Finasteride for male hair loss


Generic Name Brand Name
finasteride Propecia

Finasteride is a pill that is taken once a day.

How It Works

Finasteride lowers the level of androgens, a class of hormone that affects hair loss.

Why It Is Used

Finasteride was originally used to treat enlarged prostate glands (benign prostatic hyperplasia). In a much lower dose, it is now also used to treat inherited hair loss in men (androgenetic alopecia), the most common cause of hair loss.

Finasteride has not been proved effective in women and is not approved for women by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1 Women and children should not use finasteride.

How Well It Works

Finasteride is recognized as a successful therapy for inherited hair loss for men. Research reports that it slows hair loss on the scalp and helps regrow hair.2, 3, 4 But bald spots may not be completely covered, and visible results may take from a few months to a year.

Side Effects

Possible side effects in men include sexual problems, including difficulty getting an erection and reduced desire for sex.

Women who are or may become pregnant should not take or handle crushed or broken finasteride tablets because finasteride can cause birth defects.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Finasteride is for men only. Women and children should not use it.

Women who are or may become pregnant should not take or handle crushed or broken tablets because finasteride can cause birth defects.

Finasteride must be taken daily. If you stop taking finasteride, any regrown hair will gradually be lost, and within 6 to 12 months your scalp will most likely appear the same as before treatment.

If you are having a prostate screening, tell your doctor you are taking finasteride because it may affect the results of your test.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Springer K, et al. (2003). Common hair loss disorder. American Family Physician, 68(1): 93–102.
  2. Habif TP (2004). Hair diseases. In Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 4th ed., pp. 834–863. Philadelphia: Mosby.
  3. Whiting DA, et al. (2003). Efficacy and tolerability of finasteride 1 mg in men aged 41 to 60 years with male pattern hair loss. European Journal of Dermatology, 13(2): 150–160.
  4. Finasteride Male Pattern Hair Loss Group (2002). Long-term (5-year) multinational experience with finasteride 1 mg in the treatment of men with androgenetic alopecia. European Journal of Dermatology, 12(1): 38–49.

Last Updated: June 17, 2008

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