Reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Before you begin using a prescription medication -- or any type of treatment, for that matter -- it makes sense to do your research and determine if it’s the right choice for you.
Before and after photos of any endeavor, from hair growth to weight loss, give you a convenient way to view the fruits of many weeks or months of work. After all, nothing shows progress like a series of photos, each with thicker hair and less visible balding.
Below, we've explained what finasteride is, as well as what you can expect if you use finasteride to treat male pattern baldness.
We’ve also shared some before and after photos to show what finasteride can potentially do, as well as detailed instructions to help you take your own progress photos while using finasteride to treat hair loss.
Finasteride is a prescription medication that’s used to treat male pattern baldness. It’s available as a generic medication and as Propecia® -- a brand name medication manufactured by Merck & Company.
Finasteride belongs to a class of drugs called 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors. It was first approved by the FDA in 1992 as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) and later approved as a hair loss treatment.
To understand how finasteride works, it’s important to cover the basics of how and why hair loss occurs in men.
A variety of issues can cause hair loss. However, most hair loss that occurs in men is the result of male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia -- a type of permanent hair loss caused by a mix of genetic factors and the effects of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Your body produces DHT as a byproduct of testosterone. DHT is important early in your life for physical development. However, as an adult, it can attach to receptors located throughout your body and produce certain unwanted effects.
One of these effects is follicular miniaturization -- a process in which DHT attaches to receptors in your scalp and causes your hair follicles to gradually stop producing hairs.
This process usually begins with the hair follicles around your hairline, resulting in the receding hairline that many guys notice first as they begin to lose hair.
We’ve discussed this process in more detail in our full guide to DHT and its effects on your hair health.
Finasteride works by inhibiting the effects of the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase, which is involved in converting testosterone to DHT. This reduces DHT levels and helps to prevent male pattern hair loss from becoming more severe.
For many men, finasteride not only stops hair loss from becoming worse -- it also stimulates hair growth. For example, one early study of finasteride for hair loss found that most men who took it to treat hair loss experienced a considerable increase in hair count over two years.
You can learn more about how finasteride works and its effectiveness in our guide to finasteride for hair loss.
Finasteride starts reducing DHT levels right away, but it can take several months before you’ll be able to see changes in your hairline and overall hair density.
This is because your hair grows as part of a multi-phase cycle, which is referred to as the hair growth cycle.
During the anagen phase, each hair follicle produces a new hair, which grows to its full length over the course of several years. As each hair reaches the end of its growth phase, it enters a resting phase before being shed and replaced by a new hair.
Because it takes several months for new hair to grow significantly, you may not notice much in the way of progress when you first begin to use finasteride.
Provided you take finasteride consistently, you can rest assured that it is working -- after all, it starts blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT straight away. However, it’s important to be patient during the first few months and accept that results are gradual.
It’s also important to keep using finasteride after you start to notice improvements in your hair growth and density. Finasteride needs to be taken on an ongoing basis to remain effective -- if you stop prematurely, you may start to lose the hair you’ve regrown.
When it’s used properly, finasteride is generally highly effective at protecting your existing hair and stimulating hair regrowth.
For example, a long-term study carried out in Japan tracked 532 men affected by androgenetic alopecia. The men were prescribed finasteride for 10 years in total, with researchers assessing their hair growth and prevention of further hair loss.
Such a long study period is unusual, and very helpful when assessing the effects of a hair loss treatment protocol. The study was also published along with numerous before and after photos of finasteride results.
After using finasteride for 10 years, 99.1 percent of the men displayed a prevention of hair loss progression, with 91.5 percent also showing improvements in hair growth and coverage.
These findings are excellent, as they suggest that finasteride isn’t just effective at stopping hair loss during the first year or two of treatment, but that it remains effective as a treatment option for hair loss over the long term.
Our finasteride results timeline provides more information about what you can expect after you start treatment with finasteride.
Finasteride usually requires some time to produce new hair growth, meaning you may not see huge results after three months. However, for many men, mild improvements in hair coverage may start to become visible around the three-month mark.
After taking finasteride for at least six months, you should see a slowing of your hair loss or a small degree of hair regrowth. Keep in mind that it usually takes longer than six months to see the full benefits of finasteride, meaning any results at this point aren’t yet final.
Most men with hair loss notice the effects of finasteride after 12 months, whether this means a significant amount of hair growth or a slowing of hair loss. Try comparing your 12-month photo to one taken before you started finasteride to accurately assess your progress.
