Hair loss can affect how you look and feel, but it can be slowed, or stopped entirely, with treatment.
We offer the prescription treatment finasteride, for male pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia).
Both of our recommended treatment options are effective in treating for hair loss. Finasteride 5mg tablets need to be cut into 4 using a pill cutter, and 1/4 of a tablet is taken once a day. This option is usually more cost effective. Finasteride 1mg is taken as one tablet daily.
The right hair loss treatment for you will depend on the type of hair loss you have. If your hair loss is temporary (caused by another condition or something similar) it should grow back after that’s been treated. If your hair loss is permanent such as hair loss caused by male pattern baldness, then you may need prescription treatment to stop losing your hair and in some cases, regrow it.
If you do need hair loss treatment, there are a variety of different types that may be suitable for you, from shampoos to tablets. We can help you work out what type of hair loss you’re experiencing and how best to treat it if you’d like to.
Common signs of hair loss
Some of the common signs of male pattern hair loss can be:
If you notice a mixture of these symptoms, you may want to try a hair loss treatment. If you have a health condition that has hair loss as a symptom, the problem may go away once you are successfully treated.
Hair loss treatment includes:
Hair loss shampoos, foams and solutions containing minoxidil can be bought over the counter or online from pharmacies and health stores without a prescription. For treatments like finasteride you will need a prescription from a doctor first. You can get a prescription through your GP or you can use our online service and complete a short questionnaire. One of our doctors will review this and, if the treatment is right for you, the prescription can be sent directly to a pharmacy of your choice.
You can request a presciption for hair loss treatment online through Superdrug Online Doctor. You can consult with our doctors who will advise you on which treatment is best suited for your needs. You can then pick up your medication in a pharmacy of your choice.
Most hair loss treatments are not available on the medical card. You should speak with your local pharmacist to see which hair treatments are available through the Irish medical card or drugs payment scheme.
You will need a prescription for some hair loss treatments, such as Finasteride. There are some over the counter products available too, like shampoos. If you do buy any medication over the counter, it’s still best to speak with a doctor about potential side effects first.
Read the infographic below to get an idea of what to expect when you start hair loss treatment. It's important to remember that everyone experiences hair loss treatment differently, and that your journey may be different from below. If you are concerned about your treatment or need more advice, you can message a doctor for free through your patient account.
Hair loss tablets that have finasteride as an active ingredient block the production of DHT. Some forms of male pattern baldness are caused by high levels of DHT in the body, which is a by-product of testosterone. When DHT is at high levels, it causes the prostate to get bigger and hair follicles in the scalp to shrink. It does not affect hair on other parts of the body.
When this treatment is taken, DHT levels in the scalp will fall. This stops further damage to hair follicles and slows the progression of hair loss. It also allows for regrowth. This treatment is prescribed only for men. It helps restore hair to receding hairlines and to balding at the top of the head. It can also resolve hair thinning.
Finasteride can take several months to provide visible results. In the first three months, there is often a stop to hair loss. Some may still see shedding as old hairs fall out to make room for new strands. By the end of a year, there should be clear signs of regrowth. Further improvement should be noticeable by the second year mark.
The dose of finasteride used to treat hair loss is 1mg taken once a day. It should be taken at the same time every day. If there is a delay of up to 6 hours, you can take the missed dose and resume your normal schedule. If longer than 6 hours, skip the missed dose and continue with your normal routine.
Be consistent in taking the treatment as it can take several months to see results. If you stop, your DHT levels will rise and you will start losing your hair again.
There are two forms of finasteride tablets available in Ireland. Finasteride 1mg tablets, which have recently been licensed, are taken as one tablet once a day. This dose is only used to treat hair loss. The other form is finasteride 5mg tablets which are used to treat prostate problems. They are not licensed for use to be for hair loss, however they are widely used because of the availability of the 1mg tablets. The dose when using these is a quarter of a tablet once a day. You should use a pill cutter, which you can buy easily from a pharmacy, to cut the tablets into 4. Your pharmacist may also be able to help to cut these for you.
In other EU countries and in the UK, finasteride 1mg tablets can be found under the brand name Propecia. This brand is not licensed in Ireland.
Hair loss shampoos and topical creams are over the counter hair loss treatments. Their active ingredients are absorbed through the scalp when applied. Hair loss shampoos like Alpecin contain caffeine as the active ingredient. Caffeine boosts cell energy in hair follicles. It does this by causing an increase in certain protein growth factors that stimulate hair growth. Caffeine also potentially reverses the effect of DHT.
This shampoo can work together with prescription medications like Propecia to reduce hair loss. You should see visible results after about 3 months. The hair strands should appear thicker and stronger.
