Tag Archive for: propecia

When Women Get Male Pattern Hair Loss


Female pattern hair loss can progress from a widening part to overall thinning.

I met my friend Barbara (01) twelve years ago when our boys were toddlers.  Barbara is a tiny woman with lots of spunk.  I always thought of her as strong, smart, and confident.  She called one day and confided in me that it bothered her that her hair was thinning.  She had been losing hair on the crown of her head since she was in her late 20s, and she never did anything about it.   She knew that I had lichen planopilaris and wanted to get the name of the dermatologist I used to treat my hair loss.  

Anyone knew just from looking at Barbara that her hair was sparse, and it took me by surprise that she hadn’t already had it checked out by a dermatologist or a hair specialist.   But then again, Barbara isn’t exactly a fashionista.  She’s an elder care nurse who spends most of her weekdays in scrubs and her weekends in sweats.  But still, I was surprised.  Barbara visited my dermatologist, and it turns out that she has androgenic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness.  Who knew that women can get male pattern baldness?  And who knew that it could start so young?

How do Women Get Male Pattern Baldness?

Women get male pattern baldness for the same reasons men do.  Also known as androgenic alopecia, female pattern hair loss is usually inherited.  The condition occurs when a woman has a shorter than normal period of hair growth and a longer than normal period between when her hair sheds and grows.  In some cases, women have the misfortune of inheriting smaller hair follicles and thinner strands of hair.  

Almost every woman experiences female pattern hair loss at some point in her life.  Most first notice androgenic alopecia around menopause, but it can start any time after puberty begins.  If anyone on either side of your family has lost his or her hair, it’s more likely that you will too. 

What Does Female Pattern Baldness Look Like?

There’s some good news if you have female pattern baldness.  Women’s hairlines usually don’t recede and you won’t end up with a donut.  The other good news is that women typically don’t go completely bald.  Usually women with androgenic alopecia have one of three different patterns of hair loss.  A bald spot can form at the crown of your head, you could lose hair along your center part, or your hair could thin all over.  In some cases, hair gets so thin that the scalp can be seen.

If you’re a Woman, How do you Know if you Have Male Pattern Baldness?

Although it’s tempting, don’t try to self-diagnose or treat yourself if you think you have androgenic alopecia. Get an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist and hair specialist.  Your dermatologist may do one or several of the following:

  • Evaluate your hair loss pattern
  • Review your medical history
  • Rule out other possible causes for your hair loss, such as iron or vitamin D deficiency, thyroid disease, or another type of scarring alopecia
  • Determine whether you are producing too much androgen (male hormone)
  • Use a dermoscope or a microscope to look at the structure of your hair shaft
  • Take a small biopsy of your scalp and send it to a pathologist

Androgenic Alopecia Often Goes Undiagnosed in African American Women

Women of every race are affected by androgenic alopecia and other types of hair loss.  African American women are no exception.  In a 2016 survey conducted at Boston University’s Sloane Epidemiology Center, 47.6 percent of African-American women surveyed reported hair loss. (02)   

However, like my friend Barbara who noticed that her hair was thinning and didn’t do anything about it, many African-American women are not seeking treatment for androgenic alopecia.  Out of the group surveyed, 81.4 percent reported that they had never consulted with a physician about their thinning hair or bald spots.

The moral of this story?  If you think that your hair is thinning and have a history of hair loss on either your Mother’s or Father’s side of the family, don’t ignore it.  Make an appointment with your dermatologist to get evaluated and treated. 

Do Asian Women get Alopecia?

Asian women do get alopecia, but traditionally rates have been lower than those of Caucasian or African-American women. (03)  That number seems to be on the rise, though.  Diet is believed to be a contributing factor.   

Early research indicates that diets rich in vegetables, herbs, and soy may contribute to hair growth and health thanks to their anti-inflammatory nutrients. (04)  The traditional Asian diet, loaded with fish and vegetables, meets that criteria.  

Today’s modern Asian diet looks more like a typical American diet though, filled with processed foods.  The fat, salt, and empty calories lead to higher BMI and blood sugar levels that have been linked to female pattern hair loss. (05)

What Treatments are Available to Women with Female Pattern Baldness?

Treatments for androgenic alopecia are designed with two goals in mind:

  1. Prevent further hair loss
  2. Stimulate hair growth

Sounds logical, right?  Well, it is.  Here are medications that dermatologists typically prescribe:

Retinol (Tretinoin)

Retinol is derived from Vitamin A and has been found to be effective for treating female pattern hair loss when used either alone or in combination with Minoxidil. (06)  Retinol has been proven to stimulate growth and improve the absorption of other ingredients that promote hair growth.

Minoxidil (Rogaine)

Minoxidil, sold over-the-counter under the name Rogaine, is a hair regrowth treatment.  It works by enlarging the hair follicles and elongating your hair’s growth phase.  Minoxidil is available in both a topical foam and a pill.  Although the foam is available in a two percent formula for women and a five percent formula for men, dermatologists often recommend the five percent for women to use for androgenic alopecia.  Any hair growth realized while using Minodixil can be lost if you stop using the product, so it is highly recommended to use it under the care of a licensed dermatologist.

