Hair Loss Medications What All Options are Available (MedicationsOils Supplements)

This comprehensive guide provides you with an in-depth understanding of hair loss medications, what all options are available (medications, oils, supplements), including, the different types of medications, best supplements for hair growth and most frequently asked questions.

Topical Minoxidil

Topical minoxidil is a hair loss medication that can help with various types of hair loss, including:

  • Male and female pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia)
  • Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the hair follicles
  • Telogen effluvium, characterized by hair shedding all over the scalp due to disruptions in the hair growth cycle
  • Anagen effluvium, rapid hair loss caused by medical treatments
  • Hypotrichosis, a rare condition with minimal hair growth on the scalp and body
  • Certain forms of cicatricial alopecia, involving scarring of the hair follicles.

The exact mechanism of action of minoxidil is not fully understood, but many people have reported significant results. Consider consulting a dermatologist for better outcomes, as they can:

  • Diagnose the underlying cause of hair loss
  • Determine the appropriate concentration (2% or 5%) of minoxidil for you
  • Provide guidance on correct application techniques.

Here are some key points regarding minoxidil usage:

  • Available as a foam or liquid, minoxidil should be applied directly to the scalp twice a day for optimal results.
  • It may take several months to a year to notice a significant improvement in hair thickness.
  • Initially, increased shedding may occur for a month or two after starting the medication.
  • After six months, dermatologists evaluate progress by counting new hairs and comparing photographs taken at the beginning of treatment.
  • If satisfactory results are observed, treatment can be continued indefinitely, as discontinuation often leads to hair loss recurrence.

Side effects may include:

  • Contact dermatitis
  • Itching
  • Local burning
  • Flushing
  • Changes in hair color or texture
  • Headache

Precautions to keep in mind when using topical minoxidil:

  • Limit the application of minoxidil to the scalp and avoid applying it to other parts of the body.
  • Avoid contact with eyes, mouth, and mucous membranes, as well as broken, infected, shaved, or inflamed skin.
  • Take caution to avoid inhaling the spray mist if using a spray applicator.
  • Refrain from using occlusive dressings or other topical drugs that enhance absorption alongside minoxidil.
  • Discontinue the use of minoxidil if increased hair loss persists for more than two weeks.

Oral Finasteride

Oral finasteride is a prescription medication primarily used for male pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia. 

It works by inhibiting the production of a hormone that damages hair follicles, thereby slowing down hair loss and stimulating new hair growth. Here are the key points about oral finasteride:

  • It is taken once a day by mouth and is most effective when taken at the same time each day.
  • It typically takes around four months for finasteride to start showing results, but significant hair growth may take up to a year.
  • Dermatologists evaluate progress after six months to determine whether to continue treatment.
  • Treatment can be continued as long as desired hair growth is desired, as discontinuation may lead to hair loss recurrence.

Side effects associated with oral finasteride include:

  • Impotence
  • Decreased libido
  • Ejaculation disorders
  • Breast tenderness and enlargement
  • Testicular pain

Precautions to consider when using oral finasteride:

  • Use caution when using finasteride in cases of hepatic impairment.
  • Patients should undergo evaluation for prostatic carcinoma before and during therapy.
  • Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should avoid handling crushed or broken tablets of finasteride.
  • Finasteride use may increase the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.


Medications that inhibit androgens, which are sex hormones that can damage or destroy hair follicles, have shown potential in stopping hair loss in female pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia.

These medications, known as antiandrogens, are available only by prescription and include spironolactone and oral contraceptives containing estrogen. Here are the key points about antiandrogens:

  • Antiandrogens typically start showing results after four months of treatment.
  • Long-term use of antiandrogens is necessary to prevent hair loss from recurring.

Side effects associated with antiandrogens include:

  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Drowsiness

Women who are trying to become pregnant should avoid taking antiandrogens. 

Here are some specific antiandrogens:

Spironolactone (Aldactone):

  • It belongs to the class of drugs called potassium-sparing diuretics.
  • Spironolactone reduces fluid in the body without causing potassium loss.
  • It acts as an anti-androgen by slowing down androgen production and blocking androgen action.

Cimetidine (Tagamet):

  • Cimetidine is primarily used to treat gastrointestinal ulcers as a histamine blocker.
  • It also has an anti-androgenic effect by blocking dihydrotestosterone from binding to follicle receptor sites.
  • High doses are required for results, and it is not recommended for men due to possible feminizing effects.

