Are you one of millions of people battling some type of hair loss? More than half of males experience some degree of male pattern baldness by age 50, but even women and children can experience unwanted hair loss. There are more options than ever before to treat hair loss — such as herbal treatments, scalp massage, lasers, and surgery — but one of the most popular options is the safe and effective pharmaceuticals on the market.
There are two main medications approved by the FDA for treatment of hair loss — and they’re very different. For starters, Rogaine is a topical solution applied to the scalp, while Propecia is an orally administered pill. One medication is better than the other at treating a receding hairline. Men can use either medication, or even both, but women are restricted to just one. Because of these distinctions, it is important to choose the right hair-loss medication for you.
Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Rogaine (minoxidil) was first on the scene. Its ability to fight hair loss was discovered accidentally. The drug, a vasodilator, was originally used exclusively to treat high blood pressure, when some patients began reporting that it re-grew hair as a side effect. It was approved by the FDA in 1988 to treat male pattern baldness. Rogaine, by Pfizer, is primarily effective at stopping hair loss, but in some patients, it can increase protein blocks, which can promote new hair growth. It is said to be effective both on the hairline and vertex of scalp. Rogaine can be used by both men and women, in a 2% or 5% solution.
Propecia (finasteride), made by Merck, is an orally administered medication approved by the FDA in 1997 to treat hair loss. Unlike Rogaine, which is a vasodilator, Propecia acts on hair loss through hormonal means. (Because of this, Propecia should NOT be used by women or children; it could be very dangerous.) Propecia is an anti-androgen, which decreases the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a chemical responsible for balding. With DHT inhibited, existing hair is better maintained, and the body can put more energy into thinning follicles so that they become thicker. Propecia has high effectiveness with early to moderate hair loss, and works best on the crown of the head, but not as well with a receding hairline.
Neither Rogaine nor Propecia is a quick fix for hair loss. They both need to be taken for long periods. It can take anywhere from 6 to 24 months to see initial results, and patients may need to take their chosen medication indefinitely keep treating the condition.
Knowing all this, which factors should guide your choice between Rogaine and Propecia?
Your gender: if you are male, you can be prescribed either (or both), but if you are a woman, you can only use Rogaine.
Your goals: Rogaine is slightly more useful for retaining existing hair, while Propecia is said to be more effective at promoting new hair growth.
Your area of hair loss: Propecia has good results mainly on the crown, while Rogaine has documented success on the hairline and the crown.
Medical interactions: Consult your physician to determine which drug is a better fit for your personal health conditions and other medications.
Side effects: With Propecia, you may experience decreased libido or gynecomastia. Rogaine may trigger allergic effects, chest pain, dizziness, or irregular heartbeat.
Ease of use: Some people feel that a daily pill is simpler than a twice-daily application to the scalp, but others prefer to pick their medication based on its mode of action.
Whichever method you select, be patient, and remember to keep feeling good about yourself, your hair, and your overall health. As with any drug, please consult your physician before you begin any medication.
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