Medical Management of Hair Loss - Hair Loss & Hair Transplant Surgery Guide

Medical management of hair loss includes drugs and lotions that can be used to treat male-pattern baldness, thinning hair, female baldness and occasionally alopecia areata. There are currently two available treatments, Finasteride (Propecia) and Minoxidil (Rogaine).


Finasteride comes in the form of a tablet that is taken daily. It is only suitable for men and is used as a treatment for male-pattern hair loss. It is thought to work by preventing the hormone DHT from acting on the hair follicles and reversing the hair loss. Current research has suggested that around two thirds of patients who take the treatment will experience some hair regrowth. The remaining third will not experience regrowth but the majority of these patients do not have any further hair loss. The drug takes around four months to produce any effects, and if the treatment is stopped hair loss will usually continue. Finasteride is only currently available through a private prescription from your general practitioner.

Side Effects

There are no common side effects from taking finasteride, although around 2% of men report a loss of sex drive. This is reversed if treatment is stopped.


Minoxidil is an ointment that is applied to the scalp on a daily basis. It is available from pharmacists without prescription, and is suitable for both men and women. Although the process by which minoxidil works is unknown, it is used to stop hair loss, and can promote hair growth in some cases. It is used to treat male-pattern baldness, although it only stops hair loss in around half of cases, and only 15% of patients experience regrowth. It can also be used as a treatment for hair loss in females, with the majority of patients experiencing a prevention of further hair loss, and up to a quarter reporting regrowth of the hair. In these cases the ointment takes up to four months before effects are seen, and once treatment is stopped hair loss will continue. Minoxidil can also be used to help treat hair loss due to alopecia areata, and in these cases it can take up to twelve months for the treatment to take full effect.

Side Effects

It is uncommon to experience side effects from minoxidil treatment.