Can I eliminate the possibility of side effects from finasteride?

Eliminating a Drug is the only way to Eliminate the Possibility of Side Effects

I'm often asked how one can eliminate the side effects of a medication. "I want to take it doctor if it weren't for the side effects."  The reality is that it is possibility to eliminate the chances of side effects from any drug - and that is by not taking the drug.


Reducing Side Effects from Finasteride

The only way to really eliminate side effects from finasteride is not to take the drug. The chances of side effects with oral finasteride are low and in the order of 1-2 %. Nevertheless, all men need to be aware of the possibility of sexual dysfunction, mood changes, gynecomastia and other potential side effects as well.  The chances of side effects tend to be depenent on the amount of finasteride absorbed into the blood stream which in turn affects the degree of reduction in DHT.


1. Reducing the dose

Reducing the dose to 0.5 mg or 0.25 mg may be associated with reduced chances of side effects. DHT is still inhibited at these doses, albeit not as effectively as a 1 mg dose. Studies have suggested that DHT inhibition at 0.2 mg is about 80 % the level of 1 mg pill.


2. Reducing how often it is taken

Even though the drug half life is 6-8 hours, one needs to consider how long 5 alpha reductase inhibition in the scalp is actually occurring. Studies have suggested that 1 mg finasteride daily and 1 mg finasteride every other day are fairly similar in effectiveness although good studies still have yet to be done to really back this up definitely. Taking every other day can reduce side effects but may potentially alter effectiveness as well.


3. Using topical compounded finasteride

The other way to minimize finasteride side effects is to consider topical finasteride applied to the scalp. Absorption into the blood stream may still occur with topical finasteride (as systemic DHT levels are still reduced) but side effects are much less.


4. Taking time to understand the risk and benefits, long term studies

Studies also show that a broad and objective understanding of finasteride, its proper use also reduces side effects. Men who are alarmed about the drug and proceed into taking the drug without a full and balanced view of the risks and benefits also have a higher incidence of side effects. Studies have shown that risks increase in this situation from 2-5 % to above 60 % (i.e. nocebo effects).



Anyone wishing to minimize side effects of finasteride should have a thorough discussion with their physician. For more information on finasteride, download our handout. 


Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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