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Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you’ve searched online for information about the hair loss treatment finasteride, you may have come across articles and studies that mention a form of finasteride that’s applied topically.
Although finasteride is currently only sold as an oral medication in tablet form, a range of studies have looked at the effects that topical finasteride may have on hair loss, either on its own or with other hair loss medications such as minoxidil.
As we’ve explained in our full guide to topical finasteride, the results of these studies have been fairly promising overall.
However, topical finasteride isn’t approved by the FDA, nor is it available on pharmacy shelves in the United States.
Below, we’ve gone into more detail about how topical finasteride works, as well as whether you should make your own topical finasteride at home.
We’ve also talked about your best options if you’d like to use finasteride or other medications to treat hair loss.
Oral finasteride is an FDA-approved oral medication for treating hair loss that’s available as a generic and under various brand names.
Finasteride works by preventing your body from converting testosterone into DHT, the hormone that causes male pattern baldness.
Currently, there's no topical version of finasteride available for sale in the United States, nor has the FDA approved finasteride for topical use.
Although it’s possible to make topical finasteride at home, applying topical finasteride to your scalp to treat male pattern baldness isn’t recommended.
If you want to use finasteride to treat hair loss, your best option is to talk to a healthcare provider about using oral finasteride on its own or with other medications.
Topical finasteride is exactly what it sounds like -- a topical version of the popular male pattern baldness medication finasteride.
Although topical finasteride has been used in several studies, options on the consumer market are slim but do exist (companies must go through necessary steps to compound it themselves, as Hims has done).
This is because the FDA and equivalent public health agencies in other countries haven’t yet approved a topical form of this medication.
Currently, research into the effectiveness and safety of topical finasteride is ongoing. However, there’s no reliable information available about whether or not a topical version of finasteride will undergo FDA approval and come widely available in the market at any time in the near future.
If you search online for phrases like “how to make topical finasteride,” you’ll likely come across instructions for making topical finasteride at home.
Many of these instructions recommend crushing up finasteride tablets and combining them with a solution. Some recommend mixing crushed finasteride tablets with liquid minoxidil to replicate the solution that’s used in some studies of topical finasteride.
While this might produce a substance similar to the topical finasteride used in studies, doing this isn’t recommended for several reasons.
The first of these is that in addition to finasteride itself, finasteride tablets also contain a variety of inactive ingredients. These are used to hold each tablet together and protect the medication from breaking down inside its container.
For example, a single tablet of Propecia®, a common brand of finasteride, contains 12 inactive ingredients in addition to the one milligram of finasteride itself.
These include emulsifiers, milk sugar and various other ingredients used to improve digestion of the medication.
These ingredients account for a large amount of the mass of each finasteride tablet. This means that if you simply mix finasteride tablets with a liquid, a large percentage of the solution will likely be made up of inactive ingredients that may stick to your scalp without being absorbed.
Since these ingredients aren’t designed for topical application, some may cause irritation when they’re applied to your skin.
The second reason is that although topical finasteride appears to be safe and effective in some studies, we don’t yet know the optimal dosage or way to use this form of finasteride.
Blocking DHT throughout your body is very different from blocking it solely at the scalp level. As such, there’s no guarantee that the suggested dosage of oral finasteride is also the best dosage for topical finasteride.
The third reason is that topical finasteride hasn’t been very thoroughly studied for potential side effects and safety concerns.
While it appears to be generally well tolerate based on most of the studies available, it hasn’t gone through the clinical trials required for FDA approval.
Finally, although studies suggest that topical finasteride is effective at treating hair loss, we still don’t know if it’s better than simply taking finasteride in tablet form.
While topical finasteride appears to reduce hair loss from male pattern baldness, it may be less effective than oral finasteride, meaning you could end up with poor results if you opt to use it as a topical medication instead of in its original, intended dosage form.
To learn more about topical finasteride, check out our guide to Common Topical Finasteride Side Effects.
Although topical finasteride isn’t available in the United States, oral finasteride is available as a prescription medication. It’s a well-studied, popular medication that’s widely viewed as the gold standard when it comes to treating male pattern baldness.
We offer oral finasteride online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
“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.”
In addition to finasteride, other medications and hair care products can help you to prevent hair loss and strengthen your hairline. These include:
Minoxidil. A topical medication, minoxidil is often used alongside finasteride to prevent hair loss and stimulate hair regrowth. Although it doesn’t block DHT, numerous studies have found that it’s effective at preventing hair loss. We offer minoxidil online, either by itself or with finasteride and other hair loss products in our Hair Power Pack.
Hair loss prevention shampoo. Shampoos formulated to block DHT may also help to prevent hair loss and stimulate hair growth. Our Thick Fix Shampoo uses saw palmetto to help reduce buildup on your scalp and promote volume and moisture.
Biotin. A B-vitamin, biotin may play a role in promoting the growth of your hair, nails and skin. Our Biotin Gummy Vitamins are a convenient option for increasing your biotin intake and keeping your hair in optimal condition.
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.
Medications like oral finasteride and minoxidil can help to slow down hair loss, protect the hair you have and even stimulate regrowth in areas of your scalp with noticeable thinning.
If you’ve noticed some of the early signs of male pattern baldness and want to take action, you can schedule time to talk to a healthcare provider online and learn more about your options for treating hair loss.
Related read: Topical finasteride before and after