Finasteride (Propecia)

Finasteride is a prescription medication that was initially designed to treat enlarged prostates.  Because it prevents testosterone from converting into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the medicine is helpful for women with female pattern hair loss. (07)  Finasteride is available as an oral medication and as a topical solution.  Many women prefer topical to avoid potential side effects.

Dutasteride (Avodart)

Dutasteride is similar to Finasteride.  Both medications prevent your body from converting testosterone into DHT, which causes female pattern baldness.  Dutasteride is newer to the market and is used off-label for androgenic alopecia in women. Finasteride is highly effective for most women, but when stronger medications are required, Dutasteride is a good option. (08)  Like Finasteride, Dutasteride is best for women who are not pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant.   

Spironolactone (Aldactone)

Spironolactone is an effective treatment for hormone-induced hair loss that is only prescribed to women.  The medication blocks DHT production by simultaneously decreasing testosterone and increasing estrogen.

Data indicates that Spironolactone is highly effective for treating female pattern baldness.  In a research study conducted, 74.3 percent of patients who were treated with Spironolactone reported stabilization or improvement in their hair loss. (09)  

Oral Spironolactone can cause low blood pressure, drowsiness, and other side effects.  Topical Spironolactone, which does not go through the digestive system and is less likely to induce side effects, is often prescribed and preferred.  Topical Spironolactone is often compounded with Minoxidil to help your hair grow even faster and thicker.   

Compounded Topical Treatments

If you’re not thrilled about using multiple products, all-in-one topical treatments that combine multiple medications into one are now available and can be more effective than using just one medication alone. (10)   Popular combinations are:

  • Retinol, Minoxidil, and Finasteride 
  • Minoxidil and Spironolactone

Many women appreciate the convenience and ease of applying just one formula twice a day.  

With so Many Medications Available to Women with Androgenic Alopecia, How do you Choose?

Are you confused about all of the different options?  If so, that’s understandable since some of the DHT blocking medications work similarly.  Thankfully, dermatologists have experience selecting the right medications for patients with female pattern hair loss.  Your dermatologist will help you choose the right medication, dosage, and combination of medication based on the severity of your hair loss and your medical history.  

Remember that treatment for female pattern hair loss isn’t one-size-fits-all.  Different medications work for different women.  It’s common to go through a trial process to see what works best for you.  

Also, keep in mind that patience is key when treating androgenic alopecia.  Medications work over time, so it may be a few months before you see a noticeable improvement, no matter which treatment you and your dermatologist choose.

Women with Androgenic Alopecia Often Need a Support System

Every woman deals with androgenic alopecia differently.  My friend Barbara took her diagnosis in stride, but many women are devastated.  Hair is a huge part of a woman’s identity, and losing it can take a toll on a woman’s confidence.  

If you’re having trouble coping with your hair loss, resources are available to you.  Best of all, some of the resources are free.  Facebook has a closed group dedicated to females with androgenic alopecia.  Members share information about their diagnosis and treatment plans. Sometimes, they’re just there to tell each other that it’s okay to be sad about their hair loss.  Whether it’s on Facebook, another social media outlet, or in person, support groups are a good way to connect with others who are feeling the same way as you about your hair loss situation.  

If you’re not in a good place mentally, make sure you contact a qualified psychologist or a psychiatrist.  Depression and anxiety are common among women with female pattern hair loss.  It’s important to seek help so you can regain your sense of self.

Resources:

(01) Name has been changed to protect confidentiality

(02) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160304093239.htm

(03) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4560543/

(04) https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/504786

(05) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4560543/

(06) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3771854/

(07) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7060023/

(08) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25382509/

(09) https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(15)01878-2/fulltext

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4314881/

 

Hair Loss Reversal 101: What You Need to Know

If you’re experiencing hair loss, you’re not alone.  According to the American Hair Loss Association, at least two-thirds of all American men will have noticeable hair loss by the time they turn thirty-five.  Women account for forty percent of all Americans experiencing hair loss. (01) Those numbers are much higher than you thought, right?

Sure, most people expect to get some gray hair, wrinkles, and a few extra pounds as they age, but hair loss?  That’s not usually part of the plan.  We can color our hair, use Botox for our wrinkles, and spend some extra time at the gym.  But what can be done about a receding hairline?  More than you think.

There are Different Types of Hair Loss

The first step is to understand the different types of hair loss.  All hair loss is not the same, so not all hair loss will respond to the same treatment.  We’re here to give you a crash course.

The Term Alopecia Encompasses More Conditions Than Most People Realize

When people think of alopecia, they usually think of alopecia areata, the type that Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley and actress Jada Pinkett Smith have.  However, if you use Dr. Google, you’ll see that WebMD defines alopecia areata as an “autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to come out, often in clumps the size and shape of a quarter.”  The definition is accurate, but not all hair loss is alopecia areata. Alopecia is an umbrella term for many different hair loss conditions.

