You may already have heard of – or even tried – the oral version of Finasteride (as in, taken the pills often known as Propecia). After all, Finasteride is one of just two FDA-approved medicines to treat hair loss (the other is Minoxidil, the active ingredient in Rogaine). But does spraying or spreading topical Finasteride on your head actually help you keep your hair? And what does it cost, and where can you get it? What’s the best topical finasteride solution on the market today? Plus, if you drop down to the “our experience” part of this review, you can hear how it went when I switched from oral to topical.
We’ll dive into what we can find out about the science behind topical fin, and let you know the best places to find high-quality topical Finasteride online.
Short on time? We’ll cut right to the chase.
- My experiment with topical went great.
- Right now we think Hims has the best topical Fin on the market. They combine it with Minoxidil, the other FDA approved medicine to treat hair loss, and put it in a spray that’s easy to administer. Visit Hims to check it out now!
Before diving into other options and how they compare, let’s first cover the basics of men’s hair loss meds in general.
Two-thirds of men go bald.
Yup, you read that right. By the time they are thirty-five, over 65% of men will notice signs of thinning, either with a receding hairline, loss near the crown of the head, or diffuse thinning all around. Even scarier, sometimes all three occur at once! And some dermatologists say that most men lose up to half of their hair before they even notice.
The good news is that there are drugs that are proven to help most men. The bad news is that these are NOT miracle drugs. You won’t go from being as bald as a cue ball to looking like the caveman from the Geico commercial (image below for reference). Instead, they help save what you still have, can promote modest regrowth and may help thicken your hair follicles (which helps make your hair color look more intense and your head fuller).
Caveman from Geico commercials. To be clear: topical finasteride will NOT make you this hairy, fortunately or unfortunately.
What medicines are FDA-approved for alopecia?
The two medicines approved by the FDA to treat normal hair loss in men (aka Alopecia) are Finasteride and Minoxidil. We’ve reviewed dozens of clinical study abstracts, and these two medicines have been shown time and time again to help men keep their hair with a low instance of side effects. The table below lays out how these medicines are approved to be taken, and the percent of men who saw an improvement with each treatment. The percent improvement is from this clinical study, which we picked because its results are in line with many of the other studies we’ve seen.
FDA-Approved Hair Loss Drugs
|FDA Approved-dose||% of Men Improved||Best Place to Get It Online|
|Finasteride (oral)||1 mg pill 1x a day||~80%||Keeps – get 50% off|
|Minoxidil (topical solution)||1 ML topical liquid (usually 5% concentration)||~60%||Roman – only $12 per month|
|Minoxidil (topical aerosol)||1 ML topical foam (usually 5% concentration)||~60%||Keeps – only $22.50 per month|
And if you want to increase your odds to 94% from the percentages above, the same clinical study (and many others!) recommend combining oral Finasteride with topical Minoxidil.
If you’re curious how Fin works to halt hair loss, here’s the super quick version. A hormone called DHT in all health men’s bodies interacts with hair follicles, causing them to shrink and eventually stop producing hair. Fin interferes with the DHT in your scalp, stopping it from shrinking your follicles, and thus helping you keep (and hopefully regrow some) hair.
Oral Finasteride vs Topical Finasteride
So, why do we need a topical Finasteride when the oral one seems to work well? Great question. The downside to the traditional, tablet version of Finasteride is occasional side effects. These are rare, and well understood, but still scary for many men.
These rare side effects include some sexual impotence such as erectile dysfunction, decrease of ejaculatory volume and loss of libido, but thankfully, these usually only occur for around 2.1% to 3.8% off men in most studies that we’ve seen.
When applied topically, finasteride is less likely to cause side effects than the pill, which is why some men think it may be better and want to switch to the topical. Unlike the pill, the formulation that you apply to your scalp has not been as studied as long, however, so there isn’t as much peer-reviewed research to dig into to learn about the possible side effects.
That said, the most common side effects are usually at the point of physical contact with the solution – i.e. your scalp – and include things like itching, a burning sensation, redness, flakey skin or irritation. These are generally mild, especially in comparison with sexual dysfunction or lebido loss. Since side effects are the primary concern when considering topical vs oral finasteride, we’ll repeat:
What are the side effects of topical finasteride?
