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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Perhaps you looked in the mirror and noticed the hair at your temples is thinning. Or maybe an old photo reminded you your hairline wasn’t always so M-shaped.
Millions of men have receding hairlines. If you’re one of them, you might wonder if it’s possible to restore your mane to its former glory.
Sold under the brand name Propecia®, finasteride is often prescribed for or male pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia). With male pattern hair loss, you lose hair in a specific area, like the crown of the head or the hairline.
Finasteride works because it stops the body from creating dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is an androgen (male hormone) that can damage hair follicles, leading to male pattern baldness.
Although finasteride has mostly been studied for its ability to reduce crown hair loss, it can also help slow down other signs of androgenetic alopecia, including a receding hairline.
With that said, finasteride’s effectiveness also depends on the type of hair loss you’re experiencing. If your receding hairline is caused by something other than DHT — say, hair styling methods that damage your follicles — finasteride won’t help.
Also, while it may slow down hair loss, there’s no guarantee finasteride will regrow a receding hairline.
Let’s talk about finasteride, the potential side effects and how to use it to fight back against hair loss.
Finasteride is an FDA-approved oral medication for hair loss. It can slow down a receding hairline, but it might not always help with hair regrowth.
Finasteride belongs to a class of medications called 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, also known as DHT blockers. It’s usually taken as a once-daily pill.
5-alpha-reductase is an enzyme that converts testosterone — the primary male sex hormone — into a more potent hormone: DHT.
DHT can bind to receptors in your hair follicles and cause them to gradually shrink. This prevents new hairs from growing out of those follicles. As a result, when your hair shaft reaches the end of its life cycle, it falls out, and a new hair doesn’t grow in its place.
Over time, the process can lead to hair thinning and male pattern baldness. This is a condition where you have noticeable hair loss on specific parts of your scalp, including the hairline and crown (vertex) area.
Not everybody is sensitive to the effects of DHT. Genetics play a role in whether you experience male pattern hair loss. Your genes may also determine where your hair loss begins — at the hairline or crown, for instance.
Interestingly, the hair follicles on the back and sides of your scalp are more resistant to DHT, so they’re unlikely to be affected by male pattern baldness.
Research shows that oral finasteride reduces DHT levels by around 70 percent. For most men, this is enough to produce a noticeable reduction in hair loss.
Although most studies on finasteride focus on its ability to slow down hair loss at the crown, it can also help with baldness on other areas of the scalp.
Back in 1999, when finasteride was still new on the market, a clinical study looked at the effectiveness of finasteride for receding hairlines. It found that, when compared to a placebo, the medication caused a “significant increase in hair count” over the course of one year. This study specifically looked at frontal hair loss — that is, receding hairlines.
A 10-year study published in 2019 found that 99 percent of men who used finasteride experienced no worsening of hair loss during treatment. And an impressive 91.5 percent experienced improvements in hair growth while using finasteride.
So, how long after starting treatment can you expect to see results?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how long finasteride takes to work. Though it can start reducing your DHT levels immediately, it’ll likely be several months before you notice a difference.
The package insert notes that you typically need to take finasteride for at least three months before noticing a change.
If you’re trying to fight back against a receding hairline, finasteride is a great tool to add to your arsenal. But it’s important to remember that it isn’t a cure-all, and hairline regrowth isn’t guaranteed.
One of the only ways to ensure hairline regrowth is with hair transplants — and hair transplant surgery isn’t an option for everyone.
When it comes to hair loss, prevention is better than trying to cure it. And while finasteride can prevent further hair loss, it’s not a cure for male pattern baldness.
So the best plan of action might be to take finasteride as early as possible — preferably at the first sign of hair loss.
It’s also important to remember that finasteride is only designed to help with one type of hair loss: androgenetic alopecia.
Some people develop a receding hairline because of styling techniques, such as tight ponytails and harsh chemical treatments.
You may also lose hair due to stress, although stress-related hair loss occurs all over the scalp — not just at the hairline. In that case, since DHT isn’t the cause of your hair loss, finasteride probably won’t help.
