Healy Jones

Best Topical Finasteride: Does It Work for Hair Loss?

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?


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 to the chase. 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 hair, 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 Gieco 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 US 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 it’s results are in line with many of the other studies we’ve seen. 


FDA-Approved Hair Loss Drug

FDA Approved-Format% of Men ImprovedBest 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: Which is better?


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 with mentioning. These include some sexual side effects 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. 


Source: Hims


The theory is that the topical version is less likely to cause side effects than the pill, which is why some men think it may be better and want to switch from the oral medicine 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 it’s such a big question, 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, redness, itchiness – and it is important to note that none of the studies showed any sexual side effects that many worry about when taking the oral medicine. 


Topical Finasteride vs Oral Finasteride: What are the pros and cons?


Advantage of Topical Fin vs Oral

Disadvantages of Topical vs Oral


  • Topical Finasteride may have a lower instance of side effects vs the oral version


  • The active ingredient in a gel, drop or spray version is likely to stay more localized in the specific, target treatment area, vs a pill, which enters the entire body’s bloodstream


  • Other medicines, like Minoxidil, can easily be combined into a single treatment application with a topical treatment


  • The oral version has been extensively studied (and used) so is well understood


  • Many fewer clinical studies showing the efficacy – and side effects – of topical


  • Must be prescribed off label, while Propecia and the oral generics are FDA-approved for treatment


  • Topical is much harder to get

Avoiding side effects is the biggest reason for the invention of topical Finasteride. But that also leads us to the biggest question – does it work?


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.


Even better – combining two ingredients


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 Minoxidil and Finasteride topical 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.


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 you probably need a doctor 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! 


Visit Hims now to start a free consultation



The Verdict: What’s the best Topical Finasteride online?


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 now to find out more.


Hims has a combo 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 get the prescription you need for the Fin. 

Plus, they have a 90 day guarantee!

Their unique formulation has a 6% Minoxidil with 0.1% Finasteride. You apply it two times a day by a spray – also different than most providers that give you a dropper.

Try it now


Comparing the online topical Finasteride providers



Hims vs Happy Head vs Strut: What’s the best topical Fin?

Where to get
Active Ingredients

0.1% Finasteride

6.0% Minoxidil

0.25% Finasteride

8.0% Minoxidil

0.1 – 0.25% Finasteride

Up to 7.5% Minoxidil

Less Scientifically Proven IngredientsNone0.01% Retinoic AcidUp to 0.25% Tretinoin
Doctor’s Visit CostFreeFree$15 – $39
Monthly Medicine Cost$50$79Starting 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. 



Hims Topical Finasteride Spray Review: What are customers saying?


Hims’ topical Finasteride focuses on the two, FDA approved medicines to treat hair loss – Finasteride and Minoxidil, while Happy Head and Strut add additional ingredients that they claim will help combat baldness. One thing to note is that the Hims spray has Minoxidil at a 6% concentration, which is not only higher than the standard Rogaine concentration, but is different from Strut and Happy Head. Unlike Strut and Happy Head, Hims’ Finasteride / Minoxidil is delivered via a spray, which they say makes it easier to apply and less messy. If you prefer the Hims 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. 


  1. It’s best to start with dry hair
  2. Mentally divide up your scalp into four to six sections so you can focus on each
  3. Move aside the hair so it’s easier to hit the skin – you are aiming for the skin, not the hair, since the drugs need to penetrate your skin to get to the follicles to work their magic
  4. Tilt your head back a little bit so nothing drips into your eyes
  5. Spray on the sections
  6. Wash your hands! It is possible that the medicine will cause hair to grow wherever it hits, so unless you want hairy hands, clean them with soap and water. Plus, you don’t want it getting on your dog, significant other, etc.
  7. Repeat this two times a day, more or less evenly spread apart
  8. Some doctors recommend that your evening application happen early enough so that by the time that you go to bed it’s totally dry to avoid getting the medicine on your pillow (to avoid having it inadvertently rub onto your face later)


Is the Hims Topical Finasteride Legit? Is it the best?


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 to see if Topical Finasteride is right for you!



Review: 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. 

It’s available at the Happy Head website, and can be shipped everywhere in the US except Alaska and Washington, D.C.


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, 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 becoming sunburnt. 



How to apply Happy Head topical Finasteride


Happy Head 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:


  1. Begin with your hair dry, not wet or damp 
  2. Expose some of the skin on your scalp by pushing aside your hair
  3. Use the dropper to take out 1 milliliter (1 ML) of the solution
  4. 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!
  5. Rub it into your head
  6. Let your it dry before doing your do 
  7. Remember to wash your hands! You don’t want hair growing there… 

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 solution is listed at $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 Strut’s gel will vary – they use a compounding pharmacy to mix different concentrations depending on what the physician orders for you. Unlike Hims or Happy Head, Strut’s medicine is delivered in a gel formula, which you’ll apply directly to your scalp. 


As we mentioned in our Happy Head review, Strut contains a third active ingredient, Tretinoin. To quickly recap, the Tretinoin is 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. And it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Because there isn’t a ton of published medical research on Tretinoin and hair loss, it’s hard for us to say if this is a necessary ingredient or not. 


Something totally unique to Strut is that they can also prescribe Dutasteride for hair loss – either alone, or in combination with the Finasteride gel. 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. 

However, it hasn’t been FDA approved specifically to treat hair loss, and it may have a higher instance of side effects (specifically sexual side effects). 


How to apply Strut’s topical hair loss solution


Strut’s Fin gel is different than the other formulations that we’ve reviewed, and you use it differently as well. One major advantage of Strut is that you only need to apply it once a day, vs. the two times a day regimen that you need when you use the Hims or Happy Head versions. 


To apply the Finasteride Gel

  1. Start with dry hair and a “clean” scalp
  2. Apply to your skin in the areas where you want to prevent hair loss
  3. Wash any unintentional areas that the medicine accidentally touches, like your face
  4. Wash your hands well
  5. Let the gel thoroughly dry before going to bed
  6. 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. Doctor visits range from $15 to $39, but they often run promotions that make the visit free.  


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.

Plus, you don’t need a prescription and can get 50% off today!

Try it now

Keeps Minoxidil Foam

What’s it like Using Topical Fin?

So far, my experience has been 100% the same experience I had when I was using Minoxidil. I’m applying the same amount in the same spots. And seeing the same results as I had been seeing with the oral fin and topical Minoxidil – so no changes to my hairline (which is good!!). Overall, I’m happy with it.


Other Common Questions


Can you get Topical Finasteride in the US?

So, Topical Finasteride is not FDA approved, unlike the oral formulation of this hair loss medicine. That being said, specialized men’s pharmacies like those from Hims or 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.


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.


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?


So who sells the best topical Finasteride online: Hims, Happy Head or Strut? 


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 as well, and thus not accessible for all.


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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