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Finasteride Shedding: What it Is and How Long it Lasts

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 09/17/2017

Updated 04/02/2024

Finasteride is a medication designed to encourage hair growth, yet some men report accelerated hair loss when they begin using this medication. This is understandably concerning — no one wants a medication that does the opposite of what it’s supposed to be doing.

So, does finasteride cause shedding? Yes, but it’s actually nothing to worry about.

Finasteride shedding is a common experience where some users briefly shed more hair than usual in the early stages of finasteride use. This is a sign that the medication is working, and the phase usually passes in a short time. It is not permanent.

Curious how hair loss on a medication intended for hair growth can be a good thing? Read on for the science behind hair shedding with finasteride, when it starts, when it goes away and what happens if it doesn’t go away.

Does finasteride cause hair loss? It’s complicated, but yes, finasteride can cause temporary shedding at first.

During the first few months of treatment with finasteride, some folks develop more hair loss than normal — a phenomenon that’s known as finasteride shedding, or Propecia shedding.

So, how does finasteride fit into this? As a treatment for androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, finasteride works by reducing levels of the androgen  dihydrotestosterone (DHT) throughout your body, which, in turn, shields your hair follicles from the effects of DHT.

Over the long term, finasteride works well as a treatment for male pattern hair loss. In fact, a 10-year study of finasteride found that more than 99 percent of men who use it experience no further progression of their hair loss over the long term.

However, results from finasteride typically aren’t immediate. It usually takes three to four months before any results are visible, with the “final” results from finasteride visible after about one year of consistent use.

And before that, finasteride may cause a sort of stutter step in your hair’s internal clock, specifically its growth cycles.

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Although experts aren’t completely sure why finasteride often causes temporary hair shedding, some believe it may be related to your hair growth cycle.

Every hair on your body completes a multi-phase hair cycle that involves distinct periods of hair growth, regression, rest and shedding.

During one phase of this cycle, which is referred to as the anagen phase, your hair grows to its full length before resting and falling out.

The anagen phase for hair on your scalp typically lasts for several years. It’s much shorter for your body hair, which is why the hair on your arms, legs and torso naturally grows to a shorter length than the hair on your scalp and face.

Approximately 90 percent of the hairs on your scalp are in the anagen phase at any given time, with other hairs in different phases of the hair growth cycle.

Finasteride works by inhibiting the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, which is responsible for converting testosterone into DHT. DHT can attach to receptors in certain types of tissue throughout your body, including hair follicles on your scalp.

Over time, DHT-related damage to your hair follicles can result in thin, damaged hairs that can’t properly penetrate through your scalp.

When DHT binds to receptors in your scalp and damages your hair follicles, it can shorten the anagen phase so much that new hairs eventually stop growing out from your scalp.

Finasteride Shedding Cycles

After you start using finasteride, your DHT levels drop significantly. In fact, research shows that a typical dose of finasteride lowers the amount of DHT that can freely circulate throughout your body by more than 70 percent.

By blocking DHT, finasteride can promote your hair follicles to enter into the anagen, or growth, phase of the natural cycle of hair growth.

Due to this decline in DHT levels and sudden promotion of hair growth, hair follicles that were in the regression and resting phases of the hair cycle may become active again.

This may cause temporary hair loss as some of your hair follicles shed old hairs to replace them with new ones.

When does Finasteride Shedding Start? It depends, but typically you’ll see these results within a few weeks of use if you experience them at all.

People experience different volumes of hair shedding during this time, but generally it’s common to see your normal amount of shed hairs double.

Many men can shed 50 to 100 hairs per day or more as part of the natural hair growth cycle. This level of hair loss is so insignificant that it’s usually not even noticeable, but as it doubles you might take notice.

Finasteride shedding can be particularly severe if you also apply minoxidil, a topical medication designed to stimulate hair growth, to your scalp.

Though its mechanism of action still isn’t fully understood, minoxidil is believed to work by encouraging your hair follicles to enter into the anagen phase of their growth cycle. It also improves blood circulation to your scalp, which may provide your hair follicles with more nutrients needed for healthy hair growth.

Like finasteride, minoxidil is known for causing temporary hair loss during the first few weeks or months of use as your inactive strands of hair shed before entering the anagen phase.

If you start to experience hair shedding after you start using finasteride either on its own or with minoxidil, it’s important to stay the course.

Finasteride does work for many, and the hair shedding you may experience during the first few weeks or months of treatment is usually a temporary issue.

Keep using finasteride as prescribed and after three to four months, you should begin to notice real improvements in your hair density and general hair growth.

Finasteride shedding is a temporary issue that usually only lasts for a few months. After starting treatment with finasteride, you may notice that certain areas of your scalp have slightly less hair coverage than before, especially under bright lighting or when your hair is wet.

In a clinical trial published in the European Journal of Dermatology, experts found that men with hair loss who used finasteride started to display improvements in hair density after six months of use.

In other words, after six months, any shedding from finasteride has been more than made up for with new hair growth.

Similarly, shedding from minoxidil is generally a temporary issue that completely reverses within the first few months.

If you notice shedding after you start using finasteride, don’t panic. Instead, stay focused on the long term and keep using your medication daily. Over time, you’ll likely notice thin areas starting to fill back in with new, healthier hair as your follicles become active once again.

Finasteride shedding after 6 months may mean that something else is wrong. Finasteride shedding after 1 year is both unusual and a sign that something besides finasteride may be causing hair loss.

