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Hair Loss: Should I Take Medicine to Regrow Hair?

Hair Loss: Should I Take Medicine to Regrow Hair?

You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Hair Loss: Should I Take Medicine to Regrow Hair?

Get the facts

Your options

  • Use medicine to help stop hair loss and possibly regrow new hair.
  • Do not use medicine to treat hair loss.

This decision aid is about whether to use medicine to treat hair loss. It doesn't discuss hair transplant surgery.

Key points to remember

  • Treatment with medicines may slow hair loss and help to regrow hair. But you may not get as much hair growth as you expect.
  • You must keep taking the medicine, or any regrown hair will fall out.
  • Your insurance probably will not cover the medicine, and the medicines can be costly.
  • It may be very dangerous to take these medicines if you are pregnant or have certain health conditions, such as heart problems.
  • You may feel that the possibility of regrowing hair and feeling better about how you look is more important than the limitations of hair loss treatment.
FAQs

What medicines are available to treat inherited hair loss?

Medicines to treat hair loss caused by heredity include:

  • Minoxidil. Minoxidil (Rogaine) is available without a prescription. You spray or rub it into your scalp 2 times a day. It can be used by both men and women.
  • Finasteride. Finasteride (Propecia) is available by prescription. It's a pill that you take once a day. Finasteride is not effective in postmenopausal women. 1 Finasteride should never be taken or handled by women who are or may become pregnant, because it can cause birth defects.

Medicine for treating inherited hair loss slows thinning of the hair and increases coverage of the scalp by growing new hair. It also thickens the shafts of your existing hair so that it grows in thicker.

With these medicines, hair coverage tends to improve on the top of the head but not on the forehead area.

How effective are these medicines in treating inherited hair loss?

How well finasteride or minoxidil works depends on your age and the location of the hair loss. These medicines don't work for everyone, and you should not expect to regrow a full head of hair.

Both medicines must be used daily. It may take 6 months of treatment before you see results.

These medicines slow thinning of the hair and increase coverage of the scalp by growing new hair. They also thicken the shafts of your existing hair so that it grows in thicker. If you stop using the medicine, any hair that has grown in will gradually be lost. Within 6 to 12 months after you stop using the medicine, your scalp will most likely look the same as it did before treatment.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil slows hair loss and grows new hair. In men, the 5% solution appears to be more effective than the 2% solution, but it costs more and may have more side effects.

Minoxidil seems to work best on people younger than 30 years of age who have been losing hair for less than 5 years. 2

Finasteride

Finasteride is recognized as a successful therapy for inherited hair loss for men. Research reports that it slows hair loss on the scalp and helps regrow hair. 2 But bald spots may not be completely covered, and it may take from a few months to a year before you see results.

What are the side effects of these medicines?

Side effects of minoxidil include skin irritation, dandruff, and an itchy scalp. In women, minoxidil may cause facial hair growth, especially on the forehead and cheeks. If you have heart problems, ask your doctor before you use this medicine.

Finasteride should not be taken or handled by women who are or may become pregnant, because it can cause birth defects. Possible side effects in men include sexual problems, such as trouble getting an erection.

What are the disadvantages of using these medicines?

The disadvantages of using these medicines for hair loss include the following:

  • The medicines may not work. You should not expect to regrow a full head of hair. It may take from a few months to a year before you see results.
  • You must take the medicine every day. If you stop, any regrown hair will fall out, and you will end up with the same amount of hair you had when you started treatment.
  • The medicines are costly and usually aren't covered by insurance.

What are the risks of not using these medicines?

There are no risks to your health if you decide not to use medicine for hair loss. But some people may be bothered by hair loss that they feel has affected their appearance.

If you don't use medicine, your hair loss will probably continue. But medicine doesn't always work, and hair loss may continue despite treatment with medicine.

Compare your options

Compare

What is usually involved?









What are the benefits?









What are the risks and side effects?