The best known topical solution is Regaine. Its active ingredient is minoxidil, which is a vasodilator. It stimulates blood flow to the scalp, delivering more nutrients and oxygen that promote hair growth, thickness, and density. It also boosts the production of enzymes that extend the life of hair follicles.
The product is available as either a shampoo, a foam or a solution that is applied and massaged into the scalp twice a day. It should not be washed out for at least four hours. Visible results should be seen within 2 to 3 months. It has proven helpful to those with hair disorders and is considered a safe and effective treatment.
Regaine and other topical hair loss solutions are available without a prescription, so you can buy these from your pharmacy without seeing a doctor.
Hair loss is a normal biological process. We can lose up to 100 hairs a day. It is however a problem when the hairs are not replaced by new growth or exceed normal limits. Hair loss can be caused by many reasons.
Hair loss can be caused by illness. When the illness is effectively treated, the hair should regrow. Hormonal changes can also often lead to temporary and permanent hair loss.
Treatments like radiation therapy and chemotherapy can also lead to hair loss. Once treatment ends, hair can begin to regrow, but the regrowth may not be the same as the hair before.
Hair loss may also be a hereditary condition. This means it runs in the family. Androgenic alopecia, male and female pattern baldness are often hereditary and permanent. The baldness usually comes on gradually, leaving bald spots, thinning, and a receding hairline.
Some treatments do have hair loss as a side effect. Some drugs used to treat high blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease and depression can have such an effect.
Hair loss can be a reaction to emotional or physical shock, or a prolonged stressful period. The hair may start falling out months after the event. The effect is normally temporary and hair later regrows on its own.
Certain hairstyles can cause pulling on hair follicles. This often leads to conditions like traction alopecia. Using chemical relaxers and hot oil treatments can also damage the scalp, leading to hair loss. Hair can recover when this habit is stopped, but once scarring has occurred the effect may be permanent.
Side effects of hair loss tablets
Finasteride is generally safe to take for hair loss, but it can still cause some side effects.
Uncommon side effects can include:
Other side effects can include:
It is not known how often these other side effects occur. You must talk to a doctor right away if you notice a lump in your chest or breast. For a full list of side effects, see the leaflet that comes with your medication.
Some of these side effects may be temporary. They may be a result of the body adjusting to the treatment and will fade. Others may carry on even after you stop taking finasteride. If you are suffering side effects and want them to stop, your best option may be to stop taking finasteride. Note that this will cause your DHT levels to rise and you will start losing your hair again.
Minoxidil treatments can have side effects, usually due to irritation of the scalp, you may notice some redness, itching or flaking. Some men will notice hair shedding around 2-6 weeks after starting the treatment, this usually lasts for a couple of weeks but if it is continuing for more than 2 weeks, you should stop using the treatment.
If the Minoxidil treatment comes in contact with other areas of skin other than the scalp, you may notice hair growth in these areas. Be careful to apply the treatment only to the scalp.
Rare possible side effects include a drop in blood pressure. If you notice that you feel dizzy, lightheaded or you faint after using Minoxidil, you should stop using it. You should also stop the treatment if you notice any pain in your chest, feel your heart racing, notice swelling of your feet or hands, gain weight or if any irritation of the scalp does not get better. Speak to a doctor if any of this happens or if you notice any other new symptoms.
These treatments have varying success and will not be right for everyone.
Laser therapy: For this treatment, infrared laser light is used to penetrate the scalp and stimulate blood flow and hair follicles. This is meant to cause the growth of new hair and discourage the build up of DHT.
Steroid injections: Injections and creams with steroids in them are also used to treat people with hair loss. This is often used where an autoimmune disease is causing hair loss. Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to attack healthy tissues like hair follicles. Corticosteroids can be used to counteract this effect and allow hair to regrow. These steroids can be applied topically or injected into the scalp, or taken by mouth.
Wigs: This is another option that can simply cover up hair loss. In some cases, the cost may be covered by the NHS. Human hair wigs have a more natural feel and look, but are more expensive and last longer. Man-made wigs have a shorter life but are more affordable.
Cosmetic surgery: Hair transplants can treat hair loss in some cases. It involves moving hair from where it is full, to where there is balding or thinning. The procedure is normally done under local anaesthesia.
There are two variations to this procedure:
The Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT): A narrow band of hair is taken from the rear of the head. The size of the strip depends on the number of follicles needed to be transplanted to balding areas. The strip is cut into smaller parts, with each one having about 1-4 hair follicles. They are then re-inserted to the balding area on the scalp. FUT is also known as the strip method.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE): Hair follicles are taken from the back of the head and reinserted in balding areas. This leaves many tiny scars at the back of the head, but is less painful and heals faster. The hair can also be taken from other parts of the body.