Finasteride (Propecia) and Minoxidil (Rogaine) Saved My Hairline
Before and afters
I started noticing I was developing a receding hairline when I was 23 years old. The corners of my hair, just above my temples, were beginning to recede. I was pretty shocked, because I never fathomed I would lose my hair. My dad is 73 years old, still has his juvenile hairline and hardly has any gray hairs. My paternal grandfather was bald and my maternal grandfather had a decent head of hair, but died when he was 55 of massive heart attack (he was a big smoker). I knew it was possible the balding genes skipped my dad's generation and hit me.
At the first signs of balding, I didn't hesitate to make an appointment with Dr. Robert Bernstein, who I learned about from reading the Balding Blog, which is written by Dr. Rassman, a hairloss doctor on the west coast (who I believe used to work with Dr. Bernstein in NY). I knew being denial about my hair loss was not going to stop it. If I had male pattern baldness, I wanted to treat it immediately. This isn't the 1950s - I was aware of Propecia and knew that it could help arrest the hair loss process. I think I even remember reading that Justin Bieber slammed Prince William for not getting on Propecia to save his hair. Bieber was quoted as saying something along the lines of 'Propecia grows your hair back. Everyone in Hollywood uses it.' I'm no fan of JB, even though he makes some good music --I can't lie --but the point that Hollywood stars take Propecia and it saves their hair was clear.
Dr. Bernstein's office is in NYC and looks pretty trendy. His waiting room was packed, so I could tell I was not the only one worried about losing my hair. His office doesn't accept insurance, since hair loss is a 'cosmetic problem' and is not health related. I paid $175 for each visit to his office. At my first appointment with him, he did a miniaturization test on me. He used a small digital microscope to examine the thickness of my hair follicles. If you're not balding, your hair follicles are supposed to be of a uniform thickness. If you are balding, the thickness of your hair follicles vary from thick to thin. As the follicles become thinner, they eventually stop growing and you lose hair in that area. Dr. Bernstein told me that I had miniaturization all throughout my scalp and that while some people have this and never go bald, there was a good chance I could be quite bald. I damn near jumped out of the examination chair when I heard that. I have really thick hair and could not comprehend that it was even possible for me to go bald. I think I was in shock for the rest of that appointment, but he prescribed me finasteride, a generic form of Propecia and told me to buy minoxidil (brand name Rogaine). I went directly from that appointment to the CVS down the street from my house and filled the prescription and bought minoxidil.
(A few people have asked me how I liked Dr.Bernstein. He's not overly warm, but he's pleasant and I found him to be more knowledgeable about hair loss than any other dermatologist I've seen. Most dermatologists don't have a good understanding of how to diagnose and treat male pattern hair loss. Heck, I don't think many of them even have a miniaturization microscope.)
I no longer go to Dr. Bernstein because I moved to a different state, but I have been taking finasteride and using minoxidil (once nightly before I go to bed) as he told me to do for the past 11 years. Within 6 months of when I first started taking it, the receded parts of my hairline regrew, giving me back my juvenile hairline. I maintained my juvenile hairline for 8 years until I was 31. Now at 34, I am still a Norwood 1 but my juvenile hairline has faded. The rest of my hair looks great and has maintained it's thickness.
My experience taking finasteride has been positive. Finasteride comes in a 5 mg tab (although last time I filled my script the pharmacist told me finasteride is now available as a 1 mg tab, which used to be reserved for Propecia - I guess the patent expired) and I use a pill cutter to break it into 4 even 1.25 mg tablets. I take one each night before I go to bed. I apply minoxidil after I take a shower at night, and originally used the solution but it kept running down my face, so I switched to the foam. I have used Rogaine and generic minoxidil in the past and have noticed no difference between the two in hair growth. Minoxidil is much cheaper than Rogaine, which can get pretty pricey.
The only side effect I've ever experience from either finasteride or Propecia is I had some ache in my testicles a few weeks after starting finasteride. Those aches disappeared after a few weeks and I have not noticed any side effects since. If you read some of these hair loss forums online, you'll read stories of people losing their sex drive or experiencing severe depression and brain fog on finasteride. I have not experience those side effects. In fact, I think my sex drive is much greater since I've been on finasteride. I've also noticed that I seem to be stronger in the gym than I used to be before I started taking finasteride. I've read some article online that say this might be due to a boost in testosterone, but I might just be imagining the strength gains.
All together, I'm very happy I started taking finasteride and minoxidil when I did. I think many guys wait too long because they're in denial and by the time they seek treatment, it's too late and their only option is a hair transplant. Don't let the horror stories you read on some of these forums scare you. Remember that the people most likely to post a review for a medication online are those that are extremely dissatisfied. There are millions of men who are taking the same prescription drugs that I do and live a perfectly normal life - they just don't share their stories online. This is not to say that some people don't experience erection problems or brain fox, but I think those cases are much more rare. The FDA would have pulled finasteride/Propecia a long time ago if it was as bad as some people say. My biggest tip to anyone reading this would be to not wait. Seek out professional medical advice from a dermatologist trained to treat male pattern baldness.