Can Women Use Finasteride to Treat Hair Loss?
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Jan 16, 2020 • 3 min read
There’s a good chance that if you’re a woman you will eventually have to deal with some type of hair loss (medically referred to as alopecia). In fact, about one-third of women will have hair loss over the course of their life and among postmenopausal women, two-thirds will experience female pattern hair loss, thinning, or bald spots from the hormonal shift that’s taking place. While female hair loss is a common issue, the current treatment options for women seem scarce. Currently, the only FDA-approved option is minoxidil (also known by the brand-name Rogaine).
Finasteride (the generic form of Propecia), which is an effective treatment for men, was previously found ineffective when used by women, according to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. The study looked at the results of 137 postmenopausal women who received either 1 mg per day of finasteride or a placebo and found that after 12 months there was no hair growth or less hair thinning in the finasteride group compared to the placebo group. But good news: Updated research has found that finasteride can be an effective treatment for women in an increased dose, says Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist at Dermatology Physicians of Connecticut and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, CT. “There have been studies (although they are not scientific studies) that show when women take 5 mg per day of finasteride they can improve the thickness of their hair,” says Dr. Gohara.
Now for the caveats.
Because finasteride works by stopping testosterone from being converted so that it doesn't cause the hair follicles to shrink, the drug acts as a hormone blocker, which can cause issues in certain women, particularly if they are of childbearing age. “You never want to give finasteride (or spironolactone, brand name Aldactone, another hormone-blocking medication) to a woman of childbearing age due to the possibility of causing birth defects,” says Dr. Gohara. “If a woman was pregnant and taking these drugs, then it could feminize a male fetus because it’s blocking the male hormones.” This makes finasteride a more feasible option for postmenopausal women, though Dr. Gohara adds that for a majority of women, their hair loss is not a result of testosterone imbalance, which is why finasteride is more prevalently prescribed for men in the first place. Even if it is an option for you, using finasteride may cause some unwanted side effects like breast tenderness and a decreased libido.
As for how women can treat their hair loss, it’s important to first establish the underlying cause. Barring a metabolic issue like your thyroid or low iron levels, there are some additional ways women can treat hair loss depending on the type of alopecia they have. “For androgenic alopecia (a genetic condition), minoxidil (Rogaine) is always an option, but there is also an emerging treatment called platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) where your own blood is drawn and spun down,” says Dr. Gohara. “The platelet-rich plasma is then reinjected into your scalp to help stimulate sleepy follicles. PRP therapy in conjunction with finasteride, spironolactone, or minoxidil, depending on the woman’s age, current health, and stage in life, is typically the course of treatment most women would use.”
This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.
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