Treat hair loss with medicine Treat hair loss with medicine
  • You take or apply medicine every day to stop hair loss and to try to regrow hair.
  • Medicine can stop hair loss and may lead to new hair growth. This may help some people feel better about the way they look.
  • Finasteride should not be taken or handled by women who are or may become pregnant. It can cause birth defects. Side effects in men may include sexual problems.
  • Side effects of minoxidil include skin irritation, dandruff, and an itchy scalp. In women, minoxidil may cause facial hair growth.
  • Hair loss medicines may have serious side effects when taken with other medicines or if you are pregnant or have health conditions such as a heart problem.
  • The medicine may not work.
  • It can take a few months or a year to see any results.
  • If you stop taking the medicine, the regrown hair will fall out, and you will end up with the same amount of hair you had when you started treatment.
Don't treat hair loss with medicine Don't treat hair loss with medicine
  • You do nothing to treat the hair loss, or you think about other choices, such as surgery or hairpieces.
  • You won't have to pay for medicine to treat the hair loss.
  • You won't have the risk of side effects from the medicine.
  • You may continue to lose your hair. This may affect the way you feel about the way you look.

Personal stories

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

Personal stories about treating hair loss with medicine

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

My father and grandfather are both bald. I decided to use Rogaine to see if it would slow down my hair loss. I don't want to look like my dad just yet!

Johan, age 28

My hair began to thin when I was 28 years old. Now I am 44 and the top of my head is bald. Recently, I considered using medicine to treat my hair loss and see if any hair would regrow. After reading the literature and talking to my doctor, I decided not to take medicine because it is unlikely to make a huge difference in my hair—and I don't want to take medicine forever!

Bob, age 44

My hair is very important to me and my appearance. I noticed that my hair was starting to thin. And because baldness runs in our family, I decided to take an aggressive approach to reduce my chances for more hair loss. I am willing to take a pill every day, and to pay for it.

Marc, age 32

I have noticed some thinning throughout my scalp. Although this is disturbing to me, I have decided not to take medicine for the hair loss. It seems that medicine works best for young males. So now I'm checking out hair transplant surgery. I think that in the long run, I may be happier with the results.

Stella, age 38

What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to use medicine for inherited hair loss

Reasons not to use medicine for inherited hair loss

My hair loss causes me a lot of stress or unhappiness.

My hair loss doesn't bother me too much.

More important
Equally important
More important

I am willing to pay for the treatment over the long term.

I do not want to pay for treatment over the long term.

More important
Equally important
More important

I realize that the treatment may not work for me, but I want to try it anyway.

I don't want to try the treatment if there is a chance it won't work.

More important
Equally important
More important

I will be happy if I can stop the hair loss and some hair grows back.

Using medicine will only be worth it to me if I will have a full head of hair.

More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

More important
Equally important
More important

Where are you leaning now?

Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Taking medicine to treat the hair loss.

NOT taking medicine to treat the hair loss.

Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1.

If I use medicine to treat my hair loss, I will end up with a full head of hair.

  • True No, that's not right. The medicines don't always work. And if they do, you may not get as much hair growth as you expect. Hair coverage tends to improve on the top of the head but not on the forehead area.
  • False That's right. The medicines don't always work. And if they do, you may not get as much hair growth as you expect. Hair coverage tends to improve on the top of the head but not on the forehead area.
  • I'm not sure It may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." The medicines don't always work. And if they do, you may not get as much hair growth as you expect.
2.

If I stop taking the medicine, my new hair growth will fall out.

  • True That's right. You must take the medicines every day, over the long term. Otherwise, any regrown hair will fall out, and you will end up with the same amount of hair you had when you started treatment.
  • False No, that's not right. You must take the medicines every day, over the long term. Otherwise, any regrown hair will fall out, and you will end up with the same amount of hair you had when you started treatment.
  • I'm not sure It may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." You must take the medicines every day, over the long term. Otherwise, any regrown hair will fall out.
3.

I should check with my doctor before I take hair loss medicines.

  • True That's right. You should talk with your doctor before you take hair loss medicines. These medicines may cause serious side effects if you take them with other medicines, are pregnant, or have certain health conditions.
  • False No, that's not right. You should talk with your doctor before you take hair loss medicines. These medicines may cause serious side effects if you take them with other medicines, are pregnant, or have certain health conditions.
  • I'm not sure It may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." You should talk with your doctor before you take hair loss medicines.

Decide what's next

1.

Do you understand the options available to you?

2.

Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3.

Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1.

How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure
3.

Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

Your Summary

Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.