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While finasteride is effective on its own, it’s even more effective when combined with other hair loss treatments and hair care habits.

Below, we’ve shared several tips that can improve your results from finasteride and help you better maintain any hair growth you experience while using this medication.

Use Finasteride With Minoxidil

One of the best ways to improve your results from finasteride is to use minoxidil, a topical hair loss medication, at the same time.

Minoxidil is available as a topical solution (liquid) and as a foam. It promotes hair growth locally at the scalp level, allowing you to treat hair loss and potentially stimulate hair growth from more than one angle simultaneously.

In one study, researchers compared the effectiveness of finasteride and minoxidil alone with a combination of the two medications.

They found that 59 percent of men who only used minoxidil and 84.1 percent of men who only used finasteride experienced improvements in hair growth after 12 months.

In comparison, a significantly higher 94.1 percent of men who used both hair loss medications together experienced improvements in hair growth.

We offer minoxidil solution and minoxidil foam online, allowing you to easily add this treatment to your hair loss prevention toolkit.

Use a Hair Loss Prevention Shampoo

In addition to using minoxidil with finasteride, washing your hair with a hair loss shampoo like our Thick Fix Thickening Shampoo may help to further prevent hair loss and keep your hair in optimal condition.

Helpful ingredients to look for in a hair loss shampoo include ketoconazole and saw palmetto, both of which have been linked to reduced DHT activity and improved hair growth in scientific research.

It’s worth noting that although these ingredients appear to be effective, the scientific evidence for them isn’t as strong as it is for finasteride or minoxidil.

Take a Hair-Friendly Vitamin Supplement

Vitamin B7, or biotin, is a vitamin that plays an important role in the growth process for your hair, skin and nails. Plenty of other vitamins also play key parts in promoting consistent hair growth and ensuring your strands of hair remain healthy.

While vitamins don’t appear to have any significant role in preventing male pattern baldness,  vitamins may help to keep your hair in optimal condition.

Consuming plenty of vitamin-rich foods that promote hair growth or taking a vitamin supplement such as our Biotin Gummy Vitamins are both ways to increase your vitamin consumption.

Take Photos to Track Your Progress

It can take up to one year for finasteride to produce significant results, meaning you’ll generally need to use this medication for some time before your hair loss stops and new growth occurs.

To keep yourself motivated, it can help to take photos of your hairline and scalp to stay on top of any changes that occur in your hair.

Our guide to taking finasteride before and after photos explains how you can keep track of new hair growth while using finasteride using your camera.

If You Smoke, Kick the Habit

Smoking isn’t just harmful to your heart and lungs — it can also damage your hair follicles and contribute to hair loss.

In fact, a study carried out in Taiwan found that regular cigarette smoking was associated with an elevated risk of developing moderate or severe hair loss in men.

If you’re a smoker, consider quitting. Not only can kicking the habit improve your general health — it may also help you to grow thicker, stronger hair.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Along with minoxidil, finasteride is one of two medications that are approved by the FDA to treat male pattern baldness. It’s highly effective, with most men noticing a reduction in hair loss and a significant increase in hair growth after around one year of consistent use.

It’s common and normal to experience some diffuse hair loss, or finasteride shedding, when you first start to use this medication.

For most men, any temporary hair loss from finasteride reverses within a few months, revealing  a thicker, fuller head of hair and fewer worries about male pattern baldness.

We offer finasteride as part of our range of hair loss medications, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

You can also find out more about your options for stopping hair loss and promoting regrowth of hair in our detailed guide to preventing hair loss.

10 Sources

  1. Zito, P.M., Bistas, K.G. & Syed, K. (2022, August 25). Finasteride. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/
  2. Kinter, K.J. & Anekar, A.A. (2022, March 9). Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557634/
  3. Ho, C.H., Sood, T. & Zito, P.M. (2022, August 25). Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  4. Yanagisawa, M., et al. (2019). Long-term (10-year) efficacy of finasteride in 523 Japanese men with androgenetic alopecia. Clinical Research and Trials. 5, 1-5. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337105943_Long-term_10-year_efficacy_of_finasteride_in_523_Japanese_men_with_androgenetic_alopecia5. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337105943_Long-term_10-year_efficacy_of_finasteride_in_523_Japanese_men_with_androgenetic_alopecia
  5. Saleh, D., Nassereddin, A. & Cook, C. (2022, August 8). Anagen Effluvium. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482293/
  6. Badri, T., Nessel, T.A. & Kumar, D.D. (2021, December 19). Minoxidil. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  7. Whiting, D.A., et al. (2003). Efficacy and tolerability of finasteride 1 mg in men aged 41 to 60 years with male pattern hair loss. European Journal of Dermatology. 13 (2), 150-160. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12695131/
  8. Hu, R., et al. (2015). Combined treatment with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized and comparative study in Chinese patients. Dermatologic Therapy. 28 (5), 303-308. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/dth.12246
  9. Almohanna, H.M., Ahmed, A.A., Tsatalis, J.P. & Tosti, A. (2019, March). The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatology and Therapy. 9 (1), 51-70. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
  10. Su, L.H. & Chen, T.H. (2007, November). Association of androgenetic alopecia with smoking and its prevalence among Asian men: a community-based survey. Archives of Dermatology. 143 (11), 1401-1406. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18025364/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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