Dutasteride is a hair loss treatment that is gaining traction as being better than finasteride. However, with all new treatments that begin to become popular, there is always a number of questions.
These questions include: Is it legitimate or a scam? How does it work? Is it better than other products for your receding hairline? Should you try dutasteride for treating hair loss?
In this article, I’ll lay out for you what dutasteride is, how it works, and the pros and cons of it. That way, you can make a fully informed decision about it.
What Is Dutasteride?
Dutasteride was not something that was originally formulated for hair loss. It was originally patented in 1996 to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is when a man has an enlarged prostate, which happens to many men as they get older.
The signs of prostate enlargement include a list of urinary problems, such as pain when urinating, urinary retention, and the need to urinate frequently. Dutasteride helps with BPH by reducing the size of the enlarged prostate.
It wasn’t used for treating androgenetic alopecia until 2009, and that was done in South Korea. In the USA, dutasteride has not yet obtained FDA approval. Some doctors still prescribe dutasteride as an off-label prescription medication for men with male pattern hair loss.
Since the patent for the dutasteride compound has recently expired, there are a few companies that have started including it in their products. The brand name Avodart is the most common one, but there are generic options that can be less expensive.
The most common form is an oral dutasteride 0.5 mg tablet. However, now that other companies are starting to make it, you can also get topical dutasteride, which is applied directly to your scalp, and dutasteride injections can be done directly into your scalp.
Oral dutasteride is used to treat a wide variety of prostate problems. This includes certain types of prostate cancer, BPH, and other things.
How Does Dutasteride Work?
Dutasteride is used to treat BPH and other problems with your prostate gland by preventing the androgen hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) from forming. DHT is, in small amounts, needed for the health of your prostate.
It is also necessary for male development before birth and during puberty. However, in some people, DHT potentially causes things like high-grade prostate cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
This is because most men who suffer from prostate problems are very sensitive to DHT. There is a genetic component, which is why prostate cancer and other problems sometimes run in families.
What Makes DHT?
DHT levels rise as an enzyme called 5 alpha-reductase turns testosterone into DHT. There are technically two types of this enzyme: 5 alpha-reductase I and 5 alpha-reductase II. Either one of these can be used for converting testosterone into DHT, but the second type is more common.
Dutasteride prevents the conversion of testosterone by binding itself to both types of this enzyme. The 5 alpha reductase enzyme is then incapable of doing anything until it is eventually out of your system.
What Is Male Pattern Hair Loss?
Dutasteride is used to treat male pattern baldness because DHT production is directly linked to this type of hair loss. DHT can bind itself to your hair follicles, thereby preventing blood flow to them. This strangles your hair follicles, which eventually causes them to die.
Though men and women both have pattern hair loss, men are more likely to have hair thinning because of this condition. This is due to having more testosterone in their bloodstream.
However, male hair loss, like prostate problems, does have a genetic component, with some men being genetically predisposed to get androgenetic alopecia. Unfortunately, these men stand low chances of keeping their hair without some type of androgenetic alopecia treatment such as dutasteride.
The Side Effects Of Dutasteride
Since dutasteride is used to treat enlarged prostate conditions, it should come as no surprise that many of its adverse effects center around your prostate. Sexual dysfunction is just one of the adverse reactions of this prescription drug. Some of the other side effects of oral dutasteride are:
low sperm count
low testosterone levels
decreased muscle mass
Sometimes these symptoms are only temporary, and your body needs time to adjust to the lower DHT levels. Most of these problems, such as erectile dysfunction and decreased libido, are not life-threatening, but they can be almost as painful as prostate enlargement.
The Severe Side Effects
The side effects that are possible but less common are the ones you should tell your doctor about immediately. Though one or two of these may seem milder than the ones I already mentioned, they tend to indicate a larger problem.
male breast tenderness and swelling
discharge from the nipples
rash and/or swelling of the face and neck
unusual weight changes (either gain or loss)
You should seek medical attention if this medication causes any of these side effects, if you have any side effects from the previous list that are severe, or if you experience any side effects not listed here.
Though dutasteride may be used to treat prostate cancer, there is also the possibility it can cause you to have it. Dutasteride should also never be taken when pregnant, as there is a high chance of causing a defect in the unborn baby.
For that reason, pregnant women are instructed to avoid even handling dutasteride. Men who are taking dutasteride are also instructed to avoid giving blood while taking it and for six months after they stop.
Finally, prostate-specific antigen tests may be interfered with if you are taking this medication. So, if you are taking one of these tests, you should let your doctor know you are taking dutasteride.
Advantages Of Dutasteride
Dutasteride’s main advantage is simply the fact that it can prevent hair loss. This is arguably the only advantage dutasteride needs for most people. However, there are a couple of other advantages worth mentioning.
The Long Half-Life
One thing you have likely heard about dutasteride is that it has a long half-life. This means that it stays in your bloodstream for a long time after you take it. Though there are some potential disadvantages to this, most consider it an advantage.
When it stays in your bloodstream longer, you are less affected if you miss a dose. There is also the possibility that you can take dutasteride doses less often. So, instead of a dose every day, you may be able to take a dose every other day, sometimes even one every three days.
