Does Topical Finasteride Work? Everything You Need To Know

Numerous studies have confirmed that topical finasteride is effective at treating hair loss associated with male pattern baldness. Using topical finasteride instead of oral finasteride may also cause less side effects, making it more tolerable for some men.

Share This Post

What is finasteride | How does it work | Oral vs Topical | Where to buy | Does topical finasteride work

No matter when in life it occurs, male pattern hair loss can be extremely distressing for many men. 

Although the condition is extremely common, affecting two thirds of all American men by the age of 35 and approximately 85 percent of men by the age of 50, hair loss is still associated with shame and embarrassment, particularly when it occurs at a young age.

An estimated 25 percent of men who experience male pattern baldness begin losing their hair before the age of 21. 

Finasteride, a prescription medication taken orally, has been shown to stop hair loss and promote hair regrowth in many men, but it can also have some unpleasant sexual side effects such as erectile dysfunction

Recently, topical formulations of finasteride have been explored as a treatment option for men who do not tolerate oral finasteride well but still want to address their hair loss.

The question is, does topical finasteride work? 

What is finasteride?

Finasteride is a prescription medication that is best known as a hair loss treatment for male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia.

However, the medication is also used for the treatment of enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia). 

Finasteride was first developed as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia, but during clinical trials, researchers noticed that the medication seemed to stop hair loss and promote hair regrowth in men suffering from male pattern baldness.

Finasteride is sold as an oral medication (tablet) and as a topical medication (cream), and is available in both brand name and generic forms.

finasteride pills image

How does finasteride work?

Finasteride is a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor; 5-alpha-reductase is an enzyme that is responsible for converting testosterone into androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

High scalp DHT levels cause hair loss by shrinking the size of the hair follicle, causing the hair to fall out in both men and women.

High levels of DHT in the body in general can cause the prostate to increase in size.  

DHT has been found to be the culprit causing hair loss in men suffering from androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness.

Taking finasteride helps to lower the level of DHT in the scalp by up to 60 percent, which stops the shrinking of hair follicles, preventing further hair loss, and encourages hair restoration. Currently, lowering the levels of DHT in the scalp is the only clinical study-proven way to stop hair loss

Topical finasteride treatment plans

What is the difference between oral finasteride and topical finasteride?

The most obvious difference between oral finasteride and topical finasteride is that oral finasteride is ingested each day in the form of a tablet, while topical finasteride involves daily application to the scalp.

Both medications work to prevent hair loss and promote hair regrowth by lowering the levels of DHT in the scalp, but there are some key differences between the two.

Availability

Oral finasteride is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for hair loss and can be purchased at any commercial pharmacy with a prescription.

Topical finasteride is not FDA-approved for hair loss and is not commercially available. Patients who want to use topical finasteride will need to purchase the treatment from a compounding pharmacy, which creates a formula based on the directions of the prescribing physician.

Topical finasteride comes in a variety of different strengths and formulas; for example, topical finasteride is sometimes sold as a formula that combines topical finasteride with topical minoxidil (commonly known as Rogaine), and some formulas may also include dutasteride as part of the formula.

Side effects

One of the biggest differences between oral finasteride and topical finasteride is the side effects the medications cause.

Although oral finasteride is generally well tolerated and has proven therapeutic effects, some men experience side effects of sexual dysfunction that make the medication intolerable for them, forcing them to choose between living with hair loss or experiencing side effects. Mild side effects associated with oral finasteride use include:

  • Decreased sex drive
  • Ejaculation disorder
  • Skin rash
  • Trouble getting or keeping an erection
  • Increase in breast size and tenderness
  • Gynecomastia

Most side effects caused by oral finasteride subside over the course of a few days or weeks as the body adjusts to the medication, but some patients will experience the side effects in a more severe form or over a prolonged period of time.

In these cases, patients should follow up with their healthcare provider for further medical advice. Additionally, while finasteride does affect sexual function, it has not been linked to infertility.

Some side effects or oral finasteride can be more serious and can potentially be life threatening. Patients experiencing any of the following side effects should contact a doctor right away and should contact 911 if their symptoms feel life threatening.

  • Swelling of your lips, tongue, throat, or face
  • Nipple discharge
  • Lumps or pain in your breasts
  • Depression

The side effects caused by the use of oral finasteride result from lower levels of DHT in the body. 

As a result, topical finasteride, which also lowers the levels of DHT in the body, also has the potential to cause the same side effects.

