When To Take Finasteride For Hair Growth
Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Grace Gallagher
Your body makes dihydrotestosterone (DHT) as a byproduct of testosterone production. It serves a pretty critical purpose in your childhood development, but as you get older, that friendship gets a little sour. One of DHT’s less-than-stellar characteristics is that the hormone plays a major role in male pattern baldness (aka male pattern hair loss).
You’re wondering when to take finasteride for hair growth, and we’re over here talking about male sex hormones. Allow us to explain.
DHT is crucial for the differentiation of male sex organs. Basically, you have your pal DHT to thank for forming your scrotum and penis.
But when it comes to hair loss, DHT shortens the hair growth cycle and shrinks hair follicles. That’s where finasteride comes in— it blocks testosterone from converting to DHT, so you hold onto more hair.
Keep reading to learn about the best time of day to take finasteride, how to take finasteride and what other South Park characters are male hormones — just kidding, that analogy ends here, but PC Principal is testosterone, obvs.
When You Should Start Taking Finasteride?
Should I take finasteride at all? That question needs an answer before you figure out the best time of day to take finasteride for hair loss. To answer it, you need to know the basics of how finasteride works. So back to DHT for a second.
DHT shortens the hair growth cycle and shrinks hair follicles. In the simplest terms, finasteride (the active ingredient in the prescription oral hair loss medication Propecia®) is a hair loss treatment that reduces DHT levels in the body.
If DHT is partially to blame for male pattern hair loss — which it usually is, as male androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss in men, affecting 30 to 50 percent by age 50 — then finasteride can help.
Here’s what to know about when to start taking finasteride as part of your hair loss routine, including dosage information, the best time of day to take it, how to store it and what to do if you miss a dose.
Start at the First Sign of Hair Loss
The earlier you begin taking finasteride after noticing hair loss, the more effective the medication will be at preserving and protecting your hair.
It’s typically most effective if you start taking it as soon as you see hair loss. If you’re not sure it’s noticeable, ask any kid in your life — they won’t hesitate to tell you when something’s up with your hair…or your outfit, or your body.
If you notice any thinning or hair loss, it’s a good time to start taking finasteride.
Manage Your Expectations
Though finasteride is highly effective, it’s important to have realistic expectations.
In the treatment of androgenic alopecia, finasteride doesn’t reduce DHT by 100 percent — hair loss is slowed, but it won’t necessarily stop completely.
So if you have advanced hair loss — obvious thinning across the entire scalp or a bald spot, for example — it’s unlikely finasteride will restore all your hair.
Many men with hair loss experience regrowth after they start using finasteride, but it’s not a guarantee. In a 10-year study of 523 Japanese men, 91 percent experienced improvements in hair growth while using finasteride.
It usually takes several months to see results from finasteride.
After you start taking this medication, you’ll need to be patient and consistent. Taking progress photos of your hair each week to observe incremental chances can be encouraging.
Once you start seeing effects, they should last as long as you continue taking the medication. In the 10-year study mentioned above, 99 percent of the men had no worsening of hair loss during treatment.
An additional study from 2003 found that 90 percent of men treated with finasteride either maintained or sustained visible improvement in scalp coverage over five years. Meanwhile, 75 percent of those who received the placebo showed visible deterioration in scalp coverage.
Other Considerations and Tips for Taking Finasteride for Hair Growth
Find details about finasteride side effects, the potential risks and its intended use below.
Finasteride Side Effects
Side effects of finasteride are rare but possible.
The most common finasteride side effects are primarily sexual, and they typically resolve quickly after stopping the medication.
A 2012 review on finasteride and sexual side effects showed that adverse sexual effects affected 2.1 to 3.8 percent of those studied. Erectile dysfunction was most commonly reported, followed by issues with ejaculation and decreased sex drive or loss of libido.
There are very few, if any, serious side effects. If you’re curious about post-finasteride syndrome (PFS), side effects that continue even after stopping the medication, read our comprehensive guide to finasteride side effects.
Finasteride Is Approved for Use in Men
Topical finasteride is approved for men only, and the pills shouldn’t be handled by pregnant women due to their teratogenic effects.
If you use topical finasteride spray at night and share a bed with a partner who’s pregnant or trying to become pregnant, be sure to wash your hands after applying the medication. Also, use separate pillows (and if you’re trying to make that baby, remind her not to touch your hair).
Common Signs of Hair Loss
You’d think hair loss would be pretty black and white — you’re either losing hair or you’re not). But it’s actually not that clear-cut, especially since a “normal” hair loss of between 50 and 100 strands per day is to be expected.
Knowing the common signs of hair loss is key because the earlier you recognize what’s happening, the sooner you can start treating it.
Maybe you take a trip to the Cloud to investigate how your hair has changed in photos over the past couple of years (a truly humbling experience). Or perhaps you’re just paying closer attention to the hair on your pillow and in the shower drain.
In any case, there are some easy ways to notice the common signs of hair loss:
A receding hairline, often beginning with temple hair loss
Noticeable thinning of hair with lack of density, known as diffuse thinning
More of your scalp is visible
Excessive hair loss after showering or brushing
A difference in how your hair looks in photos
Hair that takes longer than usual to grow (average growth is about one centimeter per month)
Your barber or hair stylist mentions something
To dive deeper, check out our guide to the early signs of balding.
