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Propecia vs. Rogaine: Head to Head

by Vanessa Day

Of all the products on the market right now claiming to stop male pattern hair loss, there are only two that have been approved by the FDA as legitimate hair loss treatments: Rogaine® and Propecia®. And while having two options is always better than one, the question still remains, “which one works better?” Both Rogaine and Propecia have shown great results in clinical studies; yet they each have their disadvantages. In a side-by-side comparison, which one comes out on top?

Before we can answer that, we need to provide a little background information.

What is Propecia and How Does it Work?

Propecia, or Finasteride, is a once-daily pill proven to help reduce DHT, dihydrotestosterone. DHT is a substance in the body that has been strongly linked to thinning hair and is one of the main causes of male pattern hair loss. This chemical shrinks hair follicles until they are no longer visible on the scalp. Propecia successfully blocks DHT, reducing further hair loss and regrowing hair. It has only been approved to treat hair on the vertex—top of the head—and the anterior mid-scalp area—middle front of the head—. After a five-year clinical study, nine out of ten men who took Propecia had visible results of either hair regrowth (48%) or no further hair loss (42%).

Propecia should be taken for at least 3 months before results start to show. Men who took the hair loss pill reported a reduction in the size of their bald spots, a slowdown in hair loss and an overall improvement in their hair appearance.

The Negative Side of Propecia

Despite its success, Propecia does have some limitations. It is not approved for women and children to use, which is a problem for the 30 million women who deal with some form of hair loss. Propecia may not treat hair loss in everyone who takes it. Hair loss patients are encouraged to stick with taking the drug for at least 3 months before they start seeing results, but if nothing changes after 12 months of taking Propecia, then treatment should cease.

Also, there have been reports of mild side effects, such as a decrease in sexual desire, difficulty in achieving an erection and a low semen count. However, these side effects were only seen in about 2% of men who took Propecia, so they are very uncommon. Other minor side effects include allergic reactions such as rashes, itching, hives and swelling of the lips and face. Breast tenderness and testicular pain have also been reported as side effects of Propecia. The chemical makeup of Propecia can affect PSA, a blood test taken as a screening for prostate cancer. If patients are getting this screening, they need to tell their doctor if they are taking Propecia.

What is Rogaine and How Does it Work?

Rogaine is the only topical brand that is approved for hair loss prevention in both men and women. Rogaine’s main focus is hereditary hair loss, which accounts for 95% of hair loss cases. Generally hereditary hair loss is triggered by hormone activity and genes, which can cause the hair follicles to shrink. This progressive shrinking leads to shorter hair growth cycles, and eventually there will be no growth at all. Rogaine is made with the active ingredient Minoxidil, which reinvigorates hair follicles, increasing their size and regrowing thicker hair over time.

After four months of using Rogaine twice a day, 85% of men experienced hair regrowth. Rogaine has shown an increase in hair weight as well as hair count, which is why so many men and women have trusted it to revitalize their thick strands.

The Negatives of Rogaine

Since Rogaine is a topical solution, it must be applied directly to the problem area, and it has to be done twice a day. For many people this can be a hassle, but usually it does not take long to apply. Rogaine does not work on forehead hairlines or on scalps that are entirely bald. This is due to the fact that these follicles are probably long dead, and Rogaine cannot help if there is no active hair cycle.

Rogaine, while generally safe, has been known to cause a few concerning side effects. It may cause irritation, itchiness, redness and dryness in skin as well as certain allergic reactions like hives and facial swelling. These symptoms will usually clear up quickly. There are more serious risks with Rogaine use, including irregular heartbeat, chest pain, dizziness and fainting. If patients experience any of these symptoms, they need to contact a doctor immediately to seek medical treatment.

Rogaine and Propecia: Head to Head

It is clear that both these hair loss treatments have positives and negatives, so which one wins in the end? It all comes down to two factors: how the treatment is applied and what it actually treats.

Propecia is an oral medication, while Rogaine is applied externally. Oral medications tend to be easier to take, especially in this case since Propecia is taken once and Rogaine needs to be used twice a day. Where Rogaine gains the upper hand is in availability. It can be bought over-the-counter by anyone looking to take care of thinning hair. Propecia is a prescription medication that can only be purchased through a pharmacy, which means it’s not as easy to obtain and it costs more money.

As far as how they treat hair loss, both solutions attack it from different angles. Rogaine has been more successful at holding on to existing hair and promoting more growth. Propecia actually fights the causes of hair loss by blocking DHT, meaning that the thinning and hair loss process will stop, giving hair an opportunity to grow at its natural pace and thickness. In short, Rogaine is better at regrowing hair, while Propecia is better at preventing hair loss.

What Treatment is Right for You?

Both Rogaine and Propecia are proven methods of fighting hair loss, but it seems they both accomplish something different. In fact, many hair loss patients have found the best results come from using both treatments together. Of course, this technique should be discussed with a hair loss professional first. When it comes down to it, the choice is yours. Rogaine and Propecia will both help you fight your thinning hair problems, and the best way to figure out which one will work better for your individual case is by speaking with a doctor.

Hair loss specialists are highly educated in all forms of treatment, not just non-surgical options like Propecia and Rogaine. A trained doctor will be able to provide with information about every option available to you, including hair transplant surgery and laser hair therapy, which are believed to be some of the best and most advanced hair loss treatments. And since Rogaine and Propecia cannot grow back all your hair, surgical alternatives may get you the results you really want.

If you are debating between using Rogaine or Propecia, or even considering another treatment option all together, find out all the facts from a hair loss specialist in your area. Contact us today to find out more about your hair loss treatment options.

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