However, topical finasteride primarily lowers the levels of DHT in the scalp and has a substantially lower impact on serum DHT in the body, which makes it less likely to cause side effects than oral finasteride.

Men who are particularly sensitive to a drop in their levels of DHT may find that topical finasteride is a viable option that may help avoid systemic side effects that affect the conversion of testosterone. 

Cost

Another difference between topical and oral finasteride is the cost of the medications. Oral finasteride is FDA-approved and commercially available at any pharmacy, and it is often covered by baseline health insurance plans, particularly in its generic form.

Because oral finasteride is FDA-approved, it also can be purchased using a pharmacy discount card to save on the medication. 

Topical finasteride is not FDA-approved and is therefore not covered by health insurance; pharmacy discount cards cannot be used on the medication.

Topical finasteride must be purchased at a compounding pharmacy and may vary in price depending on the specific formula. As a result, it is more expensive than oral finasteride.

MedicationProductFeaturesBuy Now
The Pill Free Rx - Award Winner
Topical Finasteride & Minoxidil Spray | Hims

Topical Finasteride & Minoxidil Spray | Hims

If a pill feels like an overwhelming way to treat male pattern hair loss, this spray could be for you. Emerging evidence suggests it can help regrow hair and prevent further hair loss with a lower risk of sexual side effects compared to finasteride pills.

 

Buy NowRead Review
Your Custom Kit
Hair Power Pack | Hims

Hair Power Pack | Hims

You came here for something that really works, and that’s finasteride. It’s been shown to effectively help hair regrowth in about 85 percent of men who take it over a span of three to four months. You’ll also get a chance to upgrade your plan with products to support fuller hair. Win-win.

 

Buy NowRead Review
The Pill - Top Seller
Finasteride | Hims

Finasteride | Hims

More hair...this is the pill for that. It treats male pattern baldness, at the crown and in the middle of the scalp. You’ll see thicker hair and slower hair loss with regular use.

 

Buy NowRead Review
Regrowth Made Easy
Minoxidil Foam | Hims

Minoxidil Foam | Hims

Look and feel your best with thicker, fuller hair—thanks to this FDA-approved minoxidil foam. It’s clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.

 

Buy NowRead Review
The Drops
Minoxidil 5% | Hims

Minoxidil 5% | Hims

This 5% topical solution for men, used once or twice a day, can treat hair loss by promoting new hair growth of lost hair. Hair today, hair tomorrow. Plenty of hair for grabbing, twirling and such.

 

Buy NowRead Review
If you buy something from a link on our site, we may earn a commission. See our advertising disclosure.

Does topical finasteride work?

We already know that oral finasteride is effective at stopping hair loss and encouraging hair regrowth without the need for hair transplant or other more intensive measures. 

Numerous studies have been conducted on oral finasteride that prove its effectiveness, including a study conducted in 1999 which showed that taking 1 mg of finasteride orally each day promotes a significant increase in hair growth in 48 percent of study participants in one year and up to 66 percent in two years.

The study found that the medication was even more effective in stopping hair loss;  after two years, 83 percent of participants receiving finasteride showed no further hair loss compared to 28 percent of those receiving the placebo. 

However, oral finasteride is more likely to cause side effects, so researchers have begun examining whether topical finasteride might offer an equally effective option.

Several studies have been conducted on topical finasteride, and a literature review has also been conducted.

The literature review from 2018 found that seven different studies demonstrated that topical finasteride caused a significant decrease in the rate of hair loss, increased total and terminal hair counts, and promoted positive hair growth assessment. The topical finasteride caused a decrease in both scalp and plasma DHT but did not cause changes in serum testosterone. 

A study conducted in 2015 examined the effects of using a solution that contained 5% topical minoxidil fortified with 0.1% finasteride after patients were treated initially with the 5% topical minoxidil solution and oral finasteride over the course of two years.

The study found that approximately 84 percent of the participants who were continuously treated for hair loss maintained good hair density with use of the topical formula containing both minoxidil and finasteride.

Several patients discontinued treatment with oral finasteride early and then began using the topical formula; four out of five of these patients demonstrated good improvement in hair density when they began treatment with the topical solution. 

Based on the studies and literature review, topical finasteride has been shown to be effective in stopping hair loss and promoting hair regrowth in men suffering from male pattern baldness.

The medication can be used following treatment with oral finasteride for patients who do not want to take oral finasteride in perpetuity to prevent hair loss.

