For over 60% of men younger than 35 – and over 80% of men by age 50 – there comes a moment of realization that few of us celebrate: the moment when we realize we’ve lost enough hair to notice the loss.
It’s OK! This is happening, it’s very common, and now you’re aware of it. So it’s time to decide what to do about it. The good news: your chances of stopping male pattern hair loss and even regrowing hair are very good, if you choose the right treatment.
We’re here to help. We’ve thoroughly tested the products and explored the pros, the cons, the evidence and success rates, the deals – all of the important details. Read on to figure out which is the best hair loss treatment for you in 2020.
For those of you in a hurry, here’s the quick summary without further ado.
Summary of our top recommended hair loss treatments for men:
For most men, this the most comprehensive affordable way to stop hair loss and regrow hair.
Hims offers the most affordable package of finasteride and minoxidil. Shipping is free, and so is the consultation and ongoing messaging with a licensed doctor if you have questions.
Finasteride is effective for stopping hair loss and stimulating regrowth along the hairline as well as at the crown/vertex.
Roman's finasteride is affordable and shipping is always free. Not only that, but you can have meaningful, free follow-ups with your Roman doctor during treatment.
- Why you should trust us
- The main factors when deciding which treatment is best for you
- Combination finasteride + minoxidil
- Low level laser therapy (LLLT)
- The most aggressive home treatment plan, no expenses spared
- Hair transplant
- Or... embracing hair loss
- What criteria do we use to evaluate home health products and services?
Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary online. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
This review, like all medical-related content on this website, was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for medical accuracy. Additionally we extensively test, experience and order from each medical service we review. We try our best to give you unbiased, marketing-jargon-free descriptions of all the at-home health services evaluated based on the latest scientific evidence and medical standards.
We’ve tested out the products and services in this guide and have analyzed data about the effectiveness of the treatment options. Along with this information, it’s important for you to consider what treatment path fits best into your life, because the treatment will have to be a good, sustainable fit for you and the hair loss you’re experiencing. Here are important factors to consider.
Where is your hair loss?
Is your hair thinning at the crown (top of your head), or in front (receding hairline)? Or both? Location is actually very important.
If your hair loss is early and mainly happening at the crown, for instance, you can get away with saving money and avoiding potential side effects by sticking to minoxidil, rather than any prescription or combination treatment. If your hair loss is strictly in the receding hairline department, on the other hand – or both hairline and crown, as is very common – then minoxidil won’t be the best choice for you.
What is your budget?
If money is no object, then you can double- or even triple-down on a set of treatments that work in different ways, to maximize your potential for dramatic success. But not all of us have the budget for the ‘all of the above’ approach. For those of us on a tight budget, we need to know which path is likeliest to succeed, without breaking the bank.
How low-maintenance does the treatment have to be?
This may seem like a weird question, but it’s also very important. Consider that any of the hair loss treatments in this guide are “forever” treatment paths. In other words, if you want to keep on keeping your hair, you need to commit to treatment for the long haul – or at least, until you are fine with losing the hair. As soon as you quit a treatment, your hair loss resumes, possibly in accelerated fashion.
So it’s very important to think about your routines. Think, for instance, about your capacity for applying something to your scalp and letting it dry, as opposed to popping a pill. Do you hate waiting for something to dry on your skin? Do you forget to take pills? Do you have 5-10 minutes of leisure time in the morning or evening? Which treatment are you more likely to be able to commit to doing each day (or multiple times a day), every day until you’re content going bald?
How long has this been going on?
None of these treatments is a miracle that will resurrect totally dead follicles. If a hair follicle is dead, it’s gone. Nothing will bring it back. So this is more about setting your expectations appropriately and avoiding letdowns.
Hair loss treatments can help you keep the hair you currently have. And yes, they can also help you regrow hair that’s on its last legs – those thinning, straggly hairs that were once proud, and follicles that are at death’s door and incapable of contributing anything visible without your help. You can restore vitality to this hair.
So the sooner you commit to a treatment, the better. And if your head is already thoroughly bald and smooth and shiny, then you shouldn’t waste your money on these treatments. Hair transplant surgery would be the only possible option in this case.
