The Facts about Hair Restoration Medications

At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we utilize all of the latest and most advanced hair loss treatments, from sophisticated non-surgical techniques like platelet rich plasma and red light laser therapy to surgical hair transplantation that consistently achieves exceptionally natural looking results.  However, just because there are so many new options available does not mean that we have discarded the treatments that have proven effective for decades.  In fact, the hair loss medications minoxidil (Rogaine®) and finasteride (Propecia® or Proscar®) have been integral to many of our hair restoration and maintenance plans since they were first made available.  Here are the basic facts you need to know about these remarkable hair restoration medications.

The Facts about Hair Restoration MedicationsWHAT medications can treat hair loss?

There are currently only two medications that are FDA approved for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia, or common genetic pattern hair loss: minoxidil and finasteride.  Minoxidil, which is sold under the brand name Rogaine®, is a topical solution that typically must be applied directly to the scalp twice each day.  Finasteride, which was originally developed as a treatment for an enlarged prostate and is sold in two strengths under the brand names Propecia® and Proscar®, is a pill that needs to be taken orally once each day.  However, at the Griffin Center, we can also mix finasteride with other prescription medications into a topical compound that can be specifically formulated to meet individual patients’ needs.  Since every patient is unique and the medications work differently to address the symptoms and underlying causes of hair loss, we feel that customized compounds can often achieve the best results.

HOW do hair loss medications work?

Genetic pattern hair loss occurs when hair follicles in specific regions of the patient’s scalp have inherited a sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (or DHT), a by-product of the androgen testosterone.  In these patients, exposure to DHT, which occurs naturally in the bodies of both men and women, causes the hair follicles to shrink, gradually producing finer and more delicate hairs until they stop producing hair altogether.  Minoxidil, a vasodilator, increases the size of shrunken hair follicles and keeps them in the anagen (or growth) phase longer, effectively counteracting the typical progression of androgenetic alopecia.  Conversely, finasteride works directly on the underlying cause of hair loss by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, a chemical that plays a key role in converting testosterone to DHT.

WHO can use hair loss medications?

Although both minoxidil and finasteride have been proven to be generally safe and effective for those suffering from genetic pattern hair loss, they are not necessarily suitable for use in all cases.  In some patients, minoxidil can cause minor side effects like itching, redness, and (very rarely) allergic reactions.  More significantly, because finasteride works by altering hormone levels, it is not FDA approved for use on women who are pregnant or who are trying to conceive, although it can be used to treat women who are past child-bearing age or who are not interested in becoming pregnant.  Although it is an off-label treatment for women, its use has been widely studied.  In a very small percentage of patients, finasteride can also cause sexual side effects or swelling in the hands, feet, or breasts, and there have been reports of depression in some males taking finasteride as well.  Ultimately a doctor who has experience treating hair loss, like Dr. Edmond Griffin or Dr. Ashley Curtis, can go over the options and determine, after a careful examination, what treatments are right for you.

At The Griffin Center, we usually incorporate one or both of these hair loss medications into a patient’s long term hair maintenance plan, as they are particularly effective at preventing the progression of hair loss and helping patients keep the hair that they have.  Our pharmacist can even create specially-blended topical medications that are custom formulated to an individual patient’s needs.  If you have concerns that you or someone you love may be suffering from hair loss, and would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Griffin or Dr. Curtis to help understand your options, please contact The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration or The Griffin Center for Women’s Hair Loss.  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get the latest news in hair restoration and research.