Treatment options for androgenetic alopecia: Efficacy, side effects, compliance, financial considerations, and ethics

J Cosmet Dermatol. 2021 Dec;20(12):3759-3781. doi: 10.1111/jocd.14537. Epub 2021 Nov 6.


Background: Androgenetic alopecia (AGA) is the most common form of hair loss consisting of a characteristic receding frontal hairline in men and diffuse hair thinning in women, with frontal hairline retention, and can impact an individual's quality of life. The condition is primarily mediated by 5-alpha-reductase and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which causes hair follicles to undergo miniaturization and shortening of successive anagen cycles. Although a variety of medical, surgical, light-based and nutraceutical treatment options are available to slow or reverse the progression of AGA, it can be challenging to select appropriate therapies for this chronic condition.

Aims: To highlight treatment options for androgenetic alopecia taking into consideration the efficacy, side effect profiles, practicality of treatment (compliance), and costs to help clinicians offer ethically appropriate treatment regimens to their patients.

Materials and methods: A literature search was conducted using electronic databases (Medline, PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, EBSCO) and textbooks, in addition to the authors' and other practitioners' clinical experiences in treating androgenetic alopecia, and the findings are presented here.

Results: Although topical minoxidil, oral finasteride, and low-level light therapy are the only FDA-approved therapies to treat AGA, they are just a fraction of the treatment options available, including other oral and topical modalities, hormonal therapies, nutraceuticals, PRP and exosome treatments, and hair transplantation.

Discussion: Androgenetic alopecia therapy remains challenging as treatment selection involves ethical, evidence-based decision-making and consideration of each individual patient's needs, compliance, budget, extent of hair loss, and aesthetic goals, independent of potential financial benefits to the practitioners.

Keywords: androgenetic alopecia; ethics; review; therapies; treatments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia / drug therapy
  • Alopecia Areata*
  • Female
  • Finasteride / therapeutic use
  • Hair Follicle
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minoxidil / therapeutic use
  • Quality of Life*


  • Finasteride
  • Minoxidil