Propecia Results

By the age of 50, 30 to 50 percent of men will be affected by male-pattern hair loss to one degree or another. This figure continues to grow as you age, and if you have someone in your family who has the condition then your odds drastically increase.

This condition and its accompanying symptoms can be frustrating and emotionally draining, but fortunately there are medications available to treat it.

Propecia is one such medication, and the results experienced by thousands of men may be enough to convince you of its benefits.

In this post, I’ll first introduce Male-Pattern Baldness (MPB) and its cause. I’ll then discuss Propecia and the role it may play in treatment. This will include a look at some of the most thorough scientific trials performed on the drug.

I’ll then outline the results you might expect to see from Propecia, how long these results may take, and how you can increase the odds of the drug working for you.

An Introduction to Male-Pattern Hair Loss

Before we discuss Propecia in more depth, it’s crucial that you first understand the condition that the drug claims to treat.

Male-Pattern Baldness (MPB), also known as Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), is a hereditary condition. It leads to progressive thinning and hair loss and, eventually, complete baldness.

But aside from genetics, what is the cause of the condition?

While scientists have formed many theories over the years, there are just a few which have stood the test of time.

The most commonly held belief is men and women with AGA are sensitive to the androgen hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). When DHT binds to androgen receptors on the hair follicles, this triggers inflammation and miniaturization of the hair follicle.

What is Propecia?

Propecia is a drug (generic name of finasteride) that was first developed for the treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia under the name of Proscar. This is a condition in which the prostate is unusually large and leads to symptoms including difficulty urinating and incomplete emptying of the bladder. What researchers discovered during initial trials, though, was that finasteride had the unusual side effect of hair growth. This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, however, because DHT plays a role in both AGA and BPH.

How Does It Work?

In simplest terms, finasteride works by indirectly reducing the amount of DHT that is produced within the body. It does so by inhibiting an enzyme – 5-alpha-reductase – that is critical for the conversion of testosterone to DHT.

For hair loss sufferers who treat their condition with finasteride, the sensitivity to DHT remains. However, the drug reduces the amount of DHT that is present within the scalp.

Can Propecia Effectively Treat Androgenetic Alopecia?

There’s no doubt that the science behind Propecia’s use as a hair loss treatment is promising. Let’s look more closely at just a few of these studies.

Study: Finasteride in the treatment of men with androgenetic alopecia (1998)

The first study to determine the long-term effects of finasteride use was published in 1998, just one year after Propecia was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The study was split into two parts.

The first part consisted of 1,553 men between the ages of 18 to 41 years of age with male pattern hair loss. These men were split into groups, with one receiving oral finasteride 1mg per day and the other receiving a placebo. The researchers determined efficacy by evaluating scalp hair counts, collecting patient and investigator assessments, and using an expert panel to review photographs. As was expected, the group of men to receive the placebo treatment continued to see hair loss throughout the study. But clinically significant increases in hair count were noted at the end of the first one-year period.

How significant?

The baseline hair count was an average of 876. This increased by 107 hairs at the vertex of the scalp. The second half of the study followed immediately from the first. It consisted of 1,215 of the men from the previous one-year study. Even at the two-year mark, the men who were receiving finasteride 1mg per day saw increases when compared to the placebo group. More specifically, hair count increased by 138 when compared to baseline. Perhaps best of all, adverse effects were minimal. These included excess growth of body hair and a decrease in libido.

Propecia Results: What You Can Expect

When starting a new hair loss treatment, it’s common to hope to see results right away. Unfortunately, this is never the case. Just as you didn’t lose your hair overnight, so too are you not going to regrow it. But the earlier you begin intervention, the better. So, what time frame can you expect when you start finasteride treatment?

You will likely begin to notice changes in your hair within three to four months of use. These include a significant decrease in shedding, and perhaps even new hairs along the hairline. However, it can take even longer (probably an additional four to six months) to begin to see regrowth and fuller hair coverage. As the numerous studies on the topic have outlined, hair growth tends to peak at the one-year mark. By continuing the drug, though, you can prevent hair loss from reoccurring.

Side Effects of Propecia Use

As with any medication, there is always risk of side effects. As mentioned above, adverse reactions are known to occur in men who take finasteride to treat hair loss. The risk is relatively low, however. But what side effects should you be aware of? The most common side effects of finasteride treatment are sexual in nature.

A review study published in 2003 shows that the most common side effects are problems relating to ejaculation (2.1 – 7.7 percent), difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection (4.9 – 15.8 percent), and loss of libido (3.1 – 5.4 percent). For some men, these side effects improve over time. In others, they may only resolve after they’ve stopped taking the drug.

Other side effects are often mild in nature and include dizziness, lightheadedness, unusual weight gain or loss, and tingling of the hands and feet.

Complications of Long-Term Use

As evidenced by the studies mentioned above, finasteride is not known to have caused any long-term complications for users of the drug. In fact, side effects have been known to lessen over time or even disappear completely.


The brand name drug Propecia, also known by its generic form of finasteride, is the most commonly prescribed drug for the treatment of male-pattern hair loss. This means there is much scientific proof to back its claims.

So, is Propecia right for you?

This will depend on many factors, including your overall health status and the current state of your hair. Propecia has been shown to significantly reduce (or even stop) shedding and, in some cases, it can regrow hair that’s been lost. But it doesn’t work for everyone. To learn more about Propecia and the results you might expect, speak with your doctor. And if you have any questions about the topics covered above, please leave them below.

About Brandon Ross MD