The research studies that we reviewed showed a low instance of side effects, and those cited in the studies were quite mild. These included:
- irritation at the application point
But it is important to note that none of the studies showed any sexual side effects that keep many men up at night who take the oral medicine.
Topical Finasteride vs Oral Finasteride Pros and Cons
Advantage of Topical Fin vs Oral
Disadvantages of Topical vs Oral
Avoiding side effects may be the biggest reason for switch away from oral finasteride. But that also leads us to the biggest question – does topical Finasteride work as well?
Does topical Finasteride work?
Several, small clinical studies indicate that topical Finasteride works, reversing hair loss and balding in otherwise healthy men – showing similar results to studies of the oral version of the medicine. For example, this small study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment showed positive results for all of the patients treated vs the placebo group. Additional studies between the topical and oral versions of the medicine have shown similar decreases in DHT, the hormone that is a leading cause male pattern baldness. The researchers postulate that this means that the topical version will work as well as the pill.
An example of results from a real medical study published in the Indian Dermatology Online Journal is below – see the before and after images:
So if you are wondering if topical Finasteride is legit, the results from small, preliminary studies seem to indicate yes – it does reduce hair loss and promote hair growth. However, it is not approved in this formulation by the FDA (while it IS approved in the pill format), so if you use it you are going to need to get an “off label” prescription from a licensed physician.
Like oral Finasteride, if you stop using a Finasteride solution, you will likely see your hair loss resume. Once you stop taking the drug, your scalp DHT levels will likely creep back up, your hair follicles will likely begin to shrink and eventually, you’ll start going bald again.
Can you combine other medications with finasteride for better results?
Fin is not the only medicine dermatologists have been prescribing for hair loss. As we mentioned, Minoxidil is approved for topical use as well. As we mentioned, the research shows that combining the two can improve the odds of successfully fighting hair loss, and is currently the best, scientifically known, way to prevent hair loss. So why not try combining them into a solution that you can apply directly to your scalp?
Meet Finoxidil: Combined Topical Minoxidil and Finasteride Results
Research indicates that a topical application of a combination of Minoxidil and Fin can perform better than one medicine alone. Some people call this combined solution “Finoxidil.”
While there are not very many studies that have looked at the combined treatment through this delivery method, it does appear that a treatment plan that applies both a Minoxidil and Finasteride solution to the scalp works better than either alone.
Medical literature generally pegs Minoxidil helping about 60% of men combat baldness (you can read more about it in our comparison of Keeps vs Rogaine). Since it’s a real medicine, there are some known side effects.
Thankfully, these are generally very minor, such as skin irritation at the application site, itchiness, dandruff. More serious (and rare) side effects are dizziness, acne, face swelling. But, this drug has been used by millions of men, and the medical community considers it quite safe. Unlike Fin, you can buy Minoxidil over the counter – right off of Amazon or in your local drugstore. No prescription required; that’s how safe it is considered.
One very important note is that our review is focused on male pattern hair loss. These medicines are not to be used by women who are pregnant or who are considering becoming pregnant. Women should consult with their doctor before starting using any of these products. If you’re curious to learn about women’s hair loss treatments, check out our review of hers.
Should you switch from oral to topical Finasteride?
All of the studies that we’ve seen where a man (all the studies seem to be in men) using the oral medication switches to a topical Finasteride have shown that the topical formulation works. For example, this study (a small one, but still, a real clinical study) showed that when men switched from the oral to the topical, 84% had success with the topical.
But which is better for you? Unfortunately a doctor needs to help you make that decision. Thankfully, one of the best telemedicine providers, Hims, offers both the oral and the topical version of Fin – so you can have one of their complimentary online visits and ask them which one they recommend for your particular situation. They make it very easy to get advice on which application method is right for you.
Visit Hims now to start a free consultation
The Verdict: What’s the best Topical Finasteride?
So where can you get the best topical Finasteride? Right now, we are excited about the offering from Hims, one of the leading telemedicine providers. Visit forhims.com now to find out more.
