Propecia Safety?

Been experiencing male pattern baldness for over 3 years. Now I am 22, and considering using propecia to slow down my hair loss. Would you recommend it based on your experience prescribing it to your patients? I am mainly worried about the side effects it causes. If you do not recommend propecia for safety concerns, are their any effective alternatives? Thanks!

Doctor Answers 3

Propecia for hair loss

Your question is an important one. Propecia is the trade name for the generic drug "finasteride" It was FDA approved in 1997 for treating male pattern hair loss. It stops hair loss in 90 % of men and improves density in 40 % or more. It not only works on the "crown" but most certainly helps the front of the scalp in young men under 40. 

You are correct to think carefully about side effects of this medication. Side effects are uncommon, but can occur. You need to be aware that this is one of the most effective treatments for hair loss in men. Other treatments may be effective and could be worth trying - but they are a distant "runner up" in the order of effectiveness. 

Side effects occur in about 2% of men and are likely less common in younger men than older men. The top side effects include:
  1. mood changes, such as depression
  2. sexual dysfunction, including decreased sex drive, impotence and ejaculatory problems
  3. enlargement of breast tissue
  4. testicular pain
Other side effects may also be possible but are more uncommon. Speak with your doctor if this medication could be helpful for you. 

Starting treatment with Propecia

As with all medications, there are risks and side effects. Propecia safety has been established for those patients taking it to regrow hair.

Raffy Karamanoukian Los Angeles

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Safety with Propecia Use

Merck does claim certain health risks with Propecia use, for legal reasons. There have been reported cases of impotence, lowered sex drive, depression, prostate cancer, and gynecomastia in relation to Propecia. However, these cases are marginal in comparison to users who do not experience these side effects. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how it will effect you until you use it; but you must be advised that you could fall within the small percentage of people who do experience these side effects. Only you can decide if the risk is worthwhile.


There is no FDA-approved alternative to Propecia. Rogaine is a topical treatment you could try, and some doctors recommend a holistic approach using saw palmetto, though it is not clinically proven to prevent hair loss. Good luck!

Sanusi Umar, MD
Redondo Beach Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 27 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.