What is Topical Finasteride, Where is it Available, and How Can it Prevent Hair Loss?
Many medicines, including some hair loss treatments, are classified as oral, which means they are ingested in either tablet or liquid form. Everyday medicines including Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are great examples of this.
Topical treatments, on the other hand, are usually applied directly to the area that you are treating, such as the skin.
This allows the treatment to enter the body from the place it has been applied to, and begin to take effect from there.
Why Are Some Men Anxious About Taking Oral Finasteride?
The first thing to understand about Finasteride is that it is the most effective prescription-strength hair loss treatment available today.
It has been shown to be effective at stopping hair loss and promoting hair regrowth for up to 90% of guys.
Oral Finasteride has been deemed a safe prescription treatment for hair loss by leading healthcare regulatory bodies around the world.
However, as with any medicine, side effects from oral Finasteride are possible, but rare. In fact, over 96% of men do not experience adverse side effects from oral Finasteride.
In the unlikely event that men experienced side effects from taking oral Finasteride in clinical trials, these have included:
Sexual side effects: some men who have used oral Finasteride have experienced sexual side effects, such as decreased libido, or sex drive, erection troubles, or problems with orgasms.
Swelling in certain areas: in some studies, a small number of men taking oral Finasteride have experienced swelling in certain areas of their body, such as arms, hands, legs, feet and face. Swelling may indicate an allergy to the treatment.
Itchiness and rashes: some men experienced rashes on different areas of their body after taking oral finasteride. Again, a rash may be an indication of an allergy to the treatment.
Around 4% of men experience one or more of these side effects from taking oral Finasteride and may decide to discontinue their treatment.
But a much larger percentage of men are hesitant to try Finasteride treatment altogether because of the perceived risk of experiencing these side effects, or because they are uncomfortable with taking oral tablets on a daily basis.
It’s important to note that if you experience any of these symptoms persistently after taking oral finasteride, you should consult a professional about what to do next.
They may advise you to stop taking finasteride tablets, or to try a different treatment.
How is Topical Finasteride Different?
Put simply, topical Finasteride is Finasteride in liquid form. Topical Finasteride provides localised treatment for hair loss, without taking the treatment systemically (i.e. without ingesting it into your body through your stomach and liver).
Topical Finasteride works to combat hair loss in the same way as the oral treatment, by blocking DHT.
However, topical Finasteride is absorbed locally into the skin of the scalp and the hair follicles, unlike Finasteride tablets, which are processed in the liver.
Men who have taken Topical Finasteride in clinical studies have reported fewer or no side-effects from the treatment. One study, observing the effect of Topical Finasteride vs a placebo on 52 subjects, showed that there were “no reported local or systemic effects in treatment or placebo groups,” meaning there were no reported side effects as a result of the treatment.
While you cannot completely rule out side effects of Topical Finasteride, multiple studies already suggest that the treatment does not carry the same likelihood of side effects as oral Finasteride. This helps many guys feel less anxious about trying the topical treatment than they would be when taking oral Finasteride in tablet form.
How Does Topical Finasteride Work?
Male Pattern Baldness (MPB), the most common form of hair loss experienced by men, is caused by a hormone called DHT.
Over time, exposure to DHT molecules causes your hair follicles to become weaker, thinner, and eventually leads to receding hairlines and bald spots.
Finasteride, which is sold under different trade names around the world including Propecia ®, works by reducing the levels of the DHT in men.
By blocking the main hormone responsible for hair loss, this helps prevent further hair loss, and can lead to hair regrowth.
Topical Finasteride works in the same way as oral Finasteride, by blocking DHT. We’ll go into some more details about the differences below.
How Effective is Topical Finasteride for Hair Loss?
The effectiveness of Finasteride in treating androgenetic alopecia among men has long been established.
However, the side effects reported by some men from using Finasteride tablets have resulted in a growing demand for an alternative to oral treatment.
Topical Finasteride is a suitable alternative treatment for those men who are worried about the potential side effects of oral Finasteride.
Multiple studies have now shown that Topical Finasteride can be as effective as oral Finasteride when treating hair loss.
This study observed the effects of Topical Finasteride vs a placebo on 52 subjects, and showed that those using Topical Finasteride showed a significant decrease in hair loss levels, with some even reporting a “reduction in balding areas”, indicating the effectiveness of topical Finasteride as a treatment for hair re-growth.
Another study conducted in 2014, with 23 male subjects aged between 18–65 years old, showed that DHT levels were reduced by 68–75% when using topical Finasteride, and by 62–72% when using oral Finasteride tablets.
This drastic reduction of DHT levels from using topical Finasteride suggests that it may be as effective as oral Finasteride tablets for preventing and treating male pattern hair loss.
Despite this, Topical Finasteride is a much newer treatment than oral Finasteride and therefore its effectiveness is not as well established.
The decision to try this relatively new treatment should be made in partnership with a qualified clinician.
Does Topical Finasteride Have Side Effects?
As mentioned earlier, studies of Topical Finasteride have shown that most of those who have taken the treatment have not reported side effects from the treatment.
This makes topical Finasteride an attractive alternative for those who are anxious about taking oral Finasteride.
Who Should be Taking Topical Finasteride?
Topical Finasteride treatments should only be taken by men aged 18 and over who are experiencing male pattern baldness.
Finasteride has been shown to effectively prevent hair loss by blocking the hormone primarily responsible for MPB.
Since there is evidence that Topical Finasteride does not have the same side effects as oral Finasteride, it’s a good choice for men who want to prevent hair loss but are anxious about the risk of side effects from taking the oral treatment.
Topical Finasteride is a prescription-only treatment and you need to be assessed by a clinician in order to get a prescription.
Hims offers the UK's highest rated hair loss treatments, including Topical Finasteride with Minoxidil. Find out today if the treatment is suitable for you.
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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.