Hims Finasteride + Minoxidil spray that you apply to your scalp two times a day. You can also get a free telemedicine visit with one of their physicians to make sure this prescription is right for you.
Comparing the online topical Finasteride providers
Hims vs Happy Head vs Strut Health: What’s the best topical Fin?
|Where to get it||forhims.com||happyhead.com||struthealth.com|
|Application||Spray||Dropper||Dropper or Gel|
|Custom formulated for each individual?||❌||✅||✅|
|Free Doctor’s Visit?||✅||✅||✅|
|Monthly Medicine Cost||$50||$79||Starting at $49|
It’s an exciting time to try to save your hair, with multiple online telemedicine providers offering different formulations. Quick side note: while Fin is FDA approved to treat normal, male pattern baldness, it has only been approved in the pill form. So the doctors at Strut, Hims and Happy Head are prescribing the medicine “off label” – which is completely legal and not all that uncommon.
Let’s explain the differences between Hims, Happy Head and Strut’s medicines, starting with the cost.
How much does Topical Finasteride cost?
Before the online telemedicine providers came along, Topical Fin was pretty hard to get – and it was pricey, only available through a compounding pharmacy. Here’s the breakdown for each brand:
- Hims charges $50 per month for 0.1% Fin / 6.0% Min
- Happy Head is $79 per month for 0.25% Fin / 8.0% Min. You can personalize these concentrations as needed.
- Strut Health is $49 per month for a custom compound that’s formulated specifically for your needs.
Review of Hims Topical Finasteride Spray
Hims‘ topical Finasteride focuses on the two, FDA approved medicines to treat hair loss – Finasteride and Minoxidil, while Happy Head and Strut Health add additional ingredients that they claim will help combat baldness. Strut, for instance, says the Tretinoin they include in some formulations helps increase the percutaneous absorption, better allowing the finasteride + minoxidil to penetrate through the layers of dead skin, build up, and oils on the scalp so the active ingredients can reach the hair follicles more effectively.
Another key difference to note is application method. Hims spray has Minoxidil at a 6% concentration, which is not only higher than standard Rogaine, but is also easier to apply and less messy than Strut and Happy Head (in our opinion).
Whether you prefer a spray vs a gel or dropper applicator is probably more of a personal preference – there is no clinical evidence to suggest one application method is better than another.
How to apply Hims Topical Finasteride
You apply the Hims’ spray twice a day, which is similar to how you’d use standard Minoxidil. We think it might take a day or so to get used to how to best apply the medicine if you haven’t used a spray scalp medicine before.
Is Hims Topical Finasteride Legit?
Hims is selling a real, compound drug that contains Finasteride and Minoxidil, the two drugs that have been shown to reduce hair loss and promote growth in around 90% of men. While the actual formulation, of the combined drugs that you apply to your scalp, hasn’t been rigorously studied, the clinical trials we reviewed above indicate that this formulation should have a high chance of working for most, otherwise healthy men.
Visit Hims now to get a free doctor’s consultation and see if Topical Finasteride is right for you!
Review of Happy Head Topical Finasteride
Happy Head is an online telemedicine provider that offers a single product – a custom, compounded Finoxidil combo. Happy Head’s Minoxidil concentration is high – 8%. We’ve never seen Minoxidil at this high of a concentration, and haven’t seen evidence that increasing the medicine to this level will improve results, nor have we seen anything written about if it will cause more side effects.
Unlike Hims’ medicine, the Happy Head version contains an additional ingredient, Retinoic Acid, which is also called Retinol. It’s a similar ingredient to the Tretinoin in the Strut medicine that we discussed earlier, although there are a few differences between Retinol and Tretinoin that we won’t get into.
It’s basically a form of Vitamin A, that can be used to promote the growth of skin cells and encourage collagen production. Many people use it to combat wrinkles and other skin issues that happen as you get older. Some dermatologists believe that it can increase blood flow to hair follicles, helping them be healthier. However, it can also irritate sensitive skin, and makes skin much more likely to become sunburned. So if you have a large bald spot and live in a sunny area, you’ll need to take extra precautions to avoid UV rays.
