Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
So you want to regrow the hair you’ve lost to hair loss. Welcome to the club. Men (and women, for that matter) all over the world have long searched for ways to turn back the clock on hair loss.
From centuries of home remedies to a few recent decades of scientific findings, there are plenty of products out there claiming to regrow your hair. But even with so many of these products in the wild, the truth is that there are far fewer FDA-approved hair growth products than you might think. And the overlap between FDA-approved products and dermatologist recommended hair growth products is just as small.
Why so few? What about all those things I see on banner ads and in the backs of my magazines? It turns out that not all products in the world of hair regrowth are created equal.
Hair loss and hair thinning products may all claim to have a medical benefit, but the truth is that only some of the items on shelves are actually proven (and approved) to do what they claim. Outside of that very small group, there are the wanna-be products and the supplements, the unregulated treatment options and the “all natural” solutions.
Your hair may be in a desperate spot, but these products’ unsubstantiated claims aren’t worth the risk — especially if the products that make these claims also make you crap your pants or increase your risk of a heart attack.
FDA approved hair growth products are built differently, and they have a lot of paperwork to back up their claims.
No need to Google, "medicine for hair growth faster". Here’s what you need to know about them.
There are only two products that currently are approved by the FDA to increase hair growth and treat different types of hair loss: finasteride and minoxidil. Short list, great products.
Finasteride slows down hair loss, specifically by preventing your body from killing your own hair follicles. Finasteride reduces your body’s levels of the hormone DHT, which is responsible for androgenic alopecia (sometimes called androgenetic alopecia), the type of hair loss that causes male pattern baldness.
DHT is a male androgen, and increased DHT levels are a commonly associated risk factor for male pattern baldness. Finasteride is typically offered as an oral medication, and taken daily, the FDA believes it is safe and effective in helping to prevent DHT from killing your buzz… cut.
The other FDA approved product for hair growth is a proactive medication called topical minoxidil, which can give you thicker hair and reduce noticeable hair loss. A topical solution of minoxidil increases blood flow to the areas where it is applied, so when applied to your scalp, it can increase blood flow to those precious hair follicles, encouraging them to restart the hair follicles’ growth phase or anagen phase.
These products have been tested in clinical trials numerous times, over decades, and both have shown to treat hair loss and thinning in relatively safe and effective ways.
Studies show that when taken daily, finasteride can reduce DHT levels in your body by up to 70 percent, which is a significant decrease — significant enough to protect your remaining hair follicles, and give the ones that are struggling some space to recover.
Minoxidil still leaves some questions for researchers; they don’t understand exactly what causes the increased blood flow to follicles, but still, studies have shown that minoxidil can increase hair density, volume and thickness of the hair shaft. Over a 48 week period, one study showed minoxidil increased the hair follicle count of some men between 12 and 18 percent.
Oh, and experts agree that the two are safe to use simultaneously. Cool, right?
You know what’s not approved by the FDA? Home remedies. While your favorite blogger may have some anecdotal evidence that claims that a coffee enema every 12 hours and a hair mask with poison ivy once a week will give you the lushest head of hair in the world, that’s probably a prank and that dude is getting sued as we speak.
There are a lot of gray areas beyond the coffee-enema-poison-ivy prank bro though, and many companies make millions of dollars a year suggesting that their unique formulations of natural active ingredients will regrow your hair like weeds.
Natural ingredients make up a lot of this list of unapproved treatments — from rosemary and olive oil to pumpkin seed oil and other things from your pantry, natural extracts and ingredients have shown somewhat promising results in clinical studies, but most of these studies haven’t been replicated or followed up on adequately.
Some of these things have anecdotal evidence from scientific studies. For instance, we’ve seen evidence to suggest that saw palmetto can help your body regulate DHT levels (it’s a common shampoo ingredient — if you want to know more, read our guide to what to look for in a men’s hair loss shampoo).
There are also mechanical instruments like laser treatment combs, electric scalp massagers and helmets. These might be part of the FDA’s recommended solutions one day, but for now their limited study support is inadequate to the FDA.
The list goes on, but with apologies to the stuff right out of Star Trek, we’re going to have to wait for the next generation of clinical trials to know if there’s any long-term benefit from these products.
“I tried several different options before but Hims combined approach of all four methods by far created the best results.”
“Hims has been the greatest confidence boost, no more bald jokes! I look and feel so much younger!”
“When I show my barber my progress, he is always in disbelief. I have to recommend Hims to any guy who’s experiencing thinning.”
“Cost effective and affordable. My hair keeps growing thicker, fuller, and at a fast rate.”
“I noticed a huge change in the overall health and fullness of my hairline.”
“Now after 5 months I’m able to style waves first time in 10 years!”
“I decided to jump right in and I'm so glad I did. I definitely feel ten years younger!”
“In just as little over two and half months, I can really see the difference in thickness and in color.”
“4-months strong and my confidence boosted back up to 100% using Hims, future me really does thank me.”
“I’m a 34-year-old father of two and have been using Hims for over a year now. My hair is back to what it was in my mid-twenties.”
Truthfully, the best way to take care of your hair outside of a tailored treatment from a doctor is simply to stay healthy and take care of your body as a whole. Holistic health care isn’t just good for your heart — it can also help your body support less-essential functions like growing hair. Having a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly and avoiding excessive smoking, drinking and drug use are generally considered good for your entire body, down to every last hair follicle.
Vitamins and supplements may support your hair health if you have certain deficiencies. Biotin may offer some substantial benefits for hair health — we’ve written about this before, so check out our guide to biotin for hair growth if you’re curious.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.
If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.
When you start seeing hair loss symptoms, it’s a smart, responsible and safe choice to go with treatments that have FDA approval. Want to know what else is smart, safe and responsible? Talking to a healthcare provider about hair loss.
Many men struggle with hair loss and male pattern baldness, but for every guy having his “natural” hair loss problems, there might be another guy whose hair loss is triggered by a more serious problem. Men and women can experience hair loss for a number of reasons, including autoimmune diseases or other health issues. Only a healthcare professional can help you rule out those causes.
If you’re learning more about hair loss, it might be a good idea to keep reading — our guide to DHT and male hair loss is a great next read if you’ve already been diagnosed with male pattern baldness. You can also read up on hair thickening products for men if you're looking for a fuller head of hair.
If you haven’t been diagnosed yet, consider getting a quick checkup. The worst case scenario is a confirmation of what you already know. The best case scenario is that you identify a problem, with time to treat it.