The hair loss industry has been seeing growth in recent years – with Asia Pacific forecasted to witness the fastest growth.
And while the numbers of hair loss sufferers, both male and female, are staggering – it has brought about its fair share of developments over the years, from medications, laser light therapy, to FUE hair transplants.
Finasteride is the drug typically recommended as the first line of defence for men looking to treat male pattern baldness.
However, due to the adverse side effects that comes with consuming Finasteride overtime, this has caused concerns to rise amongst doctors and consumers – begging for newer and better solutions to take charge.
With that in mind, the issue of whether or not topical Finasteride is safer as a hair loss treatment instead has come to the forefront – which is what we aim to explore below.
But before we begin, let us first recall the basics of hair loss:
The Hair Cycle & What Causes Hair Loss
Just like how every living thing on earth has a lifecycle, our hair too, has a unique cycle of its own.
Typically lasting 4 years, each hair follicle goes through these 3 individual phases:
– Anagen Phase: The hair cells grow faster during this growth phase.
– Catagen Phase: During this transitional phase, your hair follicles start to break down and hair stops growing.
– Telogen Phase: Hair follicle releases the hair and doesn’t grow back during the resting phase.
While it’s completely normal to lose an average of 80 to 100 strands of hair a day, your hair cycle can easily be disrupted by factors such as genetics, hormonal imbalances, illnesses, or even poor nutrition. In this case, your hair cycle changes respectively:
– Anagen Phase: This phase is cut short and new hair doesn’t grow as quickly, long and thick as it usually does.
– Catagen Phase: This phase begins early, causing hair to stop growing.
– Telogen Phase: This phase is prolonged, with many hair follicles being in this phase at the same time – this is when you start to notice a significant increase in hair fall.
The truth of the matter is, eradicating hair loss is a far more intricate problem, one that is largely dependent on a multitude of factors such as your age, gender and lifestyle.
For a treatment to be effective, it needs to be able block the production of an androgen called DHT (Dihydrotesterone) – the hormone that essentially causes the miniaturization of hair follicles that onsets hair loss.
So, how does Finasteride play a role in all this?
What is Finasteride
Otherwise known as Propecia (in oral form) – Finasteride is an FDA-approved, synthetic drug that has been used for the treatment of prostate gland enlargement and more recently, male-pattern baldness.
Generally administered in a film-coated tablet under a doctor’s prescription – the recommended dosage is 1mg to be taken once a day.
Scientifically proven to help reverse hair loss and promote hair growth in nearly 90% of men over a 5-year period – the magic in Finasteride lies in it being a 5α-reductase inhibitor. This means that it stops testosterone from being converted to DHT –decreasing its production levels by up to 60% and resuscitating the anagen phase of the hair cycle.
In fact, a 1998 study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that taking Finasteride produced a significant increase in hair growth in subjects, with long-lasting improvements that increases by an average of over 15% after 2 years.
While Finasteride doesn’t help to completely solve the issue of hair loss, it at least proves to slow down and reduce the unpleasant symptoms of hair loss. Results tend to peak around the 1-year mark – with increased hair count and positive effects on hair quality.
Truly a double-edged sword – taking oral Finasteride also comes with several undesirable side effects, mainly occurring due to the drug entering the bloodstream. The more severe ones include a decreased libido and sexual performance, tender breasts and even in some cases – impotence.
In addition, a major drawback in taking the drug is that it needs to be continuously taken in order to maintain results. It is also not currently approved by the FDA for use in female patients.
Oral vs. Topical Finasteride
With results to show, but alarming side effects – this has caused researchers to question the possibilities of topical Finasteride instead as a viable hair loss treatment.
The data has spoken – topical Finasteride applied on the skin at a dosage of 0.25% proves to have comparable results with oral Finasteride, with less risks being observed.
Worth mentioning is a study that revealed topical Finasteride as being effective for hair density maintenance after going for an initial treatment with oral finasteride. Out of the 45 male patients who underwent the study, 84.44% maintained good results with a topical Minoxidil-Finasteride combination.
In addition, a 2009 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology looked into 45 young adult men who were either given a tablet (oral use), gel (topical use) or placebo as treatment. Favourable results were seen with both uses of Finasteride.
Although most research seems to point towards topical Finasteride as more of a maintenance treatment for now – there is still insufficient evidence to date to make any scientific conclusions.
What about the side effects? Topical Finasteride formulations have been shown to inhibit the DHT levels in the blood by up to 25% – so while a smaller proportion will be absorbed by the blood as compared to taking it orally – more important to note is that every individual has a unique physiology that can make you more or less sensitive to the drug.
Ultimately, if one is to decide to start using topical Finasteride, always be sure to first consult our doctors – with over 18 years of experience under their belt, they will be able to accurately recommend and execute the best treatment based on your specific hair loss condition.
Is there an alternative way?
Yes, there is.
Hair transplants and other viable solutions such as Regenera Activa is now making much headway – allowing many hair loss sufferers to enjoy a new bed of hair without having to pay the heavy price tag of possible impotence.
Unlike medications that provide only temporary results, such alternatives serve as permanent solutions to increase hair density on a completely bald scalp.
FUE hair transplants is one such example – the process involves extracting and harvesting hair follicles from the back and sides of your head and implanting them to places that are thinning or bald. When done properly with an experienced doctor, there is a low complication rate and transplanted hairs live long to tell the tale. The only downside is that the cost of hair to be steeper than other solutions.
Regenera Activa on the other hand, is a minimally-invasive treatment that is FDA-approved, CE-marked and HSA-approved. Targeting hair loss by relying on the capillary regenerative abilities of “micro-grafts” extracted from your own scalp, it is completely safe and pain-free. A single session is completed in just 30 to 45 minutes – all it takes for natural-looking results that lasts up to 3 years.
While the price of Regenera Activa depends on your specific hair condition – it is still much more affordable than hair transplants, with minimal risks and zero downtime as compared to Finasteride.
The best part about these alternatives? They are both tried-and-tested solutions for both male and female hair loss sufferers.