Losing hair? You’re not alone: two out of three guys will experience some form of male pattern baldness by the time they’re 35. That’s where finasteride and minoxidil come in, but what are they?

Finasteride and minoxidil are the two most prominent—and clinically proven—treatments for men’s hair loss. Although they both work to achieve the same goal (slowing down hair loss and promoting regrowth), they work in totally different ways. Let’s break minoxidil vs finasteride down:

What’s the difference between finasteride and minoxidil?

Finasteride (generic Propecia®) is a DHT blocker. DHT (dihydrotestosterone) plays a starring role in male pattern baldness; it’s a hormone that binds to men’s hair follicles and damages them, ultimately rendering them unable to grow new hair. Finasteride prevents hair loss by stopping your body from converting testosterone into DHT.

Minoxidil (generic Rogaine®) is a vasodilator. When applied to your scalp, it widens the blood vessels, facilitating the flow of blood to hair follicles. This increased blood flow, in turn, delivers more oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles, possibly promoting hair growth.

How do finasteride and minoxidil help treat hair loss?

Finasteride helps stop hair loss and grows new hair by blocking DHT.

Minoxidil doesn’t stop hair loss, but it does help grow new hair thicker and faster than before.

Finasteride and minoxidil (the only two FDA-approved products to treat men’s hair loss) have been proven successful at treating hair loss in men, according to multiple studies.

A five-year study on the efficacy of finasteride in men with androgenetic alopecia showed improvement in 90% of participants. A 120-week study of male subjects with androgenetic alopecia showed that minoxidil was statistically significantly superior to the placebo in increasing hair count.

What forms do finasteride and minoxidil come in?

Finasteride is a pill, which you take orally once a day.

Minoxidil is a topical treatment applied to your scalp twice a day. It is available as a liquid solution, which you apply with a dropper, and as a foam, which you apply with your hands. Both forms are equally effective.

Can you take minoxidil and finasteride together?

Yes! Finasteride and minoxidil work through different mechanisms, so there is no risk in using both products at the same time. In fact, taking them in tandem may even be the most effective means of tackling hair loss: A 2015 randomized and comparative study of the combined treatment of male androgenetic alopecia with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil found that “the combined medication showed the best efficacy.”

So, which should you use?

Finasteride and minoxidil are different medications, and each serves a different purpose. Because finasteride stops hair loss at its source by blocking DHT production, many doctors will recommend it as the first step to combat male pattern baldness.

Ultimately, combatting hair loss is a commitment—in order for the treatments to work, you need to use finasteride and minoxidil daily. Increase your chances of success by picking the right solution for your needs and lifestyle.

Need help figuring out which treatment is right for you?

You can make your life easier by filling out a quick questionnaire for one of Keeps’ expert doctors to review. Once that’s submitted, the doctor will follow up with a recommended treatment plan and next steps.

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

If you would like to learn more about finasteride, please see the full prescription information here. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit MedWatch: https://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/default.htm   or call 1-800-FDA-1088