HAIR ∙ 3 minutes read

Finasteride vs minoxidil: which is best?

By Emily Cameron

Hair loss is very common amongst men, with up to 50% of men experiencing male pattern hair loss by the age of 50. If you’ve been thinking about treating your hair loss and you’ve done a little research into the solutions available, you’ve likely come across two different treatments: minoxidil and finasteride

Minoxidil and finasteride are the only two clinically-approved treatments for hair loss in men, but they both work very differently. So which one is right for you?

What’s the difference between minoxidil and finasteride?

There are a few main differences between minoxidil and finasteride. The most obvious difference at a glance is the format. Minoxidil is available as a topical spray, comes in a variety of strengths and should be used twice daily, whereas finasteride generally comes as a 1mg tablet to be taken orally, once daily.

Minoxidil doesn’t actively stop hair loss, but instead it helps promote new hair to grow faster, fuller and thicker. Finasteride, on the other hand, helps stop hair loss and promotes new hair growth by blocking the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

How does minoxidil work?

Minoxidil is a sprayable solution that you apply to your scalp twice a day (once in the morning and once at night). It works in a few different ways:

1. It dilates the blood vessels and supplies nutrient-rich blood to the hair follicles – potentially increasing hair density and promoting regrowth.

2. It is thought to extend the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle. The anagen phase (known as the “growth” stage of the hair cycle) is the stage in which new hair is generated.

3. It increases hair follicle size and hair diameter, which can make hair appear thicker and fuller.

How does finasteride work?

One of the main factors involved in male-pattern hair loss is the activity of DHT on the hair follicles. When present, DHT activates a receptor in the hair follicle which causes the growth phase of the hair to gradually decrease, and shrinks the follicle resulting in finer, shorter hairs until the growth phase is so short that the hairs don’t exit the scalp at all.

Finasteride stops the production of DHT. It works as an inhibitor of 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme which converts testosterone into DHT. This means that less DHT is present in the scalp (around 60% less), preventing further hair loss and in some cases, promoting hair regrowth.

Can you take minoxidil and finasteride together?

As minoxidil and finasteride work in different ways and target different mechanisms, it is perfectly fine to use both treatments together. In fact, a 2015 study showed that the two treatments combined had the best results in hair regrowth and stopping hair loss. 

The bottom line

Both finasteride and minoxidil are effective, clinically-proven treatments for hair loss in men. While ultimately the decision comes down to personal preference, both treatments taken together have been shown to be the most effective. If you’d like to learn more and find out which you might be best suited to, start with a free consultation today.

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