How to apply Happy Head topical Finasteride
Happy Head’s topical Finasteride is a liquid that you apply using a dropper. This is a very different formulation than the Hims and Strut medicines, and has its own unique way of being put onto your head.
Applying Happy Head is similar to how you’d apply Minoxidil or Rogaine to your scalp. Basically, you’ll:
- Begin with your hair dry, not wet or damp
- Expose some of the skin on your scalp by pushing aside your hair
- Use the dropper to take out 1 milliliter (1 ML) of the solution
- Apply drops to your balding spots – remember to get it on your skin, since that’s where it needs to go to work it’s magic!
- Rub it into your head
- Let your it dry before doing your do
- Remember to wash your hands! You don’t want hair growing anywhere but your scalp…
As I got my Happy Head prescription in the mail, their doctor emailed me and suggested that I also try using a 0.25mm dermaroller before I apply the medicine. I haven’t actually done that yet, but so far, applying their topical finasteride to my head has been exactly the same routine as applying Rogaine or standard old Minoxidil.
How much does Happy Head cost?
Happy Head’s hair loss meds cost $79 per month, with shipping included. Since you need a prescription, you’ll have to complete their online doctor’s consultation, which is free. So all in, you’ll be spending $79 a month for the 60 ML bottle of Fin/ Minoxidil/ Retinoic Acid.
Strut Topical Hair Loss Review
Strut’s topical hair loss product contains the two FDA approved hair loss medicines, Finasteride and Minoxidil, plus a vitamin-like compound, Tretinoin. The Finasteride, Minoxidil and Tretinoin concentrations in Strut’s formulations vary. That’s because they use a compounding pharmacy to mix different concentrations depending on what the physician recommends.
Unlike Hims or Happy Head, Strut’s medicine can be delivered in a gel formula, which you’ll apply directly to your scalp. If you prefer a dropper-like application, that’s available too. The choice is yours.
As we mentioned in our Happy Head review, Strut contains a third active ingredient, Tretinoin. To quickly recap, the Tretinoin in Strut’s compound may help promote blood flow to your follicles, making them healthier. However, this is prescribed off-label, it’s not technically approved by the FDA to treat baldness, but studies show it can help prepare your follicles for absorption of finasteride and minoxidil, the real stars of the show.
Something totally unique to Strut is that they can also prescribe Dutasteride for hair loss – either alone, or in combination with topical Finasteride. Dutasteride is a drug prescribed off label for hair loss – it works somewhat similarly to Fin in that it reduces DHT, which can help your follicles stay healthier. Strut’s Dutasteride either comes as a separate topical formulation, or packaged with biotin into a capsule you can swallow. Again, it’s up to you!
How to apply Strut’s topical finasteride solution and gel
Strut’s Finasteride topical is different than the other formulations that we’ve reviewed, and you use it differently as well. One major advantage of Strut Health is that you only need to apply it once a day vs twice daily that’s recommended with Hims or Happy Head alternatives.
To apply Strut’s Finasteride gel or solution
- Start with dry hair and a “clean” scalp
- Apply to your skin in the areas where you want to prevent hair loss
- Wash any unintentional areas that the medicine accidentally touches, like your face
- Wash your hands well
- Let the gel thoroughly dry before going to bed
- Wash it off in the morning (leave it in your hair for at least four hours)
How much does Strut’s topical Finasteride cost?
Strut’s topical Finasteride comes mixed with Minoxidil, an FDA approved topical hair loss medicine, and Tretinoin, a vitamin A derivative that might help promote hair growth. The medicine starts at $49 per month, but may cost more depending on your formulation.
Now that we’ve reviewed the best topical providers, which do we recommend?
What’s the best topical for men’s hair loss without finasteride?
If you’re only looking for Minoxidil to apply to your scalp — that is, minoxidil only without any finasteride — there are many options to choose from. Having tested them all, we recommend Keeps’ topical aerosol.
Instead of a liquid solution applied via a dropper, Keeps offers potent minoxidil as a foam in aerosol can, which is easier to apply and rub in. Same active ingredient, just more convenient form factor.