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If you currently use finasteride to treat hair loss, or if you’re considering using finasteride to deal with a receding hairline or thinning hair, one of the best things that you can do to track your hair growth progress is to take regular photos of your hairline and scalp.
It’s hard to see the top of your head. It’s also hard to see gradual progress over time, especially when you see yourself in the mirror every day. By taking photos of yourself, you’ll have an easy way to measure your progress and see how well finasteride is working for you.
Taking your own before and after photos isn’t too difficult, but there are a few things you’ll want to make sure of before you get started:
Choose a room with bright (but not too bright) lighting. It’s important to have clear, reasonably bright lighting when you’re taking photos. This helps to give a good view of your scalp and make any bald patches or areas with thinning hair easier to see.
Pick a space in your home with lighting that makes it easy to see your scalp. Avoid dark areas, which can conceal hair loss, or overly bright areas, which cause light to reflect off of your scalp.
Photograph your hairline, scalp and any other problem areas. For most guys, male pattern affects the hairline and crown first. Make sure to take photos of these areas, as well as any others that are affected by hair loss.
To make measuring your progress easier, try to take photos from the same angles. You may need to use a tripod or ask someone to help you in order to accurately capture the areas of your scalp with noticeable balding.
Take photos of your hairline and scalp once a month. Your hair needs time to grow, meaning there’s no reason to take photos every day. Instead, take photos on a monthly basis so that you can see a clearer difference between each one.
Keep in mind that finasteride usually needs around three months to produce noticeable changes in your hair, meaning your first few photos may not display much progress.
Once you’ve built a series of monthly photos, try looking back every three to six months to see how your hair has improved. You may notice that your hair loss begins to slow down over time, or that certain areas of your scalp gain extra hair density as finasteride starts to work.
Using finasteride is simple, but there are a few things that you can do to get the best results and reduce your risk of experiencing side effects or other issues.
To get positive results from finasteride, use the following tips and techniques:
Keep using finasteride, even if you don’t see any improvements at first. Finasteride works, but results aren’t immediate. Make sure to take finasteride for three to six months before you assess any improvements in your hair.
After you see improvements, keep taking finasteride. Because finasteride treats hair loss by blocking DHT, you’ll need to keep using it in order to maintain any improvements and prevent your hair loss from worsening.
Make sure to continue using finasteride after your hair loss begins to stabilize, as ending treatment abruptly could cause you to start losing hair again.
Use finasteride with minoxidil. Minoxidil, an over-the-counter hair loss medication sold as Rogaine®, is very effective when it’s used alongside finasteride. In fact, studies show that these medications are more effective when they’re used together than apart.
In one study, researchers found that 94.1 percent of men with pattern hair loss who used minoxidil at the same time as finasteride showed improvements, compared to around 80 percent of men who only used finasteride.
Use a hair loss prevention shampoo. Many shampoos contain active ingredients that may help to further reduce the effects of DHT on your scalp, such as saw palmetto and ketoconazole.
Our Hair Thickening Shampoo is formulated with saw palmetto and other ingredients to target DHT while promoting volume and moisture.
Inform your healthcare provider if you develop side effects. Most people don’t have any side effects from finasteride, although a small percentage of men who use it develop sexual side effects such as erectile dysfunction (ED) and a reduced sex drive.
If you develop side effects while using finasteride, let your healthcare provider know as soon as you can. They may suggest adjusting your dosage or making other changes to the way you use your medication.
Consider topical finasteride. If you develop side effects from oral finasteride, you may benefit from switching to topical finasteride -- a form of finasteride that only reaches your bloodstream in trace amounts.
We offer a Topical Finasteride & Minoxidil Spray, allowing you to target hair loss topically from multiple angles.
Store finasteride properly. Finasteride should be stored in its original container, closed and out of reach of children. Avoid storing finasteride in your bathroom or other spaces that are warm with excessive amounts of moisture.
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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.
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Looking at hair loss progress photos from other men can give you a solid understanding of what to expect from finasteride.
However, it’s important to remember that your results from finasteride can vary based on several factors, including your genes, your habits and the severity of your existing hair loss.
If you’ve recently started using finasteride, try to take your own photos on a regular basis so that you can accurately track your progress. Over time, you may start to notice improvements in your hair, including a slowing of hair loss or even some degree of regrowth.
Interested in using finasteride? We offer finasteride, minoxidil and other hair loss treatments for men online, with prescription products available following an online consultation with a licensed healthcare provider.