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Do Hair Growth Products Work?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Rachel Sacks

Published 09/17/2017

Updated 01/25/2024

Maybe you’ve noticed more hairs falling out or a bald spot growing larger each day. It can be hard to not go off on a doom spiral that you’ll end up completely bald, but before that happens, you should know that you have options.

While a few years ago your options may have been limited to bad hair pieces and wigs, today it’s easy to find a large variety of products aimed at improving your hairline, thickening thin areas and stimulating hair growth.

But do hair growth products work? How do you know which ones are the most effective, and how do you know if they’re actually working?

From prescription medications to over-the-counter treatments, we cover all the proven hair growth products below so you can select the best product for your needs.

So the big question on your mind: Do any hair growth products work?

The short answer is yes and we’ll show you the proof. But first, let’s talk about the most effective hair regrowth products — finasteride and minoxidil.

Both solutions are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat male pattern baldness, the most common form of hair loss in men.

But can these medications actually bring new hairs to your head? Once again, yes. There are plenty of studies to back up that these medications work.

These medications work differently, and they appear to have complementary effects when used together. We’ve explained these medications and how they work in more detail in the sections below.

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Finasteride

Finasteride is a prescription medication for male pattern baldness (or androgenetic alopecia). This type of hair loss, which affects up to 50 percent of men by age 50, is typically caused by genetic and hormonal factors.

If you have androgenetic alopecia, you may notice a receding hairline, thinning or total hair loss on your scalp, particularly at your crown.

Finasteride is part of a class of medicines called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors and works by stopping your body from converting testosterone into a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.

To understand how this stops your bald spot from growing, it’s important to quickly go over the basics of DHT and its role in hereditary hair loss.

DHT is produced as a byproduct of testosterone. Although it’s important in your early life, DHT can cause your hair follicles to miniaturize as you age, preventing them from being able to grow new hair properly.

Over time, as DHT affects your hair follicles, you may notice your hairline creeping backward — an issue that can eventually develop into more severe hair thinning.

This is where finasteride comes in. By blocking testosterone from being converted into DHT, the medication prevents future hair loss from occurring and helps you keep the hair you already have.

Finasteride was introduced as a hair loss treatment several years after it was approved as a treatment for benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). You may have seen finasteride advertised as Propecia®, its original brand name

Research has shown that finasteride works extremely well. Used daily, it lowers DHT levels by about 70 percent, which is enough to either stop or slow down the effects of male pattern baldness for most men.

A 2019 Tokyo Medical Clinic study found that 91.5 percent of the men in the study experienced improvements in their hair growth while using finasteride long-term.

Although typically taken as an oral medication, topical finasteride was also shown to significantly improve hair counts with few side effects in a study from 2021.

Minoxidil

The hairs on our heads grow in a cycle of three phases — the anagen or growth phase, catagen or transitional phase and telogen or resting phase. Minoxidil affects this hair growth cycle by stimulating blood flow to your scalp, moving hairs into the anagen phase and encouraging new hair growth on your head.

Unlike finasteride, topical minoxidil (which you may recognize as Rogaine®) creates the ideal conditions for hair growth on your scalp. You can think of minoxidil as a metaphorical fertilizer for your hair, while finasteride is a type of shield against the effects of DHT.

This means that minoxidil may also be a helpful treatment for types of hair loss other than male pattern baldness, such as telogen effluvium.

Minoxidil works well on its own — research shows that it increases hair thickness and growth, and that a 5% dosage leads to even more results than a 2% dose.

However, it’s even more effective when it’s used at the same time as finasteride, compared to either medication on its own.

A 2012 study comparing minoxidil on its own with a combination of minoxidil and finasteride topical treatment found that the combination treatment led to slightly better results and fewer side effects than minoxidil alone.

Since minoxidil is a topical treatment, you may experience side effects like scalp irritation, itching, flakiness or burning.

If you’re curious, here’s everything you need to know about the differences between minoxidil and Rogaine.

Now you know about the two most effective FDA-approved treatments for hair growth. But what about other hair growth products that claim to bring back your once luscious locks? Do hair regrowth products work as well as minoxidil and finasteride?

There are hair growth products out there that — while not quite supported by as much research as finasteride and minoxidil — show real promise for promoting a healthy scalp, stimulating growth and helping you avoid damaged hair. No snake oils that promise results without delivering here.

You can think of these products as the supporting cast in your hair growth story, and they include everything from hair growth supplements to shampoos for promoting optimal hair health and even devices for increasing blood flow and follicular activity.

Hair Growth Vitamins

Some vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin E and biotin, all play a role in helping you grow a thick, healthy head of hair. If you’re deficient in any of these vitamins, adding a vitamin supplement to your hair care stack could be a good idea. 

However, it’s important to know the difference between vitamins for optimal hair and scalp health and pharmaceutical treatments for male pattern baldness.

Vitamins such as biotin (vitamin B7) play a role in helping you grow healthy, strong hair, but they aren’t proven to have any effect on male pattern baldness.

Since male pattern baldness is the result of sensitivity to DHT, the only real treatment option is to block DHT using a product like finasteride. 

This doesn’t mean that taking a vitamin supplement is a bad idea — from a general health and well-being perspective, it’s usually a very good idea. Just don’t expect to reverse your receding hairline or other genetic hair loss by adding hair vitamins or supplements to your morning routine.

