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Difference between Minoxidil and Finasteride Experts Suggestions

Written by

Science & Humans

Medically approved by

Maria Jacob

Last updated

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Treating Mechanism

Minoxidil is external – scalp based treatment, used for all types of hair loss including androgenic alopecia. Finasteride is both Pill and topical application, and works only on androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness.) ​

Minoxidil is a vasodilator. It works by enriching the hair follicles with improved blood flow and reducing the rest phase of hair growth. Finasteride is an enzyme blocker which reduces a potent form of testosterone – DHT which causes MPB, the most common cause of hair loss in men and women. ​

Minoxidil thickens the hair shaft, and can increase density, whereas finasteride stops miniaturization of the hair shaft due to DHT and stabilizes hair loss. ​

Minoxidil elongates growth phase, finasteride stops hair going into rest phase due to miniaturization or shrinking of hair shaft. ​

Minoxidil least effective to treat frontal baldness. Finasteride can effectively treat receding front line.​

Minoxidil will result in increased hair everywhere. In fact, that is how the benefits for hair loss was discovered while Minoxidil was used in a blood pressure study. The pill form is used to treat hypertension. Hence topical treatment only to the scalp to remedy hair loss to contain the hair growth.​

Finasteride reduces the DHT everywhere, so applying the same topically on the scalp helps stabilize hair loss. ​

Side Effects:

Minoxidil has hardly any side effects. Itching, swelling, and burning of the scalp are some extremely rare side effects. Finasteride might cause sexual side effects, again, extremely rare.

Minoxidil is not harmful if pregnant women come in contact, whereas pregnant women are cautioned against touching finasteride powder or chunks since it can be absorbed by the skin and may cause a male baby’s genitals to malform due to DHT suppression.

But in studies, such a side effect has been seen only in rats that were given massive doses which would translate to a 200X of regular dose prescribed to humans. So the chances of a malformed male feltus due to touching finasteride is pretty slim.


Minoxidil has no effect on fertility while finasteride might reduce sperm count, watery sperm.

Minoxidil has to be used lifelong. Stopping using will only result in hair loss. Finasteride can be stopped for a few months without hair loss. This comes in handy for those wanting to have children, and worried about side effects.

Who can use what?

Minoxidil can be used by both men and women to treat hair loss, while finasteride is strictly prescribed to treat hair loss in men from MPB.

*Finasteride is prescribed to women whose testosterone levels are very high (hyperandrogenism) acne vulgaris, hirsutism and pattern alopecia induced by testosterone in female-to-male transgender patients.

Minoxidil is over the counter while Finasteride is prescription only

Minoxidil Vs. Finasteride

-at a glance

Minoxidil Finasteride
Vasodilator, stimulant – all types of hair loss DHT blocker – only for MPB
Thickens hair shaft Stops miniaturization of hair follicle
OTC Prescription
Thickens hair shaft Stops miniaturization of hair follicle
topical treatment Pill and topical form
Life long commitment Can be stopped for a while without hair loss
Men & women Only men

Further reading

Finasteride or Minoxidil or Both for Hair Loss?

Finasteride and minoxidil are effective therapies for male pattern baldness, with Finasteride being used to treat androgenetic alopecia and OTC therapy being an over-the- ...

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Effects of Topical Finasteride & Minoxidil in Hair Loss treatments

We provide a FDA-approved hair loss treatment for Male Pattern Baldness (MPB) to improve regeneration and stop hair shaft shrinkage. Clinical studies have demonstrated th ...

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Scalp Massage for Pattern Baldness: Can It Combat Hair Loss?

A scalp massage increases blood flow, which feeds the hair follicles with nutrients and oxygen to promote hair growth. Although no unique tools are required, consistency ...

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