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No matter your age or gender, dealing with hair loss can be frustrating. There are many hair loss products available on the market, which can add to the overwhelm. Additionally, visiting a dermatologist or hair loss specialist can be expensive.
Thankfully, there are different types of hair loss, and treatment options may vary accordingly.
Medications are available to treat male and female pattern hair loss. Many are designed to slow hair loss, stimulate new hair growth, or both.
To simplify your options, we’ll do a deep dive into the best medications for hair loss, their effectiveness, and their side effects.
You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points is pretty binary, fluctuating between the use of “male” and “female” or “men” and “women.”
Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.
Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.
Hair loss medications consist of oral pills and topical formulas. They include prescription and over-the-counter options.
When you think of hair loss medications, the brand name Rogaine may come to mind. The active ingredient in Rogaine is minoxidil, a nonprescription hair loss medication that is available over the counter.
Minoxidil is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for androgenic alopecia and female pattern hair loss. But it’s used off label for a variety of hair loss conditions. A
While Rogaine is a popular and common brand of minoxidil products, it’s not the only option. Minoxidil is available in a variety of over-the-counter hair loss products that are applied topically.
Minoxidil formulas typically consist of liquids, foams, and shampoos. In studies, minoxidil was applied to hair that was completely dry. Most manufacturers suggest you apply it to dry or towel-dried hair.
It can take at least 4 months to see results.
Finasteride is a hair loss medication for men. It’s a prescription drug that’s taken orally. It’s also available in a few prescription products that are applied topically.
This hair loss medication can be used to treat androgenic alopecia and male pattern hair loss. A
Some medications used for hair loss are actually medications for other health conditions. Spironolactone is a diuretic pill that’s used to treat high blood pressure, and it can also be used off label as a hair loss treatment for women. It’s a prescription drug taken orally. Aldactone is a brand of medication containing spironolactone, but generic versions are also available.
When it comes to hair loss, spironolactone is specifically used for women because it targets certain hormones.
Dutasteride is an oral prescription drug used to treat an enlarged prostate in men. It may also be a treatment option for men with androgenic alopecia.
It works similarly to finasteride, so it should not be taken by women.
Hair loss medications work by reducing hair loss or stimulating new hair growth. Topical and oral products work in different ways.
- Minoxidil. This medication works, in part, by shortening the resting phase of the hair growth cycle and moving hairs into the active growth phase. However, the exact mechanism by which minoxidil works isn’t fully understood yet.
- Finasteride. This medication works by blocking the action of an enzyme that converts the hormone testosterone to another hormone, dihydrotestosterone, that causes hair loss in men.
- Spironolactone. This medication works by slowing down male hormones called androgens, which includes testosterone. It slows down hair loss due to androgenic alopecia and helps hair regrowth in women.
- Dutasteride. This medication works much like finasteride. It inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone.
When using any topical products or taking oral medications, there may be side effects or possible interactions. If you are concerned about certain side effects or want to know if you can take a hair loss medication with other drugs, consult your doctor or pharmacist.
Side effects of topical hair loss treatments like minoxidil can include:
- darkening of body hair
- growth of body hair
- irritation and dermatitis on the scalp
Hair loss medications for men, such as finasteride and dutasteride, can have side effects related to sexual health, such as:
- low sex drive
- trouble getting an erection and ejaculating
- increased breast size
Side effects of spironolactone can include:
Spironolactone can also be associated with developmental issues for a fetus. Avoid getting pregnant while taking it.
If you experience any side effects while taking hair loss medications, notify your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
The most accessible hair loss treatments are those made with minoxidil. Brands like Rogaine are widely available over the counter at pharmacies and online retailers.
Prescription drugs used to treat hair loss — finasteride, spironolactone, and dutasteride — are more accessible with subscription-based telehealth platforms like Hims, Keeps, and Roman.
Hims is a telemedicine company that offers treatments for a variety of health conditions, including hair loss for men.
Over-the-counter products, such as minoxidil foams and solutions, are available for anyone to purchase.
If you’re interested in prescription-strength products, such as oral finasteride, Hims can connect you with a healthcare professional from your own home.
The cost of Hims varies considerably. A 3-month supply of some of their most popular hair loss products is priced at $195.
Keeps uses a subscription model to send hair loss treatments to your doorstep.
They offer prescriptions for oral finasteride and topical ketoconazole, an antifungal medication that is sometimes used to treat hair loss.
Keeps products cost between $30 and $120 for a 3-month supply. Your first 3 months are usually discounted. Your first consultation is free, and additional annual consultations are $5 each.
Roman is a telemedicine company for men’s health conditions like erectile dysfunction and hair loss. Their hair loss offerings include finasteride and minoxidil products starting at $20 and $16 per month, respectively.
For treatments that require a prescription, you’ll have direct access to a team of healthcare professionals.
Some at-home strategies and lifestyle changes may help minimize hair loss.
Certain vitamins and supplements may be helpful. Vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, and vitamin D are all beneficial for hair health. Iron and zinc may also curb hair loss.
A high protein diet may be recommended. Hair is made up of protein, so getting enough protein in your diet is important for hair growth.
Other professional treatments include laser devices and microneedling. Steroid injections, hair transplants, and platelet-rich plasma procedures may be options to consider, although these are more common treatments for inflammatory hair loss.
Contact a doctor immediately if you notice sudden hair loss.
Connecting with a doctor as soon as you see the early signs of hair loss may result in an early diagnosis. From there, you can begin the recommended course of treatment before the hair loss worsens.
What would a dermatologist prescribe for hair loss?
A dermatologist may recommend topical minoxidil, which is also available over the counter. A doctor might also prescribe oral finasteride for men. These medications are FDA-approved for certain conditions that cause hair loss. Other prescription medications may be available as an off-label use for hair loss.
Can biotin help hair loss?
Biotin, or vitamin B7, is a supplement that is commonly taken for hair, skin, and nails. Biotin may help improve hair thickness and overall hair quality.
Which vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause hair loss?
Hair loss may be a side effect of some nutritional deficiencies. Low levels of vitamin D, selenium, zinc, and iron may cause hair loss. Over-supplementation of certain nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin E, and selenium, may also cause hair loss.
Your appearance, and therefore your hair, can be a source of confidence. When you notice the signs of hair loss, your confidence may waver. If you’re experiencing hair loss, you’re not alone.
Many people experience hair loss at some point in their lives, and there are many treatments available. Medications have been shown to be an effective treatment option for hair loss. Many are easy to find using online telemedicine services.
Lacey Muinos is a health, wellness, and beauty writer based in Southern California. She holds a BA in English. Her work has appeared in digital publications like Livestrong, Verywell, Business Insider, Eat This Not That, and others. When she’s not writing, Lacey is likely pursuing her other interests: skin care, plant-based cooking, pilates, and traveling. You can keep up with her by visiting herwebsite or herblog.