Summary

Topical finasteride has been shown to be effective in stopping hair loss and promoting hair regrowth in men suffering from male pattern baldness, and it has been found to cause fewer side effects than oral finasteride.

Topical finasteride can be purchased at a compounding pharmacy but is not commercially available, as it is not yet FDA-approved for hair loss.

As a result, topical finasteride solutions are not uniform and may be more expensive than oral finasteride.

References, Studies and Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6609098/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4314881/

https://www.ishrs-htforum.org/content/28/3/112

Sesame Care

Find the best price for great doctors and specialists

  • Thousands of doctors and specialists
  • $13,000,000+ saved by patients
  • 95% patient satisfaction
  • 4.3 on TrustPilot
     

Popular Destinations

Health

Medication

Telehealth Reviews

Shop

Pharmacist Membership

About Us

Pharmacy Near Me

Recent Articles

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is a vasodilator that relaxes (widens) blood vessels and improves blood flow.

Minoxidil is used to treat severely high blood pressure (hypertension) that is causing symptoms or damaging your vital organs. Minoxidil is usually given together with two other medicines to help prevent serious side effects.

Minoxidil tablets should not be used to promote scalp hair growth. Only the topical form of minoxidil (Rogaine) is recommended for that use.

Read More »

Share On:

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

How Much Does Cialis Cost?

In this article, we will explore the history and facts of Cialis and breakdown how much does Cialis cost. 

Hims ED Review: Does it Actually Work?

We’ve compiled a comprehensive Hims review that will tell you everything you need to know about the company, your treatment options, FAQs about Hims

Hims vs Roman: Complete Review

We’ve put together a complete review of Hims vs. Roman to help you choose the telehealth service that’s right for you. 

BlueChew vs Hims: Which ED Pill is Better?

Both BlueChew and Hims can help you save on your ED pills, but comparing the two, which is better? Consider this your Bluechew vs

The Best Hair Loss Treatment for Men: Comparison Guide

If you’re looking for the best hair loss treatment for men, look no further than this comparison guide.

Roman Review: Is This Erectile Dysfunction Treatment Legit?

Roman is a remote men’s health service that focuses on providing treatments and prescriptions for a multitude of men’s health problems, such as erectile

What Happens When You Don’t Last? Premature Ejaculation Pills, Causes and Treatment

If you are suffering from premature ejaculation, you may be feeling that your sex life has been reduced to a frustrating experience. You might

BlueChew vs Roman: Which is Better?

BlueChew and Roman both men's health brands that offer erectile dysfunction treatments and ED pills. BlueChew products are typically less expensive, but fewer options

Is Alcohol Wreaking Havoc on Your Sexual Performance?

Drinking too much alcohol can wreak havoc on your sexual performance, while moderate alcohol consumption usually does not cause any issues. Excess alcohol consumption

Rex Md ED Review: What To Know Before You Sign Up

REX MD is a telehealth company that wants to reimagine the world of men’s healthcare. According to their site, they’re aiming to improve the

Hims Hair Loss Review: Is it Legit?

The Hims Total Hair Package contains clinically proven components that are effective at stopping hair loss and promoting hair growth, including saw palmetto thickening

Cialis vs Viagra: What’s the difference?

Cialis and Viagra can both be used to treat erectile dysfunction (ed) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (bph), but the medications are not interchangeable, and

How Much Sildenafil is Too Much? Maximum Dosage and Safety

If you’re considering treatment with sildenafil, you might be wondering how much sildenafil is too much and what the maximum dosage and safety concerns

Nutrafol Review: Are These Hair Supplements Effective?

Nutrafol is a telehealth company that offers a range of hair supplements for both men and women. Are these supplements effective, though?

How Does Viagra Work?

So, what is erectile dysfunction, how exactly does this wonder drug work to treat it, just like tadalafil, and how likely is it that

How Long Does it Take Viagra to Work?

If you’re wondering how long it takes for Viagra to work, we have everything you need to know about this popular little blue pill.

Exercises To Eliminate Erectile Dysfunction

Physical activity to eliminate erectile dysfunction include simple kegel exercises and pilates exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor and general aerobic exercise to improve

How Long Does Cialis Last?

In this article, we will answer all of your questions about this popular erectile dysfunction medication including how it works, how long it lasts,

Erectile Dysfunction: Symptoms and Causes

Erectile dysfunction is caused by a number of physical, emotional, and lifestyle factors, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and excessive alcohol

Finasteride Results Timeline and What to Expect

Finasteride starts working to lower the amount of the DHT in the body right away, but it will take several months before any results