What Happens When You Stop Taking Finasteride
Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Sheryl George
With hair loss, you always hope your hair will return to its former thicker state, but all the hope in the world usually isn’t enough — sorry. Typically, hair loss treatments are crucial for preventing a full-on Mr. Potato Head look.
If you’ve been researching finasteride for hair loss, you probably have some questions. You might be wondering how long it takes finasteride to work (typically several months). Also, what happens if you stop taking finasteride?
In this article, we’ll dive into the side effects after stopping finasteride, along with other hair loss treatments you can consider.
If you’re unsure what’s going on up top, learn more about male pattern baldness in our guide. It covers everything from root causes to treatments that address thinning hair in men.
What Happens When You Stop Taking Finasteride?
First things first: Understanding how finasteride works can help you understand the potential side effects too.
Finasteride has two FDA-approved usages. One is to help treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (aka enlarged prostate). Second, finasteride, a 5-alpha-reductase, helps promote hair growth by blocking the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT is the male sex hormone responsible for pattern hair loss. Some guys are more sensitive to DHT than others — blame that on genetics.
Currently, only two hair loss medications are FDA-approved for male pattern baldness. One is finasteride, and the other is minoxidil — we’ll get into the latter shortly.
Thankfully, studies have shown that men who take 1 milligram of finasteride for male pattern hair loss experience significant improvements in scalp hair growth, with a slowed progression of hair loss.
Participants in this study also reported that their hair quality continued to improve after one year of finasteride. Awesome, right? But it’s worth noting that these results only last while you’re on finasteride.
Once you stop taking finasteride, you can expect the hair you’ve preserved to begin falling out, just like it did before you took the medication. In other words, it only works while the drug is active in your body, meaning you’ll go back to a normal rate of hair loss once it’s excreted.
Another thing to keep in mind: While the majority of men stop having any side effects after stopping finasteride, there have been reports that a small number will continue to experience side effects after they stop taking the medication — including persistent erectile dysfunction. This is known as post-finasteride syndrome.
Note that this area of research regarding finasteride effects is ongoing, and more studies need to be done.
How Long Does Finasteride Stay in Your System?
Finasteride only works as you continue to take it on a daily basis. Research has shown that once you stop taking finasteride, DHT levels return to their normal state within 14 days.
So if you’re concerned about any side effects, they’ll typically stop within two weeks of stopping the medication. But on the other hand, any hair growth results will also likely cease after two weeks.
Do Finasteride Side Effects Stop With Usage?
While finasteride has some perks for your hairline, it could potentially come with some side effects — namely, sexual side effects.
The most common side effects include:
Erectile dysfunction (reported in 2 to 4 percent of finasteride users)
Decreased ejaculation volume
Loss of libido or low sex drive
Gynecomastia (enlarged male breast tissue)
Orthostatic hypotension (more likely in patients taking concomitant alpha-blockers)
For some men, post-finasteride syndrome can be an issue (this is also the case for another 5 alpha-reductase, dutasteride). These side effects may persist even after discontinuing medication, but there’s limited research currently available on the matter.
If you’re concerned about post-finasteride syndrome, our guide is an excellent resource.
Please also note that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid contact with crushed or broken finasteride tablets, as the drug is contraindicated (potentially harmful and thus not recommended) for women of childbearing age. So don’t let your female partner, friend or roomie handle your pills.
Learn more about finasteride side effects in our extensive guide.
Hims has helped thousands of men regrow their hair
Is Finasteride Safe to Use Long-Term?
Finasteride needs to be circulating actively in your body to prevent hair loss. So you’ll need to take it daily if your goal is to stop hair thinning.
For many men, this means taking finasteride for years. Currently, studies show that finasteride treatment is safe in the long term.
For example, a clinical trial of 19,000 men who had taken finasteride for seven years concluded that there was “little need to worry” about any long-term side effects from the medication.
Other long-term clinical studies of finasteride demonstrate similar results, with a 1-milligram dose being generally well tolerated over five years of use.
There have been some reports of minor increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer for men over age 55 (1.8 percent with a 5-milligram dose of finasteride versus 1 percent with a placebo).
But keep in mind this is a much higher dosage of finasteride than the typical 1-milligram dose. The risk comes with the entire class of 5-alpha reductase inhibitor (5-ARI) drugs.
Known by the brand names Proscar®, Avodart®, Propecia® and Jalyn®, 5-ARIs are commonly prescribed as generic finasteride and dutasteride.
How to Safely Stop Taking Finasteride
As with any medication, always speak with your doctor first before stopping finasteride. Symptoms like hair loss or an enlarged prostate may come back after stopping the drug.
Remember, you’re not Doogie Howser (unless you really are a young doctor, and in that case, kudos). Your healthcare provider will give you the best medical advice for safely stopping finasteride based on your unique medical condition.
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The Verdict on Stopping Finasteride
Hey, if you decide finasteride isn’t for you, that’s okay. There are lots of ways to address hair loss — more on that below.
But before you go cold turkey on finasteride, here are a few key things to note:
Always talk to your doctor before stopping any medication, including finasteride.
Any adverse effects will generally stop once you stop taking finasteride — it’s typically out of your body within two weeks of when you last took it.
If any side effects of finasteride persist after two weeks, speak with your healthcare or dermatology provider to raise any concerns.
Finasteride only works for hair loss while you’re using it, so your hair loss may come back if you stop using it. But all hope is not lost. There are other hair loss treatments you can consider besides finasteride:
Topical finasteride & minoxidil spray. A topical version of finasteride may have fewer side effects than its oral form. This two-in-one spray combines finasteride with minoxidil to effectively combat thinning hair in a quick-drying formula.
Minoxidil solution. If you’d rather skip finasteride totally, consider minoxidil. It’s one of the most popular hair loss treatments for male pattern hair loss. While it’s not totally understood how topical minoxidil works, it’s believed to improve microcirculation by the hair follicles. In turn, you may see hair regrowth and a slow-down of hair loss.
Still debating what’s right for you? No worries. Get a free hair consultation for an expert-recommended hair loss treatment plan today — all from the comfort of your home.