Finasteride is available as a generic or as the brand Propecia, a medicine used to help treat male pattern baldness in men aged 18 and over. This kind of baldness can be triggered by a mixture of genetic and hormonal factors. The change in appearance caused by male pattern baldness can be upsetting, especially for younger men.

What is male pattern baldness?

Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss experienced by men. Roughly 50 percent of men experience some level of hair loss by the time they reach the age of 50.

Hair loss often begins in the late 20s or early 30s. We call it 'pattern baldness' because it usually follows a distinctive pattern. It starts with a receding hairline. The next stage is usually thinning of the hair that grows around the temples or crown of the head.

Male pattern baldness is hereditary. This means you can inherit it from either or both parents. It's also normal, and natural. Many men who experience hair loss accept it as a fact of life and choose not to try to treat it. However, some men find it upsetting and try different treatments to attempt to reverse it. There are several over‐the‐counter hair loss treatments available and your pharmacist can speak to you about the different options. Finasteride and Propecia are the only hair loss prescription treatments for male pattern baldness.

How does finasteride work?

A man experiencing male pattern baldness will have smaller hair follicles. This is caused by the conversion of testosterone (the main male hormone) to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone. Hair follicles become sensitive to dihydrotestosterone, which causes them to shrink. Finasteride works to stop the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone and prevent further hair loss.

Who should not take finasteride?

You should not take finasteride if:

  • You’re a child or adolescent
  • You’re female
  • You’re allergic to finasteride or any of its ingredients (check the patient information leaflet for a full list of ingredients)
  • You’re already taking a 5α-reductase inhibitor for prostate problems or another condition
  • You’re a man with a partner who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • You’re a man losing hair as a result of another cause, such as the side effect of medication

If you have an operation or medical treatment, let the person who is treating you know that you’re taking finasteride. Finasteride can interfere with a blood test to identify prostate cancer, so if you’re taking this test you must let your Doctor know you’re taking the medicine. They can also advise you on whether finasteride is the best option for you.

It’s important to let your Doctor, pharmacist or online clinician know whether you’ve had any allergic reactions to medicines in the past and if you’re taking any other medicines, including complementary therapies.

When should finasteride take effect?

You may notice an improvement in hair growth within the first few months, but don't be discouraged if not, as it can take three to six months to see any improvements. In order to maintain the effect of finasteride, you will have to continue taking it regularly, as the balding process is likely to return after six to 12 months if you stop taking the medicine. If you are still experiencing hair loss after 12 months of treatment, further courses are unlikely to work.