Treating hair loss usually begins with a visit to the doctor’s office or an online consultation. This is a necessary step that allows patients to access clinically proven agents that combat hair loss, such as finasteride and dutasteride. While there are over-the-counter treatments that may help with milder cases of hair thinning, the treatments that have the biggest impact typically require a prescription.
In this article, we’ll answer frequently asked questions about whether finasteride can be bought over-the-counter, where and how to buy finasteride and provide examples of alternative hair loss treatments that don’t require a prescription.
What is finasteride?
Finasteride is a type of drug called a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor. Its biological target is the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which is responsible for turning the steroid hormone testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Finasteride can have a significant effect on DHT levels, reducing them by approximately 60-70% compared to baseline.
Finasteride treats male pattern hair loss by lowering DHT levels and removing one of the main triggers for pattern hair loss. High DHT levels can cause hair follicles to shrink and stop producing hairs in people who have a genetic predisposition to balding. Finasteride 1mg is the most commonly prescribed oral dose. While some physicians will prescribe a higher finasteride 5mg dose, this is significantly less common. Others may recommend compounded topical formulations to their patients, which allow for greater customization of finasteride concentrations.
Do I need a prescription to buy finasteride?
Yes, currently, in both the US and Canada, you do need a prescription in order to buy finasteride. You can get a prescription by completing a consultation with a licensed healthcare professional. They’ll ask you questions about your medical history, any medications you may be taking and assess the current state of your hair loss. This information is then used to recommend an ideal treatment.
How can I buy finasteride?
You can buy finasteride in a few ways. The conventional method is to schedule an appointment with a doctor who will conduct an examination of your hair and issue a prescription, if deemed necessary. You’ll need to bring this prescription to your local pharmacy for dispensing. If you’d prefer to meet with a dermatologist, a primary care physician may also be able to connect you with a specialist in your community.
Want to skip the wait? Now you also have the option to complete a consultation through an online e-health platform like XYON Health and have your case be reviewed by a specialist physician. If you’ll need finasteride treatment, your prescription will be sent to one of our partner pharmacies on your behalf and shipped directly to you. It’s one of the ways we’re committed to making quality medical care more accessible.
What are my options for over the counter hair loss treatments?
But what if you don’t want to take a prescription treatment? Generally, over-the-counter hair loss solutions lack the potency of clinically tested pharmaceuticals like finasteride and may not be able to target the root causes of pattern hair loss. But we understand that hair loss treatments are not one-size-fits-all.
You have a few options, including over-the-counter minoxidil (better known as Rogaine®), trying a hair loss shampoo and conditioner containing ingredients that benefit hair growth or taking a supplement. It’s important to do your research and talk to your doctor about these alternatives, since not all of them have the clinical evidence to back their efficacy and safety.
Minoxidil has been available to purchase over-the-counter for decades under the brand name Rogaine as either a lotion or foam at a concentration of 5%. It has been clinically shown to benefit hair loss in both men and women, but the key thing to remember is that minoxidil doesn’t target the primary cause of pattern hair loss. In fact, it doesn’t affect DHT levels at all. The exact mechanism through which minoxidil benefits hair growth is unclear, but it’s believed to help improve blood circulation to the scalp and prolong the active growth phase of the hair growth cycle.
Hair loss shampoo and conditioner
You may also want to consider opting for hair care products designed to lower DHT and create a healthy scalp environment conducive to optimal hair growth. The truth is that DHT levels are just one contributor factor to pattern hair loss. There is research that suggests that inflammation caused by compromised scalp skin, excessive oil production or the overgrowth of certain species of bacteria and fungi, can worsen hair loss (Trüeb et al., 2018).
You can avoid these other triggers for hair loss by incorporating hair care products such as XYON’s DHT Blocking Shampoo and conditioner into your daily hair washing routine. Carefully selected botanical ingredients with DHT-lowering capabilities are combined with gentle cleansing and moisturizing agents to help create the ideal foundation for hair growth.
Hair supplements: Saw palmetto, biotin, vitamin D
Here’s the lowdown on supplements tailored for hair and skin health: unless you’re suffering from a clinical deficiency in nutrients like biotin (vitamin B7) or vitamin D, it’s unlikely that you’ll see a dramatic improvement in hair health using them. However, there doesn’t appear to be any obvious harm in taking these supplements, as long as you’re following the dosing guidelines closely.
Biotin is purported to help boost cellular metabolism, which can make cells grow and divide more quickly, while vitamin D has been shown to assist in regulation of the hair growth cycle. One study has shown an inverse relationship between blood levels of vitamin D and the severity of pattern hair loss, particularly in women (Saini and Mysore, 2021). In cases where a clinical deficiency is detected, supplementation may be useful.
Saw palmetto supplementation could also be beneficial to pattern hair loss. The extract is considered a natural DHT-blocker. While not as potent as finasteride or dutasteride, it may be an option for patients who cannot take 5-alpha reductase inhibitors or who would prefer not to use a pharmaceutical agent. Saw palmetto is available in several forms, including oral capsules or tablets and topical formulas.
Finasteride over the counter: Takeaway
You will need a prescription in order to purchase finasteride for hair loss. You can schedule a consultation with a doctor or hair loss specialist in your community or complete a virtual consultation using a platform like XYON to obtain one. It might seem like an extra step, but it’s important to seek a professional opinion to ensure that the type of hair loss you’re experiencing is correctly identified and that you’re using the most appropriate and effective treatment for it.