There’s a Difference Between Non-Scarring and Scarring Alopecia

Alopecia falls under two broad categories:  non-scarring and scarring alopecia. There’s a big difference between the two types.

When people have non-scarring hair loss, their hair just falls out.  No redness, scaling, flaking, itching, or burning occurs. The alopecia can come on fast and furiously, leaving people holding clumps of hair in their hands, or gradually over a long period of time.

Scarring alopecia is a different story.  Also known as cicatricial alopecia, scarring alopecia is an inflammatory condition that occurs in otherwise healthy people. The hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.  The hair loss can happen over time and go unnoticed, or it can happen quickly, causing symptoms such as severe itching and burning. (02)  Speed is essential when it comes to treating scarring alopecias.  The goal is to slow or stop further hair loss and promote hair regrowth in unaffected areas.

What Type of Alopecia Do You Have?

Many different types of hair loss fall under the categories of non-scarring and scarring alopecia.  Once you know what type you have, your dermatologist will work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Examples of Non-scarring Alopecia

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen Effluvium is a form of temporary hair loss caused by stress, severe chronic illness, high fever, childbirth, thyroid disorders, major surgery, dieting, certain medications, etc.  Telogen Effluvium usually resolves itself over time.

Androgenic Alopecia

Also known as male and female pattern baldness, androgenic alopecia is a genetic condition experienced by up to 50 percent of men and women. (03)  Experts believe that pattern baldness is due to an excessive androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) response which causes hair follicles to miniaturize.  When the hair follicles shrink, hair loss occurs.  Androgenic alopecia typically causes frontal hair loss in men and diffuse hair loss at the crown and top of women’s heads.

Alopecia Areata

If your hair falls out in clumps around the size and shape of a quarter, you may have alopecia areata.  This condition is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when your body attacks its own hair follicles.  With alopecia areata, hair loss is unpredictable and can happen anywhere on your body.  Sometimes the condition resolves itself.  However, it can also reoccur without notice.  Many research studies are currently underway to understand the cause and effective treatment. (04)

Traction Alopecia  

Constant pulling on hair due to tight ponytails, buns, braids, cornrows or dreadlocks, hair extensions, weaves, and more can cause traction alopecia.  This condition, that’s common among actresses and models, can cause small bumps that resemble pimples.  Fortunately, traction alopecia can be reversed if you stop pulling your hair back.

Examples of Scarring Alopecia

Lichen Planopilaris

Lichen Planopilaris is the most common type of scarring alopecia.  Although it can affect both genders, lichen planopilaris is more likely to affect women aged 40 to 60 than men. (05)  Redness, itching, burning, and tenderness can accompany frontal or other pattern hair loss.

Central Centrifugal Cicatrical Alopecia (CCCA)

CCCA is found almost exclusively among black women aged 30 to 55 year-old.  The cause is still unknown and is being researched.  Women who experience CCCA experience inflammation and associated hair loss in the crown area. (06)

Effective Hair Loss Treatment Complements Your Diagnosis

After your dermatologist determines the cause of your hair loss, he or she will discuss treatment options with you.  Keep in mind that hair reversal treatments are not one-size-fits-all.  In some cases, “cocktails” which combine specific medications and protocols may be needed. Just to give you an idea of what’s out there, here are some of the most frequently used medications and treatments:

Minoxidil (Rogaine)

Minoxidil, also known as Rogaine, is available over-the-counter as a topical foam and liquid and by prescription as an oral pill.  Minoxidil is a vasodilator reduces miniaturization of the hair follicles and elongates the growth phase.

Minoxidil has proven to promote growth among men and women with male and female pattern hair loss.  Minoxidil is also often recommended to patients with scarring alopecia to promote growth in unaffected areas.

Once you start using Minoxidil, you need to continue. When you stop using the medication, any new hair that grows will most likely be shed.

Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar)

Finasteride is a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor originally designed to treat enlarged prostates.  The medication, available both as a pill and a topical solution, blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that inhibits hair growth.

Clinical studies have found Finasteride to be highly effective in reversing hair loss in both men and women with scarring and non-scarring alopecias. (0708)  Topical Finasteride is often used to treat androgenic alopecia, while oral is typically recommended for scarring alopecias.

Finasteride is only available by prescription and is not recommended for women of childbearing age.  Check with a board-certified dermatologist to see if you are a good candidate for the topical or oral treatment.

Corticosteroids

Topical or injected steroids are often used to treat hair loss that is induced by autoimmune diseases such as alopecia areata and lichen planopilaris.  The corticosteroids allow hair to grow by inhibiting the autoimmune disease.

Steroid treatments are only available by prescription and should be surprised by a qualified dermatologist.

Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) Injections

PRP injections have become a popular treatment for healing wounds and regrowing tissue such as tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

PRP has regenerative properties and has been primarily tested on patients with androgenetic alopecia. (09)  When injected into the scalp, PRP is believed to stimulate hair growth by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles and increasing the size of the hair shaft.