Cyproterone Acetate:

  • Cyproterone acetate is used to reduce excessive sex drive in men and treat hirsutism in women.
  • It blocks the binding of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) to its receptors.
  • Cyproterone acetate is considered a last resort due to potential toxicity and long-term side effects.

Oral contraceptives:

  • Birth control pills that decrease ovarian androgen production can be used to treat androgenetic alopecia in women.
  • Consult with a doctor to choose the right hormonal formulation based on medical and lifestyle history.
  • Low-androgen index birth control pills should be used for treating hair loss.

It’s important to discuss your specific medical and lifestyle history with your doctor to determine the most suitable treatment options. 

Additionally, caution should be exercised, especially for smokers over 35 years old, due to the increased risk of blood clots and other serious conditions associated with contraceptive pill use.


Corticosteroid medications are used to treat specific types of hair loss caused by autoimmune diseases such as alopecia areata, lichen planopilaris, and discoid lupus erythematosus. 

These conditions involve the body’s immune system attacking healthy tissues, including the hair follicles. Here are the key points about corticosteroids:

  • Corticosteroids are immune system suppressors that can counteract the effects of autoimmune diseases, promoting hair growth.
  • These medications are available as topical solutions or injections and require a prescription.
  • Dermatologists determine the most suitable treatment based on the individual’s age and the severity of their symptoms.

Treatment approaches for different age groups include:

  • For children with alopecia areata, a topical steroid cream can be applied to the skin or scalp.
  • For adults, steroids may be injected into the skin or scalp, often involving multiple injections during a single appointment.

The frequency of corticosteroid treatments:

  • Steroid treatments can be administered every four to six weeks.
  • Hair regrowth may be visible within one or two months.

In cases where injections are not suitable or tolerated:

  • For individuals who cannot tolerate injections or do not experience hair growth, a dermatologist may prescribe corticosteroids to be taken orally for 8 to 10 weeks.
  • If there is no visible effect after six months of oral treatment, it is recommended to discontinue this approach.

Side effects associated with topical, injected, or oral corticosteroids:

  • Topical and injected corticosteroids may cause scalp irritation, leading to a rash, as well as thinning of the scalp’s skin.
  • Oral corticosteroids may weaken the body’s immune system, making it less capable of fighting bacterial or viral infections.

Antifungal Medications

When hair loss is caused by a fungal infection such as tinea capitis (scalp ringworm), dermatologists may recommend the use of antifungal medications. Here are some key points about antifungal medications for hair loss:

  • Antifungal medications are prescribed by dermatologists to treat tinea capitis, a fungal infection that can lead to hair loss.
  • These medications are taken orally on a daily basis.
  • It may take one to two months of treatment before noticeable results are seen
  • When treatment is initiated promptly after symptom onset, most individuals experience significant hair regrowth.
  • Like any medication, antifungal drugs can have side effects.
  • Common side effects of antifungal medications include rash, diarrhea, and upset stomach.

Lifestyle Changes

Some life style changes can help control hair loss:

Quit smoking:

  • Smoking has been linked to various negative effects on the body, including potential hair loss.
  • Quitting smoking may help decrease the risk of hair loss.

Scalp massage:

  • Massaging the scalp can provide a pleasurable experience and stimulate the hair follicles.
  • Some individuals have reported perceiving improvements in hair density after regular scalp massages.

Balanced diet:

  • Maintaining a balanced diet is essential for promoting healthy hair.
  • Include a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unsaturated fats, and lean proteins in your meals.
  • Limit your consumption of sugary foods.
  • Consider incorporating iron-rich foods, omega-3 fatty acid sources, and high-protein foods into your diet.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water.

Reduce stress:

  • Chronic stress can have negative impacts on overall health, including hair health.
  • Hair loss can sometimes be a result of a stressful lifestyle.
  • Implement stress-reduction strategies such as regular exercise, listening to music, practicing yoga, meditating, and ensuring sufficient sleep.

Best Foods For Hair Growth

A whole food, nutrient-rich diet plays a crucial role in supporting healthy hair growth. Incorporating specific foods into your diet can help promote hair growth. Here are some recommended options:

Organic foods: Opt for organic foods to avoid chemicals that can disrupt the endocrine system and interfere with hair growth.