You also get more use out of it because it is less likely to be removed from your blood before it bonds with the 5 alpha enzyme.
For comparison, finasteride has a half-life of approximately 6 to 8 hours. Meanwhile, dutasteride’s half-life is 2 to 4 weeks. This is why it takes around a month, sometimes longer, for dutasteride to get out of your system when you stop taking it.
Though dutasteride is not yet FDA-approved, this seems to be because no one cares to get FDA approval when they know the other companies selling it will be benefited just as much as they will for going through this costly process.
Unfortunately, this means dutasteride is probably going to take a long time to get FDA approved. However, dutasteride has had many clinical trials done on it that prove how well it works to treat male pattern hair loss.
In this trial, dutasteride was tested in identical twins, with only one twin being given dutasteride. At the end of the trial, the dutasteride group was easy to tell apart from the other group, which had simply been given a placebo.
In this one, it was further noted that the dutasteride group had over double the hair growth of the placebo group. These are merely two examples of the clinical studies done on dutasteride that prove it works to treat hair loss that is caused by androgenetic alopecia.
Disadvantages Of Dutasteride
Dutasteride had plenty of disadvantages, as you’ll know just from looking at the side effects. One is that it is similar to all DHT blockers in how long it takes to work.
It takes time to get the blocker into your system and then longer for it to start working. It is only after that that your hair can start recovering, which doesn’t happen instantly either.
This is why most DHT blockers take several weeks to a few months to work. Dutasteride may take up to a year before you see what its full results for your hair are. This is a long time to take a medication before seeing if it is the right one for you.
The Side Effects Of Dutasteride
For some people, the side effects of dutasteride are not worth it. Most men want thicker hair so they can enjoy life more and look more attractive, and being unable to enjoy certain things destroys part of the whole point.
Also, prostate cancer is a very serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. Remember that, thanks to how long it stays in your blood, any side effects will last quite a while after you stop taking dutasteride.
It’s worth mentioning that some people have these side effects without having any benefit to their hair growth. Also, if you stop taking dutasteride, your hair loss will resume and likely worsen.
This is due to your body having to essentially remind itself how to deal with the DHT suddenly being produced. It also means that dutasteride is something that you will have to take on a permanent basis if you want to keep your healthy hair.
The Limited Use
Dutasteride is only designed for treating male pattern baldness. Any other cause of hair loss, such as a vitamin deficiency or poor circulation, will not be helped by taking dutasteride.
Also, nothing is confirmed about dutasteride’s effectiveness for women. In fact, I have seen more than one site saying that even women who aren’t pregnant should avoid taking dutasteride. Therefore, dutasteride is clearly only for men whose hair thinning is specifically caused by male pattern baldness.
Finally, you will need a prescription to purchase dutasteride due to it being off-label for hair loss. This can make it more difficult to get, especially if your doctor does not like prescribing off-label hair loss treatments.
Dutasteride Vs. Finasteride
Since oral finasteride is one of the most common things doctors prescribe to treat androgenic alopecia, it is logical to wonder how finasteride and dutasteride compare to each other.
So many people have been curious about this that the Bentham Science Publisher company did a clinical trial to compare the two medications.
In this article, they state that their conclusion was that dutasteride compared to finasteride quite favorably. Though the finasteride group had hair growth, the total hair counts of those using dutasteride were better, with comparable, though more frequent, side effects.
Finally, though both finasteride and dutasteride are 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors, finasteride only blocks the type II enzyme. As mentioned, dutasteride inhibits both types, which is thought to be why it is more effective as a hair loss treatment.
How To Make The Most Of Dutasteride For Hair Growth
If you are taking dutasteride for your hair loss, you doubtless want to make sure you get the most out of it. There are countless little things you can do, such as simply taking care of your hair and your general health, but there are two other main ways to help as well.
Use Other Male Pattern Baldness Treatments
Though you can ask your doctor, you should probably not take dutasteride and finasteride together. This is because they both work the same way, and you would most likely only end up with more side effects and very little additional improvement.
However, though dutasteride and finasteride together should be avoided, minoxidil is still an option. There are oral minoxidil and topical minoxidil products, with the latter probably being the better option to pair with dutasteride.
Minoxidil helps hair loss by encouraging blood flow, along with a couple of other benefits. This shouldn’t interfere with the way dutasteride works.
There are other treatments you can use that are specifically for hair loss. Pick a topical treatment if you are using oral dutasteride or an oral treatment if you are using topical dutasteride.
Watch For DHT Foods
There is a list of foods that are known to raise your DHT levels. Since some people feel that DHT provides ‘alpha energy,’ these lists are easy to find. If you eat lots of these foods, you are making it harder for the dutasteride to prevent the DHT from being made.
Similarly, it does not hurt to include more foods in your diet that naturally lower DHT levels. Some foods to avoid – or at least moderate – include rice, bone broth, red meat, salt, raisins, etc.
Hair regrowth can be very difficult to achieve, especially if androgenetic alopecia runs in your family. Fortunately, dutasteride may be exactly what your hair needs.
Have you tried using dutasteride for hair loss? If you used finasteride in the past, how did it compare? I’d love to know what you think about it.