According to the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines, finasteride, a substance that stems hair loss and facilitates regrowth, may promote mood swings, depression and even suicidal thoughts. In a statement published on 26 October, it actually called for anyone with suspicious psychiatric symptoms to “immediately stop
” taking the drugs that contain it, Propecia and Chibro-Proscar.
This is not the first time that finasteride has attracted such attention. In May 2016, the independent journal Prescrire warned that it presented more risks than advantages
, not only in terms of psychiatric effects but also sexual problems such as decreased libido and erectile and ejaculation difficulties. So are the results really worth the risk?
It must be said that androgenetic alopecia, also known as male-pattern baldness, is a very common and anxiety-inducing condition
: around a third of men over 30 are affected, rising to half of all 50 year-olds and almost 80% of those in their 70s1
. Those who lose their hair at a younger age suffer most and are therefore more likely to resort to using finasteride.
This drug is one of only two treatments recognised as effective
(albeit temporarily) by the famous US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Taken in tablet form, it works by temporarily blocking the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an androgen hormone that encourages hair loss by attaching to androgen receptors on hair follicles (on the crown of the head). Unfortunately, it is this action which appears to have implications for behaviour and sexuality.
The second, less expensive, treatment recognised by the FDA does not involve production of this hormone. Used topically, minoxidil is applied daily as a spray or mousse to affected areas of the scalp. It is thought to stimulate hair growth by stimulating dilation of local blood vessels sup>2 and by promoting an ideal environment for follicles to move from a ‘shedding’ phase to a growth phase3
. Studies suggest that it increases both the number of hair follicles and the thickness of existing hair4
, both without causing any sexual or psychological problems. Its only disadvantage, which it shares with finasteride, is that when treatment stops, any improvements disappear within just a few months.
Available in pharmacies, minoxidil is an integral part of the highly popular formulation Spectral DNC
. This product has the added advantage of containing arginine which stimulates microcirculation, Aminexil which maintains tissue elasticity around hair roots, and SP94 peptide which helps nourish the hair. Please note, however, that this is a drug which is not suitable for those with scalp abrasions, heart disorders or major dermatological problems.
1- Psychological effect, pathophysiology, and management of androgenetic alopecia in men. Stough D, Stenn K, et al. Mayo Clin Proc. 2005 Oct;80(10):1316-22. Review. Texte intégral : www.mayoclinicproceedings.com
2- Lucky AW, Piacquadio DJ, Ditre CM, Dunlap F, Kantor I, Pandya AG, et al. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 5% and 2% topical minoxidil solutions in the treatment of female pattern hair loss. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2004;50:541–553.
3- Schweiger ES, Boychenko O, Bernstein RM. Update on the pathogenesis, genetics and medical treatment of patterned hair loss. J Drugs Dermatol. 2010;9:1412–1419.
4- Orasan MS, Bolfa P, Coneac A, Muresan A, Mihu C. Topical Products for Human Hair Regeneration: A Comparative Study on an Animal Model. Annals of Dermatology. 2016;28(1):65-73. doi:10.5021/ad.2016.28.1.65.