If you have aging parents or grandparents and have seen their overflowing pill boxes, you know that it’s important to track their medications. One prescription can easily interact with another, and boom, you’re at the doctor’s office figuring out which drug is the culprit.
Dermatologists and hair specialists often recommend prescription hair loss medications because they are safe and effective. However, if you are taking other drugs or supplements at the same time, you should be aware of potential unintended interactions. Since Finasteride, also sold under the brand names Propecia and Proscar, is FDA-approved to treat hair loss, it’s the one most often prescribed. So, for that reason, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about what mixes well with Finasteride and what might not be the best combination.
Finasteride is a Leading Treatment for Male and Female Pattern Baldness
Research continually demonstrates that Finasteride, a medication originally developed to treat Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), is one of the most effective ways to treat androgenetic alopecia. The statistics tell the story. After two years on Finasteride, 83 percent of men included in Merck’s research study did not experience further hair loss. More than 70 percent showed increased hair growth. (01) Finasteride works just as effectively for women. (02) That’s why Finasteride is often dermatologists’ drug of choice when it comes to stopping further hair loss and stimulating new growth.
Finasteride Increases the Testosterone Levels in Your Body
So, how does Finasteride help stop your hair from shedding? It blocks an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase (5-AR). When 5-AR isn’t produced, testosterone can no longer be converted to an androgen called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is what causes your hair follicles to miniaturize. Finasteride also increases testosterone levels in your body. More testosterone shrinks prostate size and helps your hair grow. The only catch is that when you stop taking Finasteride, any new growth will be lost.
Finasteride Interactions are Uncommon
Complications stemming from Finasteride use are rare. That’s not to say that it doesn’t or can’t happen. Certain medications can either increase or reduce the amount of Finasteride in your bloodstream. Carbamezepine, Rifampin, and St. John’s Wart may reduce Finasteride’s efficacy by metabolizing the Finasteride faster in your liver. Other medications such as Itraconazole and erythromycin may actually increase the levels of Finasteride in your blood. Checking with your doctor is the best way to know if other medications you are already taking will contradict Finasteride.
Avoid Interactions with Other Medications by Using Topical Finasteride Versus Oral
If you have androgenetic alopecia and are worried about Finasteride interacting with the other medications you are taking, ask your doctor about using topical Finasteride. Research indicates that topical Finasteride is equally as effective as oral. (03) Think of topical Finasteride as a spot treatment. It works directly on the areas where your hair is thinning to prevent further hair loss and stimulate growth. Oral Finasteride, on the other hand, is systemic since it is metabolized in your stomach. Topical Finasteride is the ideal solution for men and women who want the benefits of the medication without any potential drug interactions.
Some Medications Make Finasteride Work More Effectively
Some medications have been found to increase the efficacy of Finasteride. Because some medicines work synergistically, dermatologists and hair specialists often recommend that patients use multiple hair loss treatments simultaneously to maximize results.
Minoxidil, also marketed under the brand Rogaine, is a topical hair loss solution that has proven to complement Finasteride. (04) While Finasteride blocks the testosterone from converting to DHT, Minoxidil enlarges the hair follicles, preventing hair loss, and allowing new growth to break through. Minoxidil is available in both oral and topical formulas.
Retinol is also a medication that is often prescribed with Finasteride. Retinol, a derivative of Vitamin A, is often prescribed to reduce wrinkles and improve skin texture. The medication increases collagen production and stimulates the production of new blood vessels bringing oxygen to the skin. In addition, retinol has been proven to improve the absorption of topical Finasteride. (05)
When patients with hair loss experience inflammation, topical or injected cortisone is often prescribed in conjunction with Finasteride as well.
Taking Finasteride, Minoxidil, Retinol, and Cortisone all at the same time can seem like a lot of medications to remember. Fortunately, topical formulas are now available that combine all into one convenient bottle.
Alternatives to Finasteride
Other options exist if you are experiencing male or female pattern baldness and oral or topical Finasteride aren’t suitable for you.
Finasteride is effective for most people. However, an alternative medication is Dutasteride. Dutasteride works similarly to Finasteride by blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT. The difference between the two medications is that Finasteride inhibits the Type 2 5AR isoenzyme,while Dutasteride inhibits both Type 1 and Type 2. In addition, Dutasteride’s prescribed dosages are typically lower than Finasteride’s because the medication is a bit stronger.
Spironolactone, also known as Aldactone, is used off-label to treat female pattern hair loss. It was originally marketed to treat fluid retention caused by liver and kidney disease. The medication is only prescribed for women because it can cause feminizing features when used over time. Research has not yet been conducted on a large sample size, but four women included in a study, saw reduced hair loss and experienced some growth. (06)
PRP, an abbreviation for Platelet Rich Plasma, is a three-step process designed to trigger hair growth by increasing the amount of oxygen available to the hair follicles. First, blood is drawn. Then, blood is then separated into three groups using a centrifuge. Lastly, the platelet rich plasma is injected into the scalp. PRP is often used in conjunction with other treatments to maximize results.
Hair Transplant Surgery
If you are concerned about drug interactions, hair transplant surgery may be an option and a long-term hair loss solution. During the past few years, many advances have been made in how the procedure is performed. Rather than taking strips of hair to transplant, surgeons are now able to move individual hairs giving a more natural look.
Low-light Laser Therapy (LLLT)
You may have seen ads recently for laser caps marketed for hair growth. Most use light in the red or infrared range to penetrate the scalp and target the hair follicles. Early studies show promise for the technology, but more research needs to be conducted on the efficacy. One study found that LLT works better when used with Minoxidil or Finasteride. The study also indicated that more data is needed to determine the optical laser power and wavelength. (07)
Be Honest About Your Medical History
If your dermatologist recommends Finasteride or any other prescription hair loss treatment, the best thing you can do is be honest about your medical history. In addition to telling your doctor about any other hormone, heart, or other medications you’re taking, remember to list any supplements. Also, although sharing information about smoking, drinking, or recreational marijuana use may seem embarrassing, remember that your dermatologist has seen and heard it all. He or she is more concerned with giving you the best hair regrowth options and keeping you safe than passing judgment on your behavior.
Is Finasteride Right For You?
If you have questions about whether Finasteride is right for you or could potentially interact with other medications you’re taking, let us know. Our board-certified dermatologists have full medical degrees from accredited universities. They are available and happy to review your medical history and suggest solutions based on the type of hair loss you are experiencing.
(02) Note: Recommended doses differ for men and women