Finasteride vs Minoxidil : What works better on hair growth

About Dr Jaspreet Sarna
Dr. Sarna is an MD (Skin & VD) and Gold Medalist from Baroda Medical College. She has a decade long experience in treating hair loss and working on hair regrowth. She believes stress management is the key to good health.
If you are wondering which one is better minoxidil or finasteride, this blog is for you. From the differences of both these drugs to their effectiveness, we have discussed everything in this blog.
Finasteride vs Minoxidil : What works better on hair growth

Finasteride and minoxidil are the two most popular hair loss treatment drugs. Both these treatments are backed up by science and have been there as a reliable hair loss solution. Finasteride and minoxidil, have been used for decades and have been able to solve issues such as male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia.

Finasteride is an oral drug prescribed by doctors to shrink an enlarged prostate. It generally treats male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness by reducing the level of DHT or Dihydrotestosterone. This drug protects the hair follicles from the attack of the hormone, curbing hair loss.

Finasteride works on DHT and therefore won’t target other forms of hair loss such as hair loss due to stress, medication, hypothyroidism, or hair loss due to chemotherapy.  

Both finasteride and minoxidil promote hair growth, but finasteride is more like a DHT blocker and thus does not provide a permanent cure for male baldness. That means, if you stop taking finasteride, hair loss will resume. Finasteride comes in the form of tablets, and it does not work locally on the body to promote hair growth on the scalp but has a more systematic approach throughout the entire body.

So what is minoxidil? Minoxidil is actually a vasodilator, which makes the blood vessel wider to increase the flow of blood on the scalp. Minoxidil is available as an over the counter drug and is available in the forms of different shampoos, serums, and foams. Minoxidil is meant for both men and women; however, it cannot treat postpartum thinning of hair. Often sold under the name Rogaine, minoxidil works by stimulating the shrunken hair follicles. It increases the blood flow of the scalp and helps the strands to increase in size and diameter.

Minoxidil is available in 2% and 5% solutions, and they help reinvigorate the hair growth cycle and promote thicker hair growth. Finasteride and minoxidil come in different dosage forms, and it is important to use both these drugs as recommended to get the benefits. But before using any of these or both the medications, you must understand how finasteride and minoxidil work. They both also carry some side effects, which we shall discuss going forward in this blog. Also, to understand which is better, minoxidil or finasteride, you can decide for yourself once you understand how finasteride and minoxidil works.

How Does Minoxidil Work?

Even though both finasteride and minoxidil promote hair growth, technically, minoxidil does not stop hair loss. It actually promotes hair growth by causing the telogen phase, where the hair in the resting phase sheds off. Minoxidil then helps replace them with new hair, and that growing phase is called anagen. Minoxidil, as we discussed earlier, is a vasodilator that you can get over the counter. According to researchers, the minoxidil works by widening the blood vessels inside the scalp and increasing the rate of blood flow to your hair follicles.

 As the anagen phase hair replaces your telogen phase, your new hair might appear thicker and denser. Minoxidil in the process interrupts your hair growth cycle, which might cause you to shed a bit more than regular hair during the first few months of use. These are side effects of minoxidil that you might experience, 

Minoxidil cannot affect your DHT level anyway. That means it cannot protect your hair from the attack of DHT. That said, for many, minoxidil has proved to promote hair growth and target the thinning area of your scalp and make it appear fuller with fewer hair loss issues.

How Does Finasteride Work?

As we have already discussed above how DHT is the main cause responsible for shrinking your hair follicles and causing male pattern baldness. Finasteride and minoxidil are effective to treat male and female hair loss issues. Finasteride stops the testosterone from converting into DHT, reduces the DHT levels, and prevents this hormone from sticking to your hair follicles and causing damage.

Finasteride belongs to a class of medications called 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors. When you use it as a hair loss treatment, it works by blocking the effects of the 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors. The 5-alpha-reductase is responsible for the conversion of testosterone into DHT within the body. Finasteride works to block the effects of this as a hair loss treatment.

It is one of the most recommended treatments to prevent male pattern baldness. It protects the current baldness from worsening and protects your existing hair. Both finasteride and minoxidil act to prevent hair loss. Still, while minoxidil works more like a growth agent for your hair, finasteride can shield and protect the hair follicles in your scalp from being exposed to the adverse effects of DHT. 

A long term study found that everyday use of finasteride prevented male pattern baldness from getting worse in more than ninety-nine men and improved hair growth in more than ninety-one percent of men that participated in the survey.

Who Can Get Better Results from Minoxidil & Finasteride?

Finasteride and minoxidil are effective drugs that are often effective for pattern baldness in men and women alike. These drugs are safe to use alongside each other as well as with other shampoos and hair treatments. Finasteride and minoxidil may help slow down the male and female pattern baldness. In some cases, it may also help in hair regrowth.

Now that finasteride and minoxidil topical solution can help in hair regrowth or curb hair loss issues, these drugs, mostly finasteride, can cause sexual side effects such as reduced sexual desire and decreased semen. In worst cases, finasteride may also lead to excessive hair regrowth.

