Finasteride, informally called “men’s daily pill”, has been keeping male pattern balding at bay for men worldwide. We know it works, and it has been available in the Singapore market for decades. Yet despite being an FDA-approved treatment for male pattern hair loss, why are our men still balding? It often boils down to price and convenience. In this article, we look at the various options for Finasteride in Singapore and the practicalities of obtaining it.
Singaporean men and male pattern hair loss.
You may have noticed that “M-shaped” receding hairline. Or that shiny balding scalp.
Your father has it. Your uncles have it. Heck, no one in your family seems to be spared.
Because it is true – Male pattern baldness does run in the family.
Men produce a sex hormone called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is a byproduct of testosterone which gives rise to masculine features.
And when men inherit this unfortunate genetic susceptibility, their hair follicles become overly sensitive to DHT. This causes hair to shed prematurely. From a usual cycle for 2 to 5 years, to a meagre 6 months!
These changes can be seen as early as in your junior college or polytechnic years. 63% of Singapore men suffer some degree of hair loss.
So how do we fix it? Thankfully, there is just one oral FDA-approved medication for male pattern hair loss: Finasteride
The Habit: One pill a day keeps the hair loss away
So how does a habit transform into hair growth?
Now that we understand that hair loss for the genetically susceptible is due to DHT, the trick is finding a way reduce the amount of DHT.
Taking a pill of finasteride every day has been medically researched and proven to slow down, and even reverse hair loss. Its effectiveness can be seen as early as 3 months, but studies have shown to improve the situation by 86% and 65% over 1 and 5 years respectively.
Ever had a friend, or auntie, who constantly vouches for a various products, claiming that it works? Actually, there might be some truth to them. Many of these products for hair loss that are in Singapore may actually reduce your DHT levels. But because they are supplements or home remedies, it is difficult to quantify its effectiveness.
Whereas, Finasteride is a medical-grade medication, so it is much more potent. Thankfully, the side effects have been reported to be low and reversible.
Finasteride 1mg vs Propecia 1mg, what’s the difference?
For every medication, there’s the branded version, and its generic version. Generics are for the practical – They work as well as because they both contain the same active component, yet more affordable.
So, Propecia 1mg actually contains 1mg of finasteride, the ingredient responsible for treating male pattern hair loss.
Propecia was first introduced to the market by MSD (Merck & Co.) in 1998 for male hair loss. It took the world by storm, and was the sole supplier for this wonder treatment.
When MSD’s patent for Propecia expired in 2009, it allowed for legal production of generic versions worldwide. And it slowly found its way into Singapore.
Finasteride 1mg has the same effectiveness and safety profile as its branded equivalent. This is especially the case in Singapore. Because all medications are subjected to a stringent quality audit by the HSA (Health Science Authority) before it can be imported, a process that can take more than 2 years.
Of course, you would have to obtain it from a licensed prescriber to be certain about its legitimacy.
Finasteride 5mg: More isn’t better
The stronger the dose, the better the result, right?
Unfortunately not. During its clinical studies, it established that finasteride 5mg was not more effective than 1mg in improving hair loss.
In fact, choosing to take 5 times the FDA-approved dose would only suppress your virility.
A study looking at the side effect profile of finasteride 5mg found that 7.7%-15.8% of men experienced side effects.
In comparison to its 1mg version, MSD stated in its FDA registration document of Propecia, that 1mg of finasteride only caused 1.8% and 1.3% of reduced libido and erectile dysfunction, respectively. Also, more than 99% of their subjects had no side effects after long term use.
Currently, finasteride 5mg is only approved for prostate problems.
Getting started: Where can I find finasteride?
The daily pill is available in many healthcare outlets, you just need to know how to find them
The public sector
Healthcare through the government is always going to be the cheapest. Singaporean citizens have access to subsidized healthcare. In Singapore, hair loss is a proper medical condition, so you can seek affordable treatments at the public hospitals at a subsidized rate.
That being said, it is also the most inconvenient due to the challenges to navigate the system.
Long appointments and waiting times are a norm. The public system is structured to provide healthcare to the masses, so don’t expect any special service. No matter how severe your hair loss may be, someone will need medical care more urgently.
Next, not any doctor can prescribe finasteride for hair loss. Only specialists at the National Skin Centre. With more hoops and appointments to cross, one can only expect further delays.
