Do Hair Loss Treatments Actually Work? A Deep Dive

Men's hair loss treatment options are becoming more and more popular, but the truth of the matter is that many available solutions don’t really do much. Prime examples of these are caffeine shampoo and biotin supplements. Heavily popularised by marketeers and companies alike, but both practically useless in reality.

Luckily, there are also treatments available that are not that useless. Treatments that actually live up to their promise. We’re talking about Finasteride and Minoxidil. Widely accepted as the most effective medications for stopping hair loss amongst men.

What is Finasteride?

Finasteride, known by the brand name Propecia, is an oral prescription medication used to treat hair loss in men - commonly known as Male Pattern Baldness or Alopecia Androgenetica. Finasteride does what a product such as caffeine shampoo does not: it really does stop hair loss.

For those of you who don’t know it yet, male hair loss is caused by the hormone DHT, short for dihydrotestosterone. A hormone produced by the interaction of the enzyme 5-α-reductase and testosterone. Finasteride works by inhibiting the 5-α-reductase enzyme, thereby preventing testosterone from being converted to DHT.

No DHT means no damage to the hair follicles and, therefore, no hair loss.

How effective is Finasteride?

So, Finasteride works by inhibiting 5-α-reductase, thereby reducing the amount of DHT. And for what it’s worth, Finasteride is pretty good at this.

To be precise: 1 mg of Finasteride reduces the amount of DHT by up to 70%. Enough to completely stop hair loss in 70% to 99% of men.

And that is to be taken literally. Finasteride really stops hair loss altogether. Not just for a night or two, but for as long as you take it. This long term efficacy of Finasteride was confirmed by three different studies, encompassing a study period of 5 and 10 years. In these studies, treatment with Finasteride 1mg stopped hair loss in 70%, 84% and 99% of men. Meaning it stopped stopped hair loss in 70%, 84% and 99% of men over the entire 5 and 10 year study period.

How safe if Finasteride?

Well, Finasteride is pretty damn safe. The risk of side effects are low; generally between 2% and 4%. The most commonly reported side effect is a decrease in libido. For some men this is a reason to not take Finasteride, which is fine. If that applies to you you might want to try a different treatment: Minoxidil.

What is Minoxidil?

Minoxidil was initially an oral medicine utilized to control blood pressure. At the beginning of the medication's use, scientists discovered that Minoxidil also had a positive impact on hair growth. A topically-applied form of Minoxidil was later released in the form of the very first approved drug that could treat loss of hair. Minoxidil affects both the quantity and quality of hair. It does this by improving blood flow to the hair which allows more nutrients to be absorbed by your hair follicles.

There are several Minoxidil-based products available, with the strength of 5% being the most efficient. The risks are minimal and may include redness and skin irritation. Preparations that contain Propylene Glycol appear to cause slightly higher risk of side effects.

The crux of the matter

It’s important to remember however that Finasteride is the only treatment available that really is able to stop hair loss. Other treatments such as Minoxidil do not. And neither do products such as caffeine shampoo, biotin, saw palmetto and Viviscal. These last four products are basically useless. Yes, really.

Now let us be clear about one thing: we’re not saying this to persuade you into taking Finasteride, but rather to paint you a realistic picture of the options you have. We deem it necessary because a large proportion of people who are unwilling to take Finasteride, believe that they have alternative options for stopping hair loss.

Sure, many companies will tell you that you have but the truth is that you have not. Products such as caffeine shampoo, biotin, saw palmetto and Viviscal do absolutely nothing to stop your hair loss. I know I’ve said it before, but people tend to be stubborn so it’s worth repeating it.

Other treatments such as Low Light Laser Therapy and a Hair Transplant don’t either. For starters, a hair transplant is a reparation technique and not a hair loss prevention technique. In other words: it doesn’t stop hair loss, but tries to camouflage that was has already been lost. By taking hair follicles from the back of your head and placing them to the front. This process however does not prevent future hair loss and it is for this reason that alsmost every hair transplant surgeon on this planet recommends taking Finasteride to their clients after having had a hair transplant.

Finally, although Minoxidil is often recommended to treat hair loss it’s important to note that it doesn’t even come close to the efficacy of Finasteride. Minoxidil is fine for treating thin hair, but it doesn’t stop hair loss. Some studies note an increase in hair density after treatment with Minoxidil, but this effect is only temporary. Minoxidil increases hair density for up to 12 months, but hair density starts to decline again thereafter so it doesn’t stop hair loss. This is also not surprising once you’re aware of the fact that Minoxidil, unlike Finasteride, has zero effect on DHT - the hormone that causes hair loss.

That’s nice and all but what are you trying to say?

What I’m trying to say is as follows:

When it comes to treating hair loss you have several options, namely Finasteride, Minoxidil and Low Light Laser Therapy. Finasteride stops hair loss while Minoxidil and Low Light Laser Therapy do not. They aim to slow down hair loss at best.

That means that if you want to stop hair loss, you should take finasteride and accept the risk of getting side effects OR you accept your hair loss. Simple as that. You might be able to slow down hair loss with things like Minoxidil or Low Light Laser Therapy, but it will certainly not stop it.

If you’re able to embrace your hair loss, well, good… More power to you. Really. For most of us however, losing our hair is absolutely devastating. And the sooner you treat it the better, because even Finasteride is unable to bring back that what has already been lost. It merely prevents further hair loss. So choose wisely.