Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/21/2022
Treating hair loss is a big industry -- one that’s projected to be worth upwards of $14 billion by the year 2028.
Just a few decades ago, treating hair loss and improving hair growth meant ordering products like special combs, tonics and potions from catalogs. Today, it’s easy to find a large variety of products aimed at improving your hairline, thickening thin areas and stimulating hair growth.
Despite this, the same question remains: Do hair growth products actually produce results, or are they simply products that make promises without delivering?
Like most industries, the hair loss prevention world features reliable, proven products that can rely on to actually prevent hair loss and improve hair growth.
Unfortunately, it also features no shortage of snake oil, unproven treatments and products that simply aren’t worth your money.
The good news is that with a quick but careful look at the scientific evidence, it’s not too difficult to separate the effective treatments for hair loss from products that aren’t backed up by much in the way of research.
Below, we’ve listed the most popular hair loss prevention and hair growth products available on the market.
For each product, we’ve explained how it works to either stop hair loss, stimulate hair regrowth or both, as well as the latest research on its effectiveness.
Finally, we’ve explained what you can do to take action if, like millions of other guys, you’re just starting to notice a receding hairline or other early signs of hair loss and want to stop them from getting worse.
Currently, there are two hair growth products that stand above all others, at least when it comes to effectiveness -- the medications finasteride and minoxidil.
Both of these medications are approved by the FDA to treat male pattern baldness, which is the most common form of hair loss in men.
Both medications work differently, and they appear to have complementary effects when they’re used together. We’ve explained what these medications are and how they work in more detail in the sections below.
Finasteride is a prescription medication for male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia. It’s 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 finasteride works, it’s important to quickly go over the basics of DHT and the role it plays in hereditary hair loss.
DHT is produced as a byproduct of testosterone. Although it’s important in your early life, as an adult, DHT can cause your hair follicles to miniaturize, preventing them from being able to grow new hairs properly.
Over time, as DHT affects your hair follicles, you may notice your hairline creeping backwards -- an issue that can eventually develop into more severe hair thinning.
Our guide to DHT and male hair loss explains the effects of DHT in more detail, particularly how it can damage your hair follicles.
By blocking testosterone from converting into DHT, finasteride prevents hair loss from occurring and helps you keep the hair you already have. Some men also notice an increase in hair growth after using finasteride for a few months, although this isn’t guaranteed.
Finasteride was introduced as a hair loss treatment in the 90s after several years as a treatment for benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). You may have seen finasteride advertised as Propecia®, its original brand name.
Unlike most hair loss prevention products, 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.
This is backed up by real study results. For example, two clinical trials published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology involving more than 1,550 men found that finasteride produced real improvements in hair count and overall hair growth over two years.
Another study found that more than 80 percent of men with male pattern baldness showed signs of improvement after using finasteride for 12 months.
If you’re starting to notice early signs of hair loss and want to maintain your hair density or grow thicker hair, finasteride should be one of the first products you turn to. Not only is it easy to take and affordable -- it really works, and the results can be maintained over the long term.
We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Minoxidil is a topical treatment for hair loss that works by moving your hair follicles into a state of active growth and stimulating blood flow to your scalp. It’s available as a solution and as a foam that you can apply topically to areas of your scalp affected by hair thinning.
Unlike finasteride, which treats male pattern baldness by preventing your body from converting testosterone to DHT, minoxidil is a hair growth agent that works by creating the ideal conditions for hair growth in your scalp.
This means that it may also be a helpful treatment for types of hair loss other than male pattern baldness, such as telogen effluvium.
One way to think of minoxidil is as a metaphorical fertilizer for your hair, while finasteride works as a type of shield against the effects of DHT.
Minoxidil works well on its own, with research showing that 59 percent of men with pattern hair loss who use it experience improvements after 12 months.
However, it’s particularly effective when it’s used at the same time as finasteride. For example, the same research found that 94.1 percent of men who used both medications over 12 months showed improvements.
Because of its scientifically proven effects, minoxidil is another hair loss product that should be near the top of your list of treatment options.
When it comes to preventing hair loss and promoting healthy hair growth, medications such as finasteride and minoxidil are the real deal. They’re supported by a large volume of high quality research and both have approval from the FDA specifically for treating pattern hair loss.
However, there are also other hair growth products out there that, while not quite supported by as much research as finasteride and minoxidil, also show real promise for promoting a healthy scalp, stimulating growth and assisting you in avoiding damaged hair.
You can think of these products as the supporting cast in your hair growth story. While they’re not quite as strongly supported by scientific research as finasteride and minoxidil, they appear to offer real benefits and still have a helpful role to play.
These products include hair growth supplements, shampoos for promoting optimal hair health, natural products and even devices for increasing blood flow and follicular activity.