Your decision  

Next steps

Which way you're leaning

How sure you are

Your comments

Your knowledge of the facts  

Key concepts that you understood

Key concepts that may need review

Getting ready to act  

Patient choices

Credits and References

Credits
Author Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

References
Citations
  1. Unger WP, et al. (2010). Androgenetic alopecia. In MG Lebwohl et al., eds., Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies, 3rd ed., pp. 36–38. Edinburgh: Saunders Elsevier.
  2. Habif TP (2010). Hair diseases. In Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 5th ed., pp. 913–935. Edinburgh: Mosby Elsevier.
You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Hair Loss: Should I Take Medicine to Regrow Hair?

Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.
  1. Get the facts
  2. Compare your options
  3. What matters most to you?
  4. Where are you leaning now?
  5. What else do you need to make your decision?

1. Get the Facts

Your options

  • Use medicine to help stop hair loss and possibly regrow new hair.
  • Do not use medicine to treat hair loss.

This decision aid is about whether to use medicine to treat hair loss. It doesn't discuss hair transplant surgery.

Key points to remember

  • Treatment with medicines may slow hair loss and help to regrow hair. But you may not get as much hair growth as you expect.
  • You must keep taking the medicine, or any regrown hair will fall out.
  • Your insurance probably will not cover the medicine, and the medicines can be costly.
  • It may be very dangerous to take these medicines if you are pregnant or have certain health conditions, such as heart problems.
  • You may feel that the possibility of regrowing hair and feeling better about how you look is more important than the limitations of hair loss treatment.
FAQs

What medicines are available to treat inherited hair loss?

Medicines to treat hair loss caused by heredity include:

  • Minoxidil. Minoxidil (Rogaine) is available without a prescription. You spray or rub it into your scalp 2 times a day. It can be used by both men and women.
  • Finasteride. Finasteride (Propecia) is available by prescription. It's a pill that you take once a day. Finasteride is not effective in postmenopausal women. 1 Finasteride should never be taken or handled by women who are or may become pregnant, because it can cause birth defects.

Medicine for treating inherited hair loss slows thinning of the hair and increases coverage of the scalp by growing new hair. It also thickens the shafts of your existing hair so that it grows in thicker.

With these medicines, hair coverage tends to improve on the top of the head but not on the forehead area.

How effective are these medicines in treating inherited hair loss?

How well finasteride or minoxidil works depends on your age and the location of the hair loss. These medicines don't work for everyone, and you should not expect to regrow a full head of hair.

Both medicines must be used daily. It may take 6 months of treatment before you see results.

These medicines slow thinning of the hair and increase coverage of the scalp by growing new hair. They also thicken the shafts of your existing hair so that it grows in thicker. If you stop using the medicine, any hair that has grown in will gradually be lost. Within 6 to 12 months after you stop using the medicine, your scalp will most likely look the same as it did before treatment.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil slows hair loss and grows new hair. In men, the 5% solution appears to be more effective than the 2% solution, but it costs more and may have more side effects.

Minoxidil seems to work best on people younger than 30 years of age who have been losing hair for less than 5 years. 2

Finasteride

Finasteride is recognized as a successful therapy for inherited hair loss for men. Research reports that it slows hair loss on the scalp and helps regrow hair. 2 But bald spots may not be completely covered, and it may take from a few months to a year before you see results.

What are the side effects of these medicines?

Side effects of minoxidil include skin irritation, dandruff, and an itchy scalp. In women, minoxidil may cause facial hair growth, especially on the forehead and cheeks. If you have heart problems, ask your doctor before you use this medicine.

Finasteride should not be taken or handled by women who are or may become pregnant, because it can cause birth defects. Possible side effects in men include sexual problems, such as trouble getting an erection.

What are the disadvantages of using these medicines?

The disadvantages of using these medicines for hair loss include the following:

  • The medicines may not work. You should not expect to regrow a full head of hair. It may take from a few months to a year before you see results.
  • You must take the medicine every day. If you stop, any regrown hair will fall out, and you will end up with the same amount of hair you had when you started treatment.
  • The medicines are costly and usually aren't covered by insurance.

What are the risks of not using these medicines?

There are no risks to your health if you decide not to use medicine for hair loss. But some people may be bothered by hair loss that they feel has affected their appearance.

If you don't use medicine, your hair loss will probably continue. But medicine doesn't always work, and hair loss may continue despite treatment with medicine.

