Women and Propecia Side Effects – What the Research Says

A lot has been written about Propecia side effects when it comes to men. But what about women? We all know that women lose their hair as well, even though women typically experience it differently than men. Men tend to suffer from male pattern baldness at the upper temples and the crown of the head, while women tend to lose hair more uniformly across their entire scalp, in a gradual thinning. However it happens, hair loss is an issue for both males and females.

Originally created as a treatment for enlarged prostate and marketed as Proscar (generic name finasteride), Propecia is a hair-loss medication that many people turn to. And while the American Hair Loss Association lists this remedy as a medication that women can take, it should be noted that the FDA has yet to approve it for women because there’s not sufficient research. This means that the potential side effects for women are not sufficiently known either. Women are generally advised not to use the medication while pregnant or to get pregnant while using it, due to the risk posed to the developing fetus due to finasteride’s hormonal effects. But with so much unknown, how safe are women taking it?

Propecia for women
The role Propecia plays in female pattern hair loss is still controversial. The results are varying with some showing success and other failure.

Studies on Propecia Side Effects in Women

There have been a few studies focused on using Propecia for reversing hair loss in women, with different results. A yearlong study from 2000 did not find Propecia was effective for women, but did also not find any negative side effects. The study involved 137 postmenopausal women who received 1 mg Propecia daily.  More recent case studies have reached the conclusion that finasteride could be effective for female pattern hair loss if the dose was increased to between 2.5 mg and 5 mg daily.

A 2012 study designed to find the exact minimal effective dosage, used 1.25 mg daily for 28 weeks. This study concluded that while the treatment did show results, it was probably not the most efficient dosage. Patients showed increased hair density and hair loss stopped, but hair growth did not return. So while researchers have not found the optimal dosage, Propecia’s role in female pattern hair loss is still controversial.

While some women with female pattern hair loss might benefit from Propecia, a better understanding of the side-effects and ideal dosage are needed. Some of the known side effects for women that have been observed are heat flashes, increased body hair growth, and sweating—although the same effects were observed in women who received a placebo treatment, and could be related to menopause. The main concern is that Propecia can affect male fetuses, including signs of feminization and various birth defects. The drug is so potent that pregnant women are advised to not even touch crushed or broken tablets because Propecia can be absorbed through the skin.

How Does Propecia Work in Women?

Hair loss continues to be a common problem and is normally even more distressing and upsetting for women than for men. Our hair plays a huge part in our self-image and losing it prematurely and unwantedly is likely to affect our self-esteem. Women will twice as often as men become very-to-extremely upset when experiencing hair loss. This means there will always be a market for a hair loss treatment that works, and researchers are still hard at work trying to find it.

Different types of hair loss require different approaches. While male pattern baldness is primarily caused by sensitivity to testosterone, this is not the root cause of all female pattern hair loss. Women also produce a certain amount of testosterone, but only some women that suffer from hair loss display an elevated amount of the hormone.

Propecia, or finasteride, works by targeting the enzyme type II 5α-reductase. This enzyme is responsible for converting testosterone in our bodies to the more potent male hormone dihydrotestosterone, DHT, which causes hair loss. It was initially believed that finasteride would be effective in treating hair loss in women who had an elevated amount of testosterone, so called hyperandrogenism. But results from studies were inconsistent, and as mentioned above, success was not universal.

Still a Few Question Marks

In conclusion, there is no clear evidence either one way or the other, and Propecia may or may not work for you. Further research into what kind of woman is a good candidate for this medication must be conducted. Researchers also have little information on what the optimal dosage for women is. Any noticeable results may take at least 6 months, and in some cases even longer. And much like when men are using Propecia, the effects are not sustained without continued treatment.

What You Can Do Instead

Take a look at your habits. If you do not feel like risking anything and want another solution to your hair loss, start by treating the underlying problem. If it is not genetic, your hair loss could be caused by factors like stress, lack of sleep, lack of certain nutrients or an unhealthy lifestyle. Make sure you eat enough protein, since protein is the main building block of hair. Drinking enough water and exercising regularly also helps.

Check with your doctor. It could also be a thyroid disorder, hormonal imbalance or skin infection like scalp fungus. Getting a proper diagnosis is key to solving your individual issue.

Look over your medications. In some cases, sensitivity to a certain medication can contribute to and worsen hair loss. This even goes for common medications like Aleve, Motrin or antidepressants.

Take care of your hair. Avoid hairstyles that pull or tug on your hair like tight braids, cornrows or hair extensions. Do not wash your hair too often, and use a natural shampoo and conditioner – or even homemade ones. Skip the hairspray and other products with chemicals for a while.

