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Can You Make Topical Finasteride at Home?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Nicholas Gibson

Published 03/05/2021

Updated 01/07/2024

We’ve got to hand it to the researchers who discovered this stuff: finasteride is an impressively effective medication for protecting (and sometimes regrowing) your hair follicles. 

While the FDA hasn’t approved a topical version in the United States, there’s a growing body of research to suggest that a topical finasteride solution may be effective for a lot of people who struggle with androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. 

Because of that, more and more healthcare providers are beginning to offer topical finasteride as part of a holistic hair treatment plan.

And while some of you MacGyver-types out there might be saying “I got this,” but we’re going to stop you before you go playing dermatologist with a pill crusher.

A topical formulation isn’t something you can just make at home — and no matter how many episodes of Breaking Bad you’ve watched or how many finasteride pills and bottles of ethanol you’ve got sitting in your kitchen right now, whatever you’re about to do is a bad idea.

Below, we’ve explained why you shouldn’t DIY a topical finasteride solution, why this medication for male pattern hair loss isn’t available as a topical right now and what could go wrong if you decide to mess around with the medication. 

We’ve also suggested some safe alternatives to whatever you were planning to cook up.

Googled a lot about the hair loss treatment finasteride? If so, you may have come across mentions of a form of finasteride that’s applied topically to your scalp. Like it’s oral counterpart, topical finasteride may have benefits for hair loss, by itself or with other topical hair loss medications like minoxidil.

As we’ve explained in our full guide to topical finasteride, the results of studies looking at this finasteride formulation have been fairly promising so far, but it’s still being researched.

Here are the essential points you need to understand:

  • Finasteride and similar medications like dutasteride are 5-alpha reductase inhibitor medications. These medications block an enzyme from working, which prevents the conversion of testosterone into another hormone called dihydrotestosterone or DHT. High levels of DHT can cause male pattern baldness, so by cutting off the process with a finasteride treatment, you can stop or slow the progression of baldness.

  • Oral finasteride is an FDA-approved pill for treating hair loss.

  • Topical finasteride is a version of finasteride you apply directly to your scalp — while it doesn’t currently have FDA approval, it’s becoming increasingly popular.

  • Research into the effectiveness and safety of topical finasteride is ongoing, but the results we have so far are pretty impressive. 

topical finasteride

take on hair loss with an easy-to-use spray

Trust us, we get the urge to skip the middleman. Searching “how to make topical finasteride” will definitely lead to some recipes on the internet, and truth be told, you might even be able to collect all of the ingredients to make it. 

Many of these plans for topical finasteride recommend crushing finasteride tablets to combine with a propylene glycol or ethanol solution. Some even recommend mixing your crushed finasteride tablet powder into liquid minoxidil (an existing, FDA-approved topical hair loss treatment) to replicate the solution used in some studies. 

But please hear us: don’t do it.

Have you ever tried to replicate a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder®? You can buy all the ingredients in the store, right? The ground beef; the bun; the cheese; the lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles. It’s all right there, right? And there are countless recipes online that swear that it’s “just like the real thing!” 

Of course, it never is. And that’s the same thing you’ll get with homemade topical finasteride. Can you do it? Technically. Will you feel the reward of a fun at-home chemistry experiment? Sure. But will it come anywhere close to the same kind of lab-tested and -developed topical finasteride that you’re expecting? Not even close. 

In fact, there are some actual risks involved with trying.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

We can’t stress it enough, guys. Please don’t try making topical finasteride at home. It’s a prescription medication and should be followed only as your healthcare provider recommends. Period.

There are also some obvious (and serious) reasons why it’s a bad idea:

  • You’ll be putting stuff on your scalp that you don’t want there. Finasteride tablets contain a variety of other inactive ingredients — Propecia® (a common brand of finasteride) actually contains 12 inactive ingredients alongside 1mg of finasteride. These include emulsifiers, as well as milk, sugar and other ingredients that help improve digestion of the medication. Inactive ingredients account for a lot of the mass in that finasteride tablet you’re crushing up, and they could stick to your scalp and irritate your skin.

  • You won’t get the dosage right — because we don’t know what the right dosage is yet. Although topical finasteride appears safe and effective so far, we don’t know the optimal dosages yet — or the best way to use the topical solution. Blocking DHT throughout your body is significantly different from blocking only your scalp DHT, and there’s no guarantee of getting the best dosage for topical finasteride on your own.

  • The side effects could be worse and less predictable. Topical finasteride hasn’t been thoroughly studied for side effects and safety issues. While it’s generally well-tolerated in most of the studies, it hasn’t been through clinical trials required for FDA approval. Side effects could include skin irritation and hypotension, but who knows what effects of topical finasteride we just haven’t seen yet?

  • It may not be as effective as just taking the tablet. We don’t know if topical finasteride is better than the tablet form. You could end up with poor results from miscalculating dosages in your DIY project, not to mention the possibility of significant side effects.

If you want to use finasteride to treat hair loss, your best bet is talking to a healthcare provider about oral finasteride or finding a version of topical finasteride like the one in our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray

If you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for, know that there are a lot of other medications and hair care products that can help you to prevent hair loss and strengthen your hairline. These include:

  • Oral finasteride. Finasteride fights androgenic alopecia just fine in tablet form — it’s one of the treatment options that has been thoroughly studied and proven effective in treating male pattern baldness. We offer oral finasteride online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. 

  • Minoxidil. If you’re looking for a topical hair loss treatment, minoxidil (also known as Rogaine®) comes in minoxidil foam and minoxidil solution formats. Although minoxidil doesn’t block DHT, numerous studies have found it to be effective in preventing hair loss. It’s often used alongside finasteride to prevent hair loss and stimulate hair regrowth. We offer minoxidil online by itself, as well as part of our Hair Power Pack.

  • Hair loss prevention shampoo. Shampoos formulated to block DHT may also help to prevent hair loss and stimulate hair growth. Consider our volumizing shampoo, volumizing conditioner and thickening shampoo with saw palmetto if you’re not sure what to look for.

  • Biotin. Biotin, which is a B vitamin, 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. 

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Before/after images shared by customers who have purchased varying products, including prescription based products. Prescription products require an online consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. These customers’ results have not been independently verified. Individual results will vary. Customers were given free product.

Medications like topical/oral finasteride and topical/oral 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. But just because you can use topical minoxidil at home doesn’t mean you can mix your own topical finasteride.

  • Fighting androgenetic alopecia may not require drastic measures like a hair transplant, but you should still talk to a professional for real medical advice to get the best results.

  • While finasteride is proven to be effective, topical forms aren’t as well-studied and not approved by the FDA.

  • Making your own topical finasteride creates room for error in dosing, and could lead to skin irritation and other adverse events.

  • 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. 

Want help? We offer hair loss treatments, but if you’re just learning right now you should check out our male pattern baldness blog, our hair growth cycle blog and our DHT blog to learn about hair loss, hair growth and the potential culprit that flips the switch between them.

5 Sources

  1. HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION: PROPECIA® (finasteride) tablets for oral use . (n.d.-a). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/020788s020s021s023lbl.pdf.
  2. Lee, S. W., Juhasz, M., Mobasher, P., Ekelem, C., & Mesinkovska, N. A. (2018). A Systematic Review of Topical Finasteride in the Treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia in Men and Women. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD, 17(4), 457–463. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6609098/.
  3. Mysore V. (2012). Finasteride and sexual side effects. Indian dermatology online journal, 3(1), 62–65. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3481923/.
  4. Piraccini, B. M., Blume-Peytavi, U., Scarci, F., Jansat, J. M., Falqués, M., Otero, R., Tamarit, M. L., Galván, J., Tebbs, V., Massana, E., & Topical Finasteride Study Group (2022). Efficacy and safety of topical finasteride spray solution for male androgenetic alopecia: a phase III, randomized, controlled clinical trial. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology : JEADV, 36(2), 286–294. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9297965/.
  5. Arca, E., Açikgöz, G., Taştan, H. B., Köse, O., & Kurumlu, Z. (2004). An open, randomized, comparative study of oral finasteride and 5% topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia. Dermatology (Basel, Switzerland), 209(2), 117–125. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15316165//
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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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