As the name suggests, PRP injections are made from platelets derived from your blood.  Blood is first drawn, and then spun at super high speeds to separate the blood components.  The resulting plasma is highly concentrated.

PRP use is still in its early stages and can be expensive.  Research also indicates that PRP is most effective when used with Minoxidil, Finasteride, and other hair growth treatments.

Biotin

Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H, has become a familiar hair growth supplement.  Sold in supplements or as an ingredient in hair care products, Biotin is promoted as a way to make your hair grow longer and healthier.

Does it work?  Well, the jury is out.  Not enough research has been conducted to say yeah or nay. (10)  It won’t hurt you to try a new shampoo that contains Biotin, but there’s no evidence to indicate that it will help.  Biotin deficiency is rare. (11)  Most people get adequate amounts through their regular diets.

Many Biotin supplements sold are not FDA approved, and high concentrations of Biotin can interfere with the results of some lab tests. (12) As with any oral supplement, check with your doctor before testing it out.

Hair Transplants

Hair transplant procedures and techniques continue to improve over time.  Rather than using noticeable plugs, today’s surgeries move hair strips or carefully selected hairs from one area to another to promote growth that looks natural.

When determining whether a patient is an ideal candidate for a hair transplant, dermatologists consider several factors, including:

  • Type of hair loss
  • Degree and pattern of baldness
  • Patient age
  • Hair color
  • Donor hair density
  • Patient expectations

Although hair transplants are expensive and time-consuming, they are an effective, reliable, and safe way to get lasting results.

It’s Important to Set Realistic Expectations When Treating Alopecia

We’re fortunate to live during a time when hair loss research is prolific, and the list of hair replacement options is growing.  Whether you’re 25 or 55, you don’t have to live with bald spots, a receding hairline, or thinning hair, even if your genetics or immune system are working against you.

The first step is to find a board-certified dermatologist and hair specialist you trust and get diagnosed.  He or she will help you select the right treatment option for your type of alopecia and lifestyle.  Remember to set realistic expectations for your hair regrowth.  Treatments don’t work overnight, so be patient and track your progress over time.  After all, small signs of stubble today can lead to a fuller head of hair tomorrow.

Resources:

(01) https://www.americanhairloss.org/

(02) https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/cicatricial-alopecia

(03) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/

(04) https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/types/alopecia

(05) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470325/

(06) https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/2768748

(07) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4809380/

(08) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9951956/

(09) https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/platelet-rich-plasma-does-the-cure-for-hair-loss-lie-within-our-blood-2020051119748

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/

(12) https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/safety-communications/update-fda-warns-biotin-may-interfere-lab-tests-fda-safety-communication

Side Effects of Topical Finasteride: Review of Current Medical Literature

Oral finasteride, also known as Propecia, is an oral medication that has been prescribed by physicians for decades for hair loss. It works in the majority of patients by reducing hair loss and stimulating hair growth however there are side effects. One of the most concerning side effects are the sexual side effects, which occur in 1.8% to 3.8% of patients who take it. As a result, many physicians have been switching to topical finasteride as an alternative. In recent years, there have been many studies on the efficacy and side effects of topical Finasteride. In this article, we will review the clinical trials and scientific data to evaluate the side effect profile of topical finasteride. 

In one of the first single-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials of topical finasteride, Mazarella et al.1 (1997) published a study of 52 subjects ranging from 19 to 28 years of age. The patients were treated with topical finasteride 0.005% vs placebo for 16 months. Here were the results.

  • There was a significant reduction in the rate of hair loss after 6 months of treatment.
  • There were no reports of local or systemic side effects.

In another double blind, randomized clinical trial study of 45 male patients, Hajheydari et al.2 (2009) compared oral finasteride 1mg vs topical finasteride 1% for a total of 6 months.

  • Authors concluded that “the therapeutic effects of both finasteride gel and finasteride tablet were relatively similar to each other.”
  • 1 person had erythema of the scalp after application of the topical finasteride. 

In a prospective pilot study conducted in 15 patients for 9 months by Rafi and Katz3 (2011), patients applied a topical solution called NuH Hair, which is a novel topical combination of finasteride, dutasteride, and minoxidil, with the option to add oral finasteride, minoxidil and/or ketoconazole shampoo for 9 months. 

  • Significant growth was demonstrated after 3 months of use of the topical solution.
  • There were no reports of sexual side effects or irritation or redness reported. 

In a randomized clinical study by Tanglertsampan C.4  (2012), 33 male patients ranging between 27 to 49 years old were enrolled to compare the efficacy and safety of a 24 weeks application of minoxidil 3% lotion versus minoxidil 3% combined with 0.1% finasteride lotion.

  • This study showed that finasteride combined with minoxidil is superior to minoxidil alone by itself.
  • Contact dermatitis and redness was observed in 4 patients (24%) using the finasteride + minoxidil combination. No sexual side effects were observed. 

Caserini et al. conducted two pharmacokinetic studies on topical finasteride. In a randomized clinical study of 23 males, Caserini et al.5 (2014) compared topical finasteride 0.25% twice daily vs oral finasteride 1mg once daily for 7 days. They measured DHT and testosterone levels in the serum (systemic DHT levels).

