Medicines for hair loss

Key points about hair loss treatment

  • Despite hair loss being common, and progress in understanding its causes, there are very few treatment options available.
  • This page focuses on treatment options. There are different types of hair loss (alopecia). Read more about normal hereditary hair loss and temporary or abnormal hair loss.
  • Find out hair loss treatments and how they work. 
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Minoxidil is available as a solution (Regaine, Regro or Rogaine) or foam (Regaine) that is applied directly to your scalp. It's used for the treatment of male-pattern hair loss in men and female-pattern hair loss in women. It's sometimes useful for other types of hair loss, including alopecia areata, and after hair replacement surgery or hair loss related to medicines such as chemotherapy.

The minoxidil products available in New Zealand are in a 2% or 5% strength. The 5% strength is probably more effective but it may cause more scalp irritation than the 2% strength. It is applied to your scalp once or twice daily for a minimum of 6 months. If it works well, it may be used for a longer time.

If treatment is stopped, the pretreatment appearance normally returns within 3 or 4 months. If it is stopped after several years of use, the hair that would usually have been lost during that time will fall out.

Finasteride is a tablet taken once a day. is used to treat men with male-pattern hair loss to increase hair growth on your scalp and to prevent further hair loss. It may take a few months for finasteride to start working, and effects will be reversed 6–12 months after treatment has stopped. Read more about finasteride.  

A number of other treatments have been suggested for hair loss, including massage, vitamin supplements, herbal remedies (such as saw palmetto), zinc, amino acids, hair lotions and tonics. None of these have been shown to promote hair growth or prevent hair loss. There is also no scientific evidence that the use of lasers is effective. 

If you are unsure, talk to your doctor before starting treatment.


  1. Practical management of hair loss(external link) Canadian Family Physician, 2000

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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