Several studies have shown that minoxidil has been effective in encouraging hair growth and preventing hair loss. Researchers have found that around ninety-seven percent of men that have been struggling with baldness have used minoxidil and saw noticeable changes and improvement in hair growth and did not experience any worse cases of hair loss.

Who Can Use Minoxidil?

Both the finasteride and minoxidil are backed up by scientific evidence and formula. Minoxidil is used to slow balding and stimulate hair growth. It is most effective for people below forty years of age who have recently gone through hair loss. Minoxidil is a drug that has no effect on receding hairline and does not cure baldness. If you stop taking the drug, the hair loss problem will resume again.

The most common form of minoxidil is Rogaine, which is usually considered safe by medical practitioners unless you experience major issues such as irritation, scalp issues, etc. Adding to this, individuals who are less than eighteen years of age should never use minoxidil. Finasteride and minoxidil do not work for everyone. Minoxidil works best for young men who have just started experiencing hair loss. Minoxidil will not show any impressive results for someone who has already lost a major chunk of hair and has been bald. This means, a completely bald person will not be able to regrow his hair using minoxidil.

Who Can Use Finasteride?

Finasteride tablets or solutions are meant for men only. They should never be used by women and children. Before taking finasteride medication, it is best to discuss with your doctor if you have any other medical issues or are on a different medication for hair growth. Men usually use finasteride with an enlarged prostate. Even though finasteride and minoxidil serve the same purpose, finasteride is available only with a doctor’s prescription.

Women should be cautious and never use finasteride. The effect can be so adverse on women that if a woman is pregnant or trying to get pregnant, she should not even touch crushed finasteride tablets, as it can harm the baby. Between finasteride and minoxidil, the former works diligently to block the DHT that causes male pattern baldness. Men with mild to moderate but not one suffering from complete baldness should use finasteride for best results.

Finasteride vs Minoxidil Dosage for Hair Growth 

There’s always been arguments of finasteride vs minoxidil, as to which is better, minoxidil or finasteride. While minoxidil and finasteride topical solution uses are different, they aim to solve the nearly the same problem. Both finasteride and minoxidil come in very different dosages. To reap out the best results from finasteride and minoxidil, it is recommended that you use the dosage accurately, as instructed by your doctor.

Minoxidil is available in two forms: as a foam and as a topical solution. The application process takes a few minutes:

  1. Before applying minoxidil to the affected area, make sure the area is completely dry.
  2. Using the dropper provided, fill 1ml of minoxidil and apply on the affected area of the scalp. A regular dosage of minoxidil should be applied twice a day, usually in the morning and before bed.
  3. Using your fingers, rub the solution on your scalp and once done, wash your fingers thoroughly. Then put the cap back on the bottle.

If your minoxidil is in the foam form:

  1. Make sure your hair is completely dry.
  2. Hold the can upside down and press the nozzle to dispense half a cupful of foam onto your fingers.
  3. Apply the foam on your scalp using your fingers, and then wash your hand thoroughly.

For finasteride, a lower dosage of 1 mg per day is okay. The 5 mg version of finasteride is designed to treat prostate enlargement and is not meant for hair loss. Irrespective of which kind of finasteride you use, the results will not be immediate.

Finasteride and minoxidil may not work for all. It is not like hair serum benefits and may not work the same for everyone. For some, these drugs may show quick results, while for some, it will show slow results.

Finasteride vs Minoxidil Side Effects

Finasteride and minoxidil have some common side effects that you may start observing once you use the medications. Some of the minoxidil and finasteride topical solution side effects include:

  • Dryness
  • Itchiness
  • Flaking
  • Burning irritation
  • More hair loss than usual
  • Mood swings
  • Erectile dysfunction etc.

While most of these side effects will fade away after some time, some might need medical help. It is important to consult your doctor if you see any side effects while using finasteride and minoxidil.

Can Finasteride & Minoxidil Be Used Together?

Yes, you can use finasteride and minoxidil together using different mechanisms, and they are safe. Several studies put forth that using both finasteride and minoxidil together as a combination is more effective and result yielding. A recent study found that using both finasteride and minoxidil together and regularly has helped to maintain a good hair density level. 

Finasteride and minoxidil work differently, which is why there should be no issues. Finasteride works as a topical vasodilator and finasteride as a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor that triggers DHT. Both these medications work differently on the body, and hence there is no problem using them together.

Conclusion: Finasteride vs Minoxidil - Which is Better?

Finasteride and minoxidil both work for different purposes on your body. While both aim to reduce hair loss and stimulate hair growth, one is to be applied topically while the other works on correcting hormonal issues right at its roots. Many doctors will recommend finasteride as the first line of medication for hair loss as it works by preventing DHT production. You might want to add minoxidil along with finasteride for better results. 

Both finasteride and minoxidil are powerful drugs and hence are not free of side effects. But if you want to switch to something natural like hair fall shampoo, hair serum benefits etc., you can try Traya’s extensive collection of natural hair care range. The brand also offers minoxidil 5% and minoxidil 2%

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