Choose a natural supplement. Taking a supporting supplement or vitamins that you suspect you are deficient in could go a long way.

Propecia Side Effects – Why Some Hair Loss Medications are not Worth it

Hair loss medication

If you suffer from severe hair loss it’s tempting to turn to a medication that’s scientifically proven to be effective, rather than trying a more time-consuming approach to see what works best for you. It’s important to realize, however, that some of the most common hair loss treatments—like Propecia—can result in unintended side effects. Let’s take a look at some of the most common Propecia side-effects, then offer some alternatives.

What is Propecia?

Propecia is the brand name of the drug finasteride which is approved for men and women in treating hair loss. Taken in the form of a pill, finasteride’s effect on the hair was actually discovered by accident. The medication was initially used to treat enlarged prostate glands, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Scientists discovered that BPH patients who also had hair loss, found their hair growing back after taking finasteride. So researchers began refining the medication and, in 1997, Merck introduced finasteride for hair loss under the name Propecia.

How the Medication Works

To understand how Propecia works, we have to understand why we lose hair. Hair loss results from a ton of different reasons, like stress, hormonal imbalance, disease, a fungal infection, surgery, or side-effects from certain medications. Just about everyone experiences hair loss at some point in their life. In fact, as many as two-thirds of American men start noticing a thinning head of hair by the age of 35. By the time men reach 50, that number grows to 85%.

The main cause of male pattern baldness is a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. Some of the hormone testosterone converts into DHT in your body, which can result in a minimization and or even elimination of hair follicles. It goes without saying that fewer hair follicles results in less hair. So, if your body converts testosterone into DHT at a high rate, and you’re sensitive to this hormone, chances are you’re already seeing less hair on your scalp. But not everyone is as sensitive to the hormone’s effects, and not everyone converts testosterone into DHT at the same rate. Like a lot of things, it’s a question of genetics.

Propecia and other hair loss treatments using finasteride (like Proscar), actually work by targeting the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT in the body. If you can stop the production of this enzyme, called  5 alpha-reductase, you can slow down or prevent the body from creating excess DHT, thus protecting your hair follicles. Since the drugs address a chemical process in the body, rather than the hair follicle, they are generally very effective. But maintaining a balance of testosterone in the body is complicated—if the body has too much or too little, it can have unintended consequences.

What Propecia Side Effects Can I Expect?

When Merck originally disclosed Propecia side effects, many of them had to do with men’s sexual health. But it was later discovered that the pharmaceutical company had not told customers the whole truth. For example, negative side-effects from Propecia can sometimes persist long after you stop using the drug. In fact, more than 1,300 lawsuits have been filed accusing Merck of knowingly concealing some of the damaging effects of the drug.

Propecia side effects.
Propecia side effects include erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, and ejaculatory disorder.

Propecia received renewed attention recently when President Trump’s longtime doctor, Harold N. Bornstein, revealed that the president takes it to battle male pattern baldness.

But known Propecia side effects are no small matter (even for a sitting president), including:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Loss of libido
  • Ejaculatory disorder
  • Men over the age of 55 may experience a higher risk of developing an aggressive type of prostate cancer
  • Due to the risks the drug carries for an unborn child, pregnant women should not even touch broken or crushed Propecia pills.

But that’s not all—there are other undesirable side-effects too, like swelling in the hands and feet, dizziness, headaches and skin rashes.

Of course, not everyone taking the drug will experience negative side-effects, but the fact that they can persist years after stopping the medication is concerning.

The most recent research comes from a team at Northwestern University which studied 11,909 men who took the drug. The study, published in 2017, found that even though a relatively small amount (1.4%) of participants suffered side effects such as erectile dysfunction, the problem was significant for those who did. Even more concerning, these side effects lasted for more than 3.5 years after they stopping taking the medicine. Overall, 4.5% of the men taking these medications in the study experienced short-term erectile dysfunction.

Natural Alternatives

So you can see why we prefer natural alternatives to chemical drugs containing finasteride. Because a healthy head of hair shouldn’t require risking your sex life. In fact, Nutrafol was created as a natural choice for hair health after one of the founders experienced severe side effects from chemical drugs himself. Nutrafol can help both men and women and contains only natural ingredients and vitamins that work synergistically to promote healthy hair growth from within.

If you’re not sure your hair loss is due to DHT and male pattern baldness, try eliminating other risk factors before taking supplements or medication. Common reasons for hair loss are stress and lack of sleep. You could also lack certain vitamins or nutrients, so make sure you eat a varied diet with sufficient protein and vegetables. Also, make sure you don’t suffer from a scalp infection, and, as always, take care of your mental health as well. A positive attitude will help you deal with stress no matter what.