  • Similar reduction in serum DHT was observed by the use of topical 0.25% finasteride twice daily  (68-75% ) and oral finasteride 1mg (62-72%).
  • No sexual side effects were observed. 

In another randomized clinical trial, Caserini et al.6 (2015) did another study involving 50 male patients studying DHT in both the serum and the scalp. 

  • This pharmacokinetic study confirmed that topical finasteride 0.25% (1ml application twice daily) and oral finasteride 1mg (once daily) both have similar reduction in scalp (47-51%) and serum DHT levels (74-76%). No changes in testosterone were observed.
  • In the portion of the study where patients used 1ml of topical finasteride 0.25% twice daily, there were 2 patients (11%) that had the following side effects. Elevated ALT levels, pollakiuria and testicular pain. 
  • about 37-54% when 0.1ml, 0.2ml, 0.3ml and 0.4ml of topical 0.25% finasteride was used, showing relatively similar results to 1ml twice a day application of topical 0.25% finasteride. Serum DHT was reduced by 24% with the use of 0.1ml, 26% with 0.2ml, 44% with 0.3ml and 48% with use of 0.4ml of 0.25% topical finasteride. This testing suggests that lower dosage of topical finasteride may lead to lower reduction of serum DHT levels and thus lower sexual side effects (assuming that serum DHT is solely responsible for the sexual side effects).  
  Scalp DHT Serum DHT
Oral FInasteride 1mg 51% 76%
1ml (twice daily) of 0.25% Topical finasteride 47% 74%
1ml (once daily) of 0.25% Topical finasteride 71% 76%
0.1ml (once daily) of 0.25% Topical finasteride  52% 24%
0.2ml (once daily) of 0.25% Topical finasteride 47% 26%
0.3ml (once daily) of 0.25% Topical finasteride 37% 44%
0.4ml (once daily) of 0.25% Topical finasteride 54% 47%
Oral vs Topical Finasteride

In a retrospective assessment and prospective crossover cohort study of 50 male between 20 to 40 years old by Chandrashekar et al.7 (2017), all 50 patients used minoxidil 5% and oral 1mg finasteride for 2 years.They then stopped and their treatment differed.

  • Results showed that 80% to 84.4% of these patients maintained good hair density while on the topical combination of minoxidil 5% + finasteride 0.1% treatment for 1 year.
  • No sexual side effects were reported. 

The studies8 above demonstrate that topical finasteride has clinically proven, evidence-based, scientific data to show its efficacy in growing hair and that it has a lower side effect profile compared to oral finasteride. Out of the 7 clinical studies reported above, only one study showed one event with sexual side effects (testicular pain). This is 1 out of 268 subjects in all of the studies, which equates to a rate of 0.37%. In contrast, oral finasteride is associated with sexual side effects in 1.8% to 3.8% of patients, which means that in the above 268 subjects, there should have been about 5 to 10 subjects experiencing some form of sexual side effects. However, this was not the case. Only 1 person had sexual side effects as opposed to 5 to 10 individuals. 

Pharmacokinetic studies by Caserini et al. suggest that lower doses of topical finasteride result in lower reduction of serum DHT compared to oral finasteride and thus lower sexual side effects. No study has conclusively shown the reason of how finasteride can cause sexual side effects. Certainly serum DHT is a contributing factor but may not be the only factor. The reason for this conclusion is because there are studies that patients were on high dosage of topical finasteride and still had no sexual side effects. 

In conclusion, the majority of studies on topical finasteride show no to only a few sexual side effects. However, this does not mean that sexual side effects can not happen. It just suggests that risk of sexual side effects are lower due to the fact that the finasteride is not taken orally. Additional larger clinical studies are needed to address the sexual side effects of topical finasteride. 

References:

1. Topical finasteride in the treatment of androgenic alopecia. Preliminary evaluations after a 16-month therapy course. GF Mazzarella, GF Loconsole, GA Cammisa, GM Mastrolonardo & Ga Vena; Pages 189-192 | Received 23 Aug 1996, Accepted 18 Mar 1997, Published online: 12 Jul 2009

2. Comparing the therapeutic effects of finasteride gel and tablet in treatment of the androgenetic alopecia. Hajheydari Z1, Akbari J, Saeedi M, Shokoohi L. .Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2009 Jan-Feb;75(1):47-51.

3. Pilot Study of 15 Patients Receiving a New Treatment Regimen for Androgenic Alopecia: The Effects of Atopy on AGA. Rafi and Katz. SRN Dermatol. 2011;2011:241953. doi: 10.5402/2011/241953. Epub 2011 Apr 11.

4. Efficacy and safety of 3% minoxidil versus combined 3% minoxidil / 0.1% finasteride in male pattern hair loss: a randomized, double-blind, comparative study. Tanglertsampan C1. J Med Assoc Thai. 2012 Oct;95(10):1312-6.

