For men who are experiencing male pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia), the goal should be to act now and act aggressively if you want the most success in stopping your hair loss and retaining or regrowing as much hair as possible. The longer you wait, the less hair can be restored or protected. But in our busy schedules, many men continue to tell themselves they’ll take action tomorrow, and tomorrow never comes.
Hims was founded with the goal of making a variety of health treatments for men more accessible, convenient and discreet. The company offers a telemedicine experience for consulting with a physician and obtaining both prescription and non-prescription treatments for hair loss and other health conditions. One of their non-prescription hair loss products is Hims Shampoo+.
With its shampoo, Hims aims to give you a product that helps fight male pattern hair loss. Does it work and is it a good value? We thoroughly tested Hims shampoo ourselves and also reviewed the literature and evidence surrounding the ingredients it contains. We’ll give you the pros, cons and all details so that you can decide if it’s right for you.
- Saw palmetto, the shampoo’s main ingredient for male pattern hair loss, shows promise in studies as a treatment.
- The shampoo excludes common ingredients that can damage fragile hair.
- Topical DHT-blockers are less risky than oral ones.
- Affordable compared to competitors’ products, particularly if combined in package with other Hims hair-loss products.
- Doesn’t interact or interfere with finasteride and/or minoxidil.
- Has a pleasant scent.
- Topical saw palmetto may not be as effective as oral supplementation.
- While gentler, DHT-blocking shampoos aren’t as effective as other treatments.
- More expensive than many shampoos that aren’t formulated for hair loss.
- If it isn’t male pattern hair loss, the shampoo won’t help.
We recommend Hims Shampoo+ as part of a broader regimen to fight male pattern hair loss, but not as a stand-alone treatment. The shampoo avoids certain chemicals known to damage fragile hairs, while also containing an ingredient that may help you protect hair follicles from the dastardly effects of DHT. And it poses very little risk even to men who can’t take an oral DHT-blocker. A high-quality shampoo, it gets your hair clean without damaging your hair. Use an additional, more aggressive treatment (or treatments) – such as finasteride and/or minoxidil – if you are serious about keeping your hair.
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The short answer is: Yes, Hims shampoo can probably help you a bit in the fight against hair loss, but not nearly as much or as predictably as other hair loss treatments like minoxidil, finasteride or a combination of the two. Hims incidentally offers an excellent and recommended combination of minoxidil + finasteride, which you could use along with the shampoo to combat hair loss on multiple fronts. If you make it a part of your normal cleansing routine, this particular shampoo can also likely help you in your goals by avoiding common ingredients that are known to damage hair.
To understand how and why shampoos like Hims’ can help you, it’s important to get to know a few things about male pattern hair loss and what’s really happening to those hair follicles in your scalp.
What is DHT?
As men age, it’s quite common for us to experience male pattern hair loss on our scalp even as we notice hair growth on other parts of our body. Interestingly, a hormone called DHT is primarily responsible for both phenomena.
DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is a male sex hormone (or androgen) that plays a major role in male pattern hair loss, as well as hair growth elsewhere. DHT helps us grow hair in places we may not want it, while causing us to lose hair in the most prominent place where we don’t want to lose it.
The male body contains an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone into DHT in places like our skin, prostate gland, liver and… hair follicles. 5-alpha reductase and DHT are essential for our bodies to develop sexually. But if you’re one of the many men genetically predisposed to male pattern hair loss, then eventually when you’re sexually mature, an abundance of DHT will weaken the hair follicles in your scalp and causes the male pattern baldness to occur.
So why not just take the DHT-blocking substances orally? The short answer is: people do that. They do it a lot, in fact.
Finasteride (common as brand-name Propecia, for instance) is a very popular DHT-blocking prescription medication available very conveniently from Hims and elsewhere. It is classified as a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor, meaning that it works to fight male pattern hair loss by blocking the activity of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, which normally causes testosterone to convert to DHT.
But finasteride isn’t suitable for everyone, due to the potential for contraindications and side effects; it depends on your medical history and existing medical conditions. (To read up on all treatment options and compare them, check out our guide to the best hair loss treatments for men.)
Applying DHT-blockers topically rather than taking them orally is gentler on your body. The topical mode reduces your risk of unwanted side effects basically to zero, because the activity is essentially limited to the application site. And topical application can still shield hair follicles from some of the shrinking effects of DHT. That is the good news.
However, while it is gentler on you, shampoos like this are also less potent as preventative measures when it comes to hair loss. A shampoo performs best as a supporting actor, rather than on its own. (And to its credit, Hims does not claim that its shampoo – or any shampoo – would be a strong stand-alone treatment plan.) We all wish that the safe, gentle approach was also the most aggressive and successful, but in this case that’s too good to be true.
Hims Shampoo+ is formulated with the goal of helping your hair follicles avoid the weakening effects of DHT that lead to hair loss. Their shampoo has been recently reformulated and currently contains one ingredient in particular that holds some promise of reducing DHT in the scalp: saw palmetto.
Saw palmetto as a DHT-blocker
Used medicinally by Native Americans for centuries, the saw palmetto berry happens to have properties that make it promising for helping men with hair loss as well as other conditions like enlarged prostate.
Studies show that saw palmetto can yield positive effects in combating male pattern hair loss, particularly when taken orally, though it isn’t as effective as finasteride for instance.
The picture of its efficacy when used topically (in a shampoo, in this case) is not as thoroughly substantiated. One study demonstrated usefulness in increasing hair count, but it used a concentrated saw palmetto topical.
Another study found that almost 50% of men with androgenic alopecia saw a roughly 11% increase in hair count when using concentrated topical saw palmetto along with another substance (trichogen veg complex) not found in Hims shampoo. Because trichogen veg complex isn’t an ingredient in this shampoo, relying on this study isn’t really advisable.
Also worth noting: the evidence in support of saw palmetto for male pattern hair loss suggests that it is most effective for hair loss at the vertex/crown area of the head, rather than receding hairlines.
Available evidence is promising and suggests that saw palmetto could potentially help you a bit for your hair loss, and that there is no harm that could come from Hims shampoo’s topical saw palmetto. But in our opinion, there isn’t sufficient evidence that it will help you in a dramatic way. Some men report pleasant results anecdotally, and our testers saw no downside in using it, though they also saw only marginal benefit (if any), aside from reporting relief from tingling sensations at the vertex of their scalp.
Consequently our verdict on the active capabilities of Hims shampoo is that there isn’t enough proven potency and efficacy to recommend the shampoo as a stand-alone weapon against male pattern hair loss.
What Hims Shampoo+ doesn’t contain is also important. For those of us trying to confront male pattern baldness, we should definitely aim to avoid ingredients that damage or weaken our hair as we go about our cleaning routines.
The shampoo is formulated carefully to avoid counterproductive ingredients, which is very useful because we all need to clean our hair. Hims shampoo cleans your hair without damaging it. With that in mind, it is a shampoo that cannot harm you as you pursue other treatments, but may provide a little marginal help (if anything).
We are glad to see that the shampoo does not contain any parabens, a common ingredient in low-cost shampoos. Used as a preservative in shampoos and other products, parabens can really damage your hair and scalp.
Diethanolamine is a chemical sometimes included in shampoos to make the suds foamier. It can leave your hair damaged. Studies also show it to be a carcinogen for animals, which is disconcerting.
Triethanolamine, like DEA, is a chemical that damages your hair and may also be carcinogenic.
If and when Hims reformulates its shampoo again, we would love them to consider adding some of the following ingredients because studies lend credence to their topical use in fighting male pattern hair loss.
Used in shampoo primarily to treat dandruff and as an antifungal agent, ketoconazole could also provide benefit as a hair loss treatment. One study found that long-term use of 2% ketoconazole was as effective as 2% minoxidil. Studies on mice also demonstrate positive results with ketoconazole.
Another study demonstrated the ability of ketoconazole (2% in a shampoo) to block DHT at the scalp.
A different anti-dandruff ingredient in some shampoos, pyrithione zinc, could help men fight hair loss, particularly by clearing out dead skin cells that can clog follicles and impair hair growth. One study of 200 men found that 1% pyrithione zinc topically was about half as effective as 5% minoxidil for treating male pattern baldness.
The benefits of using shampoos to fight hair loss will always be muted, compared to other more aggressive treatment methods, but these ingredients (like saw palmetto) show promise in studies and are perhaps useful topically for treating hair loss when they’re included in shampoos at the proper strength.
Hims shampoo costs $19 for a 6.4oz bottle. Although that isn’t cheap compared to normal shampoo without the specially formulated ingredients to fight hair loss, it is quite reasonable (and often a bargain) when compared to other shampoos that share this goal.
Buying Hims Shampoo+ is super-easy. Like all of Hims’ services, you access and buy the shampoo online directly from Hims. If it’s more convenient, you can also place a recurring monthly order or set your orders to automatically recur every two or three months.
While you’re on the Hims website – if you are interested in exploring additional, more aggressive hair loss treatment options (which we also recommend) – it’s also very easy and convenient to begin the initial telemedicine consultation with Hims, in which you will answer some basic questions about your health goals as it relates to your hair while providing important information about your medical history. Read more about this process and all of Hims hair loss treatments and other telemedicine services in our full Hims review.
You might conclude that it’s worth a little extra investment per month to keep your hair; for $42 per month, for instance, Hims can supply prescription finasteride + minoxidil and shampoo. We very much recommend a combination of treatments like this, rather than just the shampoo, if you’re serious about keeping your hair or even regrowing healthy hair that has become weak and almost nonexistent. Bundling these products in one order via Hims (combined with the total convenience of not having to take time from work or visit a doctor to obtain or renew a prescription) saves you time and money.
How to use the shampoo
Hims shampoo is formulated to be suitable for daily use but also to accommodate your existing washing routine. For instance, every other day would also be suitable.
When you do shampoo your hair, be kind to your hair by not scrubbing too hard. But you should work it up gradually into a lather and then leave the lather on your scalp for about one minute. This allows the beneficial ingredients to do everything they can possibly do for you. Afterward, rinse thoroughly. It’s as simple as that.
The reason to use Hims Shampoo+ (or any other DHT-blocking shampoo) is to keep as much of your hair as possible. Otherwise, you can find a more affordable shampoo that gets your head just as clean and treats your hair with the same respect.
When you use Hims shampoo along with additional treatments, you can rest assured that the shampoo is not working against your hair loss goals; there are no ingredients in Hims shampoo that would set you back. This shampoo is friendly to hair and, if anything, slightly helpful to you as you combat male pattern baldness. The saw palmetto probably lends a helping hand in clearing some of the damaging DHT from where it could harm your fragile hair follicles. But that alone will likely not be enough to stop hair loss; for that, you need to combine this with other treatments.
That’s why we recommend using Hims shampoo as an additional treatment method alongside more potent options like finasteride and/or minoxidil. These approaches do not interfere and so they can collectively do more for you than any single effort alone.
Keep fighting the good fight. Just remember that the shampoo, while helpful, will probably not be enough by itself.
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