Beautiful hair is a sign of good health. Our society associates thick, luscious hair with youth, desirability, and vitality – not to mention identity.
So hair isn’t “just hair” to most people. And while hair loss may seem trivial compared to other serious health issues, hair loss isn’t just a cosmetic issue. It can also be a mental health issue because of the vulnerability many people feel from their hair loss being visible to the public.
For your patients who seek treatment for hair loss, finasteride (sold under the brand names Proscar and Propecia) may have been offered as an option. But is it really the best option? In this article, we’ll discuss what finasteride is, its potential side effects, and how it compares to platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy.
Finasteride belongs to a class of compounds called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, which block the conversion of testosterone into 5-alpha dihydrotestosterone (DHT).1 It was first approved as an oral drug by the FDA in 1992 for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland). Then in 1998, the FDA approved finasteride to treat male pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia.
How does finasteride treat both prostatic hyperplasia and androgenetic alopecia?
Both conditions are androgen-dependent disorders characterized by high levels of DHT, the dominant androgen in the prostate.2 Research studies have demonstrated that finasteride can reduce prostate DHT levels by up to 70% in humans, suppress growth of prostate cancer cells, and reduce prostate cancer incidence.3
When it comes to hair, high levels of DHT is thought to contribute to hair loss due to its role as a potent regulator of hair follicle growth and cycling.4 Therefore, reducing scalp DHT levels with finasteride may help reduce hair loss and promote hair growth.
So, is finasteride effective for treating hair loss?
Results of clinical studies in 1,879 men showed that 1 mg of oral finasteride per day promoted hair growth and prevented hair loss in a significant number of men with androgenetic alopecia. At the 2-year mark of treatment, 66% of finasteride recipients reported improvement in hair growth. Eighty-three percent of these recipients also showed increased hair counts and no further hair loss after 2 years compared to their counterparts who received the placebo.5
Some of the common side effects of finasteride include:6,7
Finasteride is only indicated for use in men. Women who use finasteride may experience rare but serious side effects like changes in breast size, pain, or nipple discharge.8
Interest in platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy to treat androgenetic alopecia has exploded in recent years. Its regenerative mechanisms are still under investigation, but experts believe the high concentration of growth factors promote hair growth through the following mechanisms:9
One major advantage of PRP therapy over finasteride is that PRP can be used for both men and women. And because PRP is derived using one’s own blood, the chances of adverse effects are minimal.
So how effective is PRP? One systematic review found that 84% of the studies analyzed reported a positive effect of PRP for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia.10 Another study demonstrated that PRP alone could be used to promote hair growth.11
PRP therapy can also be used in combination with conventional treatments like finasteride. A study published by Alves and colleagues reported that PRP in combination with either minoxidil or finasteride had a significant positive effect compared to the placebo injection over 6 months.12
Hair loss can leave your patients feeling isolated. And while conventional treatments like finasteride may provide short-term benefits for some, they come with potentially serious side effects. And many patients are unwilling to add another medication to their routine.
That’s where PRP comes in. Research studies have shown (and continue to show) that PRP is a highly effective alternative to finasteride. And with its exceptional safety profile, PRP is often the better choice.
But the quality of PRP matters. If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. PRP products, check out our centrifuges and kits in our online store. Already own a centrifuge or not sure which products to choose? We’d love to help you. Call us today at (844) 377-7787 (DR-PRP-US).