5. A novel finasteride 0.25% topical solution for androgenetic alopecia: pharmacokinetics and effects on plasma androgen levels in healthy male volunteers. Caserini M, Radicioni M, Leuratti C, Annoni O, Palmieri R.  Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Oct;52(10):842-9. doi: 10.5414/CP202119.

6. Effects of a novel finasteride 0.25% topical solution on scalp and serum dihydrotestosterone in healthy men with androgenetic alopecia. Caserini M, Radicioni M, Leuratti C, Terragni E, Iorizzo M, Palmieri R. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2016 Jan;54(1):19-27. doi: 10.5414/CP202467.

7. Topical minoxidil fortified with finasteride: An account of maintenance of hair density after replacing oral finasteride. B. S. Chandrashekar, T. Nandhini, Vani Vasanth, Rashmi Sriram, and Shreya Navale. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2015 Jan-Feb; 6(1): 17–20. Doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.148925

8. A Systematic Review of Topical Finasteride in the Treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia in Men and Women. Sung Won Lee, MD,1 Margit Juhasz, MD,1 Pezhman Mobasher, MD,1 Chloe Ekelem, MD,1 and Natasha Atanaskova Mesinkovska, MD, PhD1. J Drugs Dermatol. 2018 Apr 1; 17(4): 457–463.

The information in this article does not constitute medical advice and should only be used for informational purposes only. The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice and please do not rely on this information to make medical decisions. Please make sure to discuss the risks and benefits of any treatment with your medical doctor before beginning treatment. 

Efficacy of Topical Finasteride: Review of Current Medical Literature

In one of the first single-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials of topical finasteride, Mazarella et al.1 (1997) published a study of 52 subjects ranging from 19 to 28 years of age. The patients were treated with topical finasteride 0.005% vs placebo for 16 months. Here were the results.

  • There was a significant reduction in the rate of hair loss after 6 months of treatment.
  • There was slight to marked reduction of the balding areas in the patients using the topical finasteride.
  • 73% of the patients using the topical finasteride reported moderate effectiveness.

In another double blind, randomized clinical trial study of 45 male patients, Hajheydari et al.2 (2009) compared oral finasteride 1mg vs topical finasteride 1% for a total of 6 months.

  • Both the oral finasteride 1mg and the topical finasteride 1% showed statistically significant increase in total and terminal hair count after 4 months.
  • There was no significant difference between the two groups in hair thickness, total hair counts and the size of bald area.
  • Authors concluded that “the therapeutic effects of both finasteride gel and finasteride tablet were relatively similar to each other.”

In a prospective pilot study conducted in 15 patients for 9 months by Rafi and Katz3 (2011), patients applied a topical solution called NuH Hair, which is a novel topical combination of finasteride, dutasteride, and minoxidil, with the option to add oral finasteride, minoxidil and/or ketoconazole shampoo for 9 months. 

  • Significant growth was demonstrated after 3 months of use of the topical solution.
  • In those patients who utilized the NuH Hair along with either Rogaine foam, Propecia, and ketoconazole shampoo saw significant growth was achieved in as little as 30 days.

In a randomized clinical study by Tanglertsampan C.4  (2012), 33 male patients ranging between 27 to 49 years old were enrolled to compare the efficacy and safety of a 24 weeks application of minoxidil 3% lotion versus minoxidil 3% combined with 0.1% finasteride lotion.

  • Hair count increased in both groups but was only significant in the finasteride + minoxidil group.
  • This study showed that finasteride combined with minoxidil is superior to minoxidil alone by itself.
  • Finasteride combined with minoxidil showed significantly higher efficacy by global photographic assessment compared to the minoxidil group.

Caserini et al. conducted two pharmacokinetic studies on topical finasteride. In a randomized clinical study of 23 males, Caserini et al.5 (2014) compared topical finasteride 0.25% twice daily vs oral finasteride 1mg once daily for 7 days. They measured DHT and testosterone levels in the serum (systemic DHT levels).

  • Similar reduction in serum DHT was observed by the use of topical 0.25% finasteride twice daily  (68-75% ) and oral finasteride 1mg (62-72%).
  • No relevant changes occurred for serum testosterone.

In another randomized clinical trial, Caserini et al.6 (2015) did another study involving 50 male patients studying DHT in both the serum and the scalp. 

  • Scalp DHT was reduced by 71% with the use of 1ml topical finasteride 0.25% once daily application vs 51% reduction in scalp DHT with the use of oral finasteride 1mg once daily.
  • Interestingly, once a day application of the 1ml topical finasteride 0.25% lead to a higher reduction of scalp DHT (71%) vs twice a day application of 1ml topical finasteride 0.25% (47%).
  • Serum DHT decreased by 60 – 70% with the use of both 1ml topical finasteride and 1mg of oral finasteride. 
  • This pharmacokinetic study confirmed that topical finasteride 0.25% (1ml application twice daily) and oral finasteride 1mg (once daily) both have similar reduction in scalp (47-51%) and serum DHT levels (74-76%). No changes in testosterone were observed.

