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Propecia for Hair Loss

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Male pattern baldness affects most men at some point. It will affect three in ten men at the age of 30 rising to about one in two men from the age of 50. Although it can take about 20 years to go bald, some men will lose their hair within five years. It is a common type of hair loss caused by a combination of hereditary and hormonal factors. 

In balding the hair follicles that produce hair start to shrink, so the new hair that grows in the follicle is thinner than normal and sheds more quickly. Normally hair is shed every three years from a follicle and replaced with new growth. Eventually, this smaller hair follicle will stop producing hair.

Male hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone are involved in causing these changes. Hair follicles convert testosterone (the main male hormone) into a different hormone called dihydrotestosterone. Affected hair follicles shrink as they become more sensitive to dihydrotestosterone.

Most men do not wish for any treatment for hair loss. There are treatments that can help prevent further hair loss and may encourage hair growth. Propecia (finasteride) can help prevent further hair loss. It works by stopping the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone.

Common Symptoms

  • hair loss
  • receding hairline
  • thinner hair
  • reduced self-confidence
Common Treatments

Possible treatment we prescribe if clinically appropriate:

Propecia (Finasteride) is only available on prescription and is not available on the NHS. 

Propecia (Finasteride) 1mg once daily

  • 4-week course £33.68*
  • 12-week course £88.40*

*Prices shown are cost price of the medication, taken from the British National Formulary 2018, and are given as a guideline. Pharmacies will add a dispensing fee to this which will vary considerably, so it is worthwhile phoning around to compare prices. The medication is paid for at your chosen pharmacy. 

Please click on the medication above to read the Patient Information Leaflet for important information about the medication.

Treatments for hair loss

Hair loss is a normal part of the ageing process for many men and treatment may not be needed nor wanted.

Treatment options include:

  • Propecia (finasteride)
  • Regaine (minoxidil)
  • Hair transplant
  • Hair pieces or wigs


Minoxidil lotion or foam is a treatment that you can buy at pharmacies without a prescription. It is unclear how it works. It comes in two concentrations. The higher-strength 5% solution is more effective than the 2% solution. It is unclear as to how effective it is, however it is thought to be most effective when used when minimal hair loss has occurred rather than when a lot of hair has already been lost. It is best used to prevent further hair loss but some hair regrowth occurs in some users. Treatment with Regaine needs to be continued indefinitely and any new hair that does regrow falls out two months after treatment is stopped.

More information about Propecia

Always read the manufacturers leaflet contained with the medication. This contains more information and lists all the potential side effects.

How to take Propecia (finasteride)

Take one tablet daily and try to take it at the same time each day to help you remember it. Take the tablet with a glass of water either with or without food. 

If you forget to take a dose, take one as soon as you remember unless it's nearly time for your next dose. In this case, just leave out the missed dose and take your next dose as normal.

What to expect from Propecia

About one in three men have enough hair growth to find finasteride helpful. You may notice an improvement within a few months but it can take about a year to see the full effects. To maintain the benefits you will need to continue taking Propecia as the beneficial effects begin to reverse by six months after stopping and return to baseline by 9 to 12 months.

Possible side effects from Propecia

Most types of medicines can cause potential side effects. However, not everyone will experience them. If any of the side effects continue or become troublesome, then speak with your doctor or pharmacist. 

The most common ones for Propecia include:

  • reduced libido (affecting about 2 in 100 men)
  • erectile problems
  • breast tenderness
  • low mood
  • allergic-type reactions

Women should not handle the tablets

Finasteride may cause harm to an unborn baby. Because of this, women who are pregnant should not handle the tablets.

Propecia in the semen

Very small amounts of finasteride will be in your semen while you are taking this medicine, less than 0.001% of the 1 mg dose per ejaculation, has been detected in the seminal fluid of men taking Propecia. Studies have indicated that this amount is unlikely to pose a risk to the developing male foetus.

PSA blood test

Propecia can also affect the results of a PSA blood test used to test for prostate cancer. If you are having a PSA test done then tell your doctor you are taking (Propecia) finasteride.

Contraindications to Propecia

Propecia should not be used by any of the following groups of men:

  • those under the age of 18
  • those with rare hereditary problems of galactose intolerance, the Lapp lactase deficiency or glucose-galactose malabsorption

Men taking the following medications should not take Propecia:

  • Finasteride for prostate enlargement
  • Alpha-blocker medications used for prostate enlargement or high blood pressure

Do not take Propecia if you have an allergy to any of the ingredients in the tablets which include:

  • lactose
  • microcrystalline cellulose E460
  • pregelatinised maize starch
  • sodium starch glycollate
  • docusate sodium
  • magnesium stearate E572
  • hypromellose E464
  • hydroxypropyl cellulose E463
  • titanium dioxide
  • talc
  • yellow iron oxide E172
  • red iron oxide E172
Allergic reactions to medication

An itchy rash, swollen face or mouth, or difficulty in breathing, may be signs that you are allergic to the medication. 

Please note that i-GP DOES NOT TREAT Medical Emergencies. 

If you develop a sudden onset of any of the symptoms below then you must STOP the medication immediately and seek urgent medical advice. This could be from your GP, Out of Hours Service, Urgent Care Centre or NHS 111. Call an ambulance or go to A&E if the symptoms are severe.

  • Wheeze
  • Difficulty in Breathing
  • Swelling of the eyelids, face or lips
  • A rash particularly if affecting your entire body
When to seek further medical advice

Contact your GP as soon as you can if you notice any of the following:

  • Breast symptoms: breast lump, breast pain or nipple discharge. There have been a few rare reports of breast cancer in men taking finasteride.
  • Signs of depression. There have been reports of depression in men and rarely thoughts of self-harm in men taking finasteride.

We are currently undergoing system upgrades and therefore you will be unable to start an assessment. We will be back in July and will post an update in due course.

We are sorry for the inconvenience. If you require urgent medical advice, please contact NHS 111.