Interested in increasing your hair-friendly vitamin intake? Our biotin gummies contain many vitamins that support thick hair, strong nails, healthy skin and key nutrients for optimal digestion and wellbeing. 

You can also learn more about the role vitamins play in hair growth in our full guide to essential vitamins for healthier hair.

Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto, which is a natural extract from a plant that grows throughout the southeastern United States, is one of the most popular ingredients in hair loss prevention supplements.

Research has suggested that a regular dose of saw palmetto could potentially reduce the amount of testosterone that’s converted to DHT.

However, there’s only a fraction as much scientific evidence for this as there is for finasteride.

It’s also important to know that taking saw palmetto and finasteride together could result in an interaction between the two substances, meaning you should talk to your healthcare provider before taking either type of hair loss treatment.

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Hair Growth Shampoos

If you’re interested in accessing the benefits of ingredients like saw palmetto without taking an extra capsule every morning, you may want to look into using a hair growth shampoo.

Hair growth shampoos with ingredients like ketoconazole, saw palmetto, biotin and caffeine work in a support role to promote optimal scalp health and reduce your risk of issues like hair breakage while you use medications such as finasteride and minoxidil.

They may also help your hair grow faster, making them worthwhile additions to your hair care routine.

Oh, and if you’re experiencing unpleasant side effects, you may want to try a DHT-blocking shampoo instead for effective treatment. For example, this thickening shampoo with saw palmetto targets DHT at the scalp level.

When choosing a hair growth shampoo, it’s best to focus on specific ingredients and their impact on hair loss. 

Ingredients like ketoconazole and saw palmetto have been proven to have some effects on hair growth, while other common shampoo ingredients might not.

Before you buy a hair growth shampoo, make sure you check the label to see if the ingredients used in the shampoo are backed up by real scientific evidence. 

Our guide to what to look for in a men’s hair loss shampoo covers ingredients to look for when comparing shampoos, deep conditioners and other hair care products for hair growth.

Hair Growth Oils

Some natural oils, such as pumpkin seed oil and rosemary oil, have been shown to have limited effects on hair growth.

For example, a small study found that pumpkin seed oil showed promising results when compared to minoxidil in patients with female pattern hair loss.

Another study found that daily supplementation with pumpkin seed oil produced a 40 percent increase in hair count over 24 weeks, compared to around 10 percent in people who received a non-therapeutic placebo treatment.

There is also limited evidence in support of rosemary oil as a hair growth treatment. A 2015 review of the effects of various essential oils on hair growth found that rosemary oil was as effective as minoxidil in people with androgenetic alopecia.

Will natural oils work as well as products like finasteride and minoxidil? It’s worth noting that scientific research for many of these natural oils is limited, and many of the available studies are small in scale. This means that even if they look impressive in one study, we may not yet know enough to fully assess their effects and risks.

Laser Combs and Helmets

Although they sound like something out of a sci-fi film, laser combs and helmets have appeared on the market over the last few years.

Many of these products promise some level of hair growth from exposure to the lasers, which supposedly improve blood flow to the scalp.

The scientific data behind these products, widely referred to as low-level light therapy devices, tends to be mixed, with hair growth varying based on the type of device and intensity of the light. 

Early studies of low-level laser therapy showed promising results in people experiencing hair loss who didn’t respond to traditional treatments.

A small 2014 study compared low-level laser therapy to a placebo over 24 weeks of treatment for androgenetic alopecia and found that those who received the treatment had significantly greater hair density than those who received the placebo.

Currently, though, there isn’t any reliable scientific data to suggest that low-level lasers have any synergistic effects with other hair loss treatments.

While laser combs, helmets and other products could potentially be effective for hair growth and preventing hair loss, the scientific evidence just isn’t there quite yet.

Electric Scalp Massagers

Another sci-fi item or proven hair growth product? Electric scalp massagers, which claim to improve hair growth by stimulating the scalp, are also best viewed with a certain degree of skepticism and caution. 

These products are usually cheap but generally aren’t supported by any substantial scientific evidence.

For example, a 2016 study that’s occasionally cited as "proof" of head massage working for hair growth involves a sample of only nine men

But this study size just isn’t large enough to produce any reliable findings about the effects of massage on hair health and draw any meaningful conclusions.

Another larger study of over 300 participants found that regular scalp massages resulted in reduced hair loss and encouraged hair regrowth. However, this study was a survey and the results were subjective responses from the participants.

Like with laser combs and helmets, the science just isn’t there to back up the claims of electric scalp massagers just yet.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Hair loss is common. But there are plenty of options that may slow down or even reverse balding or thinning hair:

  • When it comes to preventing hair loss and promoting healthy hair growth, medications such as finasteride and minoxidil are supported by a large volume of high-quality research and are FDA-approved specifically for treating pattern hair loss.

  • Other hair growth products — like vitamins, saw palmetto, hair growth shampoos and essential oils — may also help treat hair loss. There’s not as much as evidence supporting these other options, but research is promising.

If your goal is to treat male pattern baldness, you’ll get the best results by sticking to proven treatments with a track record of real results. 

For men, this means using finasteride and minoxidil, both of which are available as part of our range of hair loss treatments.

Depending on your personal application preference, you can opt for either the minoxidil foam or the liquid minoxidil solution. We also offer a two-in-one treatment with our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray.

You can also learn about more dermatologist-recommended hair growth products in our full guide.

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Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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