Hair loss drugs are big business and the large global pharmaceutical companies spend many millions of pounds in research and development, trying to find products that could provide an effective solution to androgenetic alopecia. However, the priority is often placed on finding a solution to male pattern baldness rather than female hair loss and it is certainly the case that the medications that are currently available are not all suitable for women.
Hair loss drugs for women
- Minoxidil; marketed as Rogaine or Regaine, was originally developed as an oral medication to treat high blood pressure until it was noticed that a welcome side effect was excessive hair growth. Research then showed that a topical solution of minoxidil applied to the scalp could actually stimulate hair growth. In fact, it is often more effective in reversing hair loss in women than men. The manufacturers recommend that women use the 2% concentration rather than 5% formula, but it is possible for women to be prescribed the stronger concentration by their dermatologist if used under supervision.
- Finasteride; known as Propecia, this drug inhibits the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase which converts testosterone into dihydrotesterone that attacks the hair follicle, shrinking it over time until it can no longer produce hair. It is not advised that women use finasteride because it can cause birth defects in male babies, but trials are being performed into its safety when combined with oral contraceptives.
- Spironolactone; is an androgen receptor inhibitor marketed under the brand name Aldactone. It is usually used to safely reduce excess fluids in the body, but it can also slow down androgen production and stop dihydrotesterone from binding to its androgenetic receptor – the root cause of androgenetic alopecia.
- Oral contraceptives; these can be used to decrease androgen production so can be used to try and slow down progress of androgenetic alopecia.