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For men or those assigned male at birth, hair loss is very common. In fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, more than 50 percent over age 50 will be affected by male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, in one way or another.

It’s no wonder, then, that there are so many products and treatments designed to help with male hair loss. One of the most popular and effective medications is Propecia (the brand name of the drug finasteride).

Propecia is a brand name for the generic drug finasteride, which is a prescription-only oral tablet taken daily to slow down hair loss in men. It’s important to know that the drug cannot prevent male pattern hair loss, and it cannot regrow hair that has been permanently lost — instead, it stops hair loss in its tracks.

In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved finasteride to treat male pattern hair loss. Though research suggests it’s an effective treatment, there are people who are unable to overcome some of the drug’s side effects, such as lower libido, erectile dysfunction, and decreased volume of semen.

Since June 2022, the FDA has also required a disclosure that the drug could increase the risk of depression or suicidal behavior.


  • It’s efficient: People who have consistently used the medication found that it slowed down hair loss and thickened thinning hair.
  • Some have noticed more hair on top of their head: This is due to rejuvenation of dormant follicles.
  • Works well for slowing down male pattern baldness: While it can impact any place you have hair, it’s been well studied for this type of hair loss.
  • Should notice a benefit starting after 3 months: You’ll start seeing it working as long as you take it consistently, once a day, as directed by your doctor.


  • There may be sexual side effects: These include diminished sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and a decreased semen volume.
  • It requires consistent use: Once you start taking the pill daily, you have to continue taking it to see results.
  • There may also be mood side effects: Some users have reported depression as a common side effect. It can also increase the risk of suicidal ideation.
  • Not safe for people who are pregnant or children: According to the drug’s prescribing information, the drug is not intended for use in women and children.

The conversion of testosterone to androgen dihydrotestosterone is blocked by the use of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase.

Testosterone is a hormone that’s present in both men and women, though men typically have more testosterone present in their bodies. According to the Society for Endocrinology, about 10 percent of testosterone in all adults is converted to DHT. Testosterone contributes to growth of body hair.

The FDA approved the hair loss treatment for men. It is best used for men with crown thinning or baldness.

Along with other preventive hair loss treatments, such as shampoos and other treatments, Propecia can be used.

The drug is not recommended for women of childbearing capacity because of the risk of fetal birth defects.

It’s important to note that, according to limited research, women who experienced hair loss after menopause have found success in using Propecia.

You cannot buy the drug over the counter like a minoxidil treatment like Rogaine because it is prescription only. Unlike Propecia, which is taken on the tongue, the treatment called Rogaine is a cream that dilates blood vessels in the head to help with hair growth.

Those who are unable or unwilling to take it on the pill can be compounded with finasteride.

If you’re interested in taking Propecia as a hair loss treatment, you’ll need to talk with your doctor to see if it’s the right treatment plan for you. If you’re looking for an online prescription, you can get generic finasteride via Hims and other telehealth platforms, which require virtual consultations.

Propecia is not usually covered by insurance and can cost around $70 a month, according to GoodRx. However, if you’re looking to save, you can pick up finasteride, which could be covered by insurance and costs as little as $10 a month.

A 2020 report points out that a finasteride patient noticed mood swings and sexual dysfunction, including low libido, difficulty achieving an orgasm, and overall loss of interest in sex. But the study also points out that overall, the drug is generally well tolerated.

The 2020 report states that the sexual side effects will most likely stop once you stop taking the drug, but depression and anxiety can occur even after you stop taking it.

Post-finasteride syndrome (PFS) has also been reported in some users. It occurs in men who have taken finasteride orally and is often characterized by sexual dysfunction, somatic symptoms, and psychological disorders that persist after finasteride treatment has ended.

There are generally mixed reviews of Propecia. Negative side effects of the drug include weight gain, brain fog, and low libido, according to reviewers who gave the drug a lower rating. Those who rate Propecia higher than average wrote about how impressed they were with its effectiveness.

Reviewers gave the drug a rating of 50 percent. They typically discussed the negative side effects, but they did not outweigh the improvement in the thickness of their hair.

Many people who took Propecia switched to generic finasteride since it was cheaper.

Both drugs target hair loss in men. The brand name for minoxidil is Rogaine. Both of the drugs work in different ways to produce the same results.

The two treatments for hair loss are the oral pill Propecia and the cream Rogaine. This increases the blood flow and brings oxygen and vitamins to the hairs, which allows them to grow stronger, faster, and thicker. The process creates a nurturing environment for hair growth.

Lastly, Rogaine can be bought over the counter (OTC), typically costing about $45 for a 3-month supply, while Propecia requires a prescription.

In addition to taking medication like Propecia, there are some things you can do to try to minimize hair loss, including:

  1. Be gentle with your hair: Generally, your hair can handle you tying it up out of your face, but if you consistently tie it into tight braids or use heat-styling tools like curling irons or straighteners every day, you’re going to start damaging it — and this can lead to hair loss.
  2. Get a good brush: Using a soft brush can help condition your hair cuticles, which ultimately can strengthen each strand, reducing the chance of breakage.
  3. Eat a nutrient-rich diet: Eat raw vegetables and fresh herbs like parsley, basil, or salad leaves, as well as foods rich in proteins (think: nuts, fish, white meat, and eggs) and vitamin A like spinach and sweet potatoes.
  4. Use mild shampoo: Try to avoid shampoos with harsh ingredients like sulfates, which can dry out or damage your hair. Instead, look for ingredients like coconut oil, which can strengthen your hair.
  5. Do not over-wash your hair: It can harm your hair and can eventually contribute to hair loss.
  6. Avoid bleaching your hair: These harsh chemicals can damage your hair over time, splitting the keratin molecules.
  7. Consider low-level light therapy: Low-level light therapy can help boost cell growth and repair.

Genetics, aging, and thyroid issues can cause hair loss.

Does Propecia work for hair loss?

Overall, yes. Doctors agree and studies support the claims that Propecia works to slow down hair loss. But it cannot regrow hair that has already been permanently lost.

Can women take Propecia?

Since it is only approved for men, women should not take it.

However, Propecia has been given to postmenopausal women off-label, but there is limited evidence regarding its efficacy (effectiveness), and more research is required to further study this off-label use.

Before taking Propecia, you should consult a healthcare professional.

The potential of sexual side effects like diminished sexual drive, decrease in erections, and a decrease in semen volume can be concerning for some people. Some people may decide not to take any medication in this class due to the possible adverse outcomes.

Research and anecdotal responses show that Propecia can increase the likelihood of thicker hair over time.

Emily Rekstis is a New York City-based beauty and lifestyle writer who writes for many publications, including Greatist, Racked, and Self. If she’s not writing at her computer, you can probably find her watching a mob movie, eating a burger, or reading an NYC history book. See more of her work on her website, or follow her on Twitter.