How Does Hair Loss Medication Work?

Hair loss impacts over 80 million Americans, with 40% of them being women. Being such a common condition, it’s no surprise that hair loss medications have been developed to help combat it. 

However, how does hair loss medication work? 

In this article, we’re going to talk about the causes of hair loss and how (and if) hair loss medication actually works. Learn all you need to know right here with

What causes hair loss?

Hair loss can be caused by numerous different factors such as: 

  • Age
  • Poor diet (including deficiencies)
  • Your gender (men tend to experience hair loss sooner than women)
  • Genetics
  • Hormonal changes
  • Medical conditions and treatments (these include chemotherapy and radiotherapy)

Some of these causes, like your diet, can be managed, but some, like your age and genetics, can’t be changed to prevent hair loss. Sometimes, you might experience hair loss because of an underlying medical condition. Once it’s treated, your normal hair growth might continue.

What is hair loss medication?

Hair loss medication is often a prescription-only medication that aims to help regrow your hair. They can be taken by both men and women, but some medications aren’t suitable for women when pregnant or breastfeeding. 

Some medications are available over the counter, so this means you won’t need to see a doctor to take them. However, it’s still a good idea to at least speak with the pharmacist or your doctor before taking any new medication.

Types of hair loss medication

There are multiple hair loss medication providers on the market, if you’re confused refer to our review guide Hims vs Keeps. Hair loss medication also comes in different forms and can be taken orally or applied topically. 

Knowing which type of hair loss medication is best for you will depend on lots of factors that include how you want to take it. Some people prefer to simply take one pill a day and be done with it. Other people may prefer applying it directly to their scalp to “feel” the treatment.

The most commonly prescribed hair loss medications in the US can include: 

  • Minoxidil (sometimes called Rogaine)
  • Finasteride 
  • Spironolactone

Minoxidil is available without a prescription, but you will need one for Finasteride and Spironolactone.

Hair loss medication for women

As we mentioned above, some hair loss medications aren’t FDA-approved for women. Finasteride isn’t recommended for women as it can cause birth defects. Minoxidil can be used by women, but it’s not advisable to take it while breastfeeding or pregnant either.

How does hair loss medication work?

Each hair loss medication works differently. For example, if you take Finasteride orally, then it will work to slow down your body’s production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This androgen sex hormone can shrink your hair follicles and make it harder for your hair to enter the growth cycle. 

Minoxidil, on the other hand, works by stimulating your hair follicles to promote regrowth when you apply it to your scalp. 

If your hair loss is caused by an autoimmune condition like alopecia, then the medications recommended are different. When you have an autoimmune condition, your body attacks healthy cells (ie your hair) and prevents them from growing and working properly. But if you take corticosteroids, then this could help to suppress your immune system and allow your hair to finally grow. 

It’s important to note that you might not see any results from hair loss medication for at least four months. Some hair loss medications can also have limited results that only appear when you take them. As soon as you stop, your hair could begin to shed again. 

Does hair loss medication actually work?

Whether or not hair loss medication actually works will depend on many different factors, including what stage of hair loss you’re experiencing. For example, people with complete hair loss may see fewer results than people who only have a receding hairline or crown. 

It’s important to consider the underlying cause of your hair loss too. If it’s caused by a vitamin deficiency, then hair loss medication might not be enough to regrow your hair. Treating the root cause is often the best remedy.

Hair loss medication side effects

Like any medication, hair loss medication does have some side effects. 

These can include: 

  • Increased growth of hair in other areas of your body
  • Scalp irritation
  • Decreased libido
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Struggles with erectile dysfunction

These side effects aren’t always going to occur, and different medications can have different side effects. This is why it’s important to discuss any potential medications with your doctor beforehand. 

With hair loss medications, there is no right or wrong one to choose, as it all depends on you. Some people may benefit from oral Finasteride, while others may need to utilize corticosteroids instead. 

Knowing how they work and what underlying causes they can help will make a big difference when it comes to deciding which treatment to try. So, be sure to think about how a hair loss medication works before deciding to take it, and it could help you make a better decision.