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You got your prescription for finasteride, and you’re ready to stop further hair loss in its tracks.
But what’s the best way to use finasteride for a receding hairline?
First, know that the standard finasteride dosage for hair loss is 1 milligram (mg) per day. It’s possible to experience side effects with finasteride, so don’t exceed the dosage recommended by the healthcare professional prescribing it.
If you’d like to boost your hairline, don’t increase your finasteride dosage without getting medical advice first. Your provider might suggest combining oral finasteride with topical treatments to stimulate hair growth.
Finasteride is often combined with minoxidil, an FDA-approved hair loss treatment that works by extending the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle — meaning the hair strands grow for a longer period. Minoxidil is sold as a generic medication and under the brand name Rogaine®.
A 2019 review of five clinical trials found that combining oral finasteride and topical minoxidil is safe — and it works better than using just one treatment in people with male pattern baldness.
Another 2002 study found that men who took either oral finasteride or topical minoxidil had positive results, but finasteride was more effective.
In addition to minoxidil and finasteride, you can use strengthening hair treatments like our thickening shampoo with saw palmetto. Some research suggests that saw palmetto may potentially block DHT, so it could be a good addition to your shower routine.
If you’re keen on finasteride but not into taking a pill every day, you’re in luck: Research shows that topical finasteride may work, too.
A 2021 clinical trial looked at 458 randomized patients with male pattern baldness. It found that topical finasteride significantly improved hair count. While it’s possible to experience some scalp sensitivity with topical finasteride spray, sensitivity occurred in less than 1 percent of patients.
According to the clinical trial, topical finasteride may offer similar results as oral finasteride with fewer side effects.
Another option is to use topical finasteride and minoxidil spray on your hairline — a safe and effective combo.
A 2012 randomized, double-blind study looked at 40 men with androgenetic alopecia over a 24-week period. Some used 3% minoxidil and 0.1% finasteride lotion, while others used lotion containing only 3% minoxidil.
A photographic assessment found that those who used the combination of finasteride and minoxidil had more noticeable improvement than those who used minoxidil alone.
The great thing about using finasteride for receding hairlines? It’s safe to add other tools — like topical minoxidil or medicated shampoos — to your treatment plan. While there’s no guarantee combining them will regrow your hairline, it may stop further hair loss.
Finasteride is generally considered safe to use. But, as with most medications, it has a few potential side effects.
Other side effects of oral finasteride include:
Many men opt for topical finasteride to reduce their chances of experiencing sexual dysfunction. According to a 2021 review, using topical finasteride instead of oral finasteride reduces the risk of systemic side effects, like sexual difficulties.
There are some side effects of topical finasteride to be aware of, like skin irritation, an itchy scalp and redness on the scalp. Although these side effects aren’t super common, they can happen.
For many people, the side effects stop once they stop using finasteride. However, some report experiencing side effects after stopping finasteride, which is termed post-finasteride syndrome (PFS). But this needs to be studied further before we fully understand it.
If you experience side effects from finasteride, seek medical advice. A healthcare professional can help you get to the bottom of the issue and, if necessary, find an alternative to finasteride.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.
If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.
Once you notice your hairline thinning, you have two options: Go with the flow and embrace it (power to you!) or use a hair loss treatment to promote growth.
Finasteride is one possible treatment option for hair loss. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Finasteride is effective for androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness). It can prevent further hair loss. Although some people experience hair regrowth with finasteride, there’s no guarantee it’ll regrow a receding hairline.
Start finasteride sooner rather than later. Since finasteride isn’t guaranteed to regrow your hairline, it’s best to start using it at the first sign of hair loss to prevent the issue from getting worse.
You can combine treatment options. If you’re using finasteride for receding hairline regrowth, you can add topical remedies to your treatment plan. Other than minoxidil, a volumizing shampoo and conditioner could help. You might also consider biotin gummies to ensure your body gets all the nutrients it needs to grow strong, healthy hair.
Not sure where to start? Seek medical advice from a trained expert. Our platform can help you book an online consultation with a healthcare professional to discuss your treatment options.
Explore hair loss treatments for men from Hims.