How quickly do you hope to see results?
This is also partly about setting realistic expectations to avoid disappointment and abandonment of an effective treatment prematurely.
While all of the treatments in this guide start working positively as soon as you begin, the positive effects will not be visible for a while. It is usually about 4 months before you predictably begin to see positive results. So once you choose a plan, stick to it unless there are negative side effects. You won’t know if it’s effective until you give it enough time.
|Finasteride + minoxidil||Minoxidil||Finasteride||LLLT|
|Best value price||$26/month||$10/month||$20/month||$799|
|Best use||All-around||Crown/top of head||Hairline/all-around||All-around|
|How long until any results?||3-6 months||3-6 months||4-6 months||4-6 months|
|Success stopping hair loss||90%||66%||80%||>80%|
|Success regrowing hair||90%||50%||66%||>50%|
- Most affordable treatment option.
- Effective for thinning at the crown/vertex area.
- Generally safe and long-studied, with few side effects
- Not recommended for receding hairline (only crown/vertex).
- Some people are sensitive to minoxidil.
- Application can be annoying and messy.
Our bottom-line recommendation:
If you’re convinced minoxidil alone is your best treatment path, the great news is that you can get minoxidil from many places – it’s non-prescription. For anyone who isn’t a Costco member, we recommend Keeps, because it saves you a few dollars each month compared to competitors like Hims and Roman – and if this is effective for you, you’ll be ordering minoxidil for many, many months. Over the course of four years, ordering from Keeps saves you about $100 compared to the nearest competitive price (Hims). And ordering online, with delivery to your home, is just so convenient.
Keeps offers a great price and unbeatable convenience, but if you already have a Costco membership, you can REALLY save money by getting Kirkland-brand generic minoxidil from Costco instead. In that case, plan ahead and buy several months of minoxidil supply from Costco next time you’re shopping – you won’t find a better price.
What is minoxidil?
Decades ago, minoxidil was originally studied as a blood pressure medication when trial subjects reported unwanted side effects, such as… hair growth. Suddenly the vasodilator minoxidil was making a splash that its pioneers never intended. It was clinically tested in the late ’70s and throughout the ’80s, and many of you will remember all of the Rogaine commercials during the nineties. To this day, minoxidil remains one of the most trusted hair loss treatments, widely used either by itself or in conjunction with one or more other treatments.
When used as directed – applying it to your scalp twice a day, and letting it dry for several hours before messing with your hair or showering or sleeping – minoxidil has been proven not only to arrest hair loss in many men, but also it has been clinically proven to regrow some hair for a significant portion of men.
Yes, you read that correctly: regrow. Reclaim some lost glory. That’s the unicorn, the jackalope, the hippogriff – what we all want to see, but fear is just a myth.
It’s not a myth, but minoxidil isn’t a miracle either; it CAN regrow hair as long as you start using it when your follicles are weakened – maybe to the point of being almost nonexistent – but not yet dead. It doesn’t bring follicles back from the dead.
How effective is minoxidil?
Here are the facts based on data from clinical studies:
- For about 66% of men, minoxidil stops hair loss.
- About 50% of men enjoyed moderate hair regrowth when applying minoxidil at the crown and top of head areas.
- About 20% of men enjoyed very significant hair regrowth applying minoxidil in these areas.
What kind of hair loss is minoxidil best at treating?
Minoxidil is best for hair loss at the crown and around the top of your head. This is where it shines as a hair loss treatment.
What's minoxidil not as great for?
It’s not ideal for receding hairlines – sorry, guys. To be clear, minoxidil can trigger hair growth here as well, but for this purpose we don’t recommend it as highly as other treatments. Why?
For one thing, receding hairline often signals an underlying hormonal shift that naturally occurs in men, in which testosterone converts to DHT. Minoxidil won’t stop that at all.
And from a practical standpoint, there’s a good reason why you need to wash your hands thoroughly after applying minoxidil to your scalp… and also why you need to wait several hours before touching your application area or going to bed after applying it. The reason is, until it’s totally dry, minoxidil can spread and absorb in places where it will cause unwanted hair to grow. Think facial hair, for instance, but in ‘unconventional’ places. Minoxidil has that potential, if small amounts end up absorbing in a place you didn’t intend to apply it.
