Finasteride vs. Minoxidil: Differences and Similarities
30 November 2023 / 8 minutes read /
Hair is an essential aspect of one's personality and one of the most noticeable traits in one's appearance. But unfortunately, many people suffer from hair loss or hair thinning problems. Male or female pattern baldness is a widespread hair loss condition; nearly 50% of men and women experience some hair loss by age 50. Some people don't bother much with this change, while others take measures to treat or hide their baldness. If you are concerned with your thinning hair, some remedies and solutions exist to try to stop or at least slow it down (Ho, 2021).
Please know that this Health Guide article is underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and government agencies. This article does not claim to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have medical questions or concerns, please take them to your healthcare provider.
There are several ways hair thinning can happen, and it can be due to genetic or environmental factors, which can affect different aspects of hair growth.
Androgenetic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss in men and women. But this is certainly not the only reason. You can experience hair thinning due to other reasons, including (Philips, 2017):
Also known as "traction alopecia," this hair loss happens due to environmental factors. Hair shafts can break due to the damage from styling, using hair products with harsh chemicals, or tight hairstyles that can pull on the hair shafts and cause them to break.
Alopecia areata is caused by an autoimmune condition affecting the hair follicles. The inflammation of hair follicles destroys them, and hair loss occurs in a patchy form. It can happen all over your body in severe cases.
Telogen effluvium defines hair loss resulting from physical or emotional trauma. Some people can experience hair thinning months after the initial shock. Fortunately, this is usually a temporary condition and hair gain strength after some period.
Scarring alopecia, also known as cicatricial alopecia, is caused by the inflammation of hair follicles. Certain inflammatory conditions, such as cellulitis, folliculitis, acne, and skin disorders like lupus, can cause scalp scarring and destroy the hair follicles. This can cause permanent hair loss.
Certain drugs can also cause hair shedding. The medications used for cancer, acne, seizures, thyroid problems, and blood pressure, among others, can be a reason for your thinning hair.
Losing hair is not always a sign of worry. We all lose about 100 hairs daily, which is a part of the normal hair life cycle. The hair follicles on our scalps are designed for continuous growth and shedding of hairs. So, the hairs you discover in your comb, pillow, or shower drain should not worry you, as they are not necessarily a sign of you going bald. But if you notice an unusual amount of hair, it could be an early sign of androgenic alopecia or another type of hair loss. This hair loss can happen in several ways, including:
Your hair might fall out in the form of a receding hairline. This can be viewed as an M-shaped hair line resulting from hair thinning across the hairline and at the temples.
You can lose hair at the top of the crown of your head.
You can also experience something known as "invisible baldness." This happens when you lose hair from all over your head, and a gradual hair thinning occurs. This hair loss is hard to notice as it develops slowly and becomes only prominent when significant damage has been done.
You can also become completely bald. A glance in the mirror will be enough to let you know about this type of baldness. Early treatment is of prime importance in this case, as complete baldness is irreversible.
Hair loss is a gradual process, so it's hard to notice at first. One way to detect thinning hair early is to take a picture of you and compare it with older images in similar lighting. Pay attention to see if your hairline is receding or if your hair looks sparser.
The most common cause of hair loss is androgenic alopecia – commonly known as male or female pattern baldness/hair loss. Androgens are male sex hormones. These hormones are responsible for developing male genitalia during fetal development and help develop secondary male sexual characteristics during puberty. These characteristics can include facial and body hair and a deepened voice. These hormones are present in a minimal amount in females too, but their function varies.
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is one of these androgens that plays an integral part in hair growth in men. While this hormone is responsible for bodily and facial hair growth, for reasons not well-understood, the same hormone causes hair fall in men.
Dihydrotestosterone causes hair follicles to shrink gradually, resulting in thin and weaker hair. This process continues until the hair follicles become so small that they stop producing new hair.
Now that we have an idea of what lies at the basis of hair thinning, here is what we can do to slow down this process or stop it together. You can try the following treatments for male pattern hair loss or female pattern hair loss:
Finasteride is another popular treatment option for hair loss. It is available in the form of oral medication, known in the UK under the brand name Propecia. Finasteride works by lowering your DHT levels, thereby preventing hair loss.
Minoxidil, known here in the UK under the brand name Rogain, is available as a liquid or foam. Minoxidil is known to slow down hair loss and encourage new hair growth if sprayed or rubbed onto the scalp twice daily. However, one drawback of this treatment is that once you stop this topical application, the hair loss will begin again (Badri, 2021).
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) has also proven to be a beneficial treatment for hair loss. It helps reduce inflammation and increases blood flow and nutrient supply to the hair follicles, making them healthier (Egger, 2021). The studies showing promising results of Low-Level Laser Therapy were done by the commercial industry, so the reliability of these results is not confirmed yet.
According to a few studies, folic acid deficiency can cause hair thinning (Almohanna, 2019). Folic acid is a type of vitamin B involved in cell regeneration. Folic acid supplements can help treat hair loss in folate-deficient people. However, the research is limited to prove the efficacy of this treatment.
Spironolactone is available under the brand name Aldactone and can help treat female pattern baldness related to androgen production. It is essentially a "water pill" that can block androgen receptors too and prevent hair loss (Burns, 2020).
Hair loss signs at the start can be alarming, but many treatment options are available to slow them down or stop them altogether. Getting to the root cause of your hair thinning is crucial before opting for a treatment option.
You should talk to your dermatologist for detailed history and evaluation for an effective solution to your hair loss.