When Is the Best Time to Take Finasteride?
When it comes to when to take finasteride, the choice is yours and yours alone.
The best time to take finasteride is whatever time you’ll remember to take it consistently. For some, that may be first thing in the morning or whenever you take your vitamins. Others may prefer to take finasteride with dinner or before bed.
There’s no recommended time of day that’s best to take finasteride, but try to take it at a consistent time daily (and try not to miss doses). This consistency helps with the absorption, metabolism and excretion of the medication.
It can be helpful to set an alarm if you’re not good at remembering to take it at the same time each day. (Ask any woman who’s taken the birth control pill, and she’ll likely tell you about her daily phone alarm).
What If I Miss a Finasteride Dose?
Don’t sweat it if you miss a dose of finasteride.
If it’s been fewer than six hours since you were supposed to take it, take your finasteride as soon as you remember. If it’s been more than six hours, just take it the next day at your usual time — and don’t double up on doses to make up for the missed one.
How to Take Finasteride for Hair Loss
There are a few things to keep in mind about how to take finasteride for hair loss. This includes dosage considerations and other steps you can take alongside finasteride to make its effects even more pronounced.
Pay Attention to Dosage
Finasteride for BPH is typically sold under its original brand name, Proscar®. It’s FDA-approved at 1 milligram (mg) once daily, taken with or without meals. As mentioned, it should be taken around the same time every day.
Higher doses of finasteride, usually 5mg, are approved for the treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia (or BPH, an enlarged prostate). Taking a higher dosage for hair loss won’t increase the effects, but it will increase the risk of side effects.
Store Finasteride Properly
Finasteride should be stored at room temperature — we know this varies widely depending on if you’re asking your mom or that one friend who’s obsessed with saving on his heating bill.
The medication should be stored between 59 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit and, like all prescription drugs, out of reach of children. Keep the container closed and avoid contact with moisture.
Know Finasteride Isn’t Preventative
We applaud you for being proactive. But there’s no evidence that taking finasteride before you see hair loss does any good, even if baldness runs in the family.
Start taking finasteride at the first sign of hair loss — but not before.
Hims has helped thousands of men regrow their hair
Consider Combining Finasteride and Minoxidil
Though finasteride is effective when it flies solo, the best finasteride results are often seen when it’s used in combination with topical minoxidil.
Finasteride and minoxidil (generic for Rogaine®) are like the power couple of the hair loss world: Each is impressive on its own, but when paired together, they’re nearly unstoppable.
Minoxidil and finasteride complement each other but work differently.
Minoxidil is a topical treatment — (there’s 5% minoxidil foam and 2% minoxidil liquid solution). Unlike finasteride, minoxidil isn’t a DHT blocker. Instead, it increases blood flow to the scalp, flooding it with oxygen and nutrients needed for hair health.
A 2019 meta-analysis on the efficacy of minoxidil and finasteride found that the combo of oral finasteride and topical minoxidil was more effective and as safe as using one or the other on its own.
Both medications can be used topically as well. Studies show that new hair count is similar in people treated with topical finasteride versus finasteride tablets.
For more info, read our guide to topical finasteride.
Use Thickening or Volumizing Shampoo
You’re already using shampoo, so you might as well make it work for you — this is a good time to finally say goodbye to your two-in-one shampoo and conditioner.
Our thickening shampoo contains saw palmetto, a plant extract that works like finasteride and can partially block DHT. Volumizing products contain ingredients like biotin, argan oil and rice protein to strengthen and add volume to your hair — kind of like turning the dial way up on your scalp.
Want to learn more? Our guide to finasteride for hair loss dives deep into the topic.
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The Final Word on When to Take Finasteride
TL;DR? We get it — you’re busy.
Here’s a recap on the best time of day to take finasteride:
When to take finasteride is ultimately a matter of personal preference. Take it at whatever time of day is convenient for you — as long as you can realistically take it at that time each day (so don’t start taking it at lunchtime on a Saturday if you work in an office the rest of the week).
Finasteride is FDA-approved at 1 milligram for hair loss and can be taken with or without food. Higher-dose finasteride tablets (typically 5 milligrams) are intended to treat BPH (prostate enlargement).
Finasteride works even better when paired with its buddy minoxidil — taking the two together is a popular combination therapy for hair loss. One easy way to pair finasteride with minoxidil is to use our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray (now there’s a two-in-one product we stan).
Remember, you’re playing the long game with finasteride. It’ll take several months before you start noticing the effects of daily finasteride (the FDA says daily use for three months or more is necessary before benefits are observed). If you’re not seeing further hair loss at the three-month mark, you’re on the right track.
After you start taking finasteride, you’ll need to use it every day to maintain the results and keep your hair. Don’t sweat the occasional missed dose, but try not to make a habit of it.
If you have questions about the side effects of finasteride or when to take it, seek medical advice from a dermatologist or another healthcare provider.
For more info on how long it takes to see improvement, check out our guide to the finasteride results timeline.