This decision aid is about whether to use medicine to treat hair loss. It doesn't discuss hair transplant surgery.
Medicines to treat hair loss caused by heredity include:
Medicine for treating inherited hair loss slows thinning of the hair and increases coverage of the scalp by growing new hair. It also thickens the shafts of your existing hair so that it grows in thicker.
With these medicines, hair coverage tends to improve on the top of the head but not on the forehead area.
How well finasteride or minoxidil works depends on your age and the location of the hair loss. These medicines don't work for everyone, and you should not expect to regrow a full head of hair.
Both medicines must be used daily. It may take 6 months of treatment before you see results.
These medicines slow thinning of the hair and increase coverage of the scalp by growing new hair. They also thicken the shafts of your existing hair so that it grows in thicker. If you stop using the medicine, any hair that has grown in will gradually be lost. Within 6 to 12 months after you stop using the medicine, your scalp will most likely look the same as it did before treatment.
Minoxidil slows hair loss and grows new hair. In men, the 5% solution appears to be more effective than the 2% solution, but it costs more and may have more side effects.
Minoxidil seems to work best on people younger than 30 years of age who have been losing hair for less than 5 years.2
Finasteride is recognized as a successful therapy for inherited hair loss for men. Research reports that it slows hair loss on the scalp and helps regrow hair.2 But bald spots may not be completely covered, and it may take from a few months to a year before you see results.
Side effects of minoxidil include skin irritation, dandruff, and an itchy scalp. In women, minoxidil may cause facial hair growth, especially on the forehead and cheeks. If you have heart problems, ask your doctor before you use this medicine.
Finasteride should not be taken or handled by women who are or may become pregnant, because it can cause birth defects. Possible side effects in men include sexual problems, such as trouble getting an erection.
The disadvantages of using these medicines for hair loss include the following:
There are no risks to your health if you decide not to use medicine for hair loss. But some people may be bothered by hair loss that they feel has affected their appearance.
If you don't use medicine, your hair loss will probably continue. But medicine doesn't always work, and hair loss may continue despite treatment with medicine.
|Treat hair loss with medicine||Don't treat hair loss with medicine|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"My father and grandfather are both bald. I decided to use Rogaine to see if it would slow down my hair loss. I don't want to look like my dad just yet!"
— Johan, age 28
"My hair began to thin when I was 28 years old. Now I am 44 and the top of my head is bald. Recently, I considered using medicine to treat my hair loss and see if any hair would regrow. After reading the literature and talking to my doctor, I decided not to take medicine because it is unlikely to make a huge difference in my hair—and I don't want to take medicine forever!"
— Bob, age 44
"My hair is very important to me and my appearance. I noticed that my hair was starting to thin. And because baldness runs in our family, I decided to take an aggressive approach to reduce my chances for more hair loss. I am willing to take a pill every day, and to pay for it."
— Marc, age 32
"I have noticed some thinning throughout my scalp. Although this is disturbing to me, I have decided not to take medicine for the hair loss. It seems that medicine works best for young males. So now I'm checking out hair transplant surgery. I think that in the long run, I may be happier with the results."
— Stella, age 38
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to use medicine for inherited hair loss
Reasons not to use medicine for inherited hair loss
My hair loss causes me a lot of stress or unhappiness.
My hair loss doesn't bother me too much.
I am willing to pay for the treatment over the long term.
I do not want to pay for treatment over the long term.
I realize that the treatment may not work for me, but I want to try it anyway.
I don't want to try the treatment if there is a chance it won't work.
I will be happy if I can stop the hair loss and some hair grows back.
Using medicine will only be worth it to me if I will have a full head of hair.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Taking medicine to treat the hair loss.
NOT taking medicine to treat the hair loss.
1. If I use medicine to treat my hair loss, I will end up with a full head of hair.
2. If I stop taking the medicine, my new hair growth will fall out.
3. I should check with my doctor before I take hair loss medicines.
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine|