Like minoxidil, finasteride, the active ingredient in Propecia, was originally created with a different purpose in mind -- to treat enlarged prostate glands -- and researchers observed it came with a side effect of hair growth. Unlike topical minoxidil, finasteride requires a prescription, is taken orally and addresses hormonal causes of hair loss. It inhibits the enzyme type II 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone into DHT. As it was the first truly effective treatment for hair loss that provided nearly guaranteed results, finasteride revolutionized the hair-loss-treatment industry.
Anti-androgens. Androgen receptor–blocking drugs such as spironolactone (Aldactone) and finasteride (Propecia) are not approved for the treatment of female pattern hair loss, and there is little reliable evidence that they are effective. However, some case studies suggest that women who don't respond to minoxidil may benefit from the addition of spironolactone. In the relatively uncommon cases where there is an excess of androgen, a clinician may prescribe 100 to 200 milligrams of an androgen receptor–blocking drug daily, together with an oral contraceptive for women of reproductive age. (A woman taking one of these drugs should not become pregnant because they can cause genital abnormalities in a male fetus.) Possible side effects include weight gain, loss of libido, depression, and fatigue.

Some treatments in development hold particular promise for women. Angela Christiano, a hair geneticist and Columbia University professor of dermatology, is hoping to begin clinical trials in a year or two on a procedure in which she dissects hair-follicle stem cells, grows them in the lab until she has several million, then injects them into the scalp, where, a very small study done with a human skin model has shown, they induce new hairs.

Men may also experience some sexual and emotional side effects while taking it: In a study published in the June 2011 issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Dr. Michael Irwig of George Washington University found as many as 92 percent of test subjects reporting problems in the bedroom. The study also reported that “the mean duration of finasteride use was 28 months and the mean duration of persistent sexual side effects was 40 months,” meaning that side effects lingered long after subjects stopped taking the pill.


There’s also a women’s version (Women’s Rogaine Foam) — but a three-month supply costs $22 more online. The only difference between the two products are the instructions; women are instructed to apply once a day instead of twice. If you’re a woman who doesn’t feel like paying extra for marketing, the men’s product will suffice. A cheaper generic version is Kirkland Signature Minoxidil Foam, but with a longer history on the market and more customer testimonials, Rogaine is our first choice.
Other medical conditions — most commonly telogen effluvium and seborrheic dermatitis — can also cause hair loss, but most people can trace their follicular woes back to androgenetic alopecia, so we focused our search there. We started with more than 200 products, including all-natural solutions and high-tech gadgets, while skipping treatments that focus only on volumizing or thickening hair. We also limited our scope to the scalp, and left out specialty products designed only for eyebrows or beards.
If you’re a lady and can remember the one difference in directions (or just scope out the instructions online) we recommend saving the cash. Similarly, you could go generic with Equate Hair Regrowth Treatment for Men or Costco’s Kirkland Signature Hair Regrowth Treatment Minoxidil Foam for Men. These alternatives offer the same percentage of active minoxidil and near-identical inactive ingredients for as little as half the price — a great option for both genders.

Anti-androgens. Androgen receptor–blocking drugs such as spironolactone (Aldactone) and finasteride (Propecia) are not approved for the treatment of female pattern hair loss, and there is little reliable evidence that they are effective. However, some case studies suggest that women who don't respond to minoxidil may benefit from the addition of spironolactone. In the relatively uncommon cases where there is an excess of androgen, a clinician may prescribe 100 to 200 milligrams of an androgen receptor–blocking drug daily, together with an oral contraceptive for women of reproductive age. (A woman taking one of these drugs should not become pregnant because they can cause genital abnormalities in a male fetus.) Possible side effects include weight gain, loss of libido, depression, and fatigue.
But in November, after 10 years of research, Rogaine introduced a new 5 percent minoxidil formulation for women. It’s a mousse (instead of a liquid) that needs to be applied only once a day instead of twice, which means that it can be more easily incorporated into a woman’s evening skin-care routine. Teal replaces the blue and silver palette of the men’s Rogaine, and the packaging bears a lotus flower. (Also last year, Pantene introduced its Hair Regrowth Treatment for Women, which is 2 percent minoxidil.)

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.


"I recently started using your hair growth products, and now there is no looking back. My hair has always been really thin and fine and growth around the hairline at the temples has been poor. It almost looked like my hairline was receding. I didn't like putting my hair up as I looked like I was going bald. But, not any more. My hair feels thicker, and growth is improving at the temple area. My hair would never grow beyond my shoulders, that's going to be the next test, how long will it grow!! Thank you, after years of irritation with my fine hair things are looking up."
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