Now consider your natural hairline before it began receding. Do you remember what it looked like? If you don’t know where to stop applying the minoxidil, you could end up with strange patchy hair growth along your hairline, and you risk the minoxidil trickling down over your forehead or ending up in places you don’t want. It can be messy.
Minoxidil was studied, approved and recommended initially for hair loss at the crown and along the top of the scalp. And that’s where it is best, to this day.
How minoxidil works
Just as the mythical creatures above would be an evolutionary mystery, it’s not totally clear why minoxidil works in treating hair loss, but here’s what researchers conclude:
Minoxidil widens blood vessels in order to allow better blood flow to hair follicles. The blood brings oxygen and nutrients to keep hair follicles alive and healthy and restore ailing hair follicles to fuller health and thickness.
The increased blood flow resets the growth stages for struggling hair follicles, kicking them into an anagen phase (a fancy term for the very initial stage of new growth).
Though some men see initial positive results begin during month three, for about four months you could be fooled into thinking you’re actually losing more hair. This is because of step 2 – the new anagen phase. You’re actually not losing more hair, but instead you’re shedding the older, thin, weak hair growth in favor of newer, stronger hairs that will appear in weeks to come.
So: don’t get discouraged in the initial weeks – you should actually EXPECT what looks like a step backward, at first. That doesn’t mean the minoxidil is not working.
- Proven effective for hair loss comprehensively (along the hairline as well as at the crown/vertex).
- Affordable compared to many other treatments.
- Pill form, rather than sometimes messy topicals, makes it easy to maintain treatment.
- More serious potential side effects and contraindications/drug interactions.
- Prescription required.
Our bottom-line recommendation:
If you have hair thinning in multiple parts of your scalp (hairline, crown/vertex), and you’ve never taken finasteride before, then try it with Roman. Roman will charge you for an up-front doctor’s consultation ($15), but after that your consultations are totally free and you can share as many questions/concerns as you encounter during treatment, without ever leaving your couch. This is valuable with a new drug like finasteride, which is proven effective but also has possible serious side effects.
What is finasteride and how does it work?
Finasteride is often prescribed for hair loss under the brand name Propecia. In a different prescription strength and under a different brand name, doctors also prescribe finasteride to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, also commonly known as enlarged prostate).
Finasteride works totally differently from minoxidil in treating hair loss. This medication is what’s known as a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor. Rather than improving blood flow, finasteride acts on hormones that cause many of us to lose our hair. Specifically it fights male pattern baldness that is a result of the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Finasteride blocks the conversion into DHT.
How effective is finasteride for hair loss?
Here are the facts, based on studies:
- For about 80% of men, it is effective at preventing further hair loss around the crown/vertex.
- For about 66% of men, it is effective at preventing further receding hairline.
- About two thirds of men experience hair regrowth from taking finasteride.
Is finasteride safe?
Finasteride is widely prescribed, so it’s hardly a rare treatment. It is generally regarded as safe but there are potential side effects, some of which are serious.
Though they are not common, side effects can include:
- Lower sperm count
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Decreased libido
Close to two percent of men experience decreased libido, while closer to one percent of men experience ED and/or ejaculation problems.
Other possible side effects, though also uncommon, include:
- Skin irritation
- Breast tenderness
Finasteride may be inadvisable for underlying health reasons or because you are taking certain medications that could negatively interact with finasteride. This is why it’s available only by prescription; a doctor would work with you to determine whether this is a suitable treatment path for you.
We recommend Roman as our top choice for getting finasteride as your hair loss treatment because not only is its price among the most competitive, but you also can benefit from unlimited doctor’s consultations – a meaningful relationship – as you begin this new treatment path. That’s good peace of mind, and if you encounter any side effects you’ll be very glad to have the medical attention to get your questions and concerns addressed.
- Increased success rate from the double-whammy of effective drugs working in different ways.
- The drugs are safe to take together.
- Surprising affordability – because of popularity, this package is cheaper in some cases than finasteride by itself.