But with that, if you are a student or fresh graduate, and feeling cash-strapped, the wait may all be worth it. It’s better to start early as prevention. Because if things begin to accelerate, you would find yourself spending more money in desperation on multiple solutions. By then, you would be walking around with both an empty pocket and head.
Tip: Still prefer a public specialist but can’t afford to wait? You can book the appointments directly via Healthhub to see under as a private patient. The wait is shorter, but the consultation and the medications will not subsidised.
When you fall sick, you usually think of dropping by your neighbourhood doctor to get your fix. But do you know some also provide treatment for “lifestyle” illness, like acne and hair loss?
Prices are usually reasonable. And you can be sure most GPs are friendly (especially if you have known them since being little).
The queue times can be reasonable – as long as you avoid the peak-hours.
However, herein lies the challenge – Finding the GP that treats hair loss. Because many clinics have generic names (eg. Ah Kow Clinic, Ah Mei Day and Night Surgery), you won’t get any information unless you walk-in and ask. Unless you find a recommendation, it’s going to take some researching and effort to find a clinic near you.
Tip: Avoid Monday, Friday, and Sunday evenings – It’s the peak for people to “chao keng” and get “extended weekends”
There’s a shopping mall around every corner in Singapore, and each one will have a local pharmacy. But you may have noticed that they do not sell any FDA-approved hair loss treatment on the shelf – Because you need a prescription.
A workaround would be to find your friendly GP again, who could give you a script. However, be aware that not every pharmacy has a pharmacist on-site, so you might have to go shopping around.
The advantage? The queues are much shorter, and it’s a lot more convenient since they have many branches. Furthermore, the prices are similar to most GPs.
Do you know, it takes more than 10 years of training before a Singaporean doctor can become a dermatologist?
Going to a specialist gives you the assurance that your hair loss situation is looked at holistically by trained eyes. These guys see more hair issues than anyone else, and they got the license to proof their credentials.
Most specialist are on appointment-only consultations, but when you get there, you can be sure there isn’t any faffing around, and that your hair is in good hands (not in your hands, literally).
This solution is usually catered for busy executives and professionals with a busy schedule, or customers who don’t mind paying for utmost professional advice.
Still, the bottom-line is that you don’t need specialist to prescribe FDA-approved medications like finasteride. So, if you already know what you want, then going straight to the solution would safe you a lot of time and money.
The Don’ts: Online drugstore, e-commerce platforms
Now with everything available online, it’s tempting to just simply google “finasteride singapore” and click checkout.
However, medications are regulated by the authorities for a reason. Their potency may lead to certain unwanted side effects, like those mentioned previously. Therefore, it is required to check-in with a doctor once in a while to ensure there are no major implications.
On a practical basis, you might be falling into a scam.
Tips: We discussed further about the safety of buying finasteride online in Singapore this review.
Sire – Singapore’s Online Clinic for hair loss, and more
COVID-19 has made online shopping the mainstay of how we get many of our products. So why not medications?
Sire is a dedicated men’s clinic that provides prescription hair loss treatment to your doorstep in Singapore.
What makes it unique is how to are prescribed the medication. Rather than having to make an appointment with a doctor, it’s done in 3 simple steps: Survey, Consult, Delivery.
The survey and consult can be done in the comfort of your home. The health survey takes no more than 5 minutes. And the virtual consultation is done via WhatsApp, so no need to download additional apps.
Hair loss prescriptions are sold on a quarterly or annual subscription plan. Which plan suits you depends if you are just starting out, or have already been on treatment regularly.
Tip: Sire offers a full refund if a doctor declined your order, and a cancel anytime subscription.
Keeping the habit: Hair loss for the long haul
We know the process is tough. Having to take a tablet every day, yet only see results more than 3 months later – that takes perseverance.
If it’s your first time taking any medications regularly, or tend to forget taking them, try pairing it with a morning routine – like drinking coffee, or brushing your teeth.
Since the changes on your scalp may not be noticeable in the beginning, try creating a physical stimulus you can visualize – like putting a dollar into a jar each time you remember to take a tablet. With a regular routine, not only will you start to see improving, but you would be a jar full of dollars richer.,
Start small. Think big.
Tips: Love to read? Atomic Habits is a best-seller on how to form lasting habits.