Some vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin 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 be aware of 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 wellbeing perspective, it’s usually a very good idea. Just don’t expect to reverse your receding hairline or other genetic hair loss by adding vitamins to your morning routine.
Interested in increasing your hair-friendly vitamin intake? Our Biotin Gummy Vitamins contain a range of vitamins to support thick hair, strong nails and healthy skin, as well as 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 a healthy head of hair.
Saw palmetto is one of the most popular ingredients in hair loss prevention supplements. It’s a natural extract from a plant that grows throughout the southeastern United States, and a range of studies have linked it to improvements in conditions caused by high DHT levels.
For example, one study of saw palmetto and finasteride found that saw palmetto reduced DHT levels in men’s prostate tissue by approximately 32 percent over the course of six weeks.
While this effect isn’t as strong as finasteride, it does show that a regular dose of saw palmetto could potentially lower the conversion of testosterone to DHT.
Does this mean you can replace finasteride with a saw palmetto supplement? Not quite. While some research does suggest that saw palmetto offers benefits for preventing hair loss, there’s only a fraction as much scientific evidence 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 doctor before taking either type of hair loss treatment.
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.
For example, our Hair Thickening Shampoo is formulated using saw palmetto to target DHT at the scalp level.
Hair growth shampoos with ingredients like ketoconazole, zinc, saw palmetto and biotin 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 to grow faster, making them worthwhile additions to your hair care routine.
Instead of thinking of hair growth shampoos as a whole, it’s best to focus on specific ingredients and their impact on hair loss.
Ingredients like ketoconazole and saw palmetto are proven to have some effects on hair growth in research, while others common shampoo ingredients might not be.
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 check for when comparing shampoos, deep conditioners and other men’s hair care products for hair growth.
“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.”
Some natural oils, such as pumpkin seed oil and rosemary oil, have been shown to have limited effects on hair growth in studies.
For example, daily supplementation of pumpkin seed oil produced a 40% increase in hair count over a period of 24 weeks, compared to around 10% in people who received a non-therapeutic placebo treatment.
There is also limited evidence in support of rosemary oil as a hair growth treatment. One study published in the journal Skinmed in 2015 found that rosemary oil was equally as effective as a hair loss treatment as minoxidil in people with androgenetic alopecia.
It’s worth noting that scientific research for many of these natural oils is limited, and many of the studies that are available 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.
Will natural oils work as well as products like finasteride and minoxidil? At this point, there’s just not enough high quality evidence to view these products as proven hair loss treatments, at least not on the same level as finasteride or minoxidil.
However, they may offer benefits, and further research will help us understand more about their potential advantages as part of a hair loss treatment plan.
Our guide to the best hair growth serums goes into more detail about these ingredients and their respective products, as well as the effects they may have on your rate of hair growth.
Laser combs and helmets, which use laser light to promote hair growth, have appeared on the market over the last few years.
Many of these products promise some level of hair growth as a result of exposure to the lasers, which supposedly improve blood flow to the scalp.
The scientific data behind these products, which are 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.
For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology in 2014 found a statistically significant difference in hair density between people with visible hair loss who used a laser comb and those who used a sham device.
Some of the companies that manufacture and sell these products recommend using them at the same time as hair loss pills such as finasteride for faster results.
Right now, there isn’t any reliable scientific data to suggest that they 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.
As such, it’s best to proceed with caution when it comes to laser hair growth products, especially for anything that’s promoted as a miracle treatment for moderate to severe hair loss.
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 (most are available for $25 or less on Amazon), but generally aren’t supported by any substantial scientific evidence
While there are some studies supporting scalp massage as a hair growth treatment, many have major limitations that make them hard to take seriously.
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.
This means that it’s difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions from this research, as the study size just isn’t large enough to produce any reliable findings about the effects of massage on hair health.
Like with laser combs and helmets, the science just isn’t there to back up the claims of electric scalp massagers just yet.
As always, you should be skeptical of any product that makes big claims about its effectiveness without an equally large amount of evidence to back them up.
There are countless hair growth products out there, from FDA-approved medications to amino acid supplements, hair masks and scalp serums, each claiming that their key ingredient offers the secret to better hair thickness.
While medications like finasteride and minoxidil are supported by real, high quality evidence to show that they work, other hair products aren’t backed up by much at all.
If your goal is to treat male or female pattern baldness, you’ll get the best results by sticking to proven treatments with a track record of real results.
As for other shampoos, oral supplements and hair wellness products, many of these could offer benefits aside from hair growth, such as strengthening your hair shafts, preventing dry hair and keeping your hair strands strong and healthy.
Our list of men’s hair care tips covers how you can use these products alongside medication to keep your hair looking and feeling its best, all without overspending on unnecessary treatments or hair loss brands that don’t live up to the hype.