In a retrospective assessment and prospective crossover cohort study of 50 male between 20 to 40 years old by Chandrashekar et al.7 (2017), all 50 patients used minoxidil 5% and oral 1mg finasteride for 2 years.They then stopped and their treatment differed.

  • 45 of the patients that stopped the above treatment immediately started topical minoxidil 5% + finasteride 0.1% treatment for 1 year.
  • Results showed that 84.4% of these patients maintained good hair density while on the topical combination.
  • 5 of the patients stopped all treatments for 8-12 months and then started the topical minoxidil 5% + finasteride 0.1% for 1 year.
  • Results showed that 80% of these patients maintained good hair density.

The studies8 above demonstrate that topical finasteride has clinically proven, evidence-based, scientific data to show its efficacy in growing hair. Firstly, pharmacokinetic studies suggest that topical finasteride results in a similar reduction in scalp DHT as oral finasteride. Studies also suggest that topical finasteride causes a statistically significant increase in total and terminal hair count. Additionally, when topical finasteride was compared to oral finasteride, both the oral finasteride 1mg and the topical finasteride 1% showed statistically significant increase in total and terminal hair count and that no significant difference was observed with respect to hairthicknes and hair counts. Authors concluded that “the therapeutic effects of both finasteride gel and finasteride tablet were relatively similar to each other.” When topical finasteride was combined with topical minoxidil, the combination of finasteride with minoxidil was superior to minoxidil alone by itself. Finally, 84.4% of patients who were on oral finasteride for about 2 years and then switched over to topical finasteride with minoxidil maintained good hair density. Thus far, these studies with a total patient count of 268 show that topical finasteride can cause hair growth and have similar efficacy as oral finasteride. Additional large cohort studies are still needed to better evaluate the efficacy of topical finasteride vs oral finasteride. 

References:

1. Topical finasteride in the treatment of androgenic alopecia. Preliminary evaluations after a 16-month therapy course. GF Mazzarella, GF Loconsole, GA Cammisa, GM Mastrolonardo & Ga Vena; Pages 189-192 | Received 23 Aug 1996, Accepted 18 Mar 1997, Published online: 12 Jul 2009

2. Comparing the therapeutic effects of finasteride gel and tablet in treatment of the androgenetic alopecia. Hajheydari Z1, Akbari J, Saeedi M, Shokoohi L. .Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2009 Jan-Feb;75(1):47-51.

3. Pilot Study of 15 Patients Receiving a New Treatment Regimen for Androgenic Alopecia: The Effects of Atopy on AGA. Rafi and Katz. SRN Dermatol. 2011;2011:241953. doi: 10.5402/2011/241953. Epub 2011 Apr 11.

4. Efficacy and safety of 3% minoxidil versus combined 3% minoxidil / 0.1% finasteride in male pattern hair loss: a randomized, double-blind, comparative study. Tanglertsampan C1. J Med Assoc Thai. 2012 Oct;95(10):1312-6.

5. A novel finasteride 0.25% topical solution for androgenetic alopecia: pharmacokinetics and effects on plasma androgen levels in healthy male volunteers. Caserini M, Radicioni M, Leuratti C, Annoni O, Palmieri R.  Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Oct;52(10):842-9. doi: 10.5414/CP202119.

6. Effects of a novel finasteride 0.25% topical solution on scalp and serum dihydrotestosterone in healthy men with androgenetic alopecia. Caserini M, Radicioni M, Leuratti C, Terragni E, Iorizzo M, Palmieri R. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2016 Jan;54(1):19-27. doi: 10.5414/CP202467.

7. Topical minoxidil fortified with finasteride: An account of maintenance of hair density after replacing oral finasteride. B. S. Chandrashekar, T. Nandhini, Vani Vasanth, Rashmi Sriram, and Shreya Navale. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2015 Jan-Feb; 6(1): 17–20. Doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.148925

8. A Systematic Review of Topical Finasteride in the Treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia in Men and Women. Sung Won Lee, MD,1 Margit Juhasz, MD,1 Pezhman Mobasher, MD,1 Chloe Ekelem, MD,1 and Natasha Atanaskova Mesinkovska, MD, PhD1. J Drugs Dermatol. 2018 Apr 1; 17(4): 457–463.

The information in this article does not constitute medical advice and should only be used for informational purposes only. The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice and please do not rely on this information to make medical decisions. Please make sure to discuss the risks and benefits of any treatment with your medical doctor before beginning treatment. 

Topical Finasteride. Does it really work?

The gold standard for hair loss has always been oral finasteride, also known as Propecia(R). However, over the last several years, many physicians have stopped prescribing oral finasteride due to the risks of sexual side effects, which may be permanent in some cases. Doctors have started to look into other alternatives to oral finasteride and this is why the popularity of topical finasteride has surged in the last 4 years. This article will use evidence based medicine and the current clinical studies available to evaluate the safety and efficacy of topical finasteride. 