- Finasteride requires a prescription.
- There are potential side effects and contraindications that could make it unsuitable for you.
Our bottom-line recommendation:
Finasteride + minoxidil is our overall top pick for a treatment that will be best for the most men. It’s our top pick because of a combination of affordability and proven results. The drugs are not redundant at all, but are safe to use together.
And for this treatment path, you should choose Hims. It’s just the better deal, saving you significant money over time. Not only that, but free messaging with a doctor is very useful. (You can get your questions answered by the doctor within 24 hours of asking them.) Free shipping is a bonus.
How effective is the combination treatment?
Each of these two medications separately is proven quite effective for a portion of men who are experiencing male pattern baldness, but neither is universally effective. This is because there is no single underlying cause of male pattern baldness among all of us. That would be too easy.
Finasteride and minoxidil act in totally different ways. Because of this, your chances of seeing dramatic positive results improve if you take both of them. In fact, data from clinical research suggests that as many as 90% of men with male pattern baldness can experience at least moderate hair regrowth by taking this combination.
- No drugs involved – with or without a prescription.
- LLLT shows effectiveness in clinical trials and studies.
- FDA regards LLLT as safe for men and women.
- No known side effects.
- Can stop hair loss and regrow hair.
- An easy routine to maintain long-term.
- Easier for travel than a full helmet or cap.
- Much higher up-front cost.
- Newer treatment means no long-term studies available.
- Though effective, the success rate is less clear because LLLT for hair loss hasn’t been as thoroughly studied.
Our bottom-line recommendation:
Invest in the Hairmax LaserBand 82 if you can afford the up-front price. Hairmax is one of the longest-studied LLLT providers and subsequently enjoys some of the most evidence of effectiveness. Their LaserBand 82 is neither the most nor the least expensive product offered by Hairmax or available more broadly in the market, but it is effective and benefits from a clever design. The 655nm wavelength of its lasers is firmly within the range that has been demonstrated effective most extensively. And very importantly – since it does not work for everyone – you can return this device before the 6-month return deadline for your money back, if you aren’t satisfied by the results.
What are LLLT devices and how do they work?
You may have seen laser hair loss treatment devices being advertised on TV or online. Some of them look like ballcaps, others like helmets or strange hair decorations that fit like a wedge over a portion of your head. Still others are combs.
All of them glow red (but don’t look at the light), and all of them claim to help you stop your hair loss and actually regrow hair.
These devices glow red because they rely on low-level laser with the goal of kicking those tired, weak hair follicles into a new growth phase. Low level laser therapy (LLLT) is sometimes called cold laser therapy (because no heat is emitted) or photobiomodulation. Wavelengths of these lasers range from about 600 to 1100 nanometers in hair growth products. The wavelength of our top choice is within a range that has been the focus of several successful clinical studies.
Researchers who have studied the effectiveness of LLLT theorize that several mechanisms might be at play in achieving hair regrowth. One of the likeliest is that the laser light penetrates to a layer of scalp skin where it effectively improves blood flow to follicles, allowing them to benefit from increased oxygenation and nutrients delivered by our blood.
If this sounds familiar, maybe it’s because increased blood flow to hair follicles is likely why minoxidil works as well (but by a different mechanism).
Unlike minoxidil, though, you don’t need to apply anything to your head and let it dry, and then wash your hands in order to prevent growing unwanted hair on yourself or a loved one. With a LLLT device, all you have to do is brace yourself for the price tag and then wear one of these devices for a matter of minutes, several times a week. Maybe you do it while watching TV or reading a book or magazine.
That’s one of the nicest aspects of LLLT hair loss treatment. When this kind of device works for you, it’s a routine that most people find preferable to applying minoxidil. This is why we recommend it as the best hair loss treatment for maximum convenience.
LLLT devices for hair regrowth are available in numerous forms – combs, ballcaps, helmets, or headbands (like our top choice). And they’re made by several high-quality companies. Good products include:
- Hairmax LaserBand 82 (our top pick)
- Hairmax Laser 272 PowerFlex Cap
- CapillusPlus Laser Therapy Cap
- iRestore Laser Hair Growth System
So how well do they work?
Effectiveness of laser hair regrowth devices
Though they are somewhat controversial in the medical community, LLLT devices have been proven successful for a surprisingly large portion of people in clinical studies.
One 2017 study showed that nearly all male subjects experienced moderate hair regrowth (averaging a 40% increase in hairs considered normal size, compared to pre-treatment hair count).
In another clinical study, hair count among participants improved by 19 hairs per square centimeter after six months of using LLLT (compared to the control group, which lost on average 7 hairs per square centimeter in the same period).
A different study of Hairmax laser combs demonstrated that a 12-beam laser comb resulted in an average of 26 more hairs per square centimeter in the treated area, after six months of use. And in one study, the wavelength of laser used by Hairmax (655nm) proved effective in achieving robust hair growth in 40% of men.
One tricky aspect of LLLT is that the application for human hair growth hasn’t been studied long-term yet and so the most effective wavelength is unclear. But it’s clear that effectiveness depends on the quality and amount of lasers that operate within a constructive wavelength range. And it’s important that the device actually uses lasers; there is no evidence that LEDs do anything to stop hair loss or promote hair regrowth.
Is LLLT safe for hair loss treatment?
During the decade that LLLT has been studied and used for human hair loss treatment, there aren’t any known negative side effects. More broadly, LLLT has been applied in different ways for decades and the widespread consensus is that it’s safe. The capacity for LLLT to trigger hair regrowth was first discovered in a study of mice over fifty years ago. But if you have any unusual, questionable freckles on your scalp, you should talk to your primary care provider or dermatologist before using, to be safe. And you shouldn’t use LLLT if you have active skin cancer of the scalp.
The lack of side effects and prescriptions makes it more attractive than finasteride for some people.
Analyzing the price and our recommendation
The main downside of LLLT devices is a big, up-front price. These devices are not cheap. Our top recommended LLLT device has a regular price of $799, though there is currently a deal for $50 in savings and frequently you can find sales of up to $100 off on this item because it is one of the company’s most popular devices. There are a few reasons why we recommend this device over other high-quality laser hair devices.
- There is a 2-year warranty and, very importantly, a 6-month money-back return policy.
- The device is much cheaper than some other options, which cost up to $3k. It’s also much cheaper than the Hairmax laser hair cap, which costs almost $2k.
- The clever design of the LaserBand device allows it to deliver robust laser therapy into your scalp for all of the therapeutic value it can deliver, but at a much lower price. It’s a smaller device and relies on you moving it along your scalp at timed intervals dictated by the device itself. It has far more lasers than any laser comb – laser density is on par with top-level caps and helmets – but it does feature comb teeth that part your hairs to allow the therapeutic laser energy to get to your scalp rather than being blocked to an extent by hair. Laser caps and helmets lack the comb teeth, requiring more energy and in many cases much longer sessions of treatment.
- Hairmax has been studied longer and in more clinical trials than any other devices. They were one of the first. (FDA approval of LLLT devices for hair loss treatment is a result of studying Hairmax products over a decade ago.)
We find this to be an excellent balance of price, effectiveness and convenience.
Cost is much higher at the outset than any of the other recommended treatments. However, we should remember that any of these treatments – if successful – must be sustained basically for as long as you want to keep your hair. So, over time, the price of LLLT gets a lot closer to parity with other ongoing treatments like finasteride and minoxidil.
After two years (covered by the Hairmax warranty), for instance, the monthly price of finasteride + minoxidil ($26/month) adds up to $624 in that span of time. This makes for a difference of closer to $100 over two years, when compared to the Hairmax price. Suddenly that’s not nearly as much of a price difference as it first appears to be. And during year three, the LLLT device actually becomes your more affordable treatment.
The importance of the 6-month money-back return policy
Our top pick, the Hairmax LaserBand 82, is in our opinion the best LLLT device for the broadest group of men. It has a 2-year warranty in case there is a technical issue with the device. And the best part is that Hairmax offers a 6-month money-back return policy. That’s fantastic because, just like the other treatments, LLLT takes some time to work (requiring about 4 months before you see some significant positive effects).
If you are one of the people for whom LLLT works, you’ll know before the deadline for money-back return. So mark your calendar. As long as you pay attention to the date, keep your packaging materials and take care of your product, the Hairmax will only cost you money if it actually works for you and you decide to keep it.
That effectively eliminates a lot of the risk of wasting your money on an expensive product that doesn’t work.
Studies suggest that using all three simultaneously is safe and may have a synergistic effect, meaning that the combined effect is actually greater than the sum of each one’s effectiveness in isolation. That is, they are safe for you as long as you are a candidate for finasteride (determined by your virtual doctor’s visit with a Hims doctor) and do not have any abnormal scalp growths or skin cancer of the scalp.
These three treatments are not redundant; all three act differently to help you fight hair loss. Since it takes several months to see results with any treatment, combining them gives you the best chances of aggressively and effectively keeping the hair you currently have, while also regrowing hair that recently went away. This is the most expensive non-surgical path that works, but it does seem to work best – if you can afford it.
The downside of this approach is that you may never know which treatment or combination of treatments is really helping you most. Are all three effective for you? Just two of them? Or just one? Unless you want to risk your progress by using a process of elimination with your treatments over time, you’re in a full-throttle investment that many cannot afford.
But if you budgeted for this and conclude you can afford it, then it’s the most robust approach with the greatest and most predictable success.
Hair transplantation is a surgical procedure, which makes it very different from all of the other treatment options. There are two main types of hair transplant surgery:
- Follicular unit transplantation (FUT)
- Follicular unit extraction (FUE)
FUT involves a surgeon removing a chunk of healthy hair from somewhere healthy and relatively less conspicuous (like the back of the head, commonly), and surgically transplants it in the area of hair loss.
FUE, by contrast, is like a chisel approach compared to FUT’s hammer approach. With FUE, the surgeon removes individual follicles from healthy scalp and transplants them individually into areas of thinness.
FUT is a bad choice for people who like short hairstyles because it can leave noticeable scarring. Meanwhile FUE is very costly, because the procedure takes a long time, and it’s also not really practical for large areas of hair thinning.
In terms of cost, hair transplant surgery can vary from $3000 to around $15,000 depending on where you live and the extent of the transplantation. Unfortunately, unless your hair loss is a result of injury, insurance won’t cover the costs.
As with other cosmetic surgeries, you should also consider the recovery time and caring for the surgical sites. Complications may arise from these procedures. And, as with any cosmetic procedure, the positive outcome depends on the skill of the surgeon who operates on you.
Because of all of these factors, we don’t consider surgery a recommendable treatment path for most men, compared to the non-invasive and effective options that cost much less.
If you don’t find a suitable or appealing option for hair loss treatment over time, it’s also worthwhile to reflect on how many balding or totally bald men have become iconic sex symbols. In fact, for men who embrace it, baldness can act as an impressive signal of confidence rather than a source of damage to self-esteem.
So if you can embrace or celebrate baldness as a new phase in your life – maybe finding a new hairstyle, or swapping out the hair on your head for some stylish or distinguished facial hair – then this is another viable path in approaching hair loss. It’s certainly the cheapest.
Whatever you choose, remember: you are the master of your hair. All you need to do is choose the path that feels best to you, and then move forward confidently. Waiting is the only bad course of action. The best time to decide is now.
At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service. For most online healthcare services (also known as telemedicine or telehealth services), we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:
Quality: Are the doctors on the service licensed to practice in the US? Are the physicians board-certified in the relevant practice areas? Do they have a high quality medical review board with oversight? Are their treatment options FDA-approved?
Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the test provider offer discounts or free services to our readers?
Customer support: How well does the healthcare provider help you choose the best treatment? How clearly are the options presented? How well does the healthcare company help you understand options and get treatment if necessary?
Privacy: Are all treatments sent in discreet packaging? Will your data be stored securely? Could your data ever be shared without your permission?
Speed: How fast will you receive your treatment from the moment you click “buy?” Are doctors and medical professionals responsive to your questions and needs when you are messaging them? Are the waiting times stated by the company accurate and consistent?