Finasteride

Fact Checked Fact Checked
Finasteride and Propecia specs

Finasteride and Propecia specs

Finasteride is a treatment for male hair loss. It’s the generic version of the branded Propecia. Finasteride is a 5-Alpha-Reductase inhibitor, which means it stops too much testosterone from being changed into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT shrinks your hair follicles and makes your hair grow more slowly. This can lead to hair loss.

Finasteride was first used in 1992 to treat benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate, at a dose of 5mg. Since 1998, 1mg of Finasteride or Propecia has also been used to treat male pattern hair loss. It’s the oldest 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor developed to treat people. It continues to be used because we know it really works.

Since it’s been around for a while, we also know it’s safe to use long-term . If you hit it off with Finasteride, you can keep taking it for as long as you want to maintain your new head of hair.

Craig  Marsh
Medically reviewed by
Craig Marsh, Specialist Pharmacist Prescriber (UK)
Table of contents
Medically reviewed by
Mr Craig Marsh
Specialist Pharmacist Prescriber (UK)
on November 04, 2022.
Meet Craig  
Craig
Was this article useful?

Propecia and Finasteride - what’s the difference?

Propecia is a branded product and Finasteride is the generic version. If you’re wondering what that means, there isn’t too much of a difference. They both contain 1mg of the active ingredient finasteride, which is what matters when it comes to your hair.

Propecia has a recognisable name and packaging that comes with their license to sell their brand of Finasteride. Generic forms of Finasteride might look a little different, or be produced in different places. Whether it’s used in a branded product or in a generic, Finasteride works in the same way and will be just as effective.

If you’re not sure how to pick between Propecia and generic Finasteride, it’s really up to you. Some people prefer branded versions because they are always the same size, shape and color. Other people like to use the generic versions of treatments like Finasteridey because they usually cost less.

Male pattern hair loss is also known as androgenetic alopecia. It’s related to male sex hormones, especially dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The function of DHT can be linked to helping you build muscle and maintain a healthy sex life. But DHT also affects the growth and health of hair follicles, and too much of it can make you start to lose the hair on your head as you age.

Finasteride’s mechanism of action is to partly block an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. This enzyme helps your body convert free or excess testosterone into DHT. This conversion of testosterone into DHT is a natural process, but not ideal if you’re losing hair.

Hair loss caused by DHT will begin affecting most men by the time they’re into their thirties. It affects up to 50% of men by the age of 50. Finasteride lowers your levels of DHT by stopping the conversion. This helps hair growth and stops you from losing more hair.

Finasteride also comes in a 5mg dose, which is used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is an enlarged prostate due to hormonal changes as you get older. It isn’t dangerous, but can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as difficulty urinating.

Finasteride reduces the size of the prostate in people with BPH. If you want to learn more about treating BPH with Finasteride, we have a page about it 

Finasteride’s mechanism of action is to partly block an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. This enzyme helps your body convert free or excess testosterone into DHT. This conversion of testosterone into DHT is a natural process, but not ideal if you’re losing hair.

Hair loss caused by DHT will begin affecting most men by the time they’re into their thirties. It affects up to 50% of men by the age of 50 . Finasteride lowers your levels of DHT by stopping the conversion. This helps hair growth and stops you from losing more hair.

How to take Finasteride

Propecia or Finasteride for hair loss should be taken once a day. Taking it more than once won’t make it work better, and it’s not good for you. Swallow the tablet whole and make sure that you don’t crush or chew it.

There’s no best time to take Finasteride. You can take it with or without food. Try to take it around the same time every day, though. Setting an alarm can help you remember when it’s time to take it.

How effective is Finasteride?

Finasteride and Propecia are effective at fighting male hair loss. Two year-long trials found that taking 1mg of Finasteride per day both reduced hair loss and increased hair growth significantly. Finasteride works long term too, with a five year study finding that 90% of men taking part either gained hair or maintained it.

They measured this by both examining the hair and interviewing the participants. Most of the men taking part were positive about the effects of Finasteride on their hair. Not only is Finasteride effective at improving the fullness of your hair, you’ll be sure to notice the difference.

Finasteride works best on the top of your head, and that’s where you’ll see the most growth. Finasteride should still work on your hairline and temples if you already have some hair there for it to work with.

Even if you don’t have hair there, it’s important to remember that Finasteride doesn’t just help you grow more hair. It also stops your hair from thinning. Finasteride could be a good choice to stop your temples or hairline from receding more, while giving you a thicker head of hair.

