, BPharm
Updated on 4 Sep 2023

Are you losing your hair? Have you decided it’s time to do something about it?

The good news is, you’ve got two effective options in finasteride and minoxidil. Both are prescription medications that are scientifically proven to fight male pattern baldness. So, which do you choose?

That’s the big question. Finasteride vs. minoxidil? Is one better than the other? And can you use them together?

This is what you need to know.

What are finasteride and minoxidil?

Finasteride and minoxidil are both effective medical treatments for hair loss. They’re both prescription medications and are the only FDA approved drugs for male pattern baldness.

Finasteride is the name of the generic product, and you can also buy a branded version called Propecia.

The same is true with minoxidil. Minoxidil is the generic version of the medication. The branded version is called Rogaine.

Minoxidil vs finasteride – what’s the difference between them?

Although they have the same use, finasteride and minoxidil are very different meds that work in completely different ways.

To put it simply, finasteride reduces the level of a hormone in your scalp to help stop hair loss and grow new hair. Whereas minoxidil improves the flow of blood to your hair follicles to help you grow new hair.

The two medications are taken in different ways too. Finasteride comes as a pill that you swallow, whereas minoxidil is applied directly to your scalp as a liquid or a foam.

How do finasteride and minoxidil work?

To understand how each of these drugs work, first you need to know a little about what causes male pattern baldness.

Male pattern baldness is a complex condition. It’s caused by a mixture of aging and genetics, but at the heart of it is a hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT in your scalp can cause your hair follicles (the structures in your skin that produce hairs) to shrink.

The shrinking cuts down the amount of time hairs have to grow. As the follicles get smaller and smaller, your hairs get progressively thinner and shorter, until the follicle eventually closes up and no hair is produced at all. This is why your hair thins before you go bald.

How does finasteride fight MPB?

Finasteride fights male pattern baldness by reducing levels of DHT in your scalp. Your body creates DHT by converting testosterone into DHT using an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. Finasteride blocks 5-alpha reductase from working, reducing how much testosterone is turned into DHT. This can stop the shrinking of hair follicles, and for some men it can even reverse shrinking.

Finasteride is most effective at reducing hair loss and returning hair on the top of the head (the vertex) but can be effective for all areas of the scalp.

How does minoxidil fight MPB?

Minoxidil differs from finasteride as it doesn’t reduce levels of DHT. Instead it widens the blood vessels in your scalp. This improves blood flow. And more blood means more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to your cells. It’s thought that this increase in oxygen and nutrients stimulates the follicles in your scalp to shed older hairs and grow longer, thicker ones in their place.

What forms do finasteride and minoxidil come in?

Finasteride is taken as a pill that’s swallowed, usually once a day.

Minoxidil is a topical treatment, meaning you put it directly on your scalp, usually twice a day. It comes either as a liquid that you apply to your scalp with a dropper or spray, or a foam that you rub in with your fingers.

Minoxidil and finasteride results – do they really help with male pattern baldness?

There’s a long history of fake and ineffective baldness cures. As long as men have been going bald, they’ve likely been slapping various different magic cures on their scalps. Go online and you can find hundreds of them today, if not thousands. But there’s a reason finasteride and minoxidil are FDA approved. They work.

A whole host of scientific studies have shown both medications consistently help with male pattern baldness. Research has shown finasteride can reduce levels of DHT in the scalp by over 70%. And in a 5-year study of the effects of finasteride, 90% of men with male pattern baldness at least maintained their hair, whilst 65% regrew lost hair.

Studies of minoxidil have shown around 40% of men using it will regrow lost hair, often in as little as three to six months. Hair recovery can be dramatic, with a marked increase in both the thickness and density of hairs.

Can you take finasteride and minoxidil together?

So, the good news is. Yes, you can take finasteride and minoxidil together.

The two medications contain different active ingredients and work in different ways, so there’s no risk of overdosing or the drugs interacting. There’s even evidence that taking them together is the most effective way to fight male pattern baldness.

Finasteride vs minoxidil – which medication is right for you?

Choosing the right meds depends on you.

You may respond better to one medication; this could mean better results and fewer side effects. Both finasteride and minoxidil can cause side effects, and whilst these are relatively mild and rare, you may find you respond better to one medication than the other. You could find that both work for you, and that using them together gives the best results.

The ease of taking a pill (finasteride) could be more suited to your lifestyle, or you may prefer to use a product you put directly on your scalp (minoxidil).

You won’t know until you try them. And when it comes to hair loss, research shows you get better results the faster you act. So if you’ve noticed some thinning and hair loss, act quick.

You can order both finasteride and minoxidil directly NowPatient. Start your online consultation today, by entering your medical history and symptoms. If approved, you’ll receive a treatment plan from our doctors within two hours. Your meds will then be shipped for free directly to your door.


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NowPatient has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that all material is factually accurate, complete, and current. However, the knowledge and experience of a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought after instead of using the information in this page. Before taking any drug, you should always speak to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider.

The information provided here about medications is subject to change and is not meant to include all uses, precautions, warnings, directions, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or negative effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a particular medication does not imply that the medication or medication combination is appropriate for all patients or for all possible purposes.

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