Women And Propecia: Side Effects & What The Research Says

Anya Arthen

on September 28, 2018

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?

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.

August is National Hair Loss Awareness Month – This is What You Can Do

August is National Hair Loss Awareness Month – This is What You Can Do

We are in the beginning of National Hair Loss Awareness Month, and experts say this time of year is about talking about the reality of suffering from hair loss. The focus should be on prevention and treatment.

Did you know that as many as two-thirds of American men will experience hair loss as early as at the age of 35? And although this problem is more associated with men, about 40 % of women experience visible hair thinning by the age of 40.

Dr. Alan Bauman of Bauman Medical, who is a leader in the field of hair treatments, has some advice on how to keep your hair healthy and avoid losing it. His cheat sheet for prevention of excessive hair loss is as follows:


  1. Desire. Be aware of your hair and keep the desire to maintain its health. Your hair is a direct reflection of your health and vitality. Keep an eye on what it looks like, and if you start noticing signs of thinning, do not wait. Get help right away. Research shows that many people who begin treatment for their hair loss wish they had started sooner. The chance of treating the problem effectively also increases the earlier you seek help.
  2. August is National Hair Loss Awareness Month – This is What You Can Do
    Many women do not talk about their hair loss, but it is a common problem that many times is preventable.

    Detect, diagnose and measure early. Get yourself to a dermatologist, doctor or hair specialist to get diagnosed as soon as you notice something out of the ordinary.

  3. Identify risk factors. Hair thinning is hereditary, so any family history of lost hair will be of importance. But hair loss is also caused by outer factors. Some examples are smoking, over using styling tools, leading an unhealthy lifestyle or eating certain medications. Hormones are also very important. Many women experience hair loss or thinning during or after menopause.
  4. Early treatment. Once you are diagnosed, do not wait to take action. There are as many different treatments as there are reasons for hair loss, so make sure to discuss all aspects of your symptoms with your MD. For some, eating supplements could be enough, as lack of certain nutrients can contribute to thinning hair. For others, a change of lifestyle or even a medical procedure could be in order.
  5. Work with a credentialed specialist. Dr. Bauman advices to not trust people claiming to be a healer of some kind, or people who lack credentials. Base your decision in scientific research and check any practitioner’s reviews online.

Women Often Suffer From Hair Loss in Silence

As women’s hair loss is less talked about, women often feel like they cannot talk about their problems. But the issue often feels way worse if you believe you are totally alone in it. The fact is there are many specific types of hair loss that affect women primarily. They often have to do with stress, hormones, wearing the hair in too tight a style, or reactions to chemotherapy after breast cancer treatment.

During National Hair Loss Awareness Month it should be time to open up about women’s suffering from hair thinning. Women do make up 40 percent of American hair loss sufferers, and the toll it can take on a person’s self esteem and emotional wellbeing can be devastating. Bringing awareness to the problem to get rid of the stigma surrounding it is a first step towards allowing more women to seek help.

These are the Most Common Causes for Hair Loss in Women

Losing hair as a woman is not a great feeling, but hair loss in women is quite common. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 40 percent of women experience visible hair loss by the time they reach 40. Luckily there are many ways to tackle this condition.

How Does Hair Growth Work

The hair growth cycle has four stages. The first one, anagen, is when the hair grows from the hair follicle. The pace is about half an inch every 28 days. How long this phase last is individual. It can be disrupted due to stress, hormonal imbalance, diseases or other factors.

Stage two, catagen, is when the hair follicles detach from blood vessels in the scalp so that blood supply is cut off. The hair stops growing.

The third phase is called telogen. This normally lasts for about three months – this is the resting phase, before the cycle starts over again.

The fourth and final phase, exogen, is really just a resting phase as well. This is the time when dead hair falls out. Normal shedding is approximately 50 – 100 hairs every day. However, in healthy people, new hair starts growing at the same time.

The Common Causes for Hair Loss in Women 

Androgenetic Alopecia – Female Pattern Baldness

This is also called pattern baldness and is most commonly found in men. Initially, doctors believed this pattern hair loss to be caused by excessive male hormone, testosterone, in a patient. Women normally have some amounts of this hormone as well. But in later years it was discovered that dihydrotestosterone, DHT, is the real culprit.

Testosterone converts into DHT when bound by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. This is naturally produced in the body, but it is believed that people that suffer from pattern baldness have a heightened sensitivity to it. Their bodies create more DHT, which in turn kills the hair follicles. There can also be a hormonal imbalance that triggers a reaction to an increased level of DHT.

Telogen Effluvium – Stress

Hair loss in women
A healthy lifestyle and diet are important for healthy hair.

The hair growth cycle can be disrupted by major life events that cause stress in the body, surgery, giving birth, having some kind of accident or going through a divorce. In this case, all the hairs that are in the growing or resting phases will shift at the same time to shedding phase.

Normally it takes about three months after a particularly stressful event until the hair shedding shows. For some women, this can be a lasting condition that comes and goes. But for most, it is a temporary thing that will most likely solve itself if you solve the underlying situation that caused your stress or trauma.

Anagen Effluvium – Reaction to Chemotherapy

If something happens to the hair follicle that disrupts its mitotic or metabolic activity, it will stop growing hairs. This typically happens after chemotherapy during cancer treatment. Since chemo targets cancer cells in the body that divide rapidly, all other rapidly dividing cells are also affected. In hair cells, this will narrow the hair shaft until it breaks off.

Most people lose hair during chemo, but there is a new treatment that is up and coming in the United States. Cold cap chemotherapy could be effective in treating hair loss in women that go through chemotherapy without medicine or surgery. The treatment consists of a cold cap with a cooling liquid that is placed on the patient’s head during the chemo session. Cooling down the scalp will constrict blood vessels and slow the blood flow. That means the metabolism of hair follicle cells will also slow down, and the effects of the radiation on the hair cells will be reduced.

Traction Alopecia – Tugging at the Hair

Traction alopecia can be caused by a very tight hairstyle, like a ponytail or braids, that is kept for a long period of time. This will pull and tug at the hair and stretch out the hair follicles until the hair falls out. This is ironically a common problem for people wearing hair extensions.

This condition can also be caused by stress or obsessive compulsory disorder, in which someone pulls and tugs on her own hair until it falls out (also known as trichotillomania).


Most of these types of hair loss and thinning in women can be helped by reducing stress and leading a healthy lifestyle overall. Diet plays a big part in our hair’s health. For the times when we are too busy to get to that workout or make a homemade salad for dinner, a natural hair supplement can be a good complement. Nutrafol contains only naturally derived ingredients that work synergistically to make your hair healthy from the inside out.