Hair growth is a slow process for everyone, even without male hair loss. Every hair on your head goes through its own growth cycle, where it grows slowly for a few years and then rests for a few months. Healthy hair will usually only grow one centimeter a month. Then, it falls out and starts growing again. Hair loss caused by DHT disrupts this process. It makes the growing phase even shorter and the hair itself often becomes patchy and weak.

Finasteride will start working on your scalp very quickly. It will immediately affect the DHT levels affecting the follicles on your scalp. Due to the slow growth process, it can still take a while to realize it’s working.

It often takes three months to start seeing results from Finasteride or Propecia. The full benefits can take up to a year to show. 

How long does Finasteride stay in your system?

If you stop taking Finasteride, it should completely leave your system within a week. This is because it has a short half-life of only five or six hours. The half-life of a medication is the time it takes for a drug’s active ingredient to reduce by half in the body.

After you’ve stopped taking Finasteride, your hair loss will begin again. You’ll probably lose any hair you have gained in nine to twelve months. Without Finasteride, your DHT levels will return to how they were without taking it.

Like most medicines, Propecia and Finasteride tablets expire after a certain time. Make sure you check the expiry date on the packaging before you use Finasteride. Don’t take tablets after the expiry date has passed. They will not be as safe or effective.

Can you get Finasteride on prescription?

Finasteride and Propecia are both available on prescription only. This means you’ll need to talk to a trained clinician before you take it and get their approval. It’s not the right treatment for everyone, so they’ll have to check it’s safe and right for you to use.

Prescription medications can only be dispensed by licensed pharmacies. If you’re buying Finasteride online, make sure that registered professionals are prescribing it to you. You should also verify that the website is registered with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NBAP). You can make sure of this by looking out for this symbol with a unique white number on it [insert image].

You can also get a Finasteride prescription by booking an appointment with a GP. However, you can’t get Propecia or generic Finasteride covered by health insurance. Most health insurance companies do not cover drugs such as these. You’ll need to get a private prescription. This is often expensive, as you will generally have to pay for a pharmacist’s charge and the cost of the medicine.

Common side effects

DHT is akin to a more potent testosterone. This means limiting DHT can be great for hair growth, but can sometimes affect your sex life. One potential side effect can cause some people to find it harder to get an erection or find they have a lower sex drive while taking Finasteride.

Although this is rare, Finasteride has been associated with low mood or depression in some cases. If you’re experiencing new or worsening symptoms of low mood, you should stop taking Finasteride immediately and talk to your doctor.

Most people won’t experience any side effects, but be sure to seek medical advice if you have any worrying symptoms. We have a page with all the information you need to know on side effects.

Could Finasteride or Propecia be right for me?

If you’re wondering whether Finasteride or Propecia could help you with your hair loss, speak to a clinician. Although finasteride is a proven hair-loss treatment, it’s not always effective or suitable for everyone. By assessing the extent of your hair loss, as well as your health needs and history, a registered clinician will be able to help you understand whether the treatment could be safe, suitable and effective for you.

And remember, finasteride isn’t a miracle cure for hair re-growth. Many men that take it find that it mostly just works to prevent any further hair loss — so if you’re looking for something to completely reverse extensive hair loss, finasteride probably isn’t the right choice for you. You’ll need to manage your expectations or seek out alternative options.

Reference Popover #ref5
Reference Popover #ref4
Reference Popover #ref3
Reference Popover #ref2
Reference Popover #ref1
This page was medically reviewed by Mr Craig Marsh, Specialist Pharmacist Prescriber (UK) on November 04, 2022. Next review due on November 04, 2024.

How we source info:

When we present you with stats, data, opinion or a consensus, we’ll tell you where this came from. And we’ll only present data as clinically reliable if it’s come from a reputable source, such as a state or government-funded health body, a peer-reviewed medical journal, or a recognized analytics or data body. Read more in our editorial policy.

What did you like about it?

What didn't you like about it?

Suggest a treatment

If there’s a particular treatment or condition you’re looking for, tell us and we’ll look into it for you.

We may email you about the problem, but you can opt out of these communications any time you like.

Tell us about a problem

I accept the terms of use.
We may email you about the problem, but you can opt out of these communications any time you like.

Ask or suggest something.

Submit your question here, or tell us if you’ve found an issue on our site.

We may email you about your query, but you can opt out of these communications any time you like.
news-letter

Get the latest health news and articles, sent to your inbox.

By clicking 'Subscribe now' you're agreeing to our Terms.

You’re signed up to our newsletter. Keep an eye on your inbox for our latest update.

We’ll get back to you very soon. We aim to respond to all queries in one working day.