2. Compare your options

  Treat hair loss with medicine Don't treat hair loss with medicine
What is usually involved?
  • You take or apply medicine every day to stop hair loss and to try to regrow hair.
  • You do nothing to treat the hair loss, or you think about other choices, such as surgery or hairpieces.
What are the benefits?
  • Medicine can stop hair loss and may lead to new hair growth. This may help some people feel better about the way they look.
  • You won't have to pay for medicine to treat the hair loss.
  • You won't have the risk of side effects from the medicine.
What are the risks and side effects?
  • Finasteride should not be taken or handled by women who are or may become pregnant. It can cause birth defects. Side effects in men may include sexual problems.
  • Side effects of minoxidil include skin irritation, dandruff, and an itchy scalp. In women, minoxidil may cause facial hair growth.
  • Hair loss medicines may have serious side effects when taken with other medicines or if you are pregnant or have health conditions such as a heart problem.
  • The medicine may not work.
  • It can take a few months or a year to see any results.
  • If you stop taking the medicine, the regrown hair will fall out, and you will end up with the same amount of hair you had when you started treatment.
  • You may continue to lose your hair. This may affect the way you feel about the way you look.

Personal stories

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

Personal stories about treating hair loss with medicine

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

"My father and grandfather are both bald. I decided to use Rogaine to see if it would slow down my hair loss. I don't want to look like my dad just yet!"

— Johan, age 28

"My hair began to thin when I was 28 years old. Now I am 44 and the top of my head is bald. Recently, I considered using medicine to treat my hair loss and see if any hair would regrow. After reading the literature and talking to my doctor, I decided not to take medicine because it is unlikely to make a huge difference in my hair—and I don't want to take medicine forever!"

— Bob, age 44

"My hair is very important to me and my appearance. I noticed that my hair was starting to thin. And because baldness runs in our family, I decided to take an aggressive approach to reduce my chances for more hair loss. I am willing to take a pill every day, and to pay for it."

— Marc, age 32

"I have noticed some thinning throughout my scalp. Although this is disturbing to me, I have decided not to take medicine for the hair loss. It seems that medicine works best for young males. So now I'm checking out hair transplant surgery. I think that in the long run, I may be happier with the results."

— Stella, age 38

3. What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to use medicine for inherited hair loss

Reasons not to use medicine for inherited hair loss

My hair loss causes me a lot of stress or unhappiness.

My hair loss doesn't bother me too much.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I am willing to pay for the treatment over the long term.

I do not want to pay for treatment over the long term.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I realize that the treatment may not work for me, but I want to try it anyway.

I don't want to try the treatment if there is a chance it won't work.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I will be happy if I can stop the hair loss and some hair grows back.

Using medicine will only be worth it to me if I will have a full head of hair.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

   
             
More important
Equally important
More important

4. Where are you leaning now?

Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Taking medicine to treat the hair loss.

NOT taking medicine to treat the hair loss.

             
Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

5. What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1. If I use medicine to treat my hair loss, I will end up with a full head of hair.

  • True
  • False
  • I'm not sure
That's right. The medicines don't always work. And if they do, you may not get as much hair growth as you expect. Hair coverage tends to improve on the top of the head but not on the forehead area.

2. If I stop taking the medicine, my new hair growth will fall out.

  • True
  • False
  • I'm not sure
That's right. You must take the medicines every day, over the long term. Otherwise, any regrown hair will fall out, and you will end up with the same amount of hair you had when you started treatment.

3. I should check with my doctor before I take hair loss medicines.

  • True
  • False
  • I'm not sure
That's right. You should talk with your doctor before you take hair loss medicines. These medicines may cause serious side effects if you take them with other medicines, are pregnant, or have certain health conditions.

Decide what's next

1. Do you understand the options available to you?

2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

         
Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure

2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.

  • I'm ready to take action.
  • I want to discuss the options with others.
  • I want to learn more about my options.

3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

 
Credits
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

References
Citations
  1. Unger WP, et al. (2010). Androgenetic alopecia. In MG Lebwohl et al., eds., Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies, 3rd ed., pp. 36–38. Edinburgh: Saunders Elsevier.
  2. Habif TP (2010). Hair diseases. In Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 5th ed., pp. 913–935. Edinburgh: Mosby Elsevier.

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