Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Hair Loss

Despite all the hype you may see on TV and the internet, there are essentially only two non-surgical options that are FDA-approved and clinically proven to be effective in treating hair loss:

Rogaine® is a topical (applied to the scalp) treatment that can be used by men and women

Propecia® is a prescription pill which is for men only

In our experience at Contour, we find these non-surgical treatments are most effective if used in the earliest stages of hair loss. For more significant hair loss, sophisticated hair transplantation techniques offer the most natural-looking solution with long-lasting results. To learn more, click here.


Rogaine is an over-the-counter (no prescription necessary) product that can be purchased at most drug and grocery stores, and online.

The active ingredient in Rogaine is minoxidil, which works by enlarging the shrinking hair follicle and stimulating new, thicker hair growth. Rogaine for Men is a foam that contains 5% minoxidil. Rogaine for Women is a solution that contains 2% minoxidil. The products must be applied twice a day on a continual basis is order to see results.


Propecia (its generic name is finasteride, which is the active ingredient) is available only by prescription. It comes in pill form and must be taken daily. It is for men only (since it can cause birth defects if taken by women).

Propecia works by blocking DHT (dihydrotestosterone), the hormone that contributes to androgenetic alopecia (also known as male pattern baldness). This not only helps to stop hair loss but also creates an environment in which new hair can grow back without being “shut down” by DHT.

In studies by the manufacturer, nearly 48% of patients on Propecia experienced hair regrowth, 42% had no further hair loss, and 10% lost hair.

In clinical studies for Propecia, a small number of men (less than 2%) experienced certain sexual side effects including less desire for sex, difficulty in achieving an erection, and a decrease in the amount of semen. These side effects went away in men who stopped taking Propecia because of them. In addition, these side effects decreased to 0.3% of men or less as treatment continued for 5 years or more.

Propecia also can affect the blood test called PSA (prostate-specific antigen) for the screening of prostate cancer. If you have a PSA test done, tell your doctor that you are taking Propecia. A third drug, dutasteride, marketed as Advodart, is currently being used off-label to treat hair loss, but this drug has not yet been FDA approved for hair loss. It was developed for men with BPH-Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia -and is FDA approved for that purpose. The studies for Advodart as a hair loss treatment are promising. It is the first dual-acting five alpha-reductase inhibitor, which reduces two enzymes that convert testosterone to DHT, whereas Propecia only inhibits one of the enzymes that can elevate DHT levels. Initial studies have show that it outperforms Propecia. So this is a drug that we are watching and may recommend it to our patients as more information is confirmed about its dosing and potential side effects.

Buyer Beware

Most of the claims for other products that “cure” hair loss are pure hype. While some of these products may contain some of the active ingredients of Rogaine or Propecia, they are different formulations and dosages which have NOT been scientifically tested or FDA approved. For best results and safety, stick with the tried and true – and clinically proven – brand-name medications.

author avatar
Dr. Timothy Jochen Medical Director, Contour Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Center
Dr. Jochen specializes in Mohs Surgery for skin cancer removal, facial rejuvenation including cosmetic laser technology, Botox® and facial fillers, soft tissue augmentation, leg and facial vein treatment, tumescent liposuction and hair restoration/transplants.
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