A medical specialist provided insights into the advantages and disadvantages of the most commonly used hair loss treatments in the United Kingdom.
It’s estimated that up to 40 percent of men in the United Kingdom experience male pattern baldness, which is the most prevalent form of hair loss. While genetics can be a contributing factor, there are available treatments to mitigate and address balding.
Among the various treatment choices, two of the most widely embraced options are finasteride and minoxidil, which can be administered in the form of tablets or sprays. However, akin to many cosmetic and medical solutions, they may potentially entail certain side effects.
Also marketed as Propecia, is not accessible through the NHS but can be acquired via a private prescription.
“It is recommended to take a daily dose of one mg and evaluate its effects after four months,” she advised.
“After one year, if no significant improvement is observed, it should be discontinued. If it proves to be effective, it can be used indefinitely.”
However, she cautioned that, like any medication, there is the potential for side effects. The most common side effects include:
- Sexual dysfunction, characterized by reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, and difficulties with ejaculation. These problems tend to ameliorate over time and typically resolve if the drug is discontinued.
- Testicular pain.
- Haematospermia, which is the presence of blood in the sperm.
- Breast tenderness and enlargement. Men are advised to promptly report any changes in their breasts to their GP, as although unproven, there may be an elevated risk of male breast cancer.
- Depression and thoughts of suicide.
Dr. Lee also emphasized that individuals with an allergy to finasteride or severe liver disease should avoid taking it.
According to the NHS, it is not advised for use by women or children.
Nevertheless, Dr. Lee mentioned that in clinical trials spanning two years, 83 percent of men who used finasteride reported no further hair loss, and 66 percent actually saw an increase in hair growth.
Though oral formulations of minoxidil do exist, it is more commonly administered in the form of a solution or foam applied to the scalp.
Dr. Lee explained, “The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends the use of a 5 percent minoxidil solution or foam. It can be bought over the counter without requiring a prescription.”
In certain instances, it can lead to problems in the area being treated.
She elaborated, saying, “Some individuals may experience local skin reactions, such as redness and skin flaking on the scalp. This reaction is most often attributed to the presence of propylene glycol in the product. If it becomes severe and/or persists, discontinuing the treatment is advisable.”
She also mentioned, “It’s worth noting that the foam formulation does not contain propylene glycol and can be considered as an alternative. It’s important to be cautious when applying the product and ensure it is only used on the scalp. Accidental contact with the face or other areas can result in unwanted hair growth in those regions.”
She mentioned that low blood pressure is sometimes cited as a side effect.
Furthermore, she emphasized, “Minoxidil should be employed carefully in men with a history of heart disease or established cardiac arrhythmias.”
Nonetheless, it has demonstrated its effectiveness. Dr. Lee pointed out, “According to a manufacturer-reported preclinical study, 60 percent of male patients experienced an improvement in scalp coverage after 48 weeks of usage.”
“In a study involving 11,000 minoxidil users, after using it for one year, 92 percent reported that it had effectively reduced hair loss, with results ranging from moderate to outstanding.”
If you encounter any adverse effects from finasteride or minoxidil, it is recommended to discontinue use and consult your general practitioner (GP) if you have any concerns.
This commentary comes from Fiona Callingham, a health reporter with expertise in medical research, symptoms of illnesses, real-life experiences, and current public health concerns.