Whether you’re considering hair loss treatment, or you’re currently taking Finasteride, a frequently asked question is what happens when you stop taking the medication? Will Finasteride have left positive long-term effects or will your hair start to fall out again?
We are taking a closer look at how Finasteride works and what happens if you stop taking it. You can also check out our more extensive guide: Everything you need to know about Finasteride.
How does Finasteride work?
Hair loss or male pattern baldness is predominantly caused by a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The 5α-reductase enzyme catalyses the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Men experiencing male pattern baldness have hair follicles that are more sensitive to DHT, making them produce weaker and thinner hair until eventually the follicle stops producing hairs altogether.
Finasteride belongs to a class of medication known as 5α-reductase inhibitors, which effectively prevent or slow down the conversion of testosterone into DHT. They are more commonly referred to as DHT-blocker. Scientific research has shown that a daily Finasteride 1mg treatment can decrease DHT levels in men by 64% over a 42 day period.
Finasteride only works while active in your body
Finasteride comes in a 1mg tablet form and needs to be taken on a daily basis in order to be fully effective as a hair loss treatment.
Given Finasteride has a fairly short half-life (about 5-7 hours), it means that the active ingredient remaining in your body after 48 hours is almost negligible. At this point the 5α-reductase enzyme will restart catalysing the conversion of testosterone into DHT and start to negatively affect your hair follicles again.
Scientific findings support the hypothesis that Finasteride is only effective as long as it is in the body. Once treatment is discontinued, the effects of male pattern baldness start to set in again and thinning hair recommences.
What are the side effects of Finasteride?
Overall, Finasteride is a safe and effective treatment for male pattern baldness. Much scientific research attests to this. Independent long-term studies with 1,553 men have found no meaningful side effects, and no new safety concerns were identified during long-term use over a 5-year period.
However, like many other prescription medications, Finasteride does come with its side effects. Given that Finasteride will be taken over a long-period of time, it is important to understand what these potential side effects may be, and how they could affect you.
Some studies found that about 1-2% of men that use finasteride may experience side effects such as a reduced sex drive or erectile problems.
Do side effects persist if you stop taking Finasteride?
As mentioned, a small percentage of men using Finasteride were found to experience side effects such as loss of libido or erectile dysfunction over long-term use.
Research has since focussed on assessing whether those side effects peristed once the treatment of finasteride was discontinued.
A study from 1997 found that the majority of men experiencing side effects, noticed that they would return to a normal state once they stopped taking Finasteride. Another study from 2012 found counter indicative results, supporting that side effects continued for months, and in some cases years, after treatment of Finasteride was stopped.
What happens if you stop taking Finasteride?
In summary, if you discontinue the treatment of Finasteride you should expect testosterone to be converted back to DHT. This will encourage hair thinning, since the effects of Finasteride only last as long as it is active in your body.
Side effects of Finasteride will likely also stop once you continue the treatment. However, in very rare cases they can potentially continue over a long period of time.
If you’re considering taking or stopping long-term medication, it is always best to check with your GP first.