Topical Finasteride vs Oral Finasteride

Topical Finasteride vs Oral Finasteride: What's The Difference?

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A Brief Finasteride Overview

Finasteride has been a clinically proven treatment for hair loss since 1997 and has traditionally been an oral tablet containing 1mg of Finasteride. Male pattern hair loss occurs as a result of an excess of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a natural byproduct of the body breaking down testosterone. DHT causes the hair follicles to shrink. This causes hair to thin and fall out much faster.

Finasteride prevents some of the conversion of testosterone to DHT, greatly reducing DHT at the hair follicles. This causes the hair follicles to grow back to their normal size, improving hair density and hair counts, promoting hair growth, treating male pattern hair loss also known as androgenetic alopecia.

Find out more about Oral Finasteride here

The Difference Between Topical Finasteride vs Oral Finasteride

The theory behind treating hair loss with a topical solution of finasteride as opposed to oral medication is that the therapeutic effects of the medicine will be localised to the hair follicles, potentially preventing the systemic side effects of finasteride tablets.

A finasteride tablet will contain 1mg of active ingredient whereas topical formulations will usually contain 0.1% finasteride. This may be slightly changed based on your doctor's discretion and your condition. 

Topical formulations may also include topical minoxidil as part of the formulation, another clinically proven hair loss medicine. Minoxidil, better known as Regaine, works in a different way to finasteride and can hit hair loss from a second angle to improve results. Oral Finasteride may be used together with Regaine (Minoxidil) topical foams as well for improved results.

The final difference between the formulations is that the tablet form is readily manufactured all across the world for a relatively low price. Topical Finasteride on the other hand must be compounded from scratch by a compounding chemist with the correct equipment and expertise to create a stable topical finasteride solution. This adds a great deal of difficulty and costs to access the medicine. Oral Finasteride costs as little as 35p per tablet to buy in the UK.

Finasteride Side Effects

The reason for the interest in a topical finasteride treatment is mostly due to the potential side effects of taking the medicine orally. As finasteride affects testosterone conversion in the body, it can result in some sexual dysfunction for some men. This can include erectile dysfunction, lower semen release during sex and decreased sexual desire. These sexual side effects can (very rarely) persist after finasteride use in some men.

Although only a small portion of men experience these side effects, they cause a lot of concern for men considering the medicine. How to avoid finasteride side effects has been questioned for as long as the medicine has been used and topical application has been thought to be the answer.

Will Topical Finasteride Prevent Side Effects?

The clinical evidence on this topic suggests that topical use of finasteride will indeed prevent side effects or reduce the severity of them for some men. It must be noted that some men will still be sensitive to topical finasteride and there is still a risk of side effects from applying the solution directly to the thinning hair.

How Effective Is Topical Finasteride vs Oral Tablets?

Studies suggest that Topical Finasteride may have similar effectiveness to oral tablets, although it does acknowledge that more studies are needed to confirm the long term effects, safety and cost-effectiveness of the treatment when compared to 1mg finasteride tablets.

It is suggested that since DHT is also created in the liver and transported to the scalp via the bloodstream, topical finasteride may not be able to suppress DHT in the body as well as oral finasteride. With this considered, there could be some difference in effect between the treatments but more studies are needed to confirm this.

How To Get Topical Finasteride In The UK

To get topical finasteride in the UK you will need to first talk to a doctor for a prescription. As the medicine is not manufactured by any company, once you have a prescription, you will need to take it to a compounding chemist with the correct equipment to create the solution. Calling your local compounding chemist is a good way of finding a suitable local chemist. 

Unfortunately, Simple Online Pharmacy cannot provide medicine compounding services at this time. We hope to introduce this service in future once. For now, we can provide oral finasteride from 35p per day after an online consultation with our UK registered doctors.

Visit our Finasteride page for more details

Author

Tyson Wilkman, Clinical Pharmacist

Name

Tyson Wilkman

RoleClinical Pharmacist
Qual.Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours)
AboutTyson started with Simple Online Pharmacy in 2021. He's responsible for helping author and review accurate site content. He works with our GPs to make sure all aspects of the medicines are covered.

References

Topical Finasteride in the treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia

Literature Review: Topical Finasteride: To Use or Not to Use?

Finasteride Patient Information Leaflet

Cause of Androgenic Alopecia

The Hair loss Show: Topical Finasteride

Further Hair Loss Reading

Finasteride Side Effects - A Complete Breakdown

Finasteride and Minoxidil

How To Stop Hair Loss

Propecia vs Finasteride

Vitamins For Hair Loss - Are They Effective?

Finasteride Before and After - A Results Timeline