Last updated on July 29th, 2021 at 08:18 am
Have you heard the good news? A new startup called Happy Head is now offering an alternative to traditional Finasteride pills. Their topical solution offers the chance to get your hair back without the potentially devastating side effects normally associated with oral Finasteride.
Topical Finasteride is a special formulation of the DHT blocker Finasteride, which means it is applied locally on the scalp instead of being ingested (via swallowing a pill.) This mode of application allows it to have maximum effect on the intended area (scalp) without altering testosterone level in the blood, which means it may not affect your sex drive or change the levels of testosterone in your body.
Alright, that’s a lot to take in, so let’s zoom out. This article will cover Finasteride in depth, including how it works to reduce hair loss, and then review Happy Head’s special topical Finasteride formulation to see how well it works.
What causes men to go bald in the first place?
Male pattern hair loss, aka androgenic alopecia or androgenetic alopecia, is a genetic condition signified by excessive loss of hair from the hairline and scalp. For men, thinning typically occurs at the top and front of the head, unlike female alopecia which affects the whole scalp, and generally starts later in life than for males.
In other words, male alopecia is premature balding. It usually occurs in middle-aged men, even though younger adults are reporting increased cases of hair loss at ages as young as 25 and below. (Personal anecdote time: My dad lost all his hair by age 30, which he’ll be the first to tell you, was not fun.)
This kind of hair loss is closely linked with the male hormone (androgen) testosterone. A derivative of testosterone that is called dihydrotestosterone binds itself to hair follicles in the scalp, causing them to weaken and disrupt the hair cycle. The hair eventually falls out while the follicle becomes dormant, leading to baldness.
An enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase is involved in the conversion of free testosterone found in blood serum to DHT. Having high levels of DHT will cause faster thinning and eventual baldness.
Some men are more sensitive to DHT, meaning that they could experience faster hair loss despite having relatively normal levels. This sensitivity is dictated by genes inherited from your parents, which is why male pattern baldness tends to run in families, while other family’s maintain thick locks forever.
In addition to genetics, male pattern blindness also has to do with factors such as stress and hormonal changes. The degree and speed of progression of male pattern baldness differ from man to man, but it eventually affects more than 50% of Caucasian men over 50 years of age.
Knowing what causes hair loss in the first place and the connection to DHT will help you understand how Finasteride works and why it is currently the most effective solution to treat male pattern balding.
How does Finasteride work to stop hair loss?
Finasteride is a type of drug that inhibits the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme and stops it from producing DHT. Finasteride is so effective that it can reduce DHT production by about 70%, which significantly slows down hair loss.
Whether it is used alone or combined with other treatments for hair loss (like minoxidil aka Rogaine), Finasteride offers hair in the scalp a chance to grow back during the normal hair growth cycle, which can generally take several months.
How effective is Fin at preventing hair loss?
For decades, Finasteride (and its close cousin Dutasteride) have been widely used and studied to determine their effectiveness in treating male pattern balding. Data from clinical trials suggest that Finasteride gives you a better than 80% chance of slowing down hair loss within 2 years, and slightly less than 70% after 5 years. It’s helped millions of men over the last few decades, and thus, you can conclude that finasteride is very effective for most men. That said, some men experience side effects, so it’s important to check with a doctor and research alternatives before usage.
Topical Finasteride vs Oral Finasteride: What are the key differences?
Topical Finasteride has recently emerged at the forefront as one of the best remedies for alopecia, and today is considered a superior option in many ways compared to oral Finasteride, mostly due to reduced side effects.
Oral Finasteride in pill form has been available for a long time under the brand name Propecia. The drug gets metabolized in the liver and stops global (in the whole body) conversion of testosterone to DHT, an action that potentially causes adverse side effects.
Since DHT is also responsible for libido, male characteristics such as the growth of body hair, development of the prostate gland, lack of adequate DHT can (unfortunately) have unwanted sexual and physical side effects.
Finasteride side effects
Finasteride has few side effects, but many of them are systemic and highly undesirable. This is one reason why many men are concerned with the potential effects of taking oral Finasteride on a long-term basis.
- Potential sexual dysfunction due to low DHT levels in blood serum
- Erectile dysfunction and problems with ejaculation
- Swelling and tenderness in the breasts
- Swelling of the hands or feet
These side effects manifest in less than 5% of men taking oral Finasteride, and then only in mild forms in the first few weeks of taking the drug until the body gets used to it. However, the sensitive nature of these adverse effects has been blown out of proportion.
Why is topical finasteride less risky than oral?
Most dermatologists still recommend oral Finasteride first unless you specifically request topical, which poses a lower risk of serious side effects. Topical Finasteride — which is the treatment Happy Head offers — might be a more attractive option because it appears in much lower dosages (~0.25%) compared to the oral tablets (5mg), meaning that even less reaches the bloodstream after application, potentially having minimal effects on hormonal balance.
Recall that topical Finasteride is only applied to the affected area, so the drug only works in a more localized area without potentially having undue effects on the rest of the body. For anyone scared about scary sexual side effects from finasteride such as loss of lebido or erectile dysfunction, topical Finasteride is thus a safer alternative.
That said, topical Finasteride is a much more recent formulation of the drug that is yet to be approved by the FDA or made widely commercially available. Until now, it’s only been prescribed by compounding pharmacies under the careful guidance of dermatologists. Companies like Happy Head are changing this, making it easier to get online — thank goodness!
Happy Head’s special formulation of Finasteride is customized for each patient depending on their needs, medical history, gender, and other personal factors. However, the formula typically involves 0.25% Finasteride solution, which is the most effective concentration that works with the fewest side effects. For anyone worried about sexual impotency or other unintended conditions associated with long-term finasteride use, Happy Head is worth the slightly higher monthly cost.