Oral Finasteride is an oral pill that has been prescribed by physicians for decades for hair loss. It works in the majority of patients in stopping hair loss and growing hair however there are side effects. The popularity of oral Finasteride has been decreasing due to its sexual side effects, which occur in 1.8% to 3.8% of patients who take it. The majority of cases of these sexual side effects are temporary, which means that the side effects will resolve once the patient stops taking the oral medication. However, according to the FDA, there are some cases where the side effects can be permanent. Examples of sexual side effects of oral Finasteride include decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, testicular pain, testicular numbness, penile curvature changes, lack of morning erections, decreased ejaculate, decreased sperm count and any form of sexual dysfunction. Other side effects of oral Finasteride include breast enlargement, depression, fogginess of head, and diabetes (please note that this is not a complete list).

Topical finasteride is a compounded medication prepared by compounding pharmacies. It doesn’t exist commercially in the US market. This means that it is not a product that is available right off the shelf. It’s a formula that has to be written specifically by your physician and the compounding pharmacy has to make it monthly. A review of the literature on Pubmed shows that there are so far about 67 articles, case studies, and clinical trials on topical finasteride worldwide. This article will review some of those articles examining efficacy and safety of topical finasteride compared with oral finasteride. 

In a clinical trial of 45 male patients comparing the therapeutic efficacy of topical finasteride vs oral finasteride1, the study showed that the therapeutic effects of both finasteride gel and finasteride tablets were relatively similar to each other. There were no significant differences between the two groups as a viewpoint of hair thickness, hair counts and the size of bald area. This the authors concluded that there were similar increase in hair counts and terminal hair counts between the two groups. 

In another study of 50 patients who were on oral finasteride, 84.4% of those patients showed good maintenance of hair density while switching over from oral finasteride to a topical finasteride +  minoxidil combination2. This study showed that patients don’t have to be on oral finasteride forever; topical finasteride was a good alternative in maintaining the results of the oral finasteride. 

In a systematic review of 119 studies involving topical finasteride studies, authors concluded that topical finasteride showed a significant decrease in the rate of hair loss, increase in total and terminal hair counts, and positive hair growth assessment. No changes in serum testosterone were noted3.

Finasteride works by inhibiting conversion of testosterone into DHT. When finasteride is taken orally, it reduces scalp DHT by ~50% but it also affects serum DHT by around 60-70%. This study showed that oral finasteride significantly reduces systemic DHT levels. In contrast, topical finasteride applied at certain dosage resulted in an appropriate inhibition of scalp DHT (47-52%), while serum DHT level reduced only by 24-26%, potentially minimizing the untoward sexual side-effects linked to a systemic DHT reduction4. Since topical finasteride is not taken orally, its effect on serum DHT may be less, according to this study, thus potentially reducing the unwanted sexual side effects. 

In another study comparing minoxidil 3% vs Minoxidil 3% fortified with topical finasteride, the authors stated that global photographic assessment showed significantly greater improvement in the group where minoxidil was fortified with finasteride compared to minoxidil alone by itself5. More importantly, at 24 weeks, the authors concluded that using topical .1% finasteride did not show any sexual side effects. 

Topical Finasteride has clinically proven, evidence-based, scientific data to show its efficacy in growing hair while lowering the risk of  systemic side effects since it is not taken orally. Topical Finasteride is a compounded medication that is prescribed by a doctor. Sometimes it is used alone by itself or it can be fortified with other medications such as Minoxidil, Retinoic Acid etc. to boost efficacy.  

References:

1. Comparing the therapeutic effects of finasteride gel and tablet in treatment of the androgenetic alopecia. Hajheydari Z1, Akbari J, Saeedi M, Shokoohi L.; Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2009 Jan-Feb;75(1):47-51.

2. Topical minoxidil fortified with finasteride: An account of maintenance of hair density after replacing oral finasteride.; Chandrashekar BS1, Nandhini T1, Vasanth V1, Sriram R1, Navale S1. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2015 Jan-Feb;6(1):17-20. doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.148925.

3. A Systematic Review of Topical Finasteride in the Treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia in Men and Women.Lee SW, Juhasz M, Mobasher P, Ekelem C, Mesinkovska NA.; J Drugs Dermatol. 2018 Apr 1;17(4):457-463.

4.  Effects of a novel finasteride 0.25% topical solution on scalp and serum dihydrotestosterone in healthy men with androgenetic alopecia. Caserini M, Radicioni M, Leuratti C, Terragni E, Iorizzo M, Palmieri R.; Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2016 Jan;54(1):19-27.

5. Efficacy and safety of 3% minoxidil versus combined 3% minoxidil / 0.1% finasteride in male pattern hair loss: a randomized, double-blind, comparative study. Tanglertsampan C1.; J Med Assoc Thai. 2012 Oct;95(10):1312-6.

Disclaimer: The content/images on this video are not a guarantee of individual results. Individual results may vary. The information provided is for general information and educations purposes only and does not replace a need for a formal consultation.

The information in this article does not constitute medical advice and should only be used for informational purposes only. The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice and please do not rely on this information to make medical decisions. Please make sure to discuss the risks and benefits of any treatment with your medical doctor before beginning treatment.