What’s it like using Topical Fin?
So far, my experience with topical finasteride has been 100% the same as when I was using Minoxidil and oral finasteride. I’m applying the same amount in the same spots, and seeing the same results – which is to say, no changes to my hairline (which is good!!)
After 4 months: My four month update after switching from oral Fin to topical continues to be positive – no change in my hair (which is good, because my original regimen of a pill plus minoxidil helped fill in my bald spot and thicken my hair.)
After 6 months: no changes from the traditional pill! My hair seems totally fine. The topical fin does make my hair a bit “chunky” feeling – probably because I’m not washing it everyday now. I may switch back to oral Finasteride, only because sometimes I’m finding myself forgetting to apply the second dose at night time to my head. I’m also grateful not to have experienced any side effects, sexual or otherwise.
Is Topical Finasteride Better?
Based on my personal experience, and the clinical trials we referenced, topical finasteride is similar in effect to oral fin, and significantly improves hair density compared to a placebo. Additionally, as it is applied to the skin instead of being “eaten,” overall DHT concentrations in the body are lower, which may lead to lower side effects.
Overall, it comes down to personal preference – which application method can you stick to diligently? For us, we slightly prefer topical finasteride over oral because of the lower risk.
Other Topical Fin FAQ
1. How can you get Topical Finasteride in the US if it’s not FDA approved?
Topical Finasteride is not FDA approved, unlike the oral formulation of this hair loss medicine. That being said, specialized men’s pharmacies like Hims, Strut Health and Happy Head do offer online physician visits where you can get an “off label” prescription for the topical version of this hair loss medicine, and then have it shipped regularly straight to your home.
2. Does Topical Finasteride require a prescription?
Yes. Even though it’s an off label medicine, you still need a prescription from a licensed doctor. Thankfully, the companies we review in this article can get you an online physician’s visit right from your couch, where a legitimate doctor can determine if you are a good candidate for this hair loss drug.
3. What are the best Topical Finasteride brands?
According to our research (and one of our editors experience using Topical Finasteride), the best brands in the US are:
Roman and Keeps are two other popular, online hair loss treatment providers, but unfortunately they do NOT offer a topical finasteride solution at this time – only oral. Canadians can find topical finasteride online via Jack Health or OnMen, while those in the UK can get it prescribe through Sons or Numan.
4. Is there a Topical Finasteride?
Just making sure you’re paying attention. If you’ve read this article, you know that there is a topical version of this popular hair loss medicine. While it is not (yet) FDA approved, you can purchase it in the US through the providers we’ve reviewed. And from the medical research that we’ve studied, it seems likely that the version you apply to your skin is less likely to cause adverse, systematic side effects compared to the oral form.
5. How do you apply Topical Finasteride?
Application of the drug is going to depend on the formulation – with a dropper, you apply the recommended dose, typically twice a day. With a spray formulation, you apply directly to the parts of your scalp where you are experiencing hair loss, usually twice a day. After application for either formulation you likely have to massage the medicine into your skin (and then carefully wash your hands).
The Verdict: Which topical finasteride product is best for you?
So, who sells the best topical Finasteride online: Hims, Happy Head or Strut Health?
Our overall recommendation for men seeking topical Finasteride is to try Hims. They have a rock-solid telemedicine practice (they have doctors who see patients from everything from sinus infections to asthma to hair loss), and it’s a trusted online medicine provider with reliable shipping. You can get started now on their topical Fin – click here to try Hims now.
If you want to do everything you possibly can to fight your hair loss, then Happy Head might be your best bet. They offer the highest concentration of finasteride + minoxidil, and also include a third active ingredient, retinoic acid, to promote growth at the site of application. At $79/month, we acknowledge it’s more expensive than Hims or Strut Health as well, and thus not accessible for all.
If you’re keen to try dutasteride, check out Strut! They are currently the only provider that offers custom formulations of this active ingredient for men.
Overall, we recommend Hims spray – let us know if you’ve tried them and how it’s gone for you in the comments below. We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention hims’ PE spray – another awesome topical product, albeit for a different men’s health condition: premature ejaculation.
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