Happy Head’s topical Finasteride solution will usually have 6%-8% Minoxidil. Note that this is slightly higher than other brands because they found that adding more Minoxidil and retinoic acid means faster and better results with no significant increase in side effects. In addition, Happy Head’s aloe carrier helps to soothe the scalp and prevent irritation and burning after application. That’s important because the only side effect that topical finasteride sometimes causes that oral pills generally don’t is skin irritation.
Does topical Finasteride work? What the research says
In 2018, a comprehensive study on topical Finasteride was published. The study summarized findings from seven earlier studies and concluded that “preliminary results on the use of topical FNS (Finasteride) are limited but safe.”
The seven studies reviewed all seem to agree that topical Finasteride is at least as effective as oral Finasteride in combating male pattern hair loss. Cutting to the chase: the results of several clinical studies showed decreased hair loss, increased hair counts at the end of the longest study (2 years), and improved hair growth.
Clinical measurements showed that the amount of DHT in the scalp and plasma decreased, but it did not cause any changes in the levels of testosterone. Thus we can safely conclude that use of topical Finasteride is an effective and safe way to treat alopecia for men, but studies are still ongoing to determine things like ideal frequency, safe dosage limits, and more.
Happy Head’s formulation of topical Finasteride is even more effective because it’s personalized for your exact needs — not one-size-fits-all — and contains a few extra ingredients that will help you keep your hair, namely Retinoic acid and the popular alopecia medication Minoxidil. There are several credible clinical studies showing that the combination of minoxidil with finasteride works better than either alone, so rest assured that although no medicine works for everyone, Happy Head’s topical finasteride (with minoxidil) should work for most.
Should you request topical Finasteride from your doctor or Happy Head?
If you’re wondering whether you should ask your dermatologist about switching to topical Finasteride, the answer is yes and no. Yes, because the drug has been tested and proven to work just as well as oral Finasteride in most circumstances with potentially significantly fewer side effects, and no, because there are easier, more convenient ways to get it than asking your physician or dermatologist.
At this point in time, topical Finasteride generally isn’t available unless a dermatologist recommends it and works with a compounding pharmacy. This has led to quality control issues, since it hasn’t been regulated as a mass-market drug yet (i.e. no FDA approval yet). But Happy Head is on a mission to change that by making it much easier to acquire consistently effective formulations, specifically designed for your condition.
So while we don’t recommend you get topical finasteride from your doctor, we do recommend you get it from Happy Head so long as you can afford the higher price tag than oral Finasteride. Happy Head is a much, much simpler way to experiment with topical finasteride and ensure the correct dosage is shipped out to you every month. Much less hassle than a traditional visit to your dermatologist!
Happy Head Reviews: What are customers saying?
For the most part, Happy Head’s customers seem to love their topical fin. It gives them peace of mind to know they are treating their thinning scalp with a lower risk of side effects, and overall most claim to have seen strong results.
A few customers noted (as we have) that Happy Head’s finasteride isn’t the cheapest finasteride out there — but if you consider that you’re getting a personalized formulation of finasteride, minoxidil, and retinoic acid all-in-one with lower risk of side effects, the higher price makes more sense.
How to get topical finasteride from Happy Head
Until the FDA approves topical Finasteride and it becomes commercially available, it will remain under the discretion of your dermatologist. Most are happy to prescribe it if you ask, even without a history of side effects with oral Finasteride, but the trouble lies in getting high-quality and reproducible compounded topical Finasteride formulations from pharmacists.
At Happy Head, you can get your free consultation with certified dermatologists to talk about whether topical Finasteride might be the best solution for you. They will also review your history, listen to your problems with other hair loss medication, and create a custom prescription to suit your needs. The process starts with a quick, virtual consultation with one of their doctors.
From there you’ll get prescribed a course of treatment that makes the most sense for your symptoms for free. Your custom topical finasteride solution will come in the mail, in discreet packaging, every month on a regular schedule so you don’t run out. Every year you may have to “renew” your prescription virtually, but generally this takes just a couple minutes online. Happy Head makes getting topical fin as simple as that!
The Verdict: Is Happy Head Legit?
All in all, yes. Happy Head offers a very legitimate topical hair loss treatment for men. It combines FDA-approved meds — finasteride and minoxidil — that are clinically proven to be most effective when used together, into a single solution that can be easily applied to your scalp. Their formulations are personalized, meaning that exact dosage and concentrations of active ingredients are custom, just like your dermatologist would provide. The only difference is that it’s a lot cheaper (no co-pays or doctor’s visit fees), and much more convenient.
Happy Head is ideal for folks who dislike swallowing pills or are afraid of oral finsteride’s potentially devastating side effects, rare as they may be. Although I haven’t used Happy Head’s product personally, I have been using both minoxidil and oral finasteride for years and have seen strong results. Happy Head’s customers by and large claim similar hair regrowth, and clinical studies show much lower instances of side effects with topical finasteride than oral.
Ultimately prescription medications work differently for each individual, which is why we really appreciate Happy Head’s personalized approach. The only way to know for sure if it will work for you is to try it out and measure its impact over 3-6 months. Although Happy Head is pricier than oral finasteride, it’s more customized to your needs, and thus in our opinion, justifies the higher cost. To be clear, topical fin is more expensive than oral finasteride in general, so if you’re looking for the absolute cheapest finasteride on the market, Happy Head may not be for you.
Give Happy Head a try, and let us know about your experience in the comments below.