Pumpkin seeds: Rich in zinc, pumpkin seeds are essential for healthy hair growth. Zinc deficiency has been linked to hypothyroidism and hair loss.

Wild-caught fish: Fish like salmon, high in omega-3 fats, reduce inflammation and support hair growth and thickness.

Green tea: Promotes detoxification and contains antioxidants that aid in hair growth. It may also inhibit the conversion of testosterone into DHT, a hormone associated with hair loss.

Super seeds: Chia, flax, and hemp seeds are rich in fiber and healthy fats, promoting hair growth.

Bone broth: High in protein, collagen, and amino acids, bone broth provides essential nutrients for encouraging healthy hair growth.

By incorporating these foods into your diet, along with implementing lifestyle changes and natural remedies, you can take proactive steps to address hair loss and support hair growth.

Foods To Avoid

When it comes to foods that should be avoided or minimized, the following options are recommended:

Trans fatty acids: Unhealthy fats like trans fatty acids have been found to increase inflammation and the production of DHT, which can contribute to hair loss. It’s advisable to steer clear of hydrogenated oils such as corn oil and soybean oil, as they are high in trans fats.

Sugar: Sugar plays a role in hormonal imbalances, contributes to insulin resistance, increases DHT levels, and causes inflammation, all of which can lead to hair loss. It is recommended to reduce consumption of sugary foods and beverages.

Processed foods: Highly processed foods often contain unhealthy fats, added sugars, and excessive sodium, which are counterproductive to promoting healthy hair growth. Minimizing the intake of processed foods is beneficial.

Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase inflammation and cause liver toxicity, which may contribute to hair loss. Heavy drinking, along with smoking, has been linked to an increased risk of hair loss. It is advisable to moderate alcohol consumption.

Caffeine: While small amounts of organic coffee and tea can be beneficial for hair health, excessive caffeine intake should be avoided. 

Too much caffeine can lead to dehydration, hormone imbalances, and the production of DHT. It’s important to consume caffeine in moderation.

Best Supplements For Hair Growth

To support healthy hair growth, incorporating certain supplements into your daily routine can be beneficial. These supplements provide essential nutrients that promote hair health and growth. 

Some of the best supplements for hair growth include:

Collagen protein: As the body’s natural collagen production slows down with age, consuming collagen supplements can support collagen production and aid in natural hair growth. Recommended daily servings range from 1 to 3 servings.

Saw palmetto: This natural DHT blocker can significantly improve hair growth. Taking 320 milligrams of saw palmetto daily is recommended.

Pygeum: By blocking DHT binding sites and improving prostate health, pygeum addresses the underlying cause of hair loss. Daily intake of 100 milligrams, taken twice a day, is suggested.

Pumpkin seed oil: Inhibiting DHT formation and containing fatty acids that support hair thickness, consuming 8 grams or 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seed oil daily can be beneficial.

Fish oil: Fish oil helps reduce inflammation and promotes hair thickening. Taking 1,000 milligrams of fish oil daily is recommended.

Aloe vera juice: Aloe vera juice, consumed in a half cup twice a day and used as a shampoo, can naturally thicken hair.

Ashwagandha: This adaptogen herb helps the body manage stress, balance hormones, and reduce cortisol levels. Consuming 500 milligrams of ashwagandha daily supports healthy hair growth.

Rhodiola: Another adaptogen herb, rhodiola helps combat stress and fosters hair growth. Taking 500 milligrams daily is suggested.

B-Complex vitamins: B vitamins aid in stress management, with biotin (B7) promoting natural hair thickening and vitamin B5 supporting adrenal gland function. Taking one tablet of B-Complex vitamins daily is recommended.

Zinc: Zinc deficiency can contribute to hair loss, making it important to consume adequate amounts. Women should aim for 8 milligrams daily, while men should aim for 11 milligrams daily. Zinc also supports immune system function and gut repair.

Essential Oils For Stimulating Hair Growth

When it comes to natural remedies for hair regrowth, essential oils can be a great option. These oils can be applied topically to promote hair growth and thickness. Some of the best essential oils for stimulating hair growth include:

Rosemary oil: Rosemary oil is highly effective in enhancing hair thickness and growth. It is believed to increase cellular metabolism, which stimulates hair growth. Rosemary oil can be as effective as minoxidil, a conventional hair loss treatment.

Spikenard oil: Spikenard oil promotes hair growth and may even slow down the graying process. 

Lavender, thyme, cedarwood, sage, and peppermint oils: These oils are known to increase scalp circulation and can aid in stimulating new hair growth. 

One recommendation is to combine three to four drops each of peppermint, rosemary, and sage oils with one tablespoon of olive oil (coconut oil or jojoba oil can also be used). Gently massage this mixture into the areas of concern once or twice a day.

The Best Shampoo Ingredients For Hair Loss

When choosing a shampoo for hair loss, it’s important to focus on the ingredients rather than brand names. 

Looking at the ingredients label can help you determine if the product contains ingredients that can effectively address shedding, stimulate hair growth, and improve scalp health. 

The active ingredients in hair loss shampoos can be divided into two categories:

  1.  DHT blockers and 
  2. ingredients that promote hair growth.

DHT blockers

DHT blockers are substances that inhibit the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is responsible for male pattern baldness and can damage hair follicles over time. 

Medications like finasteride work by reducing DHT production. Some key points about DHT and hair loss include:

  • DHT is the main hormone involved in male pattern baldness.
  • Blocking DHT can help prevent hair follicle damage and gradual hair thinning.

Ingredients that promote hair growth

Ingredients that stimulate hair growth work by either accelerating the hair growth cycle or increasing blood flow to the scalp. Here are some notable ingredients with hair growth-stimulating properties:

Ketoconazole: Widely used in shampoos and medications, ketoconazole controls fungal growth and treats skin infections. It is effective for managing dandruff, skin rashes, and hair loss.

Salicylic Acid: Found naturally in various sources, salicylic acid is known for its use in acne treatments. It also has benefits for hair loss by acting as an exfoliant, removing excess sebum from the scalp.

Pyrithione Zinc: This antimicrobial substance has a long history of use in medicated shampoos to treat scalp conditions like dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. It is known for its effectiveness in maintaining scalp health.


How Does Minoxidil Work To Treat Hair Loss?

Minoxidil functions as a vasodilator, enhancing blood circulation to the hair follicles, thereby stimulating hair growth and preventing additional hair loss.

By widening the blood vessels in the scalp, it allows for increased nutrient and oxygen delivery to the hair follicles. This improved blood flow promotes the growth of thicker, healthier hair strands.

Is Finasteride Suitable For Both Men And Women? 

Finasteride is primarily prescribed for the treatment of male pattern baldness and is not suitable for use by women, particularly those who are pregnant or intend to become pregnant. Its use in women is not recommended due to potential risks to fetal development.

Can Hair Loss Medications Cause Any Side Effects?

Hair loss medications can indeed have certain side effects. Common side effects associated with these medications include scalp irritation, itching, and dryness. It’s important to note that not everyone experiences these side effects, and they can vary in severity from person to person.

How Long Does It Take To See Results From Hair Loss Medications?

The timeframe for seeing results from hair loss medications can vary from person to person. While individual experiences may differ, it is generally advised to use these medications consistently for several months before expecting noticeable improvements. 

Patience and persistence are key when it comes to treating hair loss. It’s important to follow the prescribed dosage and usage instructions provided by healthcare professionals.

Can Hair Loss Medications Be Used Alongside Other Treatments?

Hair loss medications are often used in combination with other treatments to maximize their effectiveness. They can be used alongside procedures such as hair transplant surgery or laser therapy to complement the overall treatment plan. 

The combination of different approaches aims to address hair loss from multiple angles and provide more comprehensive results.

Are Hair Loss Medications Suitable For Everyone?

The suitability of hair loss medications varies for everyone, and it is advisable to seek guidance from a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment approach based on individual circumstances.

Not everyone may be an ideal candidate for hair loss medications, as factors such as underlying health conditions, medication interactions, and personal preferences need to be considered.

Do I Need A Prescription To Obtain Hair Loss Medications?

The need for a prescription to obtain hair loss medications depends on the specific medication. Certain medications, such as finasteride, typically require a prescription from a healthcare professional.

On the other hand, medications like minoxidil can often be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription. However, it is still recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for proper guidance and advice regarding the use of hair loss medications.

Dr Vinod Pachade

Dr. Vinod Pachade is the founder and director of the PVR Aesthetica Cosmetic Surgery Center. He is the member of Association of Plastic Surgeons of India (APSI) and also the winner of Asia Book of Records.

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