The Ultimate Guide to Topical Finasteride

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by our friends at Happy Head.

Topical finasteride is a hair loss treatment that almost seems too good to be true. 

When most of us think of hair loss treatment options, we tend to think of complicated procedures like a hair transplant, or a risky oral medication that could have all sorts of possible side effects. 

But topical finasteride, or topical FNS, seems to offer something of a miracle cure: 

An easy-to-apply topical solution that not only helps your hair grow in thicker, but has fewer systemic side effects than some of the more invasive solutions.

Of course, “miracle cure” is the term often used by snake oil salesmen, and the hair regrowth market is rife with less-than-reputable products. 

So guys looking for legitimate hair restoration can be forgiven for wondering if topical finasteride is too good to be true.

To help you sort out fact from fiction – and science from sales pitches – in this post I’ll break down everything you need to know about the efficacy and safety of topical finasteride.

Plus, I’ll also share some of the most reputable places to buy topical finasteride online if you want to try it out for yourself. 

A Quick (But Very Important) Caveat: 

We here at Irreverent Gent are not medical professionals, and do not provide professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

The content provided below is for informational purposes only.

You should consult a licensed and accredited health care provider before using any type of prescription medication.  

What is Topical Finasteride?

Topical finasteride is a medication approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia (AGA), which is also called androgenic alopecia. 

More commonly known as male pattern baldness, AGA causes hair follicles to shrink, which is what causes your hair to thin in a defined pattern.  

Topical finasteride is often used in conjunction with topical minoxidil (the active ingredient used in Rogain), another topical treatment with FDA approval, to not only counteract this shrinking and slow the rate of hair loss, but promote hair growth. 

Topical Finasteride vs Oral Finasteride

Unlike oral finasteride, which is taken in pill or tablet form, topical finasteride is applied directly to the scalp. 

The biggest difference between the two treatments is that finasteride tablets, like brand name Propecia and its generic knock-offs, have sexual side effects such as erectile dysfunction and a decreased sex drive. 

By contrast, the side effects of the topical application are relatively mild, and have basically nothing to do with sexual dysfunction. 

(I’ll go into more detail about the side effects from the use of topical FNS below.) 

How Does Topical Finasteride Work?

illustration of dihydrotestosterone molecule
Topical finasteride works by helping to reduce dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that can lead to hair loss

Topical finasteride is thought to work by reducing the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that plays a major role in hair loss. 

In 2018, scientists conducted a systematic review of topical finasteride that surveyed the results from multiple clinical studies.. 

They found that using topical finasteride results “in the inhibition of the conversion of testosterone to DHT, markedly suppressing serum DHT levels.” 

As a result, male patients who participated in a clinical study saw a statistically significant increase in hair count after four months of consistent use. 

Topical Finasteride Side Effects

While this medication is generally safe, there are a few potential side effects that you should be aware of.

(And, again, if you’re considering trying a topical finasteride treatment, it’s important to talk to your doctor first.)  

Usually mild and temporary, the most commons side effects of the use of finasteride as a topical medication include:

  • Itching or irritation at the application site (i.e., the scalp)
  • Skin redness
  • Dry skin and dandruff

In most cases, these side effects are mild and go away on their own. 

However, if you experience more severe side effects, such as hives or difficulty breathing, stop using the medication and call your doctor right away. 

In rare cases, more serious side effects may occur. 

These include allergic reactions (rash, hives, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue), changes in sexual desire or performance, and breast tenderness or enlargement. 

If you experience any of these side effects, stop using topical finasteride and consult your doctor.

Topical Finasteride Before & After

In addition to some strong scientific evidence, there’s also a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that topical finasteride is an effective treatment of male pattern hair loss.

Many men who use topical finasteride report positive results, including reduced hair loss and increased hair growth. ,

To give you a sense of how this looks visually, Happy Head, a company that sells one of the better topical finasteride products on the market, has shared the photos below showing before-and-after results from multiple clients. 

Before and after photo of man showing hair growth after using topical finasteride
Before and after photo of man showing hair growth after using topical finasteride
Before and after photo of man showing hair growth after using topical finasteride

Topical Finasteride Results

Most men who use topical finasteride see significant change within the first few months of usage. 

However, it can take up to a year to see the full effects. 

And it’s important to note that topical  finasteride is most effective in slowing down hair loss and promoting hair growth in men with mild to moderate hair loss. 

It is not as effective in men with severe hair loss, or in women.

Topical Finasteride Reddit

There are plenty of success stories on Reddit of men who have used topical finasteride to treat their hair loss. 

In fact, it’s one of the most popular treatments for hair loss on the site.

If you’re looking for an alternative to oral finasteride, or if you’re just curious about what Redditors think of topical finasteride, a good place to start is r/tressless, a sub-reddit devoted to people coping with hair loss. 

Does Topical Finasteride work?

It does. Scientific data from clinical studies suggest that topical finasteride – especially when paired with a topical minoxidil solution – is a largely safe and effective treatment of androgenetic alopecia. 

In fact, a meta-study that looked at clinical trial data related to the use of topical finasteride found: 

“In all studies, there was significant decrease in the rate of hair loss, increase in total and terminal hair counts, and positive hair growth assessment with topical FNS.”

More recent studies, like this one from 2021, found that people treated with a topical finasteride solution showed “significantly greater” hair growth than a placebo group, without any serious adverse effects.  

Plus, topical finasteride has been around for years now, so in addition to a fair amount of scientific data, we also have a lot of firsthand accounts and anecdotal evidence that further reinforces the safety and efficacy of topical finasteride.  

Where to Buy Topical Finasteride

Man buying topical finasteride online
You may not smile this big while buying topical finasteride, but you probably will afterwards…

There are many places to buy topical finasteride online. However, not all of them are created equal. 

In order to get the best results, you need to find a reputable source that sells high-quality products. 

Here are some tips to help you find the right place to buy topical finasteride:

1. Do your research. 

Not all sources of topical finasteride are reputable or sell high-quality products. It’s important to do your research in order to find a source that you can trust.

2. Ask questions. 

If you have any questions about topical finasteride, don’t hesitate to ask them. A good source will be happy to answer any questions that you have.

3. Get a money-back guarantee. 

Reputable companies selling authentic and effective products generally offer a money-back guarantee, which gives you confidence that you’re making the right decision. 

Be wary of any company selling topical finasteride or other hair-loss-prevention products that don’t stand behind their products. 

4. Look for signs of authenticity. 

Legitimate sellers of finasteride and other hair growth products will be credentialed by an organization like LegitScript, which certifies legitimate pharmacies and telemedicine providers whose medication is real, authentic and verified. 

The Best Place to Buy Topical Finasteride Online

Happy head logo

When you apply the criteria mentioned above to all the online outlets who offer topical finasteride, Happy Head easily emerges as one of the best options. 

Their topical formulation for the treatment of AGA consists of prescription-grade finasteride and minoxidil, along with hydrocortisone and retinoic acid, which has been shown in clinical studies to further help promote hair growth. 

In addition to being prescription-grade, their formula is easier to apply because it’s a liquid that comes in a dropper, rather than a finasteride gel you have to smear all over your scalp. 

Plus, their formula is customizable:

Happy Head will connect you with a physician licensed in your state, who will do an online consultation with you and tweak the formula to ensure your treatment plan is best suited to your specific needs. 

Check Out Happy Head ➤

More Advice on Men’s Health and Self-Improvement from Irreverent Gent:

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Photo via Dharmapada behera / Shutterstock, Illustration via Irreverent Gent

Geoff Hayes is Irreverent Gent’s resident beard and hair care expert, who’s not afraid to admit that he spends way more time thinking about hair growth than is probably healthy.