Finasteride vs Minoxidil

Finasteride vs Minoxidil

Finasteride and Minoxidil are two of the most popular treatments for hair loss, according to the NHS,  particularly for men with male pattern baldness1.

Both of these treatments have been around for a while now, but they work in completely different ways2. One of the most common questions asked about them is  ‘which is the most effective?’.

So, to help those who are considering these hair loss treatments, in this post we’ve explained more about how Finasteride and Minoxidil work, the similarities and differences between the two and whether or not one is more effective than the other.

Minoxidil vs Finasteride: What’s the difference?

The physical difference between the two is that Minoxidil is a topical treatment that’s typically available as a liquid or a foam that you apply to the scalp, usually twice a day. It’s also the main ingredient in the product Regaine. Finasteride on the other hand – sometimes referred to by the brand name Propecia – which is typically taken orally, but is also available topically as a liquid.

However, as mentioned above, these treatments work in different ways. To get a better understanding, let’s look at each in isolation:

How Minoxidil works

Minoxidil is a ‘vasodilator’,3 this means that it works to widen blood vessels and increase blood flow. So, when this is applied to your scalp, it encourages a strong blood flow to your hair follicles, in turn this nourishes them with more oxygen and nutrients, promoting the growth of stronger hair.

It doesn’t actually stop you from losing your hair, but instead it makes your hairs enter their rest stage of the hair cycle – also known as the telogen phase – causing them to shed and be replaced by the stronger, healthier strands.4 It also extends the growth phase for each follicle. This eventually leads to a fuller, thicker-looking head of hair, but it may take around three to six months before you start to notice any visible results.

So far there isn’t any strong scientific evidence that Minoxidil can completely regrow hair in areas where you have lost it.5 Also, if you stop using Minoxidil you will start losing your hair again.

You can learn more about Minoxidil and how it works in our other guide here.

How Finasteride works

Finasteride helps to prevent your hair loss by acting as a ‘DHT blocker’.6 In other words, it stops your testosterone from being made into dihydrotestosterone, which is the sex hormone that binds to your hair follicles and shrinks and damages them – which is a root cause of male pattern baldness. The NHS offers advice on the use of finasteride and, as you might be able to guess, this treatment is only available for men.

Once your hair is unaffected by DHT it will start to grow back thicker, however, like Minoxidil, it will not cure baldness and only works on the healthy follicles that remain on your scalp. It typically takes around six to nine months to see visible results.7 What’s more, you have to keep taking your daily tablet to inhibit your increase of DHT and subsequent hair loss.

Can both be taken together?

As the two treatments both work in different ways, you are able to take them both at the same time if you wish. Some also believe that by doing so you can even improve the chances of regrowth. For example, this 2015 study8 – which looked at the success of combining the two treatments – saw strong results with over 80% of the patients involved seeing and maintaining a ‘good hair density’.

Which is better?

If you were to judge each treatment purely on its potential to prevent hair loss, then Finasteride would be classed as the better option9 – especially as male pattern baldness is something that affects a large number of men. That being said, if you were to judge the treatments against the quality of regrowth10, the science would suggest Minoxidil is the better option.

So in the end, the ‘better’ treatment between Finasteride and Minoxidil is going to be the one that best suits your particular needs. You might also choose to use both treatments at the same time to help maximise the potential for positive results in combating your hair loss. However, the decision you take should always be guided by your hair loss consultant or medical expert.

Expert advice is the best option

In either case, the best thing to do is to seek the advice of an expert who can guide you towards the right treatment. In addition, you could consider taking the scientifically validated Fagron TrichoTest™, as this specialist test analyses your different gene variations and lifestyle factors to determine what’s causing your hair loss.

What’s more, the results from this test can be used to recommend personalised hair loss treatments for your hair loss consultant, trichologist or advisor – which may well include Finasteride, Minoxidil or a combination of the two.

To find out more about this or to book a test click here.


The Trichotest Team
[email protected]
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