As of 2015, minoxdil and finasteride are the only two medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat hereditary pattern hair loss, explains Mayo Clinic. Minoxidil, sold under the brand name Rogaine, is a topical solution applied directly to the balding areas of the scalp; it has approval for use by both men and women. Finasteride, sold under the brand name Propecia, is an oral prescription medication for men only, notes MedicineNet.
Minoxidil comes in foam, mousse and liquid preparations and is most effective at treating hair loss on the crown of the head, according to MedicineNet. Users must continue with daily applications to maintain results, and possible side effects include scalp irritation and rapid heart rate, reports Mayo Clinic.
Patients take finasteride once per day in pill form, explains MedicineNet. Although some users regrow significant amounts of hair using finasteride, it is most effective at maintaining hair count and preventing future hair loss. As with minoxidil, people must continue using finasteride to maintain benefits. Rare side effects include decreased sexual desire and impotence.
Certain health conditions, such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, can result in hair loss, according to WebMD. Treating the underlying cause is necessary to resolve the hair loss, states Mayo Clinic. Hormonal